Student Surprises on SEM’s Open Day

A celebration of Lunar New Year, a private showing of Hidden Figures and vying for Hornet/Jacket points.


Erin Kelly

Local schools lend buses to help out with transportation.

Open days are built in to the trimester schedule at SEM but this Friday was one to remember. The students were told that Feb. 17 was an open day but not given a reason why. Many students chose not to attend because of the uncertainty that surrounded the day and to also get a head start on their long weekend. Speculations came about that possibly the day had something to do with the Lunar New Year since it was the last day of the celebration. No one saw what was to come later in the day.

Tessa Pszonak
Becca Li and Becki Zhu danced to Chinese music.

Students gathered in the chapel for morning meeting as usual but they were separated by the most famous tradition at SEM, Hornets and Jackets. The day commenced with presentations about Lunar New Year from both Chinese and Korean students’ perspectives. The Lunar New Year is based on the lunisolar  Chinese calendar. The calendar consists of various animals in which the year is named after such as the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and the pig. The years follow this order making the year of 2017 the year of the rooster.

Tessa Pszonak
Chris Wu showed her talents on the Guzheng.

The residential students  informed everyone about the traditions, food and history surrounding the New Year. Students were very attentive while their peers spoke. A tradition included is watching New Year ring-in just as we do in the US. In China, a gala which is a variety of shows with celebrities and performers is broadcast for all to see. Residential students then performed their own Gala for SEM. Some students played ancient instruments such as the Guzheng while others danced and performed various forms of martial arts. The girls learned their routine in only one day and then performed the following.    

I like to perform on stage to celebrate festivals spreading Chinese culture and to also teach others.”

— Elf Dong '18

Tessa Tszonak
Elf Dong performed Tai Ji.

Each student earned much cheer from everyone in the chapel. Every performance was unique and caught the eyes of both students and the faculty. “It was really nice to see the residential students hidden talents. I liked learning about their culture, and they taught us in such a cool way. I look forward to more presentations that we can learn and make the girls feel more at home,” voiced a sophomore Olivya Hogan. When the performances concluded, it was time for Lunar New Year trivia. Hornets and Jackets battled it out but ended up in a tie at the end of the game.

The students then headed to the cafeteria to participate in some of the many day’s activities – a chance to learn how to write in script, to color and relax with friends. This was for a short time frame because all students were then called back to the chapel for unknown big news.

Mrs. Marlette firstly took the stage and announced good news in the SEM community. She announced teachers’ accomplishments and more personal announcements like marriages and future births. The students gave standing ovations to all the teachers to show their support and excitement. The mood of the chapel was enthusiastic and encouraging. Among this good news was the final announcement. A surprise for all students that no one saw coming. Mrs. Marlette announced that math teacher Dolores Pasciak had come up with an idea – as the month of February is Black History Month, what about taking a field trip to see the movie Hidden Figures?

The movie showcases the triumphs of Katherine G Johnson, Dorthy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. The three African-American women changed the face of NASA with their mathematical abilities. The women were the brains in one of the largest operations of the space program. The calculations they made while in the office were crucial in sending the first American man into space. All three women crossed not only gender but race lines as well.

Once this was disclosed to the students, pure happiness and shock crossed the students faces. Everyone in the chapel gave a big thank you to Ms. Pasciak by standing up and cheering. “It was a super generous surprise for everyone. I don’t think anyone expected it,” said Christina Saraf ’19.

Students were divided into groups to board the buses – some generously lent by Canisius high school and Elmwood Franklin. Since concessions would not be open at the theater, donuts were bought and waiting for students in the cafeteria to take with them to the movie.  Once everyone was on a bus, they voyaged to the Elmwood Regal Center in Buffalo. The theater was opened just for the school and everyone filed in to watch the film. Senior Hannah Garis said “I was really surprised that SEM had planned such an amazing event. I was excited to see the movie and for all my four years this had never happened.”

The whole school participated in this event. Both students and faculty made the short trip to the theater. Once everyone had arrived the very anticipated movie started with applause from the audience.  Everyone quickly became engulfed by the film’s revolutionary plot. The crowd was also engaged, applauding when a character succeeded. When the movie had ended the students headed back to school to be greeted by pizza. 

I liked how there were multiple activities. One for Hornet, one for  Jacket, another for Lunar New Year and one for relaxing. I think it was a good mix of all of them. ”

— Hannah Garis '17

The rest of the day consisted of Hornet and Jacket games. The grades were split up and the Hornets and Jackets of each grade had fun with the various activities planned. The girls played sit down volleyball, which even Mrs. Marlette joined in. There were also mini games such as keeping the balloon up with only straws making everyone come together in order to succeed. More trivia was played also inciting teamwork.

After three rotations between a variety of games, the students were released an hour and a half early for a long weekend. Sophomore Olivya said “I think it was a really pleasant surprise and a really neat thing to go out and watch such an important film with the whole school. It was a real community building experience.”