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Mavericks Making Waves: January 2020
Rachel Freeman, communications/website manager


Mavericks Making Waves is our latest roundup of exceptional student and faculty accomplishments and activities happening beyond Nueva's walls.

Willow Taylor C.Y. ‘21 Named Runner-up in Washington Post Essay Contest

Eleventh-grader Willow Taylor C.Y. was recently named an essay contest runner-up by The Lily, a publication of The Washington Post. Entrants were challenged to respond to the prompt, “Imagine it’s 2030, a decade from now: Write a letter to your future self. What do you want her to know?” 

Willow’s beautifully-written essay captured the attention of the judges. Her letter, which can be found here, begins: “I had a brilliant idea for the opening of this letter—I was going to wax poetic about the tragedies of teenage life, the stresses of youth and all the things I’d enjoy writing but you’d hardly appreciate reading. But instead, after actually writing the address, I’m only wondering this: Do you still go by “Willow Taylor Chiang Yang”?”

Willow’s journey to hearing about and entering this contest actually started two years ago during the Nueva Feminism Conference, when she connected with the editor-in-chief of Ms. Magazine. From there, Willow became an intern at Ms. Magazine, and her article for the column, “Future is Ms.,” was published in the printed magazine and online

“It was so cool to have a physical copy and see my name in the magazine,” Willow noted. “When I submitted my essay for the Lily contest, I thought to myself, ‘I’m definitely not going to win,’ because the letter doesn’t feature the hallmarks of how I write. So when I found out a month later that I had been named a runner-up and would be published on their website, I was ecstatic.” 

Congratulations, Willow! 


Associate Director of Admissions Juliana Fitts Named One of 100 Winners of Airbnb Cooking Scholarship

Juliana Fitts, associate director of admissions in the Middle School, was just named one of 100 winners of an Airbnb cooking scholarship that will take her to Italy this summer. Known as Juliana the Pop Up Chef, her love of cooking grew during her childhood in Brazil in her father’s Italian restaurant. She has previously trained in Europe, and defines her cooking as “Euro-Brazilian Fusion.” 

For her entry for this scholarship contest, Juliana collaborated with two Nueva colleagues, Sade Ojuola and LiAnn Yim, who helped create her one-minute submission video. In the video, Juliana recreated a signature dish of hers, one she shared at the Nueva faculty and staff of color dinner at the start of the school year. 

Juliana said, “It was so fun to share this recipe with my colleagues, and I can’t believe it got me nominated for a trip to Italy!” 

For being named a winner, Juliana will spend one week, all expenses paid, in northern Italy at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. She will participate in a series of workshops and tastings and also have an opportunity to work directly with Momofuku chef David Chang. Following the conclusion of the program, Juliana’s family recipes will be included in the first-ever Airbnb cookbook.

Juliana added, “Cooking has always been my passion, but I’ve never had the chance to get professional training. I couldn’t be more excited!”


Invention Studio Team Takes Second Place in Innovator Competition

Team Ferrofoot, a group of Upper School students in the Invention Studio club, recently took second place in the University of Iowa Jacobson Institute Innovator Competition. In this club, which was born out of the Upper School I-Lab course Design for Social Good, students interview users about an issue they may have, and work to create a user-centered design to solve this issue.

"You know that feeling when you realize that you’re meant to do something?" asked senior Steven K. "One day, on the advice of a former robotics teacher, I went to the Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities. I learned about multiple sclerosis and how it debilitates millions of people across the world. Suddenly, I knew that I had to do something to help."

Team Ferrofoot interviewed Laurel, a woman with multiple sclerosis, and began to try to address her need to hold a pencil. They found as they began building their design that the issue was not that Laurel needed to hold a pencil; rather, they needed to find a way for her to use the pencil. From there, the design morphed into something completely different. 

“Sometimes an engineering solution isn’t a user-centered solution,” said John Feland, I-Lab engineer and Invention Studio advisor. “They went back to Laurel and asked her what challenges she faces every day, and they learned that foot drop was a big concern of hers.” 

So, the team went back to the drawing board to think of ways of actively supporting foot drop. It was through this process that the team came up with Ferrofoot.

“Ferrofoot looks like a regular foot brace, but its design is more nuanced,” said junior Avi S. “It has a small brake which controls the movement of the ankle joint, selectively restricting the motion of the foot. We experimented with different brake mechanisms, but we tested one idea in particular: the brake is composed of a small cylinder containing magnetorheological (MR) fluid and a paddle, which is connected via an axle to the motion of the foot.” 

In addition to taking second place in the Jacobson Institute Innovator Competition, and the $1,000 prize to go with it, Team Ferrofoot also presented their invention at a Stanford event in May 2019 and received the top prize of $1,500. 

Said sophomore Hannah S., “We’re really excited to use the money we’ve won toward reaching out to more users and helping more people!” 


Nuevans Compete in Prestigious Math Competition

This winter, 77 Nueva Middle School students participated in Mathematics Association of America’s American Mathematics Competition (AMC). The AMC 8 is a 25-question, 40-minute multiple choice exam. The exam is, according to the AMC website, “designed to promote the development of problem-solving skills,” as well as “positive attitudes towards analytical thinking.” Topics covered on the exam included counting and probability, estimation, proportional reasoning, and spatial visualization. 

“The AMC 8 math competition is one of the most prestigious math contests for middle school in the world,” explained faculty advisor Steven Chanan. “It is the younger sibling of the AMC 10 and AMC 12, which are the opening contests for determining the US team for the International Mathematics Olympiad.” 

Many Nuevans earned honors in this year’s competition: eighth grader Joshua K earned a first place award and received honor roll distinction (top 1 percent nationally); seventh graders Howard L. and Cami Y. earned second place awards; and seventh grader FanFan J. earned a third place award.

Congratulations to all students who took this challenging and fun math contest!

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A Word to the Weiss: Expert Storyteller Mesmerizes Young Audiences

Storyteller-in-residence Jim Weiss visited students in grades PreK–6 last week. He captivated his young audiences by reciting stories that ranged from Aesop’s fables to myths from ancient Greece and West Africa to historical accounts of Red Cloud, the 19th century leader of the Lakota Sioux.

New Head of School Announced at Nueva

The Nueva School community is delighted to announce that Lee Fertig will become the next head of school. Fertig, who currently serves as director of the International School of Brussels, will assume his new position in mid-August, 2020.

20 Student Mental Health Check-In Prompts

From the first day our students set foot on campus, PreK to twelfth grade, our teachers are invested in caring for the whole student. In homerooms and advisory, they establish norms that provide a safe space for students to express their feelings and share how they’re doing academically and socially.

Student-athletes Wrap Up Successful Fall Seasons

It’s hard to believe the fall sports season is behind us and winter sports are in full swing. Before we move ahead full steam, let’s take a look back at our student-athletes’ successful fall season.