December 1, 2020

Program Spotlight: VA's Rowing Team

This past fall, new head rowing coach Ms. Wendy Bordeau welcomed an eager team of twenty three athletes to Vermont Academy Crew -- and only three of the rowers had prior experience. Bordeau turned this group of novices into rowers and racers in just two months and looks back fondly on the season. “We had so much fun out there! We learned the basics and developed a hunger for racing. We learned how to work hard and how to make boats go fast. Most importantly, the process brought together a group of teenagers who probably wouldn’t interact much on campus and turned them into a real team. That’s the beauty of the sport.”  

Bordeau came to VA after a twenty year career in DI collegiate athletics, both as a rowing coach and senior administrator, most recently just upriver at Dartmouth College.  Excited for a new challenge and eager to work with younger athletes, Bordeau welcomed the opportunity to hop into the VA coaching launch and grow this young team.

Bordeau harbors a deep passion and gratitude for the sport and for her first high school rowing coach, Elfriede Tillman. “I was lucky enough to be pulled out of the school lunch line by a committed coach who was willing to take a chance on this would-be athlete.  I had tried everything -- basketball, softball, volleyball -- and to be honest, I was terrible at all of it!” 

Bordeau remembers her very first day on the water as a magical, transformative moment, “I was hooked instantly.” She
was ultimately recruited to row and study at Princeton University, where she captained crew and graduated magna cum laude.  Her competitive drive propelled her into coaching after graduation and she has never looked back. 

“I love teaching and mentoring young people. Doing it while coaching the sport I love, surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty? It’s my dream job.”
Last spring Vermont Academy’s students happily departed for what should have been a well-earned break. They left behind books, clothes, and, in some cases, their computers, thinking they would be returning in just over two weeks to a warmer and sunnier campus. Instead, the global COVID-19 pandemic spread quickly, leading the Governor of Vermont to shut down all schools for the remainder of the school year. 

Students attended classes last spring on their computer screens. The hard work and dedication of faculty and staff led to the creation of an online curriculum that gained high praise from parents and students alike. Sessions spanned time zones in order to accommodate our international and West Coast students. Maintaining a sense of student life was an important focus, and online club activities became common. Community meetings, led by Vermont Academy Student Association (VASA), brought everyone together once a week for announcements, presentations, and a big “GO VA!”

Administrators knew they could reopen the school in a safe and healthy way and they worked tirelessly throughout the summer planning for any situation. Countless investments were made to the campus.
  • The school partnered with Centogene to provide campus-wide COVID-19 testing and a parent donated a rapid-response test machine which will allow us to receive test results for symptomatic individuals within minutes.
  • Technology was upgraded to improve the virtual classrooms.
  • We contracted with Sage Dining Services to ensure students receive healthy and safe meals in a grab-and-go world.
  • Facilities installed countless plexiglass barriers in our bathrooms throughout campus.
  • An event streaming service broadcasts our athletic competitions on the web -- the first of these being soccer wins against Holderness.
  • And our lawns along Long Walk were graced by stately white tents that were used for outside classrooms. 
We have not experienced a single case of COVID-19. The combination of mask use, social distancing, and increased hand hygiene has led to a significant drop in visits to the health services compared to past years. Our student body and campus community has never been healthier.
Spend any amount of time in our community and you will quickly learn that, while we may be a small school, we have an incredibly large spirit. Connections are at the center of everything we do, and it’s what makes this school a place like no other. 2020 has presented its challenges, but our campus community has maintained its glow.

Though our campus is currently closed to walking visitors, we have resumed modified on-campus visit options to accommodate current health and wellness guidelines. During these times, we are still able to conduct drive-thru tours of our beautiful campus -- but these are of the grounds and outdoor facilities only.

For families that are unable to travel during this time, we are offering virtual personalized tours via GoogleMeet, FaceTime, and Skype.

Please contact our admissions office to schedule your tour of campus, whether it be a drive-thru or virtual tour.
Join us on Wednesday nights to explore your interests and to hear from faculty, students, and parents.

All sessions will be live on Zoom on Wednesday nights at 6pm EST.
RSVP Here for any of the upcoming session!

Winter Open House Series:
January 13th - College Counseling
January 20th - Health and Safety 

If you are not able to attend a session, The Series will be recorded and uploaded to our website and youtube following each event. We can also put you in touch directly with panelists if you cannot attend any session.


View our latest session below, featuring Being an International Student at Vermont Academy. 

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, come enjoy a coffee over conversation about VA. Meet our Admissions Team to learn more about our programs and opportunities as well as the application process, financial aid, and the health of our campus.

Tuesdays, 6 pm EST
Zoom Link

Thursdays, 6 pm EST
Zoom Link

Drop-in during a time slot to share informal conversation and Q&A. We look forward to seeing you there!
Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Shelby Johnson ‘12

Dr. Shelby Johnson ‘12 is a postdoctoral associate at University of Massachusetts Medical School. The team she works on is taking a unique approach to studying diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s by looking at DNA and targeting somatic mutations in the human brain.
Each cell contains DNA, which is constantly under attack by UV light, hydrocarbons present in tobacco smoke, and other factors. While increased DNA damage is a well-known hallmark of aging, the damage that results in increased permanent somatic mutations in the brain is still unknown. The team Shelby works with at UMass Medical center is applying single-cell and bulk DNA sequencing to this question. Importantly, initial discoveries show mutation patterns in specific brain regions and mutation types were not random, which suggests that specific pathways generate DNA damage and mutation in the brain during aging, which opens up potential therapies to protect the DNA during life.

“In cancer, if a cell mutates it can turn into a tumor,” Shelby explains. “When a gene in the human brain mutates, it has the potential to induce neural death.” Her research has critical implications. With Parkinson’s disease -- the fourteenth leading cause of death in the United States -- only 10% of the cases are related to inherited genes. The other 90% of the cases are sporadic, and researchers still don’t know the cause.

Shelby came to Vermont Academy with an innate drive for science -- and a passion for hockey. “One of my dad’s friends went there. The tour was so important. There’s the feeling you get when you step on campus -- everything was fantastic.” Shelby’s meeting with the hockey coach was the clincher. “I was told, ‘At other schools you’ll be a small fish in a big pond, but here you can be a big fish in a small pond.’ It was true because of the small-knit community where everyone is pulling for you.”

February 1: Application and financial aid deadline*
March 10: Admissions decisions sent to students and families
April 10: Enrollment contract and deposit due

*After February 1, applications
will be accepted on a rolling basis.
Vermont Academy's Admissions Office is here to help you through the application process, from the interview to the application and beyond.

Please contact our office for more 
information at // 802.869.6229

Education for Life - One Student at a Time

Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.
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