We talk a lot about helping our students grow by stepping out of their comfort zones and trying new things. OLMA freshman, Alexi Brunner is quite literally way ahead of the curve as she trains for her first motor cross race. This seemingly mild-mannered young woman recently kicked her soccer ball to the side and replaced it with a dirt bike and a serious fitness regime.
While she wasn’t new to riding, Alexi decided it was time to give it her all with the goal of racing competitively. “I’ve been riding since I was six years old and was inspired by my Dad to take it to the next level,” said Alexi. “I ride one to two hours a day and work out six to seven days a week. I lift, do cardio and mountain bike to build my endurance. That’s really important if I want to race.” Alexi says that she practices at a nearby track and behind her house, which is located in a wooded area. “I loved soccer and played for 10 years as a goalkeeper,” she said. “I enjoyed the team sport but decided to switch to one where everything is up to me.” Alexi also likes the idea of breaking into a traditionally male-dominated sport. “Women are starting to emerge as great racers and I want to be one of them,” she said.
It’s little surprise that Alexi’s favorite course so far this year is Bravery Forward. “I like it because there’s no hiding,” she said. “We are all challenged to participate, but it works because we are in a safe, comfortable environment. I always feel on task in that class.” Alexi is also enjoying the self-defense classes she has as part of Lifetime Fitness. “I had done a little bit of it before, this is giving me an opportunity to get better,” she said. When club block rolls around on Thursdays, you can find Alexi with Mr. Lenguadoro in Archery.
Alexi attended middle school at St. Joe’s in Hammonton where she says she had a lot of guy friends. “There weren’t many girls in my class at the time, so I wasn’t sure how I would like OLMA,” said Alexi. “I shadowed and found that I really liked it. I’m glad that I’m here.”
We are too, Alexi. We can’t wait to see you race!
While this young woman would rather be in or near water than anywhere else, she is most definitely on fire these days when it comes to her academic performance. So much so that she was recently presented with OLMA’s first-ever “Girl on Fire” award. Now in her junior year, Aliana Melendez was recognized with this award during a school-wide assembly for her nearly complete academic turnaround since freshman year.
“I chose OLMA because it was small and all girls,” said Aliana. “Plus, I wanted to do something different than my friends. While I loved the school, the academics were more challenging than I expected and I struggled for part of freshmen year.” The good news is that Aliana did not give up. Instead, she dug in, focused, and leaned on her teachers, friends, and family for support. “I did better last year,” she said. “Things just started to click. This year, I”m going really well with nearly all As so far this semester.” Aliana credits much of her success to surrounding herself with people who really care and want to see her succeed. “It makes a huge difference when everyone is positive and pulling for you,” she said. “I was surprised by the award, but it felt great.”
In addition to excelling academically, Aliana is fish-like when in the water. “I’ve been swimming since I could walk,” she said. “My grandma had a swim school, so my whole family swam all the time. I absolutely love it and enjoy anything involving water and water sports.”
Last year, that love took Aliana to Cedar Key, FL for a biodiversity focused Mini-Mester. “It was so much fun and it was great to understand and see first-hand the effect that plastics are having on our waterways and wildlife,” she said. “It was a great experience.” She is in for a completely different experience in January when she travels to Spain along with other students from OLMA, St. Augustine Prep and Malvern Prep. Aliana will participate in the Spain Exchange Mini-Mester. She will attend school, travel and live as a guest in the home of a local student. “I have to say that I never thought I’d be brave enough to do this, but I am,” she said. “OLMA is all about challenging us to be our best. That’s what I’m shooting for.”
In the classroom, Aliana is really enjoying Anatomy and Physiology. She also loves Psychology and says that it could end up being something she pursues in college. For now, Aliana is looking forward to the rest of her junior year, especially Ring Mass, her trip to Spain and Prom. The rest will come. Congratulations, Aliana. We are so proud of you.
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When it came to choosing a high school, Emma Hess could have gone anywhere. She decided to follow in her sister’s footsteps and attend OLMA. “I actually chose OLMA because it was all girls,” she said. “I know that might sound strange to an 8th grader who is looking at high schools, but it’s true. Academics are important to me and I didn’t want any distractions. Plus, OLMA has a family atmosphere that you don’t see other places. We are all extremely close and care about each other.”
Emma said the family feel extends to OLMA’s sports teams. “I play midfield on the soccer team and we are all so open,” she said. ” We’ve all made goals this season, so our team has a great sense of equality. We are teammates and want to see each other do well.” OLMA Soccer is doing that and then some this season as they just clinched the CAL’s United Division Championship.
In addition to sports and her studies, Emma is also involved in service. “I was in Interact last year and will be joining the club again in January once Driver’s Ed is finished,” she said. “I really enjoy it.” As a freshman, Emma spent her Mini-Mester week at St. John of God working with disabled teenagers. “I was so afraid at first and worried that they wouldn’t like me,” said Emma. “I was worried for no reason because the kids were so sweet and caring and loved having us there. They never let their disabilities keep them from being happy.”
This year, Emma is excited to travel to New Orleans for her Mini-Mester. “I can’t wait to learn about the history and visit such an interesting place,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to the Powder Puff game next month, as well as everything else that’s coming up this year.”
Looking ahead, Emma’s love for all things sports is steering her toward a career in Physical Therapy. “I am really into sports, which has made me very attune to my body and the stress it’s under when I’m playing,” she said. “I want to help people with injuries, especially those related to sports, to get better and back to doing what they love.”
Sounds like a plan, Emma. In the meantime, enjoy sophomore year!
(Originally published on October 4, 2019.)
Every so often, a student transfers to OLMA as an upperclassman and fits in so well that in no time at all it’s hard to remember that she hasn’t been here since day one. That is Emily Torrence. Now a senior, Emily transferred to OLMA as a junior — on the first day of school. Of course, we knew right away that she was exactly the type of young woman that OLMA was made for. We were thrilled to have her and in true OLMA fashion, her new sisters welcomed her with open arms.
Emily jumped right in. She joined Chorus and Select Chorus. She missed tryouts for the musical but performed along with other OLMA students in the St. Augustine Cabaret. She sang at Junior Ring Mass and took an active role in the Interact Club. Emily also excelled academically and was inducted into the National Honor Society. This year, Emily is helping to manage Chorus, is a member of Select Chorus and will play “Wednesday” in the Adams Family musical set for November. But that’s not all.
Tonight, Emily will compete in a local prelim to the Miss America pageant with hopes of moving on to become Miss New Jersey. As a contestant, she is raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network and for the Miss America Scholarship Fund. Her personal platform, though is what excites her the most. “I love environmental and marine science and am passionate about keeping our waterways clean and safe,” she said. “That’s why I chose ‘Keep the Seas Plastic Free’ as my personal platform. I’m working on educating people about how the use of plastic affects the environment.” It was this same passion that inspired Emily to choose Ms. Coppinger’s Biodiversity Mini-Mester last spring. She and a group of other students traveled to Cedar Key, FL. In addition to snorkeling with manatees and kayaking down the Swanee River, Emily helped make a television commercial about the need to reduce the use of plastic. It later aired on local channels.
Not surprisingly, Emily hopes to study Marine Biology and Law in college with the goal of pursuing a career in Environmental Law. She has applied to 11 colleges. Her top three include the University of Miami, Pepperdine and Eckerd College. “My top choice is the University of Miami, but I love Eckerd too,” she said. “When I visited it gave me OLMA vibes, so that’s also a top contender.” While Emily is a self-proclaimed Math and Science girl, she does quite well on the Language Arts front too. Last year she took AP Language Arts and scored a very impressive 5 on the AP test. Can you say, WOW?
Emily has it all, which is why we know she will shine at tonight’s pageant. Congratulations and go get ’em, Emily!