77 days of summer

During the summer, many CHS students escaped the 'Clayton Bubble' and explored new states, regions, and countries.
During the summer, many CHS students escaped the 'Clayton Bubble' and explored new states, regions, and countries.

Summer is a time for relaxation and is a perfect opportunity for CHS students to get away from the ‘Clayton Bubble’ to explore, learn, and have a great time while traveling. Whether they traveled to Fulton, MO to horseback ride or to India to study water levels of contamination, CHS students certainly had very exciting summers.

Some students, like senior Henry Myers, took time to improve their skills at different camps. Myers spent seven weeks of his summer to improve his musical skills playing the cello at Meadowmount Music Camp in upstate New York.

“Meadowmount is essentially a musical boot camp. You go there to take lessons with famous teachers and practice incredible amounts, causing you to improve dramatically,” Myers said. “. . .[There] I figured out how to practice, and when I got back I realized how hard I wanted to work.”

Sophomore Leslie Goodman also went to a camp to improve her horseback riding skills. Goodman attended William Woods Summer Riding Program this summer for six days, located in Fulton, Missouri on the William Woods University campus.

“I learned a ton about how to ride my horse better and teach my horse new techniques,” Goodman said. “I’ve taught my horse I ride at home all the new exercises I have learned and use the skills I learned with my teacher to ride courses better.”

Some students used time in their summer to visit colleges, like senior Becca Steinberg. Steinberg visited Harvard, MIT, Yale, Columbia, Swarthmore and Princeton. In addition to visiting colleges, Steinberg enjoyed visiting tourism sites such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and seeing “West Side Story” on Broadway.

“Harvard was more exciting than I expected it to be- there were lots of people everywhere and I enjoyed the urban atmosphere. . . [Yale] was beautiful, and New Haven really isn’t as bad as everybody says it is,” Steinberg said.
Sophomore Meredith Joseph went to Costa Rica on an Eco Quest called Passport to the World with the Bnai Brith Youth Organization. The purpose of the program was to explore Costa Rica and learn about eco-friendliness and sustainability.

Joseph had a great time exploring the country and meeting kids from all around the country who went on the program. Her group enjoyed different tourism sites, including a place called Rancho Margot and visiting an organic farm adjacent to a volcano.

“My favorite experience was probably the zip line,” Joseph said. “We did a zip line over the treetops of Costa Rica and it was such a beautiful view.”

Some students, like senior Elle Jacobs, found themselves taking multiple trips during the summer. Jacobs went to New York City, volunteered to work at an orphanage and a dentist office for a week and a half in Peru and then vacationed in Italy for two weeks with her family. Jacobs found that she learned the most in Peru because she was able to practice her Spanish there as well as learned a lot about medicine. Not only was it an educational trip, but it also related to her life back in St. Louis.

“Peru was a huge influence on my life because I have a lot of new friends from Peru and because I worked in a dentist office which I really enjoyed,” Jacobs said. “Because I enjoyed it so much, I will continue working in a dentist office here in St. Louis.”

Students like senior Ali Meyer and senior Helen Wiley immersed themselves in languages by living abroad. Meyer participated in a homestay in France for about six weeks with the program “Experiment International Living” in order to improve her language skills.

“I spent my days exploring Paris, hiking and canoeing in St. Rome, taking classes at a language school, and taking courses at a cooking school,” Meyers said. “But most importantly, my days were spent listening . . . Soaking up the language and the culture. I’ve never slept more soundly in my life after an entire day in French.”

Wiley immersed herself in Spanish by traveling to Nicaragua for a month. Wiley traveled to a rural area outside of the city Esteli and stayed with a school teacher and her six year old daughter during the weekdays for the beginning of the trip. She also stayed with friends of her father’s.

“During the week I volunteered in one of the local high schools and later in one of the local elementary schools in the morning,” Wiley said. “In the afternoon I would take Spanish classes for four hours in town with a teacher. . . The idea was total immersion.”

Wiley would spend weekends traveling to other parts of the country, so she got a feel for the culture of Nicaragua. One of her favorite experiences was hiking up to the top of volcano Momcacho, a no longer active volcano that has rainforest growing atop it.

“The rural farm area where I was living was one of the prettiest places I’ve been,” Wiley said.

Other students, like senior Sarah McAfee, found beautiful landscapes here within the U.S. McAfee went to the AMK Research Ranch in the Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming.  She was accompanied by CHS teachers Mr. Collis, Mrs. Storms and CHS students senior Alex Breckenridge, senior Lily Gage and senior Tanner Schertler.

“I decided to go because Mr. Collis came into my bio class to recruit applicants,” McAfee said. “He explained what we would be doing and where, and it sounded really exciting. I really like the outdoors and environmental sciences, so this seemed like a great learning opportunity since it was almost entirely field research.”

McAfee had a great experience researching in the field.

“During the day we hiked or met with specialists in the area to learn about the environment and conservation methods,” McAfee said. “We also read a lot. At night, we went out into fields of sagebrush to collect and record data about Cyphoderris Strepitans, commonly known as the Sagebrush cricket. We were helping in multiple studies with acclaimed scientists and professors who treated us like adults, and actually going out in the field. It was incredible.”

While McAfee and other CHS students were helping a team of scientists study the Sagebrush cricket, senior Sagar Yadama also helped conduct research, but on the other side of the globe. Yadama went to India to participate in his internship with a Non-Government Organization called the Foundation for Ecological Security for six weeks, starting June 8 and ending July 20.

“My project itself dealt with surveying the water quality in the different wells in the village of Salri,” Yadama said. “Every day I commuted to the village at five or six in the morning and then traveled to each well to get water samples and test the water.”

To test the water Yadama had a briefcase with test kits that would test the water for pH, nitrate concentration, dissolved oxygen content, and total dissolved solids, among other substances.

“My main focus was on nitrate concentration because the fertilizers used by the villagers have high nitrate concentrations that could contaminate the wells nearby,” Yadama said. “Nitrate in water is unhealthy and leads to many different diseases, especially in infants.”

After Yadama collected the water and conducted tests, he sent the water back to labs in Udaipur, a city in Rajasthan. The lab sent him back the results.

“Generally, the water quality is pretty bad,” Yadama said. “Nitrate was not very high but it was at a critical level and could become dangerous. Iron and copper were at critical levels as well. Phosphorus on the other hand was huge.”

This leads to eutrophication, and algal blooms in the water that is a major cause of diarrhea and sometimes paralysis.

In India, especially villages like Salri, diarrhea is a major cause of death. People become dehydrated because of it and this coupled with the lack of medication and intense heat is lethal.”

Overall, Yadama found that even though his summer work wasn’t revolutionary, he could still effect change in a small community and aid the FES in its goal to improve people’s water conditions.

“I am not going to say that my work changed the world and that I changed Salri forever,” Yadama said. “I found out what is wrong with their water and what can be done to decrease mortality rates in Salri. I do believe that I made a difference in that village by identifying which wells are polluted and which should be used for drinking.

Additionally, FES will use this research to improve the livelihoods of not only people in Salri but in other villages.” The poor water conditions in Salri inspired Yadama to take a further step.

“Through this internship I made the decision to pursue engineering in college,” Yadama said.

Other CHS travelers also agree that their trips had incredible influence on them. Goodman thought that her camp experience would improve her horseback riding skills at home.

“While I was at camp I was able to better understand my goals in the horseback riding show world,” Goodman said. “This has helped me to now decide and better understand the steps I need to take to reach my goals.”

Myers agreed that what he learned would be very influential in the long run.

“I learned an incredible amount this summer, but if anything stands out it’s that I learned how to practice efficiently, which is the most important thing you can possibly learn how to do in the long term,” Myers said.

Meyer’s homestay in France taught her even more than what she expected.

“In the end, my trip to France taught me so much more than just language,” Meyer said. “I had to learn very quickly to stop fearing being incorrect. There’s no time when you’re there to learn. I feel that this not only applies to learning another language, but to all aspects of life.”

Joseph found that her trip was definitely a highlight of her summer.

“I met so many wonderful people that I feel like are my best friends and I will keep in touch with,” Joseph said. “I’m a lot more aware of the environment around me, and Costa Rica has shown me a different way to live that I hope to pass on to other people here in America. It was the best highlight of my summer.”

Many CHS students were fortunate enough to travel, explore and learn this summer, and hopefully they will be able to take that summer of new experience sand apply it to what they learn and do here at CHS.

“Being there has changed me. It’s amazing to feel that in touch with nature, and to be that way for a whole two weeks was exhilarating,” McAfee said. “We lost track of the days and the time and were just so involved in the research and being in such a beautiful place. I’ll never forget it.”