News from the Ball Pit

—Suha Choi ‘22

Welcome to the first in a new series of interviews we will be conducting this year called “News From the Ball Pit.” You may be wondering  “what is a ball pit?”

The idea for the ball pit started during a summer Global Citizenship Institute. A group of St. Markers attending the institute was looking for a way to create more dialogue and understanding between different groups within the school. Two years later it became the project of a group of fifth-formers who built it with Ms. Belt for their Lion Term Project. Inspired by other ball pits that were installed and filmed in  New York, London, and Washington, D.C., the SM ball pit was created as a means to build community and to find opportunities to have difficult conversations in a playful setting. 

We hope to have News From the Ball Pit in every issue of the St. Marker going forward and to include videos as well. If you are interested in being featured, please contact Suha Choi or anyone from the St. Marker staff!

In honor of Family Weekend, our first “News From the Ball Pit” is a conversation between Ms. Belt (our Ball Pit engineer) and her daughter Nashua Poreda’22. 


What is the hardest thing about having to go to the same school as your mom or your daughter?

Nashua: “Every time I walk past by a teacher, I start wondering if the teacher would have talked about me with my Mom. Especially when they are teachers that I take classes from, I would hope that my mom would not have revealed anything about me,” 

Ms. Belt: “I actually think my major concern would be similar, it is always hard for the teachers and me not to mention Nashua, since she has been on campus for her entire life. If any faculty has taught at St. Mark’s for at least fifteen years, the chances are that they have seen Nashua since she was a baby and feel like they are her big aunts or uncle. It would be hard not to ever mention Nashua.  I really want to make sure I give Nashua space to be who she wishes to be at the community, instead of limiting herself as ‘Ms. Belt’s daughter’. We’re very close, and I always get so excited and want to be so nosy every time I see her, but again, I want to give her some space to feel comfortable.”

Since Halloween is coming up, maybe give us a spooky story that happened at St. Mark’s, if you have any? 

Ms. Belt: “There used to be rumors going around, and I wonder if there still are, that ghosts are living upstairs on the very top floor of the history wing. People would say that they always heard footsteps, clink- clink sounds, and some kind of banging in the wall as if someone was messing up things on purpose. And since I used to live here back then, although I wasn’t too scared, I would wake up to the loud sounds of serious banging at two in the morning almost every night. I know it may sound a little silly to say that ghosts exist up in  the history wing, but who knows, maybe I am the ghost...” 

Now, considering that you have been here each for thirty years, and Nashua for fifteen,  please give us one of the most hilarious or notable stories you have had at St. Mark’s!

Ms. Belt: “The community threw me a baby shower and Ms. McBride...this was right around when Nashua was a tiny baby- Ms. McBride rolled hundreds and hundreds of diapers, and yes, I mean the white baby diapers. Then, she stacked them all up to create this gigantic, four-tiered wedding cake– solely made out of baby diapers. Then, she gave them to me, (and I think it was meant to be funny.)  It surely was one of the craziest and most pleasing gifts I have ever received, thanks to Ms. McBride.” 

What is the most awkward moment you’ve experienced?

Nashua: “Especially since my Mom isn’t around main campus so often, a number of people around campus don’t know that we are related. There was a group of 3rd form boys this year who were telling me about what a great teacher my Mom was and they didn’t know I was her daughter. It was pretty funny. 

Ms. Belt: “I’m so glad it was that and they weren’t saying anything negative!”

Meet the Australian Exchange Students!


Hear more about our Australian Exchange students from St. Hilda's School and Christ Church Grammar School–  the coolest story about winning a reward from an astronomy book publisher, cultural differences between Australia and the U.S., and whether Australians actually eat Vegemite for breakfast!

What is the most notable difference you have noticed between a high school in Australia and in the United States (or at least, between St. Mark’s and your own school)? 

Korch Cowan: “The most obvious difference I have noticed is that the St. Mark’s is a community significantly smaller than my school in Australia, and therefore, the majority of the students and teachers seem to know each other well.”

Hugo Gibbs: “Some of the biggest differences would be that St. Mark’s has seated meals, advisory system, and deep relationships between faculty and students.”

Will Ranger: “I think that the most notable difference between SM and my school back home is the range of dress code. Here, I can wear almost whatever I want and have my hair however I like. Back home in Australia, our dress code is much stricter, we are required to wear a tie, coat, and a very formal hairstyle to school every day.” 

Jeff Shenton: “It was surprising to find out that many people here have strong, or at least, clear stances on current issues around the world of politics. Many of you seem to be always engaged with news and taking part in movements, which is quite contrary to the norm I experienced back home.”

Give us the weirdest or the most random fact about yourself that you can think of! 

Korch Cowan: “ I have an extreme phobia toward tomato sauce (ketchup).”

Hugo Gibbs: “When I was about five years old, I was a big fan of astronomy and read many books about different planets of the universe. In one of these books, I noticed that two of the planets were mixed up. I let my parents know, while they did not believe me. But I kept persisting that it was wrong until my grandpa reported it to the book’s publication. It turned out I was right, and the publication rewarded me a free copy of one of their books as well as an edited copy of the previously mistaken book. Followingly, an article was published about me in a local newspaper!”

Will Ranger: “I don't really have any weird or random facts I broke my right index finger 3 times while playing the Australian-styled football, but nothing much.”

Jeff Shenton: “As it turns out, I am 6’8’’ (or 204 cm) tall.”

What is your favorite class, place, or norm (school trend) at St. Mark's? Why? 

Korch Cowan: “The cookies here are definitely the highlight of my trip.”

Hugo Gibbs: “My favorite norms at St. Mark’s are having ‘free periods’ and very lenient dress codes! Although this is outside SM, my favorite place in the United States so far is Six Flags.”

Will Ranger: “I would probably say that my favorite class is Psychology since I have never been exposed to anything like this before and everything comes as new to me. My favorite places are the football locker room and the football field because there, you can see how much support the players have for each other, and it is nothing like what we have back home.”

Jeff Shenton: “I love the color block system! I think it is a very fun and helpful way to sort out classes.”

How is American food? Also... do you actually eat Vegemite (a popular, savory food spread in Australia that is infamous for its absurd taste) for breakfast?

Korch Cowan: “American food is so good compared to anything I’ve had in Australia. I do not eat Vegemite, but I would be classified as a minority back home.”

Hugo Gibbs: “I love that American food is generally fast-food like and is served in large quantities. I do not eat Vegemite for breakfast, and in fact, I am not even a fan of the spread at all.”

Will Ranger: “While I did not have a chance to try many other American foods outside the dining hall at St. Mark’s, what I have noticed so far is that the portion sizes are bigger here than in Australia. And yes, I actually eat Vegemite for breakfast but only on toast.”

Jeff Shenton: “American food has a lot more salt and sugar in it than Australian food does. I also noticed that turkey meat is very commonly eaten in the U.S.  Vegemite is very much an acquired taste, so it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.”

- What is something you miss the most from Australia at the moment? Is there anything you think you will miss from St. Mark's or the United States when you get back home? 

Korch Cowan: “At the moment, I miss being on holidays, sleeping, and going to the beach. I will definitely miss all the people I met here and the cookies.”

Hugo Gibbs: “ I am missing my friends and my bed from home. I will probably miss all the people here at St. Mark’s once I leave.”

Will Ranger: “One thing I miss from home is being a day student and the freedom to do whatever I want to do after school. Although I have enjoyed the whole experience of being a boarder, it definitely is nothing like what I have experienced before. From St. Mark’s, I will definitely miss the school schedule and class layout, especially the two 80-minute free periods I had every week!”

Jeff Shenton: “I miss my Army Cadets Unit back in Australia. It feels great to be in camouflage and run around the bush with my friends. I will miss the strong sense of community here at St. Mark’s, you folks do truly have something special.”

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Meet the New Faculty!


Nine new faculty members arrived on the St. Mark's teaching scene this fall. Three of the new faculty members arrived in the STEM departments, two in Modern Languages, two in History and English departments, one in Admission, and one in College Counseling. 

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Admission - Anthony Figueiredo

Anthony Figueiredo is thrilled to become a member of the St. Mark’s community as an Assistant Director of Admission and our Head Football Coach. He previously served as Global Leadership/GCI Teacher, Student Life Coordinator, and Head Football Coach at Cardigan Mountain School in NH, where he worked closely with the Admissions team. Anthony holds a Master’s in Organizational Leadership and also has experience coaching football at the collegiate level. He lives on campus with his wife Kara and their daughters Ruby and Isabelle.

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College Counseling - Nora Guyer

Nora Guyer joins the St. Mark’s community as the Associate Director of College Counseling. She has previously served as a Senior Program Manager at Mass Insight and as the Director of College Counseling at Harlem Village Academy. Nora holds an AB in English from Harvard and Master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in Statistics, Measurement, & Research Technologies and School and Mental Health Counseling. Nora is excited to live on campus in the Thayer dormitory with her cat, Peanut.

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English - Lauren Kelly

Lauren Kelly comes to the St. Mark’s English Department after spending the last ten years working as an English teacher in boarding schools, including Kimball Union Academy, Lake Forest Academy, and Williston Northampton School. She earned her post-graduate degree from the University of York where she traveled to Egypt for dissertation research. Lauren aspires to make each student feel seen, supported, and challenged. She looks forward to overseeing the yearbook and living in the Sawyer dormitory with her dog, Bingley.

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History / English - Dejai Barnes

Dejai Barnes is excited to join both the History and English Departments here at St. Mark’s. He earned his Ph.D. in History of Christianity from Columbia, where he taught Literature of the Humanities to first-year college students for several years. Prior to that, he earned his MA in History and Philosophy of Religion from Concordia University in Montreal, QC. Dejai will coach soccer and live on campus in Theriot House North with his wife Alanna, his daughter Willa, and their dog Bowie.

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Math - Michele Nieves

Michele Nieves joins the Math Department after multiple years of teaching high school math in California. Most recently, she served as an inaugural teacher and Math Department Chair at the Girls Academic Leadership Academy in Los Angeles. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California. Michele and her husband Hector were excited to make the big transition from the West Coast to the East Coast over the summer and are happily living on campus with their cat, Rene Descartes.

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Math - Johnny McNamara

Johnny McNamara was so eager about joining our Math Department and the St. Mark’s community that he jumped right in during Lion Term. He enjoyed getting to know so many students in such an experiential setting. Johnny recently earned his Master’s of Education from Boston College and comes to us with experience teaching in North Quincy and Chestnut Hill. He also has independent school experience as a graduate of St. Sebastian’s. He is lives off-campus and looks forward to coaching football and lacrosse.

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Modern Languages - Showjean Wu

Showjean Wu, a former St. Mark’s faculty member from 2011 - 2015, is excited to return to our Modern Language Department to teach Chinese I through Chinese V. A native Chinese speaker, she holds Master's degrees in Education and Computer Science. Since her departure from St. Mark’s, Showjean has lived in California and has been teaching in Chinese immersion classrooms at the International School of Peninsula. Showjean is lives off-campus with her husband Thomas. They have 2 adult sons: Jerry and Darren.

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Modern Languages - Luc Bonhomme

Luc Bonhomme is thrilled to join our Modern Language Department to teach all levels of French. A native French speaker, he comes to St. Mark's from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he has been completing his Ph.D. in Francophone Literature and Cinema. Luc has been teaching French for many years at the university level and looks forward to transferring his skills to teaching high school. Luc grew up in Haiti and is very excited to support our Haiti Partnership in addition to coaching. Luc will be living in Pine Cottage.

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Science - Jean Lindsay-Dwyer

Jean Lindsay-Dwyer joins our Science Department after multiple years of teaching and tutoring Chemistry at both the high school and college level, most recently at The Winsor School. She holds a Master's degree in Chemistry from Boston College and has extensive experience working in the chemical and environmental industries in laboratory settings as well as a technical representative. Jean will live off-campus with her husband, Peter, and their two cats, Dusty and Oscar. They have 2 adult daughters, Lydia and Martha.

2019 Spring Departing Faculty


Ms. Millet

—Jane Dubrova ‘20

There are some people who are only good at one thing and others who can write a 150-page-long research paper in the morning, run a half-marathon in the afternoon, save the planet from the aliens’ attack in the night, and still look cool while doing it. I’ve only known Ms. Millet for a year, but I do have a serious suspicion that she hides a superwoman costume somewhere in her closet. Be the most amazing APUSH teacher one could ask for – easy, swing the tennis racket like Serena Williams – don’t even have to try hard, oversee the publication of the coolest yearbook ever – phhh. “There should be something she can’t do. Maybe acting?” I thought at some point of the year, but then she walked into the classroom dressed like an eighteenth-century priest and delivered the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, leaving me speechless and a little bit scared.

Ms. Millet inspires students and faculty members with her passion and enthusiasm, no matter what she is doing. She has taught Advanced US history class, coached Rec tennis, managed the Yearbook staff, and served as a Director of the St. Mark's Saturday program. I was fortunate enough to come to St. Mark’s just in time to get to know her. Milton is incredibly lucky to have her, as would any other school.

The St. Mark’s community thanks Ms. Millet for everything she has done for this school and its students, who will definitely miss her next year. I know I will.

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Ms. Cahill

—Elise Gobron ‘21

After four years of teaching here at St. Mark’s, Ms. Moira Cahill is also sadly leaving the school. Ms. Cahill shared her passion for literature with her students as an English teacher. Although she taught mostly juniors and seniors in her prior teaching experience, Ms. Cahill found the most joy in teaching fourth formers here at St. Mark’s. Although it is not a fourth-form course, Ms. Cahill also found her American Literature class to be her favorite, as it allowed her to share her love for and connection to literature with her students.

Ms. Cahill also shared her enthusiasm for SM athletics as a four year varsity basketball coach, four year varsity softball coach, and two year JV field hockey coach. Basketball being her favorite sport to both play and coach, Ms. Cahill loved every second of her time coaching varsity girls basketball sharing the “best and most heartbreaking moments” with her players. Ms. Cahill also became fond of coaching softball, as this years team especially excited and delighted her with each passing game.

Looking forward to next year, Ms. Cahill is excited to move in with her fiance and enjoy a much deserved relaxing break as she focuses on her family and next exciting career path. Ms. Cahill will especially miss all of her English students, basketball and softball players, and girls whom she shared a dorm with. As she moves on from St. Mark’s next year, Ms. Cahill will be truly missed by her students and all those who knew her at the school.

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Mr. Backon

—Jane Dubrova ‘20

Mr. Backon might be one of the few Advanced BC Calculus teachers left in the world who makes math teacher jokes sound hilarious. He could make the students in his class laugh while we were solving or at least trying to solve the tenth differential equation in the past hour, which is in itself an achievement worth mentioning. In addition to Advanced BC Calculus, Mr. Backon also taught Physics and coached Girls Varsity Soccer and Boys JV Crew. Students will remember him for his sense of humor, kindness, and passionate discussions on random topics during his classes. St. Mark’s community wishes Mr. Backon all the best on his future journey.


Ms. London

—Amy kim ‘20

Ms. London has been working as a college counselor at St. Mark’s for five years. Not only did she make highly notable contributions to the college office, she also worked with third formers during Lion Term. St. Mark’s was her first ever experience in a boarding school, and the atmosphere was very new to Ms. London. She praised her co-workers highly saying that she worked with the “best colleagues in the best office”, and she highly appreciated working with students from diverse backgrounds. She further asserted that she will definitely miss every single student she had connections with and said she had fun learning and talking to students from across the globe. Ms. London is leaving to be the Head of a private school in Rhode Island, students wish her the best in her new school.


Ms. Fu

—Amy kim ‘20

Ms. Fu has been teaching as a Chinese teacher at St. Mark’s for four years. She taught Chinese classes from Chinese I to Advanced Chinese Language and Culture, and had much devotion and care for her students. She fully contributed to creating field trips to Chinatown with her students and holding diverse Chinese events such as celebrating Lunar New Year, making dumplings, being in charge of student trips to China, and taking her Chinese class students to Chinese restaurants. Her balance of fun and productive Chinese classes built a strong, deep relationship between her and each of her students. Students missed when she was on maternity leave at the start of the year when she was absent due to her daughter Emma’s birth. She will definitely be missed even more next year.


Ms. McColloch

—Sunny Li ‘22

Ms. McColloch has been teaching at St.Mark’s School since 2011. In her eight years here, she has taught various levels of French as part of the Modern Language Department. She is also the director of the

Lion Term, coach for girls rowing, and directing faculty of Haiti Partnership Committee. Ms. McColloch has amazing memories during her work in those various positions, and she enjoys all of them. She is very familiar with the people and the campus itself. Her favorite part of campus is the cross-country trails around West campus as she had a good time there walking her dog. But her favorite part of St.Mark’s is the student body and the community. Ms. McColloch loves all the students she taught and knew. She plans interesting in-class activities, and she makes birthday cakes for her advisors. The people here at St.Mark’s School are what she will miss the most when she leaves. She is sad that she won’t be here with the same students next year. But her future students will be lucky to have her as she is devoted, caring, and passionate teacher.


Mr. Healy

—Rebecca wu ‘21

Mr. Healy has taught Math courses at St. Mark's for four years. He also coached Varsity Wrestling and JV Softball. He will miss working with all the wonderful teachers, faculty, and students at the school. He has been especially impressed by the curiosity, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness of the students here. Before diving back to teaching, Mr. Healy will spend more time with his family. He will also try new things such as learning to speak Tagalog and tutoring.

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Mr. Young

—Kian Sahani ‘20

Mr. Young has been my advisor for the past two years. We met every single Friday during x-block just to check in, and he has always been extremely supportive in times when there was no one else to look to. Along with just meeting on Fridays, the advisory would also have “Fun Fact Friday” where each advisee would share a fun fact they had learned and the winner would get a tally mark on the whiteboard behind his desk. Mr. Young is so much more than an advisor though. He’s a coach, an admissions staff member, a husband, a father, and a friend. I still remember orientation when I would tell people I had Mr. Young as an advisor and they would comment on how lucky I was. They were right. Coach Young is truly an amazing person. He goes out of his way to help people, no matter what the circumstances, and he does what we all aspire to do: to live a life of consequence. As someone who has spent so much time with him at this school, I am really sad to see him go, but maybe it’s for the best he moves on, and I wish him the best at Fessenden School.

Humans of St. Mark's: German Exchange Students

——By Rebecca Wu ‘21

Six exchange students from the Wittelsbacher Gymnasium in Munich, Germany —Salma, Carlotta, Valentin, Isabella, Daniel, and Georg—visit St. Mark's this spring. They have enjoyed their time in the United States and headed home to Germany on Monday, April 29.

I asked them each a couple of questions about themselves and their experience at St. Mark’s.

What do you like to do at home or at St. Mark’s?

Carlotta Havener: "I love singing and acting."

Valentin Fischer: "I like acting in a theater in Munich."

Georg von Poblotzki: “I like to swim, run, and play flute.”

Isabella Schepanek: “I like watching films and playing the guitar.”

Daniel Seitz: “I really like to do Fitness in the afternoon and I think that the classes at St. Mark’s are very interesting. I also like to chill with other students in the Center.”

Salma Boushib: “I like doing sports and hanging out with my friends. Also, it’s pretty fun to visit the musical rehearsals or to play four square.”

What is something that a lot of people don’t know about you?

Georg von Poblotzki: “I went to a Waldorf kindergarten."

Isabella Schepanek: "I started watching horror films at the age of 10."

Daniel Seitz: "Maybe some people don't know that I am very interested into basketball."

Salma Boushib: "I think a lot of people don’t know that I’m really into playing piano."

How is your school in Germany different from St. Mark's?

Carlotta Havener: "In our school, we have about 14 or 15 required subjects to take, and there are only language electives. Another difference is that we are not doing that much sports. We don't have sports every day.”

Valentin Fischer: " In Germany, we only have one art course to take, which is Music. Besides, we only do two hours of sports each week. "

What's your favorite tradition/ custom/ trend at St. Mark's so far?/ How do you feel about St. Mark’s?

Carlotta Havener: "I like the nice atmosphere here. "

Valentin Fischer: “I think St. Mark’s is really cool. I am sad that we are leaving soon.”

Georg von Poblotzki: "I like the kindness of all the people here."

Isabella Schepanek: "I like drinking starbuck's coffee in class :-)"

Daniel Seitz: "I really like the school meetings, because I think it is cool that the whole school meets to talk about new informations, and it also strengthens the cohesion."

Salma Boushib: "I like the school meetings and the ‘Hurrah’:) And everyone is nice to us! I had a really good time here!”

Meet the Magical Baker

Samantha Wang ‘21

After eating so many brownies and chocolate chip cookies, most of us here at St. Mark’s still don’t know where the bakery is… You should definitely come and meet our baker Esther in the FLIK dining team! With her magical baking skill and speed, Esther feeds the whole school desserts every day.


Don’t ever ask questions like “Does the school buy the Oreo cake from outside” or “where does the school get these cookies” again. If you still wonder where the dessert we have every day comes from, you can go downstairs to the back of the FLIK kitchen. When you hit the basement, turn right and then go straight. You can easily get to the bakery by following the smell of chocolate chip cookies. Then, you will meet our baker Esther, who will definitely stop her busy work right away and talk to you. Soon, you will find out Esther is a magical baker who makes all the dessert for our school by herself! Almost 300 cookies of different flavors, 200 brownies, 200 muffins, dozens of jelly cups, flavor bars, cakes, and pies… these are what she can make every single day.

Normally, Esther arrives at St. Mark’s at 5:30 am, and her first task of the day is baking different flavors of muffins. After the breakfast rush, Esther starts to bake regular cookies and brownies and decides what other desserts she is going to make, such as chocolate Oreo cakes and cherry jelly. Although Esther barely has time to take a break during the day, she still has to order all the food materials and tools she needs by herself. Sometimes Esther also goes to the local markets to buy fresh cream and dressings for cakes.

The busiest day in the week for Esther is our “Cookie Tuesday”. Every Tuesday, she needs to bake three extra plates of cookies (about 80 cookies) to feed the students during the X Block. Therefore, Esther always comes in a little bit earlier than 5:30 am and finishes all the baking preparation works. Since Esther believes it is very important for people here to have healthy and fresh desserts, she avoids placing remaining cookies from previous days in the small dining hall or at the dessert bar. “Luckily, we almost never have dessert left over! Cookies are so popular and they usually run out very fast,” said Esther. She loves to see people at St. Mark’s enjoy the “Cookie Tuesday”, but at the same time, she hopes we can clean up for ourselves after having cookies in the small dining room since she is already very busy. Shelby Howard 19’, one of the monitors at St. Mark’s School, sends an email with pictures to the whole school when the small dining room gets really messy. At the start of the school year, Shelby said, “We hope that you all enjoyed our first cookie Tuesday this past week. However, in order to continue having this privilege, we must keep our school’s spaces clean. If you spill something, pick it up. If you use something, put it back. It’s the respectful thing to do!”

Esther said she does not have an assigned menu for dessert except when the trustees are coming or at the end of the school year, “I like to bake whatever I feel like doing that day, but I have two ‘rules’— first, try to make desserts which are corresponding to the seasonal food materials or holiday theme; second, keep some routine desserts like chocolate chip cookies to satisfy everyone’s taste,” said Esther. During the fall season, Esther has made some pumpkin and maple-flavor bars and pies to let people at St. Mark’s have a taste of fall. On Groton Day, Esther created zebra-like cookies to support St. Mark’s athletes in her warmest way. Carl Guo 22’, who plays thirds boys soccer in the fall, said, “I cannot go to a game without a chocolate chip cookie! Our baker is awesome!” Esther is also excited for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas Day because she hopes to surprise the St. Mark’s community with holiday-themed desserts!

While we interviewed Esther on the day of the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, she was helping Ms. Zhu to cut mooncakes while also preparing the desserts for the school seated meal. After Esther was told that some students believe FLIK buys the delicious cakes outside of school, she laughed and asked us to invite them downstairs to join her in making the cakes together. Finally, Esther told us she loves her job as a baker here and she is happy to see how popular the desserts are. However, since she is the only one who works in the bakery downstairs, she does not have as many chances as other FLIK staff who work in the kitchen to meet the students and faculty at St. Mark’s. Esther welcomes everyone to come downstairs to visit and learn how she makes dessert. She looks forward to saying hi to us!

Dedication Page

Jane Dubrova ‘20

I haven’t yet decided what my first book is going to be about, but I do know what I will write on the dedication page:

To Granny, wherever you are

Thanks for locking me in the bathroom with The Little Prince and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It was scary for a little while, but then I started reading and didn’t even hear grandpa screaming that he had to pee.

To Grandpa

Sorry. I didn’t know I could unlock it from the inside.

I wasn’t raised in a sadistic family. It’s just that women tend to be a little impulsive when others don’t share their passions. My grandma loved books. I loved toy cars. The two didn’t go well together, and when she discovered that I’ve made a garage for my trucks out of Jules Verne novels, she locked me in the bathroom. Half an hour later, I became too bored of flushing self-made toilet paper fishes and had no choice but to start reading. I couldn’t stop ever since. For this, and for many other lessons that I would not be able to fit in a thousand dedication pages, I am forever grateful. One day, I’ll lock my grandchildren with some good books too. They may even fall in love with the words as I did.

I often recall this story, walking down St. Mark’s hallways, wondering if these remarkably passionate students and faculty members would still have been as remarkably passionate if it wasn’t for other people who, at some point of their lives, locked them in a cramped room with Shakespeare sonnets, oil paint, Mendeleev’s periodic table, Greek alphabet, or whatever it is they now can’t live without. As Thanksgiving approaches, and the feeling of gratitude fills the air, I am interviewing St. Mark’s faculty to find out who has inspired their lifelong interests and secured a place on the dedication page of their first book.

Ms. Donovan– Assistant Librarian; History Teacher:

To Nathaniel Hawthorne,

Whose excellent usage of imagery allowed the reader to fully engage with the situation and characters

Besides the world-renowned American fiction writer, who has influenced Ms. Donovan’s interest in literature, she is grateful to her wonderful middle school history teachers, who have supported all the students in the class and helped them connect with each other.

Ms. LaFreniere– Assistant to Dean of Students:

To my daughter,

Whose self-devotion to the autistic children she works with inspires me every day

And to my wonderful son,

Who is not any less wonderful

Who knows, maybe if it wasn’t for people who have influenced Ms. LaFreniere along the way, today she would have been riding some fine Arabian horse on her farm, instead of working at St. Mark’s.

“Oh goodness, who is my role model? Today, I want to be Ms. Matthews,” Ms. LaFreniere smiles as Ms. Matthews walks into her office bursting into laughter.

“It’s not that bad. I wanted to own a horse farm when I was in the kindergarten,” I start recalling my crazy dreams before the bathroom incident.

“Horse farm! Definitely! I had a group of 4-5 friends, and we’ve volunteered on a horse farm every single day for two whole summers. It was great. But then I also wanted to work with children. I thought about becoming a child psychologist, but now I’m glad I haven’t. I take things too personally.”

We are all glad.


Ms. Millet– History and Social Sciences Department Chair:

To my parents

For giving me opportunities that I’ve had to learn and explore who I wanted to be.

And to all the institutions

That have challenged me throughout the years to be better at the work I do

Ms. Millet also talked about her high school and college history teachers, who have influenced her interest in social justice. As a photographer, she was particularly inspired by the works of Edward Weston.


Dr. Appell-Warren- Director of Global Citizenship; History & Social Sciences Department Faculty:


George N. and Laura W.R. Appell


to all those who tenaciously seek clarity

This is a real dedication page from Dr. Warren’s first published book. Turned out, some people go beyond thinking about the acknowledgments and actually write something.

“I always loved psychology and anthropology. There was an amazing child psychology teacher in my high school, which wasn’t something every school had. Another teacher who made me committed to understanding psychology was also my dorm mother, so we were very close. I thought I would be a child psychologist, but I didn’t want to be one of those parents who overanalyze their children behavior, and I also knew that working with sad kids would be hard for me. So I decided to study anthropology, but then I met my husband,” we all know how that story goes, “and it changed everything. Anyway, I love working with children of this age even more.”

“If I publish another book, I would dedicate it to my husband and my children. Grandchildren maybe,” she adds smiling.


Ms. Adams– Director of Community & Equity Affairs, Religion Department Faculty:

For my mother, Loretta Adams Hodge, who thought she was too dark for love. She was just too much like right. I miss you Mama.

To my little sisters Danni, Shima and Aja for being in my heart on the worst days. You got the next.

For the faculty and students of #SDLC2015 where woke was (re)defined for me.

But most of all to my son, Asa, who forced me to follow my dreams by following his. I love you to life.

I’m getting my free for me and for us.

“We gon be a’ight!”

This is another real dedication from Ms. Adam’s poetry collection Black Mama Blues: Becomings. In the interview, she commented on her life journey and transformation of her passions.

“As a kid, I wanted to be a fashion designer AND a child psychologist. The first and the most renowned fashion psychologist. I didn’t want any other child in the world to go through the hardships that I was going through. I wanted to help them, and I wanted to be fashionable while doing it,” Ms. Adams recalls her first serious career decision. “Then, in the high school, I’ve developed in my writing and decided to become a best-selling author, but I was pushed towards science and engineering by my AP Chemistry and AP Calculus teachers. When I was already accepted to the school for chemical engineering, I met an amazing advanced literature teacher. She challenged me in many unexpected ways. I could manipulate my previous teachers, write for my audience, so I’ve always got straight A’s. For my first assignment with the new teacher, I got a C, and the girl next to me, who I knew was a worse writer, got an A. You know what the woman said to me? ‘What you wrote, was a C for you, and what she wrote, was an A for her.’ She taught me to compete against myself, not others. And my family was very influential, of course. My grandmother and mother did a lot for the community. I watched them teaching adults to read or gain other skills. Helping others and expressing your gratitude was everything.”


Dr. Harwood– Classics Department Faculty:


Om Tat Sat

No, it’s not Greek. Om Tat Sat in Sanskrit literally means “All that is the Truth”.

“I translate it as ‘this is it’. This is all we’ve got, this is the world and this is it!” I listen carefully, wondering whether Dr. Harwood would notice if I plagiarize this phrase for the epigraph to my future second book.

“Speaking about someone who inspired me,” she continues, “I would say Pippi Longstocking. My father read this book to me every night, and this girl was my role model. Pippi is her own person. She is very independent, has a big heart, and stands up for what is right. I am an independent person too. I am a feminist. I believe that women can do extraordinary things. My mother went back to college and got her bachelors and masters degrees in education after giving birth to three daughters. Watching her do that was inspiring. I was also fortunate to work in schools with wonderful colleagues who have always supported me in my sometimes non-traditional teaching methods. But a person who has influenced me the most in terms of my character is my son. He always reminds me to see the beauty and humor in things.”

I cannot stop smiling while listening to these stories. I could have published the whole collection of St. Mark’s faculty dedication pages, but I wonder if it really matters. Maybe we don’t necessarily have to dedicate a book or name a star after our loved ones. Maybe it’s good enough to remember.

Humans of St. Mark's: Meet a SM Parent!

By Rebecca Wu ‘21

Ms. Verbeek came to St. Mark’s in 2016. She teaches FIT and works as the Executive Assistant and Data Analyst for the Assistant Head of School/Dean of Faculty and Dean of Academics. Her most important role, however, is as the parent of Keelie Verbeek ‘18 and Kerrie Verbeek ‘19.

Q: How does it feel to be both a St. Mark’s staff member and a St. Mark’s parent?

A: I like being a member of the St. Mark’s community as a staff member as well as a SM parent. It works out really well for me! I love getting to teach fitness here because it allows me to spend time with St. Mark’s students, which is absolutely my favorite part of the job. However, I’m not sure that I actually get to hang out with my daughters more than another SM parent since St. Mark’s students don’t usually end up having a lot of free time. But it’s a really happy coincidence when I see my girls passing by in the hallway or dining hall. It is a nice thing.

Q: Is there anything that you like to do with your daughters?

A: My favorite thing to do with my daughters is to watch them play soccer. I get the chance to watch them playing during a lot of St. Mark’s soccer games, and it is nice to be there and support them. That’s past tense for Keelie because she graduated last year, but I am still doing it this year with Kerrie. When we are not at school, say on weekends, we enjoy watching sporting events on television together.

Q: What advice would you give to parents of the new St. Markers?

A: I know that it is a wonderful opportunity for parents to meet with teachers and advisors during family weekend. I would also suggest talking to Mr. Vachris because he gives great parental advice. Those connections are really useful. I also think that St. Mark’s does an excellent job at posting photographs of all the different events on Smugmug. The interesting thing is even though I live in Southborough, I love looking at all those pictures. It makes me happy that no matter where the parents are, they are able to see their children’s pictures. Reading Dean’s Weekly and students’ publications, like The St. Marker and LEO, is also helpful. Parents can read about different events on campus and get to see students’ artwork. I just love all the opportunities that we have to know what’s going on on campus.

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Humans of St. Mark's: Eight, Great new Faculty to Meet

by Rebecca Wu ‘21

Mr. Studevan

Mr. Studevan joined the St. Mark’s community in April of 2018 as the Assistant Director of College Counseling. Previously, he worked for his family business and as the Logistics Coordinator at City Year in Philadelphia. He is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, with a degree in Economics and Government. St. Marks Athletics will benefit from Mr. Studevan’s experience as a varsity football player at F&M, as well as his love for playing basketball. He lives in Sawyer along with his new dog, Ace, who is sure to become very popular on campus.

Q: A fun fact about yourself?

A: Every school that I have either attended or worked at has had Blue as one of its primary school colors.

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?

A: My favorite part of my job is all of the informal interactions that I have with students, such as dorm duty, athletics, and walking around campus.

Q: What’s has been your favorite St. Mark’s tradition so far?

A: While I have not experienced most of the SM traditions, I am very much looking forward to Groton Day! I hope to see great school spirit and competition.

Mr. Cochran

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Mr. Cochran took on the role of Director of Communications & Marketing for St. Mark’s in April of 2018. Before coming to our School, he served as Executive Director of Communications at Wentworth Institute of Technology. He has also held positions at Bentley University, MIT, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  Mr. Cochran earned a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a M.A. in Publishing/Writing from Emerson College. He lives off-campus in Sudbury with his wife Natalie and their two sons, Cameron and Ryan.

Q: A fun fact about yourself?

A: I enjoy baking bread. I use a great and simple no-knead recipe from Mark Bittman based on a Jim Lahey process (link here if you're interested:

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?

A: I love walking around St. Mark's and meeting so many dedicated and happy staff, faculty members and students. The sense of community here is very special.

Q: What’s has been your favorite St. Mark’s tradition so far?

A: I like the idea of the entire St. Mark's student body gathering once each day for either chapel, school meeting, or seated meal. Mr. Vachris also has me very excited about the Quad Games--I'm looking forward to experiencing that later this year.

Ms. Michelson

Ms. Michelson ‘13 is expanding her role at St. Mark's in 2018-2019. In addition to serving as the Assistant Director of Auxiliary Programs, she will be living in Thayer and teaching one section of The Global Seminar. Ms. Michelson majored in French & International Relations at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and is passionate about global citizenship. She is a proud member of St. Mark’s Young Alumni Leadership Council and never misses an opportunity to contribute positively to the St. Mark’s School community.

Q: A fun fact about yourself?

A: My favorite hobby is ceramics- I've been throwing pots for the last nine years. I actually first started learning in Ms. Belt's Ceramics I class, and I've continued my work with clay at a ceramics studio in Framingham.

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?

A: My favorite part about my job is getting to experience St. Mark's from a new and different perspective. The school has evolved so much in the years since I was a Third Former, and I get to see every day how these changes have affected the St. Mark's student experience in a positive way.

Q: What’s your favorite St. Mark’s tradition so far?

A: One of my favorite traditions at St. Mark's is the Fall Groton Games and the strong sense of school spirit it provokes from the student body. I love everything from the Groton Night bonfire to the Snake Dance, but, if I'm honest, my all-time favorite annual event has always been the Wick Choir Festival.

Mr. Mertsch

Mr. Mertsch is joining the Modern Languages Department as our German Teacher. He comes to St. Mark’s after ten years at Chapel Hill Chauncy School in Waltham where he served as the Director of their Learning Support Department. He has considerable experience teaching German, was educated in Germany, and is a native German speaker. Mr. Mertsch has coached soccer and basketball and has a strong interest in robotics. He and his wife Mary will live in Coolidge with their sons Sebastian (9) and Oliver (7.5), and their dog Roscoe.

Q: A fun fact about yourself?

A: I learned British English in school much longer than American English. So if my English pronunciation is sometimes off or I use a funny word that you don’t often hear, just blame my high school education.

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?

A: I get to teach German! I did not have this opportunity for a long time and am really enjoying it. Being able to bring my own ideas to class as well as incorporating student interests are some highlights right now.

Q: What’s your favorite St. Mark’s tradition so far?

A: Well, I am still pretty new, so I am sure I have only seen the tip of the iceberg that is St. Mark’s traditions and customs. So far, I have really enjoyed the school meetings. It is so different from what I am used to. I love that they are mostly student run, somewhat informal, and entertaining. Students seem to be really involved as opposed to nod off in some back row. As the year goes on, though, I am sure I will discover other traditions and customs that I really enjoy.

Ms. Xu

Ms. Xu.jpg

Ms. Xu is looking forward to teaching Chinese for the Modern Language Department during our Chinese Teacher’s Family Leave. She comes to St. Mark’s with many years teaching Mandarin at schools here in Massachusetts, including the Brimmer and May School. She has a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction from Boston College, and is excited to collaborate with all members of our community. Ms. Xu lives in Worcester with her husband Quay, their daughter Ellie (4 yrs) and their son Abraham (17 mos).

Q: A fun fact about yourself?

A: I like to dance and I can dance for a long time. I also like to sit still for a long time too.

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?

A: To get know more about my students. Each student is unique and to hear about their sharing especially in Mandarin is one of my favorite parts of my job. Another one is the food. St. Mark's has great food and I can easily charge my physical body by different food!

Q: What’s your favorite St. Mark’s tradition so far?

A: Chapel/any spiritual reflection.

Rev. Solter

Rev. Solter is joining the Religion Department to teach classes and act as the Assistant Chaplain. Previously, Rev. Solter has been the Chaplain of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School in Washington D.C. since 2014. She has also taught religion and has served as an assistant lacrosse coach. Prior to St. Patrick’s, Rev. Solter served various religious posts in Maine, France, New Hampshire, and CT. Katie will be living on School St with her husband Tom and their children: Riley (20), Theo (16), and Laney (10).

Q: A fun fact about yourself?

A: A fun fact about me is that I love to travel! In college, I traveled to India, Thailand, Malaysia, Fiji, England, Mexico, and New Zealand, studying Global ecology and living with host families. I taught at SYA France for a year, My son, Riley, went to SYA Italy, and my son, Theo, is currently attending SYA France. If we're lucky, my daughter can go to SYA China! I will travel this Christmas to visit our son and we will visit Seville, Cordoba, Madrid, and Barcelona. My husband also worked in South Korea for four summers and also in Ireland. Travel is one of our great joys. I love visiting sacred spaces of all kind, meeting people from all over the world, and hearing their stories.  

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?

A: My favorite part of my job is listening and helping students create chapel talks, teaching religion and hearing students reflect on their experiences and questions around the great mysteries of life, and I love being a chaplain, teacher, and coach!

Q: What’s your favorite St. Mark’s tradition so far?

A: So far, my favorite tradition is the first evening chapel, but I am also really excited about Groton day and the House Cup Contests because I love sugar cookies, sports, and I am obsessed with all things Harry Potter! Go Lions!

Mr. Palmer

Mr. Palmer comes to the St. Mark’s School community with many years of experience as a Teacher (Physics, Biology, & Chemistry) at Lawrence High School and Acton-Boxborough Regional High Schools, as well as professional experience as an Engineer. He’ll join our Science Department to teach Physics and looks forward to getting involved in extracurriculars including robotics and coaching. Mr. Palmer has two adult daughters (Kendra and Lexi), enjoys playing soccer, hockey, and tennis, and lives in Groton with his dog (Nico) and cat (Boo).

Q: A fun fact about yourself?

A: The best job interview I ever had was when I got a volunteer job at the Museum of Science in Boston's Live Animal Center. They asked me a few questions, then handed me a ferret, a 12 ft Reticulated Python and a 4 ft alligator to see how I did with them. I can honestly say, I now remember with joy doing things like cleaning ferret poop off not just the floor, but the walls and ceilings of their enclosures.  

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?

A: I started teaching so that I could be home more for my own kids when they were young, but I discovered I love teaching because I am helping young people become their best, hopefully care about this world and each other, and realize that they can make a difference. For me, a teacher does not bestow knowledge and wisdom, but helps students to see for themselves what is real, what is important, and what they can accomplish.

Q: What’s your favorite St. Mark’s tradition so far?

A: So far, I would say it is the All-School Meetings. I am very impressed with the initiative, creativity and leadership shown by the students. And it's often funny. As I often say, if not for my sense of humor, I'd have no sense at all.

Mr. Bauer

Mr. Bauer joins our Science Department to assist in the 1-year sabbatical coverage of Physics. He has previously served as a Substitute Teacher and the Head Soccer Coach at Dana Hall. He also has extensive experience tutoring Physics, Algebra, and Spanish in many of this area’s schools. Born in Perú, he is a native Spanish speaker. Mr. Bauer lives in Natick with his family, including: his wife Carmelina; children Alexandria, Raffaele, and Daniela; their dog Chacho; and 8 chickens. (He reports enjoying delicious eggs in the morning.)

Q: A fun fact about yourself?

A: I am a “human mutt”. I was born in Lima, Peru. In Spanish speaking countries there is a word for describing a person of mix race, I am considered a Mestizo.

According to my DNA test, I am:

40% Native American (Mostly from the Andes Mountains - INCA)

21% English (Mostly Wales)

17% African roots (Mostly Cameroon)

15% Iberian Peninsula (Mostly Spain)

and a bunch of other things.

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?

A: I love the interactions with the students outside the classroom, on the practice fields, at dining hall. It has been very nice to get to know the community outside the classroom.

Q: What’s your favorite St. Mark’s tradition so far?

A: So far, I have only attended 3 Chapels, but they have all been incredible. The speakers have been amazing! Their messages have been so personal and powerful.

Humans of St. Mark's: Caroline McGinnis '18, Tommy MacNeil '18, and Helynna Lin '18

by Rebecca Wu '21

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Caroline McGinnis '18

“The thought of graduating St. Mark’s is so bittersweet. I’ve always been excited to go off to college to dive into a field I’m passionate about and “start my life.” However, looking back at my short two years here I can’t help but think about how I’ve got to start that process early. I’ve been able to live on my own and find new things that I’ve fallen in love with, whether that was my many theatrical performances or rowing. St. Mark’s is now my second home, filled with people that I want in my life forever and memories that I want to relive. Leaving St. Mark’s is going to be very difficult but I know I will be able to achieve what I want in life because of what I’ve learned here, such as discovering a passion for biology, which I will continue on in college. My last few weeks are going to be hard, not particularly academically due to a high amount of senioritis, but knowing that I am leaving so soon. I’ve been on the senior quad constantly and spend every chance I have spending extra time at dinner, being involved in things I haven’t done before, and being with my friends. I know the weeks will fly so I am trying my best to take it all in before I won’t be able to walk down the main hallway to class every morning.”

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Helynna Lin '18

“I wish that I could stay in St.Mark's a little bit longer! I deeply cherish everything I have here - my teachers, my friends, classes, the grand pianos in PFAC, tennis in spring, duty nights in T-House...the list goes on forever. My college, which has a very different environment from that of St.Mark's, will definitely give me challenges, but I have faith in myself. With the courage and confidence I have gained here, I am ready to start a new journey.”

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Tommy MacNeil '18

“Leaving St. Mark’s is definitely a bittersweet feeling.  I am excited to move on with my life, however I will always remember the great memories I have made at the school.  Whether it is winning a Groton game or playing spikeball on the quad, these are things that I will miss greatly.

Next year, I will be attending Union College in Schenectady, New York, at which I will be studying biomedical engineering, with an interest in designing prosthetic limbs.  As the idea of attending college becomes more real everyday, I will not lie it is a little unsettling. At St. Mark’s I have become very comfortable within the community, and I will have to get used to a new one at Union.  Studying engineering is something that really excites me, however I know it will be a challenge. I am confident that my St. Mark’s education will provide me with many skills to excel within the classroom at Union.

As I finish up my last weeks of St. Mark’s, I hope to have fun and take it all in.  These are my last days in the dining hall and on the quad, and I hope to make the most of them.  I am extremely grateful for this school, and hope that everything pays off when I am off at college in a few months.”



Humans of St. Mark's: "What scares me would be not taking full advantage of life"

by Rebecca Wu '21

I was born in Topeka, Kansas, and my earliest memories are definitely there. There are many memories around the same time. In my 2nd grade, I moved to Kansas City because my dad worked there, but I still remember my life in Topeka vividly. It’s quite interesting that when Kaleb is asked about his hometown, he would refer to Massachusetts, but not Kansas!


When I was 5 or 6, one of my best friends, Karlama, and I wanted to open a salon. I was going to run the business, and she was going to be the head stylist. We even drew the layout and the design of the salon with crayons. We decided to decorate it with pink and grey. And also hair and nails, and everything was pink and grey!


I would say the women in my family are the most influential people to me. It’s hard to choose one. They influence me in a number of ways, including professions, commitment to family, ability to travel, and to have fun, food, and confidence, and most importantly, being selfless. My mother, for example, is a great model for me. I have some distant relatives who don’t have children, you know, my mom would go to their houses and do things around the house. All the women in my family teach me how to manage to commit to personal goals and still take care of other people.


What scares me would be not taking full advantage of life. I never take experiences for granted. I regard every single day and moment of life as wonderful things. I make every single day and moment count, even the crunching leaves and the feel of snow.


Before I came to St. Mark’s, I worked at St. Paul’s School. In December 2011, I became a new wife, and the year after, I finished my master’s degree, and I joined this community. I like St. Mark’s. We are asking a lot of questions about ourselves. It feels like there is no limit at St. Mark’s. Also, the busyness here never distracts me from my personal life. I have to pay equal attention to how I grow as a person.


Humans of St.Mark's: Introduction

by Rebecca Wu '21


I was born and raised in Shenzhen, China, and I spent my childhood there. If I have to pick one thing that I feel proud of during my days studying at St. Mark’s, it would be bringing in my Chinese perspective to this community. Being transplanted into a different culture, I knew that I needed to be prepared for a series of questions: What is it like to belong to a minority group at a school? How do you blend into the culture of St. Mark’s? What is the culture of St. Mark’s? There are so many of us at St. Mark’s who must have wondered the same thing.

However, as it turns out, culture can never be labeled by a single word  especially since St. Mark’s is such a diverse community that accepts a wide range of racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. In addition,  the student and faculty body here embrace many different interests, passions, and personal traits.

I always believe the best way of bringing together a community from diverse backgrounds is through stories-talking with people and writing about them. Inspired by the photobook Humans of New York, I decided to create a platform that welcomes and encourages every St. Marker to share their own stories.

Being different is a gift. We should not ignore it.

If you would like to tell St.Mark's about your personal story in the next issue, please don't hesitate to reach out to me! My email is I can't wait to hear from you.