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Sarah Chen ’13

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sarah is studying at Ivy League school Dartmouth College after pursuing an olympic career in speed skating.Sarah Chen is a recent graduate of Waterford (Class of 2013). She is a member of the U.S. Short Track Speedskating team, and was an alternate for the Sochi Olympic Games. (She placed 4th at the U.S. Olympic Short Track Speedskating Trials and was named the Olympic Alternate). After traveling all over the world to compete in the Speed Skating World Cups for the past several months, she will enter Dartmouth College this spring.

Why did you choose Waterford?
I came to Waterford in my junior year. I am originally from San Marino, California and I attended the San Marino schools up until my sophomore year in high school. In 2010, I made my first Senior World Cup Team in Short Track Speedskating. That year I was commuting between San Marino and Salt Lake City to train with the national team on long weekends but I decided I needed to move to Salt Lake City to be the best skater I could be. At the end of my sophomore year, my mom and I visited Waterford and we loved it immediately. We were looking for a strong academic school that would be willing to work with my training schedule. Waterford let me train and study at the highest level. I would train in the early morning, then arrive on campus, and after school, I would head back to the ice rink.

What has been the most important impact that Waterford has had on you?
I often say Waterford is very community-driven. It’s a small school of faculty and students that provides an intimate learning environment. Immediately, everyone made an effort to get to know me and was genuinely interested in what I was doing. They loved hearing about my speed skating adventures and were extremely happy for my success. I’ve realized that I want to be in this type of environment in college and in life — to be surrounded by a group of peers that will be supportive and generous unconditionally.

Did Waterford help create a love of learning for you?
Waterford definitely created my love of learning. The teachers are engaging and always very approachable. I always felt comfortable approaching them with questions and ideas. And the discussions were great! The other students in class would always bring up very interesting points and we would all have fun agreeing or disagreeing on certain topics. Our peers challenged us but respected our opinions at the same time.

Describe the faculty at Waterford.
The faculty at Waterford is like no other. In the classroom, they don’t just repeat the information in the textbook — they encourage students to ask questions and experiment. There’s always a lively discussion going on. And they love seeing the students collaborate with each other. Mainly, they act as role models and friends. They would often ask us how basketball games went or how the orchestra did, and often they were in the audience cheering their students on.

Did you have a favorite teacher or more than one? Why?
I can’t say I had a favorite teacher at Waterford. I loved all of my teachers and still keep in touch them. Ms. Powers, Mr. Sayes, Mr. Henrikson, Ms. Ricci-Whaley — they have all come to see me skate and they always supported me both on and off the ice.

Was there a time that a teacher went above and beyond the call of duty for you?
All the teachers went above and beyond the call of duty for me on a daily basis. I had a very unique schedule — I would train early in the morning, go to school, and then go back to the ice rink for my second workout of the day. My teachers would give up their lunch or free periods to help me with class work I had missed and they were always willing to schedule meetings after school as well. I have to mention Mrs. Morris, my amazing orchestra teacher, who let me be in the orchestra as a cellist and just attend rehearsals as much as I could.

Did Waterford in any way contribute to your success as an elite athlete?
Without Waterford’s support, I would not be where I am today. Waterford allowed me to train with the National Team and travel internationally to compete.

Describe the Waterford community.
I came to Waterford in my junior year, which is usually dubbed as the “hardest year in high school.” It was a little daunting to switch schools in the middle of high school but I am so glad I chose Waterford. It’s a small school, and the first week, even the first day, students knew that I was a new student and came up to introduce themselves to me. Once I started traveling and competing nationally and internationally, everyone on campus was genuinely interested in how I was doing and was very supportive. Friends would tell me that my speed skating results were announced in assembly and the entire room would erupt in applause — and I wasn’t even on campus! Whenever I returned from my competitions, the teachers and students would be just as happy as I was or just as heartbroken depending on the results. They truly cared about me.

Now that your friends are all off to different colleges and universities, do you foresee yourself staying in touch with your Waterford friends?
I definitely keep in touch with many of my friends from Waterford. They are lifelong friends and whenever I see or talk to them, we pick up right where we left off.

Did Waterford help you find and get into the right college for you?
My experience at Waterford definitely played a role in the college I chose. I knew I was looking for a smaller, community driven college and my counselor Ms. Rauscher definitely helped me find the right college for me. We talked about a wide range of colleges and when I went to visit Dartmouth, I loved it. Dartmouth has a very similar feel to Waterford and I knew that’s what I wanted. I am so excited to start there this spring.

Anything else?
In 2011, there was a short track speed skating World Cup held in Salt Lake City. It was very special for a Word Cup to be held in the United States let alone Salt Lake City and the best in the world would be skating there. I was competing and many of the faculty members and my friends came to watch me race. It was so special to have them see me skate and I received so much support from the Waterford community that weekend.

In retrospect, choosing to attend Waterford in my junior and senior year was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. I absolutely love the campus but more importantly I love the people. The teachers are passionate about what they teach and the students love being there. I remember talking with other seniors leading up to graduation, everyone excited for the next chapter of our lives, but sad to close such a great one. We are one big family and the relationships we formed will be lifelong. I recently visited Waterford and although I graduated a few months ago, the teachers and administrators warmly welcomed me back into their family, eager to hear about my adventures since I graduated. It was like I never left and was catching up with people I’ve known my entire life. California may be my home, but I will always reserve a special place in my heart for Waterford and the home it became the past two years.