An Independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, D.C.

Layla

Extracurriculars: Student Body President, President of Model United Nations, Common Sense (editor), Cross-Country, Winter and Spring Track, Writing Center tutor, Alumni Governing Council member, Stewards, and Student Diversity Leadership Club
Favorite Class: History with Dr. Heard because she’s always relating our class discussions to current events.
Favorite Thing About Potomac: The schedule. The long blocks in the middle of the week provide breaks from the shorter, all-block days, and there are designated periods for Assembly, Clubs and Activities, and Advisory, non-academic blocks that let us exercise other ideas and interests.
Memorable Potomac Moment: Sitting around the bonfire with my class on the annual Freshman class trip, as it gave us the opportunity to grow and learn about each other at a defining period in our lives.
Aspirations: Living in a big city, writing, traveling, continuing to learn.

layla
12th GRade

Friday, January 28 commemorated my last time enjoying one of my favorite Potomac traditions, Coffeehouse. Coffeehouse is an annual, student-run talent show hosted in the Crossroads -- a common space in the Upper School.

Each year, students from every grade-level (as well as faculty members) sing, dance, recite, and act to their heart's content while their peers and teachers gather around and revel in the talent present on campus.

Many may believe that Coffeehouse is merely a talent show, much like the one we have each spring, but the only commonality between the two is the bold and impressive performances. In addition to amazing acts, Coffeehouse features a candlelit dinner, baked goods during intermission, and a fundraiser for a local organization. This year, the organizers even created a Snapchat geofilter for the event.

On any given Friday afternoon, students are typically boarding the buses or heading to their cars, but on this particular Friday, students begin to trickle into the Crossroads once after-school activities had ended. Largely dressed in athletic clothes, they grabbed pizza, gathered at tables with friends, and chatted about the performances to come. Around 6 pm, the lights dimmed, and the show began.

Despite the elegant setup, Coffeehouse is an informal event. Performers cracked jokes as they set up, and the crowd whooped and cheered through the many performances. This year, the evening featured several guitarists, a senior-freshman duet on the piano, a newly formed band comprised of seven seniors, a poetry enthusiast, a rapper, and countless other acts. In the past, we've also had an essayist, a dancer, and two students who acted out a skit.

The event ended with a final performance by the Coffeehouse coordinators, who this year performed a loud, exciting rendition of "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse -- an excellent way to close out yet another successful Coffeehouse.

Coffeehouse has always been a warm reminder of the richness of our community. It's a chance for students to showcase their talents and for all of us to embrace and appreciate those around us.

This past weekend, I traveled down to Gordonsville, Virginia, with the Potomac cross country team for States. Traditionally, the state cross country meet is Potomac's final meet of the season, thus Coach Dwyer reminds us each year that it is an opportunity for "unfinished business" (meaning that it's one more chance to have a great race). I ran at States during my junior year, and although I didn't run this year, I still got to attend—a privilege granted to seniors on the team.

We arrived at school on Friday morning, athletic bags in tow, and eagerly awaited the bus that would take us down to Gordonsville. On the way, we laughed, bonded, and shared snacks, and before we knew it, we had arrived at the meet and the runners were beginning their warm-up. During the actual races, my friends and I ran across the course (which spanned both woodlands and open fields) to cheer our teammates on, telling them to "leave it all on the course!" By the end of the day, every runner felt as though they had done their best, and one of them even won All-Met.

That night, we stayed in nearby cabins, where we stay every year for our spring track cabin trip, and spent the night talking and sharing memories as a team. The next morning, our coaches made breakfast for the team, which we ate together before loading up and heading back to McLean. Our return to campus signaled the end of my final Potomac cross country season, which I will reminisce on for years to come.

I joined the cross country team in the fall of my sophomore year. I had played field hockey from 7th to 9th grade, but after spending the summer before 10th grade running in preparation for the upcoming season, I realized that I enjoyed running itself. I decided to join the cross country "family," as it was described to me and as I've come to know it.

Cross country has both tested my limits and pushed me to be my best. Through long runs and harder workouts, I've learned true perseverance and endurance, and I've done it alongside my friends. The Potomac cross country team has come to mean the world to me.

As we move into winter track, the program will expand, welcoming mid-distance runners, sprinters, and throwers. While I will miss cross country, I can't wait for indoor track to begin. I'm looking forward to the races I will compete in and the new bonds I'll form this season.

Until I entered the spring of my junior year, college was a myth. Even though each day brought you closer and closer to facing the daunting task of applying to colleges, the end-goal always seemed to be at a distance. Even now, after visiting campuses, meeting with my college counselor, and attending information sessions, it's still hard to believe that I'll be graduating in just a year and going to school on an entirely different campus.

The college process has presented me with exciting and even introspective tasks. Take location, for instance. Would I want to go to school in a rural area, observing mountains in the distance as I completed homework with friends? Or would I prefer a city soundtrack as I went about my day? Do I want peace and natural tranquility or the energy and vivacity that comes with an urban setting? Perhaps an in-between?

As I reflected on the countless possibilities, my college counselor offered much-needed advice and information on what various schools had to offer. For instance, a rural school could run shuttles into a nearby city on the weekends, he posed, and a city school might host early morning jogs in a park. While the possibilities abound, my college counselor has helped me narrow them down since day one and even instilled enthusiasm in what is typically viewed as nerve-wracking.

Personalizing the college process has allowed me to understand what kind of student I am and what type of learning environment I would thrive in. Aspects of university life like class size, diversity on campus, and residential life have provided me with opportunities to sit back and get to know myself, a phrase that you don't usually associate with junior spring. Discussing these factors with my family, friends, and college counselor has been wholly enjoyable and eye opening.

My first meetings with my college counselor consisted of me talking about my hobbies, favorite classes, and areas of interest. My counselor wanted to get to know me before we started crunching numbers and whatnot, and it reflected the level of consideration he put into his work. All of a sudden, college wasn't daunting, or nerve-wracking; it was fun and intriguing, and the process has led me to look forward to setting foot on a new campus, in a new city, ready to start anew.

Until I entered the spring of my junior year, college was a myth. Even though each day brought you closer and closer to facing the daunting task of applying to colleges, the end-goal always seemed to be at a distance. Even now, after visiting campuses, meeting with my college counselor, and attending information sessions, it's still hard to believe that I'll be graduating in just a year and going to school on an entirely different campus.

The college process has presented me with exciting and even introspective tasks. Take location, for instance. Would I want to go to school in a rural area, observing mountains in the distance as I completed homework with friends? Or would I prefer a city soundtrack as I went about my day? Do I want peace and natural tranquility or the energy and vivacity that comes with an urban setting? Perhaps an in-between?

As I reflected on the countless possibilities, my college counselor offered much-needed advice and information on what various schools had to offer. For instance, a rural school could run shuttles into a nearby city on the weekends, he posed, and a city school might host early morning jogs in a park. While the possibilities abound, my college counselor has helped me narrow them down since day one and even instilled enthusiasm in what is typically viewed as nerve-wracking.

Personalizing the college process has allowed me to understand what kind of student I am and what type of learning environment I would thrive in. Aspects of university life like class size, diversity on campus, and residential life have provided me with opportunities to sit back and get to know myself, a phrase that you don't usually associate with junior spring. Discussing these factors with my family, friends, and college counselor has been wholly enjoyable and eye opening.

My first meetings with my college counselor consisted of me talking about my hobbies, favorite classes, and areas of interest. My counselor wanted to get to know me before we started crunching numbers and whatnot, and it reflected the level of consideration he put into his work. All of a sudden, college wasn't daunting, or nerve-wracking; it was fun and intriguing, and the process has led me to look forward to setting foot on a new campus, in a new city, ready to start anew.

As I type this, I peer out of my frosty bedroom window, attempting to make out signs of life under the soft light of the streetlamps. Winter Storm Jonas has coated my neighborhood with a layer of snow so thick that a comparison to Alaska would be an understatement. WMATA has closed, and friends in New York tell me that cars have been banned from the streets. Clearly our wishes for a white holiday season have caught up to us.

Warmed by my mug of hot chocolate and bundled up in a thick blanket, I’ve decided to take this 4-day weekend (which could easily become one of 5-to-6 days) to plan for various meetings, presentations, and tests that will greet me once school opens up again.

Early in December I was fortunate enough to be selected to attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, a 3-day conference in which private school students from around the world gathered in Tampa, Florida and discussed various issues pertaining to diversity, individualism, and identity. Since then, myself and the 5 other students chosen to attend, have set up meetings with faculty members in all 4 divisions (Lower School, Middle School, Intermediate School, and the Upper School), organized assemblies, and spoken as a panel in order to bring back the knowledge we gained during the trip and inspire even more meaningful conversation on our already “woke” (as Rodney Glasgow, speaker and prominent member of the diversity field, put it) campus.

The recent, authentic wintery weather has inspired the Student Government (SGA) as well, and we’ve been working on several initiatives that have warmed up the student body’s spirits despite the brisk air. Hot tea and hot chocolate on Wednesday mornings, beanbags in the library, a Town Hall meeting where students could voice their opinions on cumulative assessments and tests - SGA has been working hard, and we’ve been rewarded in the appreciation and positive spirits of our peers.

Of course, for the time that I’ve spent planning, I’ve spent an equal amount reading. To my left is Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, an incredibly observant novel following two Nigerian students and their impressions of America and England. To my right, The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus, in which parents begin to dread the sounds of their children’s voices in an almost post-apocalyptic fashion (an obscure yet fascinating read).

Being snowed in on this unexpectedly white weekend has provided me with time to relax, catch up, and look forward to my return to school.

“Motion to open debate,” I stated, while lowering my stiff placard. Although the debate hadn’t begun yet, my head was already abuzz with Israel’s previous disaster management plans, the United Nations Development Program’s relationship with the Red Cross, and the benefits of the localization of risk reduction programs. These topics covered just a fraction of my committee’s discussion at AMERIMUNC, American University’s Model United Nations conference, which Potomac attended a few weeks ago. After checking in that morning, the delegates met for the opening ceremony. The chair of the conference, an AU foreign policy student, briefly introduced himself and the university’s School of International Service (where the conference was being held) before officially commencing the start of the conference.

In preparation for model UN conferences, our club leaders, along with our faculty advisors, history teachers Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Cleveland, will submit our committee preferences, then assign them to us along with our delegation, or country. If you’re assigned a more difficult committee, like the United Nations Security Council, or European Union 2020 (yup, it takes place in the future), then you might not even represent a country. You could represent a region, or even a political figure. Once I’ve received my committee and delegation assignments, I’ll peruse CIA World Factbook (a MUN favorite, as it serves as a more reliable version of Wikipedia) or news sites like New York Times and BBC for more recent information on either the topic or delegation. Topics cover a wide range of ideas, from natural disaster preparedness (which we debated at AU), to NATO’s relationship with Russia, to targeted killing and the use of drones.

While the club may seem like overwhelming arguments and extra homework, the reality is quite the opposite. I know that other schools offer Model UN as a class, requiring conference attendance and assigning homework related to the material, but at Potomac, Model UN is a club, thus, our meetings are much more informal and loads of fun. We share snacks while engaging in mock committee sessions and learning tips for research, public speaking, and resolution writing. Our club leaders always find ways to balance fun and learning, setting a positive tone at our meetings each Thursday.

I picked up Model UN as a freshman because of a desire to discuss intriguing topics in a debate setting. The prospect of working with students from other schools (and sometimes other states) to write resolutions and make strides for your delegation made the club that much more enticing and diminished any thoughts of extra work, as researching for my committee sessions would be interesting and exciting. This year, my junior year, we have a long list of conferences on our agenda, and I look forward to aiding peers who have just joined the club and sharing my fond memories and experiences with them.