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Daily News

WILBRAHAM — Wilbraham & Monson Academy has named former prep and collegiate standout and renowned coach Annie Kandel as head coach of its girls lacrosse team. Kandel will take the helm of the program at the start of the 2022-23 school year.

“We are so very excited for Coach Annie Kandel to join our team at WMA,” Head of School Brian Easler said. “Her broad experience as a lacrosse player and coach will infuse our girls varsity lax program with heightened energy, and her expertise in the sport of lacrosse and in coaching female student-athletes will be an investment in our commitment to young women. We have some really talented players who have been very well-coached already, and now Coach Kandel will help us bring the program to the next level.”

Kandel will also assume the role of director of Parent Programs for the Academy and will coordinate advancement and development efforts with parents, alumni parents, and grandparents. She brings an array of experience in admissions, athletics, and student life from within the boarding school world to WMA.

“I am thrilled to be joining WMA, a community characterized by a notable spirit and positive values,” Kandel said. “It is clearly a special place and one which has welcomed me with open arms. I am excited to have the opportunity to coach lacrosse in such a respected athletic program and look forward to working with students, parents, and colleagues this fall. Go Titans!”

Kandel joins WMA after successful coaching stints at Groton School, Stuart Country Day School, Tabor Academy, Cheshire Academy, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, and the University of Colorado. She has led her teams to multiple state and New England championships as well as an undefeated, untied season. She also coaches for the Baystate Bullets Lacrosse Club.

She is a product of independent schools, having been a standout athlete in field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse at Governor’s Academy before excelling in both field hockey and lacrosse at Lehigh University. She earned league, regional, and All-American honors in lacrosse and was named the Lehigh University Outstanding Athlete her senior year. She was also honored as a member of the Patriot League All-Decade team and played for the U.S. Women’s National Team in 1992-93.

Daily News

WILBRAHAM — Katlyn Grasso, Founder and CEO of GenHERation®, a network where young women and companies connect, will be the 2022 Commencement speaker at Wilbraham & Monson Academy on Saturday on the WMA campus at 11 a.m. The 2022 graduating class at WMA consists of 99 graduates, all of whom will be attending college. 

In her role as CEO, Grasso has created GenHERation® Discovery Days, hosted the GenHERation® Summer Leadership Series, developed original GenHERation® webisodes, launched The GenHERation® Collection product line, and has grown the GenHERation® community to reach more than 500,000 young women. 

Grasso is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where she received a B.S. in Economics with concentrations in finance and strategic globalization. She is one of the inaugural recipients of the Penn President’s Engagement Prize, which provides Penn students with $150,000 to develop ventures that have the potential to change the world. 

Grasso speaks internationally about entrepreneurship, technology, leadership and the advancement of women, and has been a featured speaker at more than 200 events. She is a frequent radio and television contributor and her work has been featured across national media outlets, including CNBC, NBC, Fast Company, Forbes, The Huffington Post, CBS, Yahoo! Finance, Seventeen Magazine and SiriusXM. 

Katlyn Grasso is such an enterprising young entrepreneur and supporter of young women in leadership, and we are proud to have her joining us for Commencement 2022,” said Head of School Brian P. Easler. “We were excited back in 2020, when Katlyn was originally scheduled to speak at commencement, so we were thrilled when she agreed to reschedule with us for this year. Katlyn has already been engaging with some of our students, and we look forward to her insights this Saturday. 

Grasso is a member of the Penn Fund Executive Board, the Penn Nursing Center for Global Women’s Health Advisory Board, the TCU Neeley Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Board of Directors, and is the tri-chair of Momentum: The Power of Penn Women. She was named to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list in 2022 as one of the most influential leaders in education. 

Daily News

WILBRAHAM — Following a national search, Wilbraham & Monson Academy (WMA) named former prep and collegiate standout Sara Ugalde head coach of its inaugural girls’ ice hockey team. Ugalde will take the helm of the program beginning July 1.

“We are extremely excited to have Sara Ugalde joining WMA to launch our girls’ hockey program,” Head of School Brian Easler said. “We feel incredibly fortunate to have found Sara. With her depth of playing and coaching experience in youth leagues, prep-school hockey, collegiate and professional hockey, combined with her passion to build this program and grow the sport for girls, we look forward to Sara’s impact as the founding head coach of this new program for female WMA scholar-athletes.”

A hockey MVP as a player at Westminster School, Ugalde helped lead Middlebury College to NESCAC championships in 2011 and 2012. Her experience with collegiate hockey coaching includes assistant women’s ice hockey coach at Trinity College, Williams College, and Colby College. She was director and coach of the Connecticut Junior Rangers and assistant coach for the NWHL Connecticut Whale, and has helped run multiple hockey camps throughout the country.

“I am extremely excited to join the Wilbraham & Monson Academy community,” Ugalde said. “I am thankful and honored for the opportunity to build the girls’ hockey program. Throughout the entire interview process, I was moved by the unified vision and support displayed by members of WMA. After years working at the collegiate level, I am delighted to rejoin the prep-school sphere. I am looking forward to finding players that add to the already-established excellence at WMA and helping them reach their athletic aspirations.”

Coronavirus

At This School, Pandemic Has Been a Real Learning Experience

Brian Easler says Wilbraham Monson Academy

Brian Easler says Wilbraham Monson Academy was perhaps better prepared for the pandemic than some other institutions, but pivoting to online learning was still a stern challenge.

Brian Easler still recalls the name of the briefing staged by the Centers for Disease Control in Washington, D.C. more than a decade ago: “The Impending Pandemic.”

Actually, what he remembers even more was the subtitle to the program: “It’s Not a Matter of If, It’s a Matter of When.”

He took the content to heart, and because of that, he believes Wilbraham Monson Academy (WMA), which he serves as head of school, was in some ways better able to handle the arrival of COVID-19 in mid-March.

“We had prepared pretty well for something like this, actually,” he told BusinessWest. “That was a three-day workshop I attended in Washington led by some of the country’s leading epidemiologists. I came back to the school with a lot of good information on how to prepare.”

Elaborating, he said that, because of that warning, the school was well-stocked with what everyone knows now as PPE, and there were plans already in writing for several different scenarios depending on when in the school year the pandemic actually hit.

Such preparation certainly didn’t make the closing of the campus to all but a few international students who simply couldn’t get home, or the transition to remote learning, easy. But it probably made it easier, said Easler, comparing what has transpired over the past several months to a military operation — and he should know, having served in the Army Airborne Rangers.

“You’re getting swept up in something bigger than yourself, where there’s risk involved and a degree of planning,” he explained. “And the decision making — the emergency decision-making process — is much different. During normal times, a decision might be very difficult to make; during an emergency, that decision becomes very easy. We wouldn’t normally turn our school meeting space into a second dining hall — that would be a big decision during normal times. But under these conditions, it was an easy decision to make.”

“We had prepared pretty well for something like this, actually.”

Flashing back to March — and then further back to what he heard all those years ago — Easler said the pandemic did not hit quite like those experts projected it would.

“What tripped up us a little bit is that the CDC was anticipating a pandemic that would be fast-moving,” he explained. “We were prepared for three weeks; that was fine when it came to PPE because all the students went home. But it didn’t help us with transition to an online education program; we had to literally make that up on the fly during spring break.

“In the end, it’s a good thing it wasn’t a fast-moving pandemic, because fast-moving also means really deadly,” he went on. “We were planning for a three- or four-week event, as opposed to a 12-month event, which is more like what we’re looking at. But as a school we saw the signs early, and we paid attention to the right things and the right information. When the students were getting ready for spring break, we told them to bring their laptops and books home with them and to be prepared in case we were not able to return for classes.”

Overall, that transition to remote learning went smoothly, he went on, because of the tight, close-knit nature of the WMA community and the hard work and dedication of staff and students. And these elements are also facilitating efforts to plan for the fall semester, which will start at its traditional time in early September and feature a hybrid model that mixes in-class and remote learning.

“We can simultaneously run classes on campus for the faculty and students who can be on campus, while students and faculty and who cannot be on campus can still synchronistically participate in the same program,” he explained. “It’s fluid, it’s very flexible, and, quite honestly, it’s the future of education anyway. We wish it didn’t take an event like this to move us in this direction, but we’re happy to be moving in this direction — it’s good teaching.”

Looking ahead to the fall, Easler said enrollment, which is traditionally roughly 400 students, remains steady, and, overall, the school may see its numbers rise due to uncertainty among parents about just what the public-school environment might look like come late August or September.

“We’re seeing a little bit of an uptick in local interest,” Easler noted. “I’m speculating, but I think the public-school systems are going to face some significant challenges, and they don’t necessarily have the space resources that we do — we’re structured much like a small college campus with multiple buildings, lots of outdoor space, and a number of spaces that, even though they’re not used as classrooms, can be used as socially distanced classrooms; we have a lot of advantages over public schools.”

Whether this interest locally translates into a bump in enrollment remains to be seen. But what is already clear is that early and effective planning has paid off for this venerable institution.

And it was necessary because the planners of that program in Washington all those years ago were right; it was a question of when, not if, a pandemic would arrive.

—George O’Brien

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