Featured StoryRead Full Story
With the success our rocketry program has seen in recent years (like qualifying for The American Rocketry Challenge National Finals in both 2016 and 2017, where they competed against hundreds of other teams for scholarships and a chance to represent the United States at international competitions), more and more Westridge students are looking with interest to STEM fields to continue innovating. This school year, they’re launching two new competitive teams: robotics and eSports.
Robotics has a long history on our campus. From 4th grade onwards, Westridge students have gotten hands-on experience in designing, constructing, and programming their own robots for years. On any given day, our STEAMWork Design Studio is full of students of all ages tinkering with their latest project. But this year, a competitive robotics team has taken shape under the guidance of long-time Upper School science teacher Edye Udell (who is also the founder of the Westridge Girls Who Code club). While still in their initial building and design stages, they hope to compete at the high school level soon.
Above: The Upper School robotics team discuss building techniques for their robot with faculty advisor Edye Udell.
As for eSports (which refers to competitive and/or professional video game play), student Jadyn I. ’22 is leading the charge. After taking our 8th grade Coding & Game Design class in 2018, Jadyn said she began to truly understand how underrepresented women are in the world of gaming, engineering, and design. This year, with additional Upper School computer science classes and even a UCLA summer game design program under her belt, this determined sophomore set out with a mission—to start an all-girls eSports team in the Upper School and found the first eSports league in Westridge history.
“Women in eSports are especially important, as even college eSports teams don't have enough female representation,” said Jadyn. “For Westridge to have an all-girls gaming team would be incredibly significant, not just for eSports, but for the entire video game industry itself.”
Though still in the development stage, the Westridge eSports team will potentially compete for scholarships alongside teams from other high schools and hope to host tryouts in coordination with spring athletics. More to come!
While the rocketry team is our longest running competitive STEM team (founded by alumna Maddie Emslie ’16 in 2013 and currently advised by STEAMWork faculty David Prince), the program has expanded exponentially in the past few years. The Upper School team can be seen testing their completed rockets on weekend field trips, and regularly compete in The American Rocketry Challenge with qualifying teams attending the spring National Flyoffs in Washington D.C. In addition, our 7th and 8th graders can now take a semester-long rocketry class or join the popular Middle School rocketry club.
Above: Two members of the Upper School rocketry program work on their rocket in the STEAMWork Design Studio.
Students taking the initiative to create new offerings and opportunities for themselves in STEM subjects confirms what we have long believed: in an increasingly technology-centered world, girls should have every opportunity to do science, not just study it. With so much creativity and invention taking place on our campus each day, it’s not a stretch say that Westridge girls are closing the gender gap in STEM one rocketry/robotics/eSports team at a time.
Above: Ileia G. ’22 opens our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Assembly on January 17.
What does black excellence mean to you? This is the question Westridge student leadership groups Student Voices and the Black Student Union (BSU) posed during their January 17 all-school assembly honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Upper Schoolers Ileia G. ’22 and Saffron G. ’22 shared their thoughts on black excellence, recognizing with pride the achievements of African American people they admire and impressing upon the audience the importance of keeping conversations about representation and equity alive.
Students went on to call out examples of black excellence at Westridge, pointing to staff like Sha’Trece Slaughter ’10, alumna and current Westridge admission associate, and Dr. Zanita Kelly, director of Lower and Middle School. Both women took to the podium to unpack what the phrase means to them.
“I truly believe Westridge helped me discover my own black excellence,” said Ms. Slaughter who, partway through her speech, sang lyrics from India.Aria’s “Video” about loving herself unconditionally (and was met with wild applause). “But black excellence also carries a double meaning for me. On one hand, it celebrates blackness despite stereotypes and preconceived notions. On the other hand, it highlights that people outside the black community may have misconceptions of those inside the community.”
Dr. Kelly shared her personal experience of black excellence, describing herself as a person who knows how to “stand in her truth.”
“Excellence is a birthright,” Dr. Kelly went on to say. “I have learned that I don’t have to prove my value or my worth to anyone. I am enough. In fact, I am more than enough. And so are each of you.”
Above left: Dr. Zanita Kelly, director of Lower and Middle School, describes what black excellence means to her.
Above right: Black Student Union Co-Heads Ayiana S.-N. '20 (left) and Zaynab E. '20 explain why they chose to discuss black excellence during this assembly.
During the assembly, students also recognized the first African American Westridge graduate, Genna Rae McNeil ’65, who went on to become a professor at UNC, Chapel Hill specializing in African American history with an emphasis on race, law, and social movements, and a renowned author of four books, including the definitive biography of Charles Hamilton Houston, mentor of Thurgood Marshall. McNeil’s graduation date, as Dr. Kelly pointed out, was a full five years before a 1970 court order mandated desegregation in Pasadena public schools.
Zaynab E. ’20, co-head of the BSU, said, “Although we used this assembly to focus on black excellence and the black experience here at Westridge, Martin Luther King’s legacy extends far beyond the black community. We recognize that King’s mission of social justice is far from being accomplished.”
Upper School Student Voices is dedicated to addressing topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Throughout the year, they raise awareness about local and global issues through assemblies like this one, Upper School “town meetings,” and open forum lunchtime talks.
More NewsView All News
It is a community where academic achievement goes hand in hand with becoming imaginative, independent thinkers - where students discover themselves and the world around them - where they learn what it means to make a difference.
Here, girls are immersed in a curriculum designed specifically for girls and taught by teachers who are not just experts in their fields, but experts at educating young women. They learn in a joyful environment that develops critical thinking and leadership in its many forms. They are supported by a purposeful community that values personal challenge, inclusion, connection, and enriching our world.
Westridge is an independent, forward-thinking girls’ school for students in grades 4-12. We are committed to educating intellectually adventurous thinkers, and courageous, compassionate leaders.
Check out the Westridge Research Initiative!
The Westridge Research Initiative supports girls learning at Westridge and beyond
by providing families with ready access to current research on girls' education and development,
creating programs for teachers and parents, and supporting classroom innovation.