Auks Rough It: Camping in Shenandoah

As the 11 boys finished piling into the swank-a-licious Archmere van that would take us 4 hours south to Big Meadows Campground at Shenandoah National Park, I realized that giving these Auks control of the aux cable could prove to be a huge, albeit poetic, mistake. Relieved that these boys actually have great taste in music (we jammed to CCR, tons of country and even T-Swift), I admit that I enjoyed the drive down despite the are-we-there-yets, which increased in frequency until we reached Skyline Drive. If you have never traveled on Skyline Drive, this is something I recommend that you add to your to-do list, bucket list, checklist, wish list, or the much more fun to say muistilista. Put it towards the top.

Each year, the other teachers and I look forward to this trip as the rising senior boys have an opportunity to bond with one another as they get away from the daily distractions of phone, internet, and social media. The slight irony of recounting this experience on a blog is not lost on me. Although they’d never admit it, this particular group of 29 boys seemed somewhat trepidatious when facing 4 days and 3 nights of tent camping since most of them had never spent a single night in a tent before.

Spectacular view from Hawksbill Summit

Amazing view from Hawksbill Peak


Over the course of our time in Shenandoah, the boys worked together in small groups to build campfires to cook dinner, hiked a total of 22 miles to some spectacular views, swam in pools of mountain spring water and climbed to the summit of Old Rag Mountain. There was live music each night at the Big Meadows Lodge and one night, a local performer named David Gilmore (not from Pink Floyd) invited the boys up to sing “Sweet Caroline” with him. Good times. 

Natural water slide into a deep pool

Natural water slide into a deep pool

The camping trip was both a novelty and a challenge, and by the end of the excursion, the boys felt a strong sense of accomplishment, community, and self reliance. They’ll bring these positive experiences and camaraderie to the Archmere community when we return to school in a few weeks. With that, I leave you with a few quotes: one boy said, “We went into the woods as boys, and now we emerge as men.” Not dramatic at all.  Another has learned to appreciate the comforts of a roof, central air, and his bed: “this was so much fun, I loved it! …never doing it again.” And finally, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite quotes from Henry David Thoreau every time we head out on this excursion. He writes in Walden, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

The group at the summit of Old Rag

The group at the summit of Old Rag

For freshmen at Archmere, it’s a great time of year!

Father John Zagarella, O. Praem, former headmaster and current guidance counselor for the Class of 2018, shares his thoughts on why 2nd quarter is the most wonderful time of the year, especially for our freshmen. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Doesn’t that sound like a great opening line for a Christmas song? Ah yes, but drat the luck, I do believe that somebody already took it (namely Edward Pola and George Wyle when they wrote the song in 1963)! While they were certainly thinking about Christmas, they probably never dreamed it would apply to this time in the life of a freshman at Archmere Academy. You see, from my perspective as the Guidance Counselor of Archmere’s Class of 2018, it really is the most wonderful time of this particular year.

The flip-flops of summer are a memory, and so, it seems, are the flip-flops of a new Auk’s tummy as the thrills and chills of transition befell him or her like an emotional avalanche (or like confetti at a Lady Gaga concert). It stands to reason…new school, new teachers, new classmates, new schedule, even new school colors, for Heaven’s sake!   And a big, beautiful campus to figure out…with just four minutes in between classes to get un-lost! Then we need to figure out of it’s an A Day, an H Day or a D Day. Am I free this period or am I supposed to be in Honors Bio? Oops! I forgot my appointment with Father Zagarella!! OK, so that last one is still happening. But I am a counselor and I DO understand (and I DO run all over campus looking for them when they miss an appointment).

Yes, the first three months of life as an Auk are surely challenging ones. It IS a major transition for our students. But what a great place for our freshmen and transfer students to experience this new beginning. You see, Archmere is a happy place. The faculty, staff and students are happy (Mamma Mia, even the Principal is happy!)…and also are happy to help. Our new students know that from the minute that their parents turn onto Manor Ave that first day of school. You remember the scene…our seniors and faculty cheering the new Auks on with a warm and welcoming joyful noise. YES!

This time of year happens every year at Archmere, but only once in the life of a student. It is the most wonderful time of this year when our freshmen “get it”! They CAN excel academically and, at the same time, they CAN achieve athletically and/or artistically and at the same time they CAN figure out which class drops on an E Day! To be sure, from Labor Day to Thanksgiving the change within a new Auk is palpable…from blank stares to toothy smiles! They know they fit in and they do; they know they are in a safe place and that they are loved…and indeed they are! Go AUKS. Pietate et Scientia.


Lady Auks climbed the mountain as a family

On November 10, 2014 Archmere Academy’s Varsity Girls’ volleyball team won the state championship after a 28 year drought. They didn’t win because they had a ringer. They didn’t win with power hitters. They won because they worked together as a team, as a family, and because when Auks fly together, they accomplish amazing things. Emily Dentinger, a member of the team, reflects on the win with a week’s worth of retrospect. 


The ball hit the ground.

It wasn’t like in the movies, when a moment of complete silence pervades the gym. It was just noise. So much noise. We had just won the State Championship, and we were screaming.

Looking back on the season, I don’t recall any signs of a championship team. We never spoke of the state title because, frankly, we did not think that we had a shot. Don’t get me wrong- we wanted to win. We just didn’t think we could.

On August 18th, the first day of practice, Coach told us that we had a mountain to climb. That statement meant that a.) the season was going to be a trek, and b.) we should all get on the end line to run a revised suicide, aptly called a ‘mountain.’ Our early practices were filled with high hopes, passionate determination, and, of course, tons of conditioning drills. As the season went on, something became very apparent. Not only did the players realize this, but so the coaches and other teams. We were not the best volleyball players in the state. We were athletic. We had heart. But we didn’t have a hitter that could put the ball away. We didn’t have power.

Attending a school with an extremely rigorous curriculum and extremely high standards taught me, above all things, that I have to acknowledge my weaknesses (and I have to manage my time, but that’s a different story). I have to acknowledge that integrating trig functions and finding the impulse of an elastic collision is not my strong point. I can’t pretend that I know what I’m doing. I can’t fake my way through a class.

That was the attitude of our team. We acknowledged that we had a fundamental weakness in the front row. We knew that we were not as strong as many of our opponents. I strongly believe that our acknowledgement of our weakness was the key to our success. Because we acknowledged this shortcoming, we were able to adapt. We didn’t accept our weakness, we worked through it.

That being said, the real strength of our team wasn’t a skill or a specific player or anything actually volleyball related. Our strength was our commitment to each other and our relationship as a team, both on and off the court. We are Auks. We are family. We trust each other and we need each other. Playing with this group of girls was easy in the sense that we had good chemistry on the court. Archmere is a haven for passionate people. I don’t think I could have asked for any more heart or dedication; each and every player was so invested in and devoted to this team and its success.

I mentioned at the beginning that every player on the team was screaming as the final ball dropped, resulting in our victory. Well fifteen screaming girls doesn’t account for the extremely high decibel level in that gym. Archmere is a family, and it was our family that was screaming from the stands, drowning out any and every other sound. Community isn’t a strong enough word to describe the Auks, it isn’t powerful enough to capture the essence of Archmere. When we didn’t believe that we, as a team, could win the state title, we had 600 fans and friends to believe for us. That is family.

— Emily Dentinger ’15


Why I chose Archmere – One Freshman’s Story

Sometimes choosing the right high school can be a very difficult process. It’s a big step: leaving a school that, for many, has been home for nearly eight years. It is often the biggest decision kids have had the opportunity to make thus far in their lives. This four year commitment to a new place can be simultaneously daunting and empowering.

One of our freshmen, Annie Martino, would like to share with you some of her insights based on her experience last year during the high school admission process as well as why she ultimately chose Archmere.

Dear Prospective Students and Families,

My name is Annie Martino, a freshman at Archmere Academy I would like to share with you my journey to Archmere.

Like most of you, I started with the 7th grade open house and practice exam, then attended the fall 8th grade open house and December’s entrance exam, application, and finally the interview. Then came the hard choice to determine whether Archmere was the right high school for me.

I had applied for numerous schools and all are great schools; I knew I could do well at any of them. The decision was very challenging, and seemed nearly impossible because I was offered a scholarship from each school. So, why did I choose Archmere?

Archmere provides a rigorous education. I believe it prepares students to compete for top universities and to excel in college. The college prep classes are excellent, but we are also challenged by Honors classes and AP classes. I am taking Honors Geometry, Honors English, and Honors Biology. I am also taking Chinese as a core language that will prepare me to travel and be an exchange student in Asia. Even though the program is very challenging, help and support is always just a raise of the hand and an email away.

The top-notch academic program is supported by a state of the art technology infrastructure. The technology allows us to learn and communicate in an efficient and effective way. Whether it’s taking tests online or emailing a teacher in the evening and getting the answers that we need, we are keenly aware of the impact that the technology has on our learning experience. Also, I believe it will position us to be competitive in the global and technological economy.

Archmere provides a well-rounded development with a commitment to service. It provides the opportunities and encourages students to try new things to explore our potential. I just finished my first-ever field hockey season in the Fall! I hope to join the swim team this winter and look forward to playing golf in spring. I am taking Concert Choir as an elective and I look forward to our Christmas concert. I am in various clubs including: academic bowl, forensics, yoga, and Chinese. I also serve as an altar server at Mass and an Auk Ambassador to welcome 7th and 8th grade students to Archmere. I look forward to auditioning for the winter musical, and Mastersingers. Also, I look forward to get involved in our leadership development program, campus ministry, and community services.

Archmere provides a spiritual, supportive, and disciplined environment. Archmere trains us to take responsibility and to be independent. It helps us to form our moral compass, shape core values, and learn to firm up our life’s priorities. I believe that our Archmere education is important to help us find happiness, develop grit, and to achieve success. Our guidance counselor is caring and supportive. I have met him twice already in my short two months at Archmere. We have weekly assemblies and the messages are challenging and inspiring. And I look forward to our annual retreat. I know Archmere will prepare me to venture into the world and make a difference.

Archmere is a welcoming, loving, and fun community. Archmere is my home away from home. My whole family is an integral part of the Archmere community. The Admissions office and the entire school community have worked so hard to welcome me and my family to Archmere. They are so supportive to help students to transition to Archmere to ensure that we are on the path of success. I have met so many friends. I am very grateful for our supportive teachers, coaches, counsellor, and administrators. They have an interest to see us grow to our potential at Archmere and beyond. I know I that I have formed and will form life-long friendships here. I look forward to the many special memories and milestones that I will share with my friends. I am so happy and proud to be a part of the Auks family and Archmere legacy.

The college-like campus provides a serene environment to learn, to relax, and to grow. I enjoy hanging out and having lunch with my friends at the Student Life Center. I always enjoy the walks around the campus. The historic Patio and Manor add beauty and character to every celebration. And we do celebrate here at Archmere! From the Freshmen Orientation Picnic to Homecoming to our school dances to parent mixers, it seems like Archmere is always festive! I am looking forward to my first Christmas at Archmere, which I am sure will be amazing!

I hope you will come to see what an Archmere education could offer. On behalf of the Archmere family, we look forward to meeting and welcoming you to Archmere!

Sincerely yours,
Annie Martino, Class of 2018


Annie Martino ’18, Fall 2014