Alumni News

Alumni Spotlight:

Billy Bowers

A Foothills graduate, Billy Bowers graduated from Boise High School in 2015 and is now attending Bennington College in Vermont. Billy is an accomplished dancer, scholar, writer, amateur actor, and Billy will forever be remembered at Foothills for working a Rubik’s Cube while riding a unicycle in front of the entire school.

Why did you choose Bennington College?

Bennington is known as “the home of modern dance” and it’s known for its unconventional learning approach. It’s a liberal arts school with only 700 students and students design their own majors. There are also things like a semester field term, where all students get to learn through working outside of school for an extended period of time.

What do you miss about Foothills?

I miss the close relationships with teachers and how that never dies, even after you leave the school. I still email teachers at Foothills and go to them for advice and they always help me.

Did you feel prepared for Boise High after graduating from the 9s here?

I did. There is a high academic standard at Boise High and a lot of really academically inclined students go there. I think the smart kids are always the coolest. And as far as friends go, Henry [Shafer-Coffey] and Matty [Gerber, who I graduated with from the 9s] are still my best friends. I guess for the parents who worry if their kids will be okay at Boise High I’d say, “Don’t worry. They’ll make friends and friends from Foothills will stay with them.”

Did you get good grades at Boise High?

I had a 4.4 GPA my senior year.

What other activities have you been involved with at Boise High?

I took Journalism and wrote for the school newspaper with Henry and Matty. I ran Varsity Track and did the pole vault. I was also on the Varsity Snow Boarding Team. I started the Rubik’s Cube Club (we had 7 members), was co-President of the Tea Club, was in DECA (a business club), and was in Chess Club. I was also in National Honors Society and Student Congress.

I know you got a dance scholarship to college. How did you start dancing?

My sister danced for Balance Dance Company and Leah [Clark] encouraged me to take a class for free to see if I liked it. I did and I liked it so I took two years of classes with Balance and then last year I was a member of the Balance Dance Company.

I saw the movie that you and Henry and Matty made—it was awesome and hilarious! How did that all happen?

We entered the local i48 Film Contest, where you have 48 hours to make a movie from start to finish. Henry wrote it and Matty and I acted in it. I wasn’t going to have a speaking part but when we were practicing lines, Henry was like, “You’re actually pretty good. You should say the lines.” I think there were like 35 films and ours won the most awards for the novice division with “Best Film,” “Best Cinematography,” and I won for “Best Actor.”

How would you describe your ideal learning environment?

I’d say you’d be able to have close relationships with your teachers and classmates. Teachers would care about you and want you to learn. There’d be small classes. I’ve found if you have a good rapport with your teachers, they want you to excel. I’ve also learned to be up-front about asking questions and learning as much as possible from teachers and classmates.

What do you most value about what you learned at Foothills?

I learned that I can be comfortable learning whatever I want to learn. I’m not afraid to ask questions, like figuring out how to solve a Rubik’s Cube faster; it’s fun to learn something new and use your spatial reasoning skills to solve problems. One of the exciting things too about Bennington is that I’ll get to design my own major. I don’t want to be stuck in just one academic area; I want to see how I can combine the things I like most into something meaningful for myself.

Henry Shafer-Coffey

Henry Shafer-Coffey is currently a Senior at Boise High School. He attended Foothills School for 7 years from Kindergarten-6th grade (he skipped 5th grade), then went to Anser Charter School for 7th and 8th grades, and returned to Foothills for 9th grade. Henry is an accomplished writer, swimmer and scholar. He has a wise view on education and life, and has a great sense of humor.

How was your transition to Boise High School, socially and academically?

It was good. Socially, it was fine and two of my best friends from Foothills [Matty Gerber and Billy Bowers] are still my best friends. It's been easy to make friends at Boise High through classes and other activities. In 10th grade, people seem more secure and are open to meeting new people and are pretty inviting; there's sort of a "nerdy," laid back culture at Boise High and I think that's good for Foothills kids. The academic transition was easy too. Everything has been pretty smooth for me.

How would you describe yourself to someone who doesn't know you?

I'd say I'm curious, hungry [for knowledge] and goofy. I had to answer that question on some college essays.

What classes are you taking this year and can I ask what your GPA is?

I'm taking:

  • AP Calculus
  • AP Econ
  • Journalism
  • Creative Writing
  • AP English
  • AP Government

My GPA is 4.18 weighted and 4.0 unweighted.

I know you've gotten some awards for writing. Can you tell me about that?

I guess I've gotten a lot of recognition for writing. I've won two American Voices Awards [awarded to the top 5 writing pieces in the state by national critics]. I've won 6 Gold Keys, which are pieces that get passed on for national consideration. [Both awards are from the Scholastic Art and Writings Awards.] I submitted a portfolio of writing samples and my pieces were chosen from that. I've won some money for writing too: I won $1,000 for an essay I wrote called The Cancer Connection; it won 2nd place and was judged by critics like Anthony Doerr [Boise resident and New York Times bestselling author].

What other activities to you participate in outside of school?

I swim for both Boise High and the YMCA's swim teams. I've been swimming for 7 years and my main event is the 500, which is 20 lengths of the pool at the Y. I've volunteered at The Cabin. I'm also in Philosophy Club, Tea Club, Man Choir, and Rubik's Cube Club—those are all just kind of for fun though.

What are your long-term goals, educationally and personally?

I want to go to college, find a job I enjoy, and not starve.

Are you applying to colleges now?

I've applied to ten schools using the common application; my top picks (in no particular order) are probably:

1. Lewis and Clark

2. Whitman

3. Chapman

They're all more liberal arts type schools with good writing programs. I'm still not totally sure what I'd like to do yet after graduation.

How would you describe your ideal learning environment?

It would be a place where smart, funny, interested people talk to each other.

What do you miss about Foothills?

This is what I miss about Foothills [looking around and referring to the Foothills Parents Lounge where we're sitting and talking]; I like the "eclectic vibe" of this room and the whole school. I like that all the classes aren't uniform, grey and drab like some schools that feel more like institutions, and that there's a more creative, homey feel here. I like all the artwork around and that classes feel comfortable for kids.

What did you like most about Foothills?

The teachers at Foothills are so great. I liked that we had chess tournaments, that teachers will play football with you at lunchtime, and things like the lunch program [it was the Tapia's lunch program when he was here]. I liked to sit around Dan's [Fisher's] seminar table and talk with people. I liked the spontaneity of learning here. At other schools, cool, spontaneous learning can happen sometimes in spite of the system, but at Foothills it happens all the time because of the system.

You've been part of Foothills' Alumni Seminar Group, who've met with Dan?

Yeah, last year we met with Dan regularly and read several books for seminar. We read All the Pretty Horses, East of Eden (which was my favorite), The Great Gatsby, Native Son, and Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.

In what ways do you think Foothills has helped prepare you for the future?

Foothills has helped me in a lot of ways. I was just talking with my mom and saying that in some ways Foothills might be more important than college for me. In college, you're older and more fully formed, but when you're younger and more impressionable, it's so valuable to have other people believe in your ideas and help you believe that your ideas matter. Foothills helps kids care about their own learning; you want to read a book and pursue your ideas more. You want to rise to the expectations that teachers and the school set—but that you set for yourself too.

What do you most value about what you learned at Foothills?

The question is better than the answer.

Alumni Spotlight:

Q&A with Jeffrey Baehr

Jeffrey Baehr is finishing up his Bachelor of Science degree at Boise State University. Jeff has three semesters left before graduating with a B.S. in Business Administration and IT Management, and a minor in Finance. He attended Foothills for 7 years: for 1st and 2nd grade and 4th-8th grades, and graduated from Meridian Tech High School in 2007. Since high school, he's been working in the IT field, has lived in Alaska and taken classes there, and most recently is working for Radio Boise part-time as their Membership and IT Manager while he finishes school.

I know you're 25 now. What schools have you attended since Foothills?

I went to North [Junior High] for 9th grade, to Boise High for 10th and then I transferred to Meridian Technical Charter High School for 11th and 12th grades. Boise High in general is a good school, but I wanted to go to Meridian Tech because it was a better fit for my interests. There, I learned more about how computers work, specifically about computer networking and PC repair, and I worked for Geek Squad for two years as a high school student. I've always been pretty independent and enjoyed working; in high school at age 18, I moved into my first apartment. Since high school, I've taken classes at BSU and The University of Alaska but I've always been working at least part-time.

Since you've gone to several schools now, do you have any advice for students preparing to transfer next year?

My advice for anyone transferring to a new school would be to just be genuine and friendly. Especially going to Boise High for 10th grade, everyone is in the same boat as far as being new to the school. It'll be fine.

What drew you to Alaska?

I really like the 'live and let live' attitude that Alaskans embrace. I used to go on fly fishing trips with my grandpa to Alaska so I knew I loved the country. I went to The University of Alaska for 2 ½ years and did all kinds of jobs while I was there: I worked at a credit card processing place, a restaurant, and as a traffic controller for Uhaul. I've been living back in Boise now for about 2 years.

Do you have an ideal job in mind for after graduation?

I think IT consulting for a medium-sized company would be ideal.

How about your ideal school experience or learning environment?

I've actually really liked online, centralized learning where you can have access to the best teachers in the country remotely. I like the efficiency of it. But overall I think I prefer working to being in school.

How would you describe yourself to someone who doesn't know you?

I'm interested in understanding other people's beliefs. I like to find good compromises and I hate stress. I'm a pretty analytical person. I think it's important to do what you love and to have humility.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time at Foothills?

I loved spring trips. I really liked the trip to Hagerman Dam where we learned about the hydroelectric dam. Kevin [Kramer] was great; he was enthusiastic and happy as a teacher, and I remember Robbie [Prokop], Becky [Morgan] and Tracy [Paetal-Day], the Spanish teacher, as great teachers.

In what ways do you think Foothills has helped prepare you for the future?

I liked the free-form class structure where we were able to solve real-world problems and practice critical thinking. I thrive and succeed most when I'm interested in the work I'm doing and what I'm learning has real applications.

What do you value most about what you learned at Foothills?

I most value the opportunity to discover and follow my own interests. I liked having some choice in what we studied at Foothills because I think that's the best way to help satisfy someone's personal curiosities.

I know your sister Katherine (also a Foothills alum) just graduated from CC [Colorado College] last year. What's she doing now?

Yeah, she graduated from CC with a B.S. in Geology. She was living and working in Australia for nine months after graduation. She's currently the supervisor at the Friends of Animals Utah Rescue and Rehabilitation Ranch. She's planning to go to graduate school next year. She actually just called me the other day and we were talking about our jobs. One thing I've learned through working is that it's important to have the confidence to ask for what you need as an employee and do it in a way that aligns the organization's needs with your strengths. I know two of my friends from Foothills, Tynan Smith and Reed Morse, are both working at Google now. It'd be interesting to hear their perspective on the need to be creative, confident and innovative as employees.

Alumni Spotlight:

Q&A with Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is currently a senior at Boise High School. She attended Foothills for 6 years, from Kindergarten-2nd and then from 6th-9th grade (she skipped 7th grade). She's waiting to hear back from colleges now and is excited about double-majoring in dance and political science or international relations. Madeleine is a National Merit Scholar Finalist, has a 4.27 GPA, and is a Rotary Century Scholar (top 100 students in Boise). An accomplished dancer, Madeleine typically dances three hours a day, five days a week, and for 6 hours on Saturdays. She's an all-around amazingly talented, grounded, hard-working young woman and we're so proud of her!

How do you like Boise High and how was your transition there?

I like Boise High a lot. I wouldn't say any of the academic work I've had there has been harder than the depth of work at Foothills, so the academic transition was fine.

How has the transition to high school been socially?

Socially it's been good. It's been easy to meet people and make friends. I'm still really close with friends who moved with me from Foothills. At Boise High, there's a mixture of kids from all different backgrounds and it's probably the most liberal school in Boise in terms of school culture. Everyone is pretty friendly and there's an emphasis on high academic standards--for instance, everyone is encouraged to take AP classes, but there's still a pretty casual atmosphere at the school, which is nice.

What classes are you taking this year?

I'm only taking five classes this year because I already have enough credits to graduate. I think I received 14 credits my 9th grade year at Foothills; I have about 60 credits now and I think you have to have 48 or so to graduate. Right now I'm taking: AP Microeconomics, AP Physics C, AP European History – Comparative, AP Government – U.S., and AP Calculus. I get out at 1 p.m. each day and then have more time for dance in the afternoon.

Tell me about your dancing.

I've been dancing since I was four. I dance for Idaho Regional Ballet, a non-profit pre-professional performing youth company for 13-18 year olds [Madeleine is 16]. There's a selection process and I'm currently the only student from Boise High involved with the company. My 9th grade year at Foothills was my first year with them. It's mostly classical ballet with more contemporary performances; each day we have an hour and a half of technique and then an hour and a half of rehearsal. We just finished the Nutcracker and I've played all different roles over the years; the Nutcracker is especially fun because it's classical ballet with character acting.

Are you planning to dance in college?

Yes, I want to dance in college. I'll hear back from my top schools on April 1. My top two choices are: 1) Alvin Ailey School of Dance at Fordham University in New York, and 2) ALONSO KING LINES Ballet at Dominican University in San Francisco; both schools offer a BFA in dance. My goal is to be a professional dancer. And I also want to major in Political Science or International Relations. I'm a National Merit Finalist so I'm hoping that will help with tuition, wherever I go.

Can you remind people how you qualify as a National Merit Finalist?

You have to get a certain score on your PSAT and SAT and then they check your grades and have you write an essay. As far as standardized tests go, they're not that bad; you get used to them. Actually the hardest part of taking tests is not thinking too critically because you can usually tell the answer they're looking for pretty quickly, and you don't want to second-guess yourself too much. You can get a full-ride scholarship to certain schools if you're a National Merit Scholar.

Your grades must be pretty good, too.

I have a 4.27 GPA.

Have you gotten any other academic awards?

I'm a Rotary Scholar, which is a top 100 students in Boise award. You get to bring your most influential teacher to the awards banquet and I'm taking Dan [Fisher]. Of all my teachers Dan has had the biggest impact on me. I'm also in National Honor Society.

How would your friends describe you?

I'm motivated, disciplined, I have broad interests but I also like to go deep in some areas of interest; I guess I'm kind of a Renaissance person. I feel pretty balanced in all of my activities.

Do you have any favorite memories of your time at Foothills?

9th grade was a fantastic year for me. The Nines class was phenomenal and Ray [Vizgirdas, my 9th grade teacher] was phenomenal. Our class was just a safe, intellectual community where we could really discuss things we were interested in. We would all study together with the right amount of freedom and support (and chocolate from our teachers).

Didn't you choose to read War and Peace as a 9th grader?

I did. Dan had been reading it on our 8th grade spring trip and I thought, “Maybe I want to read that some time." And then we read Crime and Punishment that year in L.A. and so I knew I liked Russian literature. When I asked Dan if I could read War and Peace in 9th grade, he said sure as long I could recruit two other students. I got Melanie [Hernandez] to sign on and then Matty [Gerber], although I think his mom might have paid him $50 to read it. And our spring trip to Washington D.C. that year was amazing.

In what ways do you think Foothills has prepared you for the future?

I think the kids who come from Foothills have been taught to think critically. I've noticed with other smart kids at Boise High, who didn't go to Foothills, that they'll kind of stop after they get the grade they want. But I think Foothills students have their own intrinsic desire to learn and don't just want to stop at the easy answer or 'A'; they want to go deeper in their learning.

What do you most value about what you learned at Foothills?

I most value being treated like an intellectual equal by adults. Foothills teachers give students the recognition that they have their own ideas and that they want to know what they are and consider everyone's perspective. I think that's the most important thing to learn: that your ideas have worth, are valid, and should be heard.

Alumni Spotlight:

Q&A with Naomi Savin

Naomi Savin is currently a senior at Boise High School (BHS). She attended Foothills for 7th, 8th and 9th grade. She's in the process of completing her college applications for next year and is applying to ten different schools. Naomi has a full schedule with weekly babysitting, various sports, varsity-level choir, and volunteering on top of her school commitments. Naomi has a 4.15 GPA, is a National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist, and has a wise perspective on the value of education.

How do you like Boise High and how was your transition to 10th grade?

I love Boise High. Going in as a 10th grader from Foothills, the transition was relatively easy, not nearly as bad as I feared. I'm incredibly glad I went to Foothills for 7th-9th grades. I think the middle school experience at bigger, public schools is generally a rough ride for many kids—and I'm happy to have skipped all of that going to Foothills. Boise High students are accepting and friendly, and by high school, everyone wants to branch out a little bit and make new friends, which made the transition easy. Academically it was much less challenging (in 10th grade) than at Foothills. But, regarding English especially, nothing you get at public high school is going to be as challenging as Dan [Fisher's] class, so you have to just have to accept that.

Are there specific skills that you learned at Foothills that helped in your transition?

At Foothills, particularly as a 9th grader, I learned how to manage and structure my time well. Each year at Boise High has gotten progressively more challenging, but because I can manage my time, I know I can choose challenging classes and still have time to do the things I love.

What AP classes are you taking?

I have 0 hour audition-level choir (called High Expectations), AP Microeconomics, AP Calculus (that's my hardest class), AP Government, AP Literature, and AP World History (which I really like and I have a great teacher).

Do you have any advice for students making the transition to 10th grade soon?

Academically you'll do great, so don't worry about that. I would say try not to overthink everything and stress yourself out, because you'll figure it out. I'd also say to parents not to pull your kids out of Foothills early thinking they won't have time to adjust socially. I think sometimes people worry that kids in private schools won't have strong social skills, but if you're a social person and you've got good social skills, you'll do fine wherever you go to school, regardless of class or school size. I actually think it was kind of an advantage socially coming from Foothills because I wasn't in any social group yet, so I could decide who I might fit in with best at Boise High.

What extracurricular activities do you do?

I have after school choir activities with High Expectations; I love choir and have been singing since I was six. I ran JV Cross Country (the season just ended), have done dance, climbing and track, and I like to skate ski in the winter. I usually work-out every day at the YMCA. I love to babysit, so I do a lot of that; there is only family who I have been babysitting for weekly for a year and a half. I'm also the secretary of Humanitarian Club at school. I teach Hebrew School to B'nai Mitzvah kids at our Synagogue, which is a volunteer position. I am the youth representative on the Synagogue's adult board, and I am also the student representative for the city's Development Impact Fee Advisory Committee.

Are you still volunteering with Giraffe Laugh [a local preschool]?

Yeah, I started working with them during a service learning project at Foothills and I've been volunteering there weekly ever since 8th grade. I also volunteer for One Stone, which a really cool non-profit run by high school students from various high schools in the area. We decide on volunteer projects to spearhead, such as reading workshops for school-age kids, or working with elderly people, and work on those together for a few months at a time. One Stone is an organization that Foothills might want to know more about.

In what ways has Foothills helped prepare you for the future?

My education at Foothills definitely helped build my critical thinking skills and my writing skills, which are so important in school and in life. I'm doing all of my college essays now, and applying to ten schools, there are a lot of essays to write. Having the foundations for being a good writer and being comfortable with writing are huge advantages. The student-teacher relationships at Foothills also set me up with the expectation that teachers are there to help you, and that they want to help you if you ask them. I think I was afraid when I left Foothills that my teachers wouldn't care as much about helping individual students, but I've found that if you initiate things with teachers, they really do want you to understand things and will take the time to explain things to you.

How would you describe yourself?

I'm motivated, I like to be productive, I'm a hard worker, but I don't take myself too seriously. I'm always determined to try to really understand things—I don't get hung up on wrong answers if I miss problems on a test or if I misinterpret something, as long as I can reach a better understanding of the material that I need to know later. That kind of probing beneath the surface for meaning and understanding, as opposed to just superficial answers, is what I learned at Foothills. The point of learning new things should be about the experience of understanding, not about grades. I'm pretty social too. I have a group of probably five really good friends and a larger group of friends who I like to hang out with when I have time.

Is there anything you've achieved recently that you'd like to share?

I have a 4.15 GPA and I recently received National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist status. I have also lettered in choir and cross country.

So you must have done well on your tests?

You have to score in the 99 percentile on your PSAT to be a national merit semi-finalist, so yes, I did pretty well on those tests. Having strong literacy skills helped so much on my SAT and ACT. I feel confident for the most part in testing situations because I'm so used to reading to understand the author's purpose, and asking what the deeper meaning is. My critical thinking skills and vocabulary (from reading tough books, many of which I was introduced to at Foothills) helped too.

What colleges are you applying to and do you know what you might study?

At this point, I think I want to study political science. I'm applying to Brown [University], Bryn Mawr [College], Claremont McKenna [College], Harvard [University], Washington University in St. Louis, Wellesley [College], Tufts [University], University of Pennsylvania, Lewis and Clark [College], and Northwestern [University].

What criteria did you use for choosing schools?

I wanted to be on the East Coast in an urban setting; I've liked Boise since moving here from Seattle but I'm ready to be in a bigger city. I chose academically rigorous schools with low student to faculty ratios, something I learned to value at Foothills, and schools with good professors. I wanted small classes (the largest classes at these schools is about 30 students), and I want to be able to have a good social life, too.

Do you have any favorite memories of your time at Foothills?

I have so many good memories--anything to do with Dan [Fisher] and seminar and dark chocolate, which Dan had available during seminars as “brain food." I remember the first history paper I got a tree on [Dan's form of grading]. I miss the teachers and liked the girls in my 9s class. I miss the community vibe of the school that made me feel so comfortable and open, as if I could go out and do anything.

What do you most value about what you learned at Foothills?

I most value learning to work towards understanding things, and not being satisfied with a surface level discussion. I remember asking why a lot, and always wanting to really understand and be able to back your assertions with evidence. Those skills are probably what I value more than anything.

Alumni Spotlight:

Q&A with Matt Gerber

Matt (known to many at Foothills as Matty) Gerber is currently a junior at Boise High School. Matty attended Foothills for 10 years from Kindergarten through 9th grade. Matt has a 3.9 GPA and is starting to think about colleges, mostly schools on the West Coast. When Matt was a 9th grader at Foothills, he earned awards for “Most Influential Student" and “Distinguished Math and Science Student," among others.

How have you liked Boise High School?

I think Boise High is great and things have gone smoothly for me there. The academics are good although not as good as I was used to--it's one of the top ranked schools in the country--and the teachers are pretty available if you approach them. At first it was a huge change in terms of the size of classes and how they're taught compared to Foothills classes. But I got to go there with all of my friends from Foothills, which was nice. I shared a locker with Henry [Shafer-Coffey, who graduated with me from Foothills], for instance, and socially everything was fine. It's one of the schools that don't have defined cliques so other kids there are open and get along well.

Can I ask what your GPA is and what AP classes you're taking?

I currently have a 3.9 GPA. By the end of this year, I'll have a 4.25 with AP [Advanced Placement] classes if I get all A's and my cumulative GPA will be a 4.00. I have AP Physics A & B, AP U.S. History and AP Language and Composition. My favorite classes are math--I've always liked working with numbers-- and I think history is quite intriguing as well. And I also like to read and write.

Do you have any tips for Foothills students when they head into 10th grade?

Register before school starts and do a walk through so you know where all your classes are.

What are your plans after you graduate?

I'm looking at schools on the West Coast. I'm interested in the University of Puget Sound, Lewis and Clark, Seattle University, College of Idaho, more liberal arts type schools. I'm thinking about getting a business degree, studying computer engineering or aeronautics. I'd like to go to graduate school, too.

Have you done any extra curricular activities?

I'm on ski club so I'll ski and race at Bogus this winter with kids from Boise High and other schools. I actually started skiing at Foothills when I was in Kindergarten, when the school used to take all the kids skiing. I also worked as a surveyor assistant last summer in Oregon and throughout Idaho, which was an interesting and exciting experience. And I'm planning to do more volunteering this year, maybe with Preservation Idaho.

Is there anything in particular you miss about Foothills?

I miss seminar and regular one-on-one teacher/student interactions. I liked feeling like I was on more equal footing with my teachers. My favorite seminar book was the Brothers Karamosov. Seminar is great because it helps you get into a book and understand it more, understand what the author is writing about and why they add certain details, and it helps you get what the overall point of the book is.

Tell me about War and Peace and how you read it as an optional seminar book.

Madeleine Kim and another student, maybe Melanie, wanted to read it for seminar. Dan asked me to think about joining their group because they needed at least three students plus Dan. I reviewed it and decided to read it. I liked it although it was a little dry in places.

How do you think Foothills has helped prepare you for the future?

Foothills prepared me to think in depth and enjoy learning. I think I have strong writing skills because of Foothills, and Foothills kids' academic skills seem a lot more advanced than kids coming from other schools. I dropped a marketing/economics class because it was too easy and I know a lot of kids think differently and instead try to sign up for easy classes to improve their GPAs. I don't want to do that.

What do you value most about what you learned at Foothills?

I most value the ability to want to learn and to question things. I want to know why things work the way they do--figure out why the clock ticks--and I felt encouraged to investigate and to look at things deeply at Foothills. I liked being asked questions and finding the answers for myself. I really liked the seminar approach and think questioning is what actually motivates you and gets you excited about learning and trying to understand things. Taking a test where you just have to regurgitate facts is not motivating. I know the public school system uses tests as a way to measure your knowledge, but I don't think that's the way.

Alumni Spotlight:

Q&A with Lily Yasuda

Lily Yasuda is currently a senior at Boise High School (BHS). She's in the process of figuring out her plans for college for next year and wants to study screenwriting and film studies. Lily attended Foothills for six years; she left for North Junior High and then returned for her 9th grade year at Foothills. Lily loves to write, read, and bake. She has a background in theater and dance (with 3 years in Balance Dance Company), is currently an editor for the Boise High Newspaper, and maintains a 4.04 GPA (and she's only 16).

It's hard to believe you're already a senior. What are your plans for next year?

I'm looking into colleges now and did a brief college tour of some schools in Portland last Spring, although we haven't visited all of the schools on my list. I'm looking at NYU [New York University], USC [University of Southern California], Lewis and Clark [College], Portland State [University], Chapman [University] and Pace [University]. I'm looking at Screenwriting and Film Studies as potential majors, so I'm interested in Urban Performing and Liberal Arts-based schools.

In what ways do you think Foothills has helped prepare you for the future?

Foothills recognizes that students are individuals and treats them that way. The size of classes allows teachers to really know who you are and to give you specific advice and guidance based on your strengths and needs. You're in school for 7 hours a day and I think it's really important (especially when you're younger) that school is truly a place where you are nurtured and supported emotionally and socially, and Foothills offers that. Not only is the environment itself outstanding, but the quality of the staff is phenomenal-- my experience at Foothills would not have been the same were it not for the teachers I had the pleasure to work with.

What do you think makes someone a great teacher?

Loving what you teach. Believing that what you teach is important. Teaching is one of the few professions where you literally cannot be successful without having a strong conviction in the significance of your job, and my experience with the Foothills staff was a shining example of this. I had great teachers at Foothills: Kevin [Kramer], Robbie [Prokop], Heather Bauer, Dan [Fisher], Ray [Vizgirdas]. Ray was so sweet and patient with us (I was in a class of 6 students--all girls--and we were a bit of a handful). And Dan's seminars—I approached him last year to see if he'd be interested in doing Alumni Seminars, which he was, and it has been great to reconnect with him and do a little reading outside of school and have discussions with other students again.

Why did you come back to Foothills for 9th grade?

Honestly I left because I thought I needed the public school experience to meet more people and make more friends. But once I got there I realized that I didn't want more friends--I wanted the handful of great friends I already had, and that was all I really needed. I realized that I was surrounded by hundreds of people who I had very little in common with, and all that I really needed was 5 or 6 great friends who I really loved and respected, which I had at Foothills. I want to be with other kids who want to learn, and the sheer size of public schools makes it much harder for teachers to reach everyone. For parents, I think there's nothing wrong with keeping your kids away from difficult and dangerous things until they're older and better able to navigate hard decisions. It's not to say that you can keep your kids sheltered forever, but Junior High has become a lot raunchier than it once was, and there are some things that I don't think anyone should be facing up to at 12 or 13.

Now looking back what did you like most about Foothills?

I loved that my teachers at Foothills really wanted to know what you think—they weren't looking for specific answers; they were opening things up for discussion. I love English and reading and writing, and I think Foothills recognizes that even young kids are capable of great things and that leads to kids becoming exceptional students. I've had an advantage in high school because I've already read a lot of the books assigned and have discussed them deeply in language arts seminars at Foothills. Now in high school I have a better idea what those books are about (Brave New World, for instance, which I am reading as a senior in High School, but originally read in the 6th grade at Foothills) and can have a deeper analysis of them. People are often skeptical of whether kids are really capable of grasping such big ideas, but I'm here to tell you that we really can. Both my parents sat in on some of Dan's seminars when I was first starting out, and my dad likes to tell this story at parties about how the kids in my class (10 and 11 year olds) were posing questions and saying things about To Kill a Mockingbird that he'd never considered before. He was very impressed!

How was your transition after 9th grade to Boise High School?

It was fine. Boise High is obviously a big school but it's not that hard. And it's really fun and novel, especially your first year. It's a change for everyone entering there, regardless of which school you went to before or how big your school was. BHS is easily the best high school, both in academics and because it's such an open-minded environment. And they offer a lot of programs, like theater and choir, which create great communities of people built around those things.

What advice would you give to students transitioning into 10th grade?

Know that you'll do great academically and socially. You should take Accelerated classes in 10th grade and AP [Advanced Placement] classes your 11th and 12th grade years. You don't have to test into Accelerated classes and you'll be with other motivated, smart kids. Even if the subject matter isn't your strength (math certainly isn't mine, but I'm currently taking AP Calculus), you'll have a good experience and be with teachers who really like what they're teaching.

What AP classes are you taking this year?

AP Calculus, AP World History (which I love), AP Literature, and AP Government

What other interests do you have?

I danced for 6 years with Leah [Clark] for Balance Dance Company. Even though I'm not the most technically gifted dancer, I enjoyed the performing aspects of Balance and the sense of community it provided. I also took Debate my sophomore year and that was fun. I've been involved in theater at Boise High and with BCT [Boise Contemporary Theater] with Dwayne Blackaller, and am Editor-in-Chief for the school paper. Right now, I take theater classes twice a week and, in ten weeks, we will be debuting an original show written and performed by students.

You'll have to give us the details so that we can let people know so they can attend!


Alumni Spotlight:

Q&A with Jonas Abdo

Jonas Abdo just graduated from Boise High School and is attending CU Boulder in Colorado (we did this interview when Jonas was still at Boise High). Jonas is Foothills School's first student to start as a member of the Early Learners (he was in our first Early Learner class) and to graduate from the Nines, attending Foothills for 12 years. Jonas is a sponsored rock climber (ranked the #1 rock climber in Idaho and #6 in the nation for his age), graduated from Boise High with a 4.02 GPA, and is an avid guitar player and reader.

I know Boise High was your first experience at a school other than Foothills. What did you think?

I liked Boise High a lot. It's a fantastic school. I had a really easy transition from Foothills to Boise High. I found a group of friends pretty easily and knew former Foothills students from other junior highs, so socially it was fine. I was really well-prepared academically so that was fine, too. First semester of 10th grade was a little tough in that I had to get used to the grading system, but I've gotten good grades there and graduated with a 4.02 GPA.

Do you have advice for future Foothills graduates as they transition into a new school?

You'll probably have to study a lot, especially if you take accelerated and AP (Advanced Placement) classes. But getting used to a lot more testing isn't different than doing a good job on your homework, which just about everyone learns at Foothills. And I thought the work load was maybe a little less than what I had in the Nines so it was a manageable transition. I think the best way to make friends is to get involved in activities.

What activities have you participated in since leaving Foothills?

I ran cross country for my first two years at Boise High and I still like to ski. I was in National Honors Society and I was an AP Scholar with Distinction. I also worked at BSU in the Physics lab one summer. I play guitar just about every day and I dedicate a lot of time to rock climbing.

Tell me about your rock climbing.

Rock climbing is one of my main passions in life and specifically bouldering and sport climbing. I started climbing 7 or 8 years ago on the YMCA team. I spent a couple of competitive seasons with them and then transferred to Urban Ascent Climbing. I climb 2 or 3 times a week for 2-3 hours a session. Based on results from this season, I'm ranked #1 in Idaho and #6 in the nation for my age. I'm sponsored by Baboon Climbing and I get lots of gear and clothes from them.

In what ways has Foothills School prepared you for the future?

I think I'm really well-rounded and Foothills has been a significant part of my life. Not everyone gets art and music in school anymore, and it really helps foster creativity, which is probably even more important than intelligence if you want to come up with new ideas and better ways to do things. I really enjoyed a lot of the science we did at Foothills, especially the neuroscience units. I definitely like the inquiry style of learning, being able to develop that ability to ask hard questions and find answers through investigation. I think the real purpose of school before college is to teach you how to learn and figure out what you really want to do in life.

Do you have favorite memories of being a Foothills student?

The trip to Italy was awesome—really amazing! Dan Fisher was probably my favorite teacher. He was super laid back and I loved the seminar format for language arts. I'm still an avid reader and I like reading about science, especially exotic physics. I really like collaborating with my friends on projects and I love to build things. I think you can make things more grand with other people than you can on your own.

I know you're going to CU Boulder in the fall. What other schools were you looking at and why did you choose Boulder?

I looked at the University of Washington, U.C. Santa Barbara, U.C. San Diego, and Cal Poly. I chose Boulder because of its fantastic physics and engineering programs and because of its access to climbing and skiing. There are lots of areas of physics that I'm interested in learning more about, particularly space travel.

What do you value most about what you learned at Foothills?

I'm really glad that I went to Foothills instead of public school. I loved the small groups, Socratic Seminar in 6th and 7th grade—which is something you usually don't get until college—and that I got to do hands-on things at Foothills. I'm good at building things, being able to visualize how something should go together, like with Legos, and I got to exercise those skills there. I liked doing the science competitions, like when I did the Mars Rover competition with my friends and we designed a robotic arm that would pick up things. Foothills has really helped prepare me for the future.

Alumni Spotlight:

Q&A with Riley Freedman

Riley Freedman just graduated from Boise High School (we did this interview last year when Riley was still at Boise High). She was a member of the first Early Learner Preschool class at Foothills and attended Foothills for nine years through 6th grade. Riley was ranked #2 in her graduating class of 418 students at Boise High, received a National Merit Scholarship, played varsity Ultimate Frisbee, and plays guitar and sang every week at Lulu's Pizza.

Riley is attending Bowdoin College in Maine in the fall and is planning to double major in government and neuroscience. Riley listed Foothills teacher Dan Fisher as one of her most influential teachers when she was recently named a Rotary Century Scholar for being one of the top 100 students graduating in Boise this year.

How do you like Boise High School?

I love Boise High! At Foothills, all the teachers are good and care about how you're doing. At Boise High, there are good teachers too, but they aren't as able to get to know all of their students in the same way as Foothills teachers, because classes are bigger and they have more students overall. But I've found if you make the effort to get to know teachers, they want you to do well and are really helpful. And I like Boise High because it's cool to be smart there and everyone, for the most part, wants to do well.

Did you feel prepared for Boise High?

I felt really prepared. Socially, I have lots of friends in different groups and I think Boise High is more relaxed in terms of social pressure than other high schools.

Were you prepared academically and what AP (Advanced Placement) classes have you taken?

Yes, I was prepared. Let's see, last year I took AP Calculus, AP Spanish, AP Psychology, AP U.S. History, AP Language and Composition, AP Physics and Student Leadership, because I was Junior Class Vice President. This year I'm taking AP Calculus B-C, AP Chemistry, AP World History, AP European History, AP Government, AP Literature and Composition, and Micro and Macro Economics. I was awarded AP Scholar with Distinction.

That sounds like a full load! And I know you did very well on your PSATs and SATs.

It does sound like a full load but it hasn't been that hard. I did well on my tests and got a merit scholarship.

Do you have tips to help future graduates make an easier transition to high school?

I'd say don't be afraid to talk to people you don't know. Every year I've made new friends and, if you're willing to reach out to other people, making friends will happen pretty naturally. You can talk to people in classes and join things, like sports and clubs.

What clubs are you in and what extra curricular activities do you do?

I'm in History Club and I started a Literature Club that meets once a week at lunch. I'm also in National Honors Society. I volunteer at Head Start and The Children's School doing science experiments with kids. One project we did involved watching mice try to solve a maze; the kids created their own theories about what made the mice move through the maze more quickly. I also play on the varsity Ultimate frisbee team and we just won State! Last year I started playing Ultimate and played on the Junior Varsity team. And I've always loved skiing; it was great being able to ski through the school when I was at Foothills.

I know you play guitar and sing every week at Lulu's Pizza? Tell me about that.

I started playing guitar four years ago when I was 13. I've been playing at Lulu's every Monday night for the past two years. I've also played at the Merc in Hidden Springs. For me, I don't get nervous playing in front of people and I figured I could play at home in my room or in front of an audience. It's not so much about entertaining people--I just like playing.

Do you have favorite memories of being a student at Foothills?

Well, I have a lot of memories because I went to Foothills for so long. I guess spring trips stand out the most. Yellowstone was probably my favorite trip. The Oregon Coast was also one of my favorites. We got to visit tide pools and see all the cool, bizarre shore animals.

What did you like most about Foothills?

I liked the teachers the most. I can honestly say I liked every single one of my teachers at Foothills, not that we always saw eye-to-eye perfectly, but I liked them all. It was a more intimate, comfortable learning environment at Foothills, and although I've like Boise High a lot, I think things are set up so that teachers can just do so much more at a private school in terms of getting to know students.

In what ways has Foothills School prepared you for the future?

You know I always felt so comfortable with Foothills teachers, and I think that's a huge reason why I've had a lot of success in school, because it's not hard for me to know how to connect with teachers.

I saw that you put Dan Fisher down as one of your most influential teachers. Why did you choose him and what do you think makes someone a great teacher?

Dan's class was one of the most fun classes I've ever had. He helped me channel my creativity in my writing in an organized way and that's helped me a lot in school. I think 1) Teachers need to be really interested in what they're teaching, and 2) Teachers need to be really interested in teaching. Having the combination of the two, like Dan has in being able to teach what he loves in literature and giving the students some choice, makes for the best kind of teaching.

I know you're going to Bowdoin College next year. Why did you choose Bowdoin?

Bowdoin is a small school and some of my family members went there so I've always known about it. I have family back East so going to school there is comfortable for me. It's highly rated academically and laid back, which I like, and it seems more collaborative than competitive, which is important to me. I plan to double major in government and neuroscience, with an emphasis in psychology, and Bowdoin has great departments in both areas.

Alumni Spotlight:

Q&A with Erin Shea

Where are you going to school now? Why did you choose this school?

I am currently going to school as a First-Year at the Bard College of Simon's Rock. I first found out about Simon's Rock when midway through high school, I decided Boise High was not for me. I then started to research alternative programs online, and I came across this great school. Simon's Rock is an early college program, which would allow me to enjoy a challenging, rigorous academic curriculum while still allowing me to socialize with people of a similar age group.

What do you miss about Foothills?

I miss a huge amount of things about Foothills. I loved so many things, it's just so hard to decide! One thing that I especially miss was Socratic Seminar discussion with Dan Fisher. I really enjoyed getting the chance to truly explore books.

Do you have favorite memories of being a student at Foothills?

I have many great memories of foothills, but another memory I might pick to share would be my Spring trip to Italy. That is an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life! It was absolutely amazing.

Did you feel prepared for your new school (academically, socially, personally)?

I was unsure at first, because who wouldn't be! It was all very new and strange. Academically I was definitely prepared, but personally and socially I was very nervous.

Do you have tips that may help future graduates make an easier transition to another school?

- Be prepared to be surprised and discomforted in your new surroundings at first, but really try and give your situation a chance. Once you get used to everything, it will feel a lot more natural.

-If you are applying to college, do not slack off on your applications, essays or tests! Don't stress too much, but it matters more than you might think.

-Be friendly. You might feel awkward, but if you don't put yourself out there, it will be a lot harder to make friends.

What do you like about your new school?

I really love most of my classes- even the introductory ones are enjoyable. I also love the small class sizes and great friends that I have made here.

What are you most passionate about in life?

I could go on for a great deal about this subject- there are a lot of things that I am passionate about. I like history, science, drama, singing, but especially art. I love art.

Describe something you have accomplished, a special event in which you have participated, or a new skill you have gained.

I would like to think that I have accomplished lots of things. For one, I'm fifteen, and I'm in college. That in itself is an accomplishment, yeah? But compared to a lot of people here, what I've done feels really small. So, I take pleasure in the small things. I draw and paint regularly here, I volunteer for a local soup kitchen, and I made 1000 origami cranes in one week this month.

In what ways has Foothills School prepared you for the future?

In some ways, Foothills taught me how to think. In other ways, it let me know that I could think anything that I wanted, that I could do almost anything I might dream of. I think that was probably the most important thing that I took from my experience at Foothills.

What are your goals for your education, this year and long term?

Well, I'd like to finish college, for starters. Everything else is a little up in the air- it depends on what I want to do, or major in, and I haven't made that decision yet. My tentative plan is to dual major with something artistic, and something else like Economics or Business.

Alumni Spotlight:

Q&A with Emma Thorpe

Where are you going to school now? Why did you choose this school?

I am currently going to Midland School in Los Olivos, CA. My dad had always wanted me to go to a boarding school like he did. We chose Midland because it is a very small rural school, and very informal. We get to call our teachers by their first names, etc., and really get to know everyone very well.

What do you miss about Foothills School?

I miss the people mostly, and the art program is something that I really miss. Midland definitely doesn't have the amazing art program that Foothills does. I also really miss the Socratic Seminar which was something that I always looked forward to. I miss my friends a lot, too.

Do you have favorite memories of being a student at Foothills?

Trips!!! I have amazing memories of all of the great trips I went on. Italy, Vancouver and Olympic National Park, etc. The trips really embodied the closeness of the school and really gave you a chance to get to know your peers. Foothills and everything that goes on as a student there really helped prepare me for Midlands. At Midlands we also live in a close community which I felt like Foothills prepared me for.

Did you feel prepared for your new school (academically, socially, personally)?

Academically I definitely felt prepared, and I am doing great in English and Math. Socially, I feel like I was very prepared after going to Foothills since the community at Midlands is very close, similar to Foothills. Personally, I feel like Foothills School really shaped my independence which really helps me in many areas.

What are you passionate about in life?

I am very passionate about my relationships with my friends. They are a very important part of my life. I also love music and enjoy playing many instruments including the guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and singing. I'm basically a one-man Bluegrass band! I was very instrumental in organizing my school's music program. I'm in charge of the singing aspect of the program and we have performed three times! We have an “Open Mic" night where we basically have a “Coffee House" style atmosphere for students to perform. I'm very passionate about sports too. I play volleyball and lacrosse. I also started the basketball team here at Midlands which has been a really rewarding project. Other than that, I'm very passionate about the environment and keeping it safe and preserved.

What are your goals for your education, this year and long term?

I really want to get good grades and take as many enjoyable classes that I can take. I feel like this will help me decide what I want to do in college. I also really want to take all of the honors classes that interest me.

An independent school serving pre-school through 9th grade.

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