Nov 1 18

Falcons Finish 10th at State Golf Tournament

Led by sisters Maria and Catherine Huang, the SSES girls golf team finished in 10th place at the 2018 Class 1A State Championship Tournament, Oct. 30-31 at the Mission Inn Resort, Howey-in-the-Hills. The Falcons made their seventh consecutive state tournament appearance and improved on their 11th-place finish in 2017. The Huang sisters shot identical two-day totals of 161 to tie for 41st place individually. SSES improved eight strokes from the first day to the second, but was unable to make up enough ground to break into the top 10, finishing 12 shots behind Winter Park Circle Christian and 15 behind Tampa Prep. Orlando First Academy ran away with the team title, carding a 580 to win the tournament by 38 strokes. The state tournament trip was the culmination of another banner season for the Falcons, who captured their seventh consecutive district title and sixth regional crown in seven years.

Jun 7 18

Saint Stephen’s Hosts International Conference in 2020


Saint Stephen’s, in collaboration with New College of Florida, has been named the host site of the international Water is Life Conference, June 22-28, 2020. The biennial conference brings together high school students (ages 16-18) from more than 20 countries to create a deeper awareness of water security and sustainability issues. Through keynote addresses, dialogue sessions, and student presentations on water management strategies and challenges around the world, the conference plants the seeds of friendship, creates awareness on a variety of water issues, and develops scientific, diplomatic and leadership skills in its young participants. The conference is managed initially by the Water is Life Association, a cooperation between Raffles Institution Singapore and Maurick College in The Netherlands. The Saint Stephen’s-based conference will be the first in the U.S. The inaugural conference was held in Singapore in 2014. Other host sites have included The Netherlands (2016) and Japan (June 2018). Schools participate by invitation only and more than 30 are currently on the roster, representing the U.S., Netherlands, Singapore, Australia, Japan, Germany, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Spain, Colombia, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Thailand, Canada, Austria, South Africa, France, Indonesia, and Iceland. Saint Stephen’s will be the primary host. Presentations will also take place on the New College campus, and approximately 150 participants will be housed in the school’s dormitories during their stay.

Apr 2 18

Do You “KYP?”

By Tod Creneti

If you were to wander onto the practice field at Saint Stephen’s where I coach high school football, there are any number of phrases you might hear that, without some context, make absolutely no sense. Coaches are often chided for being heavy on clichés and occasionally rough in our delivery. In reality, good coaches find ways to communicate complex concepts, often in the simplest terms possible. Throw in the fact that those listening most likely receive information in a unique manner, and you have a high-level challenge being met by coaches on a daily basis.

Two years ago, a coach joined our staff and made an immediate impact. One of the first days he joined us on the field he used a term that had fallen out of my coaching vocabulary. When I heard it, I was reminded of what a powerful tool it could be. As this coach watched a play unfold, he realized our quarterback threw a ball to a receiver without understanding who the receiver was, and the throw was too far for the receiver to catch. Quickly, almost as a reflex, he called out to our quarterback, “KYP!” I chuckled, told him that was a great reminder, but explained he would have to spell out that term for our quarterback who had no idea what he meant.

While there are a couple potential lessons in this example about clear communication, I want to focus on how valuable the concept of KYP is. If you don’t know what it means, you have probably guessed it is an acronym. KYP stands for Know Your Personnel. In the case of our quarterback, he had been throwing with a group of much faster receivers and when he threw to a slower receiver, he forgot to allow for the difference in speed and wildly missed his target. On a high school playing field, KYP serves as a reminder to be aware of who you are interacting with in a given moment. Off the field, it may hold even greater power.

Many of us are creatures of habit. We like to get up, drink our coffee, exercise, read something and even interact with others on a very regular schedule. Our schedules become important to us and we feel best when we are on pace to keep that schedule throughout the day. What can often be missed is, other people have schedules too, and theirs may not always mesh with ours. But, our schedules are just one of the ways our preferences inform how we work, live, and even play.

If we believe that KYP is an important concept at work, at home, or in any culture we value, we have to take a hard look at what is being said. Know Your Personnel speaks directly to the social-awareness pillar of emotional intelligence. If we KNOW the people around us, we can anticipate how they will handle success, failure, disappointment, or even an unexpected turn of events. Armed with a sense of how others function, we can choose to communicate with them in a way they absorb information best. While this seems perfectly reasonable and like a definite best practice, the challenge is clear. When those around us are under duress, we quite likely are too. In those moments of high stress, we prefer what feels best for us and think less about what would help those around us manage. Not unlike our preference for our own daily schedule, we prefer our “go to” emotional routine as well. The result? We treat those around us as if they should just get in line with our feelings and function how we wish they would.

There may be no greater feeling than to be known, truly known, by someone who is in a leadership role above us or a collaborator. Whether we are talking about a parent, or a co-worker to whom we report, when we feel known, we feel more at ease and find it easier to trust their thought process and ultimately, their decisions. Knowing people around us takes work. It requires that we invest in the development of relationships and it then asks that we think about how the other person will respond to whatever we are about to do or say. If we are truly committed to the success and performance of others, this is work well worth doing. People who feel known, appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the table, function at a higher level and experience less stress.

If our goal is success on a playing field, being an effective parent, or leading a company to heights unseen, KYP is a tool worth using. A focus on truly knowing others tells them they matter, it demonstrates that their skill sets are valued, and reinforces that we want to do all we can to see them perform at the highest possible level. The other great benefit is this: When we model the importance of knowing others, they are more likely to seek to know us. That means those around us will work harder to make sure we have what we need to excel and will be more likely to communicate in way that makes sense to us. If knowing others takes work, then being known requires equal amounts of trust. Yet, while allowing ourselves to be known feels risky, the resulting trust becomes the foundation of our relationships. To know and be known, is to trust and to grow.

In the end, we are building teams every time we find ourselves working together, whether at our jobs, or elsewhere. Let us examine how well we know those we find ourselves alongside every day and see how well we are known. Commit to finding ways, on a regular basis, to know those around you better and to make yourself better known. Make an effort to build trust in all that you do and act in a way that draws the trust of others. And, the next time you hear someone say KYP, find confidence in the knowledge that you do.

Tod Creneti has been the Falcons’ head football coach since 2011 and led SSES to independent state championships in 2016 and 2017. This blog post was originally published here

Mar 13 18

SSES Grad to Appear on Jeopardy! College Tournament

Hannah Sage, a 2016 Saint Stephen’s graduate and current UCF student, will appear on the annual Jeopardy! College Championship Tournament airing nationwide April 9-20. Hannah was a National Merit Scholar and a member of the academic team at SSES. She was one of five Saint Stephen’s students on the six-member Manatee County team that won the 2016 Florida Commissioner’s Academic Challenge.


Contestants in the Jeopardy! tournament are full-time undergraduate college students with no prior degrees. The tournament began during the popular quiz show’s 1988-89 season. The College Championship uses a 10-game format: 15 players, in groups of three, play in five quarterfinal games; the winners of those five games and the four highest-scoring non-winners as wild cards become the nine semifinalists who compete in three games, with no two players rematching each other in the semifinal round. The three semifinal winners advance to the two-day final round, in which contestants play two separate matches, with the contestants’ combined scores for both matches determining the champion.

Feb 22 18

Virgilio Hired to Lead Girls Soccer Program

Saint Stephen’s has added another high-caliber coach with a championship resume to its already impressive roster with the hiring of Guy Virgilio to lead its girls soccer program.


Virgilio comes to the Falcons from Lakewood Ranch High School, where he was the only coach in that program’s history, beginning with the 1999-2000 campaign. In 18 seasons, Virgilio led his teams to a record of 312-75-39, won 13 district championships, three regional championships, and appeared in three state Final Fours – the last time in 2014.


Virgilio also mentored a series of successful players during his tenure, including future Division I stars Gi Krstec (Maryland), Sarah Miller (USF), and Lindsay Thompson (Florida). He joins a soccer program at Saint Stephen’s that will now boast two of the most successful high school coaches in the state. Boys coach Marc Jones is the Manatee/Sarasota area’s all-time winningest coach with 375 career victories.


“I’m excited to join the Falcon family and appreciate the opportunity,” Virgilio said. “I believe we can be successful with hard work and dedication, and have fun at the same time.”


Before entering coaching, Virgilio played collegiately at USF from 1978-81. He also coaches club soccer with the Braden River Soccer Club. Virgilio’s son, Alex, starred in soccer and football at Saint Stephen’s and currently plays football at Wingate University in North Carolina.


Virgilio replaces Andrew Sopher, who is relocating out of state after two successful seasons leading the Falcons. SSES finished the 2017-18 campaign with a 10-5-2 record, a district runner-up finish, and regional appearance.

Feb 12 18

Five Questions Parents MUST Ask When Visiting a Private School

By Larry Jensen, Director of Admissions


More and more families are considering non-public options for their children, primarily because of the smaller class sizes, the safe campuses, the excellent college preparation, and the access to extracurricular activities.  The visit is often the first part of the process. These questions are among the most important to ask during that visit:


What will the first month/semester/year be like?  You want to be able to anticipate any challenges so that you can plan for them. During your visit, try to schedule conversations with some of the people who will work directly with your child — teachers, coaches, administrators — so that you can gather the most accurate information possible.


How does the school communicate with parents? Will you hear from teachers only when something isn’t going well? Is the school reactive, or is it proactive? During the school year, your child spends more time with teachers than with any other adult, so it’s critical to have a good line of communication with professionals who know your child well.


What if my child has a hard time with the academics? How will the school help your child if he/she is struggling? What support mechanisms are in place? Are teachers accessible outside of regular class hours? Ask specific questions based on your child’s strengths and needs.


Is it easy to make friends in a school where the kids have been classmates for years? At a great school, faculty and staff focus on making sure that new students settle in well. Ask about how this happens. Will your child have an advisor? Are there clubs, sports and after-school activities that can help your child make friends?


What type of student excels in this school? Does the school value non-cognitive areas (kindness, curiosity, determination, etc.), or does the school seek to enroll only high academic achievers? The answer to this question will help you determine whether your child can thrive, rather than merely survive.


Asking lots of questions over several visits can inform parents and help them make the best educational choice for their children.

Jan 30 18

Exploring the Future of Education

With the ever-changing landscape of education, it is important not only for educators, but also those in the community to pay attention to the trends and forces that influence and impact schools and students. Whether it means adding innovation to the core curriculum, rearranging learning spaces, individualizing instruction and/or collaborating to solve problems, these trends influence how learning happens. And external forces – political, economic, environmental, global, social, or technological – affect the focus and mindset of teachers and students.


Four words come to mind to help us understand where education is headed, how teachers share information and encourage thinking, and what students may need to do to ensure they are preparing for the future. These words are TIME, PLACE, PATH, and SPACE, as detailed in a recent issue of the Independent School Magazine. Many questions arise when considering these words within the context of the future of education. Do class periods have to be 45 minutes long? What is the appropriate length for a school year? What should schools look like? Where else can learning occur and still be considered school? How should a curriculum be shaped in order to be truly valuable?


To help answer these questions, Saint Stephen’s hosted an educational summit we called ALIVE: Assembling Leaders for an Innovative Vision of Education. The objective was to gather local thought leaders and harvest their ideas about what education could be. We felt that not only would SSES glean valuable information to influence its strategic thinking, but those attending would be able to take back the outcomes of these discussions to share within their communities.


We invited 18 leaders affiliated with area colleges, universities and schools, along with CEOs of businesses, experts in economics, child psychology, social advocacy, the arts, and researchers in science and technology. It was our hope that by bringing together people from a broad variety of disciplines, the discussion would be robust and approach key questions from different angles.


Although many were meeting for the first time, there was a common thread binding the group – everyone truly cares about children. The participants answered an array of questions in an effort to uncover the emerging forces/trends that our young people will face and how education can best be designed to help them thrive. The answers came without hesitation in an hour-long back and forth.


Participants were then asked to create the school of the future using simple props including popsicle sticks, straws, markers, cotton balls and glue. Through this activity, a variety of ways to present education, construct schools, and encourage student learning emerged.


The outcomes of the Q&A and design sessions uncovered a number of major themes. It is apparent that most feel education has never been in a greater state of change than it is today. Navigating different pathways of learning to meet individual needs is important and the structure of a program influences how much students gain from the experience. It is also clear that technology is a huge influence on how students learn. With so much knowledge at one’s fingertips, it is imperative that students are taught skills over content, that environments are created where students learn to problem solve, think critically and globally, and can navigate their own learning rather than just being receivers of information. The classroom should exist beyond the four walls of the school building.


There was much discussion about students being able to develop keen emotional intelligence to help them learn to be more adaptable in accepting and including others. Education must become more experiential with a hands-on approach that allows for exploration, and educators need to create a culture of constant creation and re-creation that allows students to collaborate with others, yet be grounded in who they are and what matters to them.


The time the group spent together went quickly, but the conversations were truly ALIVE! In capturing this “blue-sky” thinking about the future of education, we set forth on a path that we hope will eventually lead to a new blueprint for learning.

Jan 29 18

Lessons in Kindness are Key at SSES

Can kindness be taught? At Saint Stephen’s there is concensus.


The Lower School’s countdown to Christmas 2017 included a daily “Kindness Calendar,” which taught students to be aware of and committed to acts of kindness. The instructions were as simple as, “Smile at somebody today.”


“We want them to learn how what they do and say impacts others and how small things can start a whole kindness chain,” Lower School Director Jennifer Helbing said. “We weave it through everything we do and it actually starts during the admission process. We tell families about our focus on the development of the whole child, and character development holds just as much significance as our academic lessons.”


Just as with the academic curriculum, Saint Stephen’s sees these learning opportunities as something foundational and built upon as students progress from division to division. Perhaps no time is more critical in teaching about kindness than the middle school years.


“They’re trying to figure out who they are as individuals. It’s a time when friendships are changing and it can be confusing when they’re moving away from each other. Navigating all of that is difficult,” Middle School Director Joel Erby said. “So we do a lot of things to help students remember that it’s okay to be nice, that it’s not taboo and it doesn’t make you soft or weak.”


One of the visible approaches Erby uses is a “Gratitude Tree,” which hangs prominently on a second-floor wall in the middle school building. Students add leaves to the tree with messages when they notice teachers or their peers being nice, kind or helpful to others. Each week at chapel services, Erby selects a handful of the leaves to read and recognizes the students publicly. During the opening weeks of school, the tree featured just a handful of notes. It now overflows.


While it might seem easy to dismiss the value of these types of exercises, the results can be significant, and the scientific data is plentiful. A recent Stanford University study showed that if you prioritize happiness, you will be more productive, creative, resilient, energized, charismatic and influential. Researchers conducted a series of studies that observed how witnessing kindness inspires kindness and causes it to spread.


Researchers in Great Britain directly related happiness to acts of kindness. Participants in the study were given a life satisfaction survey and then assigned randomly to one of three groups. One group was asked to perform a daily act of kindness for 10 days. A second group was instructed to do something new each day. The last group received no instructions. After the 10 days, the participants completed another life satisfaction survey and results showed that the individuals who practiced acts of kindness experienced a significant boost in their happiness.


Exhibiting kindness may have an even longer, more profound effect. Harvard and University of British Columbia researchers gave participants small sums of money and the choice to spend it on themselves or someone else. Two findings were observed. First, people in general felt happier when they were asked to remember a time they bought something for someone else. This happiness boost was the same regardless of whether the gift cost $20 or $100. The happier participants felt about their generosity, the more likely they were to spend on someone else instead of themselves.


Author, speaker and researcher Shawn Achor has demonstrated that if you perform random acts of kindness for two minutes a day for 21 days, you can retrain your brain to be more positive. Studies such as his show that when your brain is more positive you are more likely to be creative, intelligent and productive.


Even the most successful companies are recognizing the virtues of benevolence. Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban was recently quoted saying, “Nice is way undervalued right now. It’s one of the most valuable assets out there.” Within the workforce, kindness towards one another can inspire employees to be more productive and make businesses more profitable, attributes that can translate to job success, wealth, healthy relationships and better health. The adage that success breeds happiness may be turning on its head.


“The goal for us as educators in independent schools is to help create great kids who not only are successful academically but have great character traits,” Erby said. “You want them to look back when they’re older and remember how they were treated here and realize that a lot of the things they learned about how to treat people with respect and kindness, those were ideas that were reinforced at Saint Stephen’s.”

Dec 8 17

Academic Team Defends County Title, Again

The Saint Stephen’s Academic Team defended its Manatee County championship for the fourth consecutive year on Dec. 5, hosting and winning the final meet and the season title. SSES completed a dominant run, finishing the campaign with 938 total points. The 2nd-through-5th-place teams scored between 611 and 538 points. Three Falcons also topped the individual leaderboard – senior Jack Berry, juniors Matthew Thomas and Sidney Knowles (pictured) – and qualified to represent the county at state competition in April along with three students from public schools. Congratulations to all of the team members, including: Colton Melnick ’19, Maria Erquiaga ’20, Kassandra Haakman ’20, Mikayla Woodard ’20, Annie Class ’21, Tyler Katchen ’21, Connor McCray ’21, Jules Pung ’21, and Anusha Singh ’21.

Nov 28 17

Falcons Repeat as State Football Champions!

Saint Stephen’s football completed an undefeated 2017 season and defended its Sunshine State Athletic Conference Independent State Championship with a 49-21 Florida Bowl win over Windermere Prep on Nov. 18 at the Master’s Academy in Oviedo. The Falcons (11-0) started fast with a 3-yard TD run by senior quarterback Fred Billy just more than two minutes into the game and never looked back, racing out to a 28-0 advantage and leading from wire to wire. Billy finished with 146 rushing yards, 49 passing yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Chase Brown was a dominant force, running for 201 yards and scoring five times – four on the ground and one on a pass reception that put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. The Saint Stephen’s defense forced five turnovers with two interceptions, a fumble and two on downs. Junior offensive/defensive lineman Dalton Francis recovered two onside kicks and a fumble. He also made a huge tackle on a fourth-down run that yielded one of the turnovers on downs. The Falcons finished the season riding a 22-game winning streak. SSES has not lost since the opening week of the 2016 season. The Falcons outscored their 2017 opponents 529-83, averaging better than 48 points per game.

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