Yes, taking the pitcher's mound at a major league baseball stadium was pretty cool.
And sure, pitching a beautiful strike, right down the middle—after showing off a little with a slick bicep bounce—was great and all.
But the best part of throwing out the opening pitch at a Chicago White Sox game, says Sister Mary Jo Sobieck, had nothing to do with the pitch. It was connecting with an angel in the outfield.
On Aug. 18, 2018, Chicago's Marian Catholic High School—where Sobieck teaches theology—arranged a baseball outing as one event to celebrate its 60th anniversary. Sobieck—a three-sport high school and college athlete who once dreamed of being an Olympian—was a logical pick to throw the first pitch. On game night, taking the mound in her black and white habit and a Marian Catholic jersey, Sobieck pointed to the sky to honor her late mother.
After the pitch, Sobieck headed to the concourse to celebrate with fellow teachers, students, and alumni, and a little girl asked for a photo. Her name? Louise. Same as Sobieck's mom.
"I hugged the girl and I said, ‘You are my angel in the outfield,'" says Sobieck. "It was just like it was meant to be."
Once Sobieck's story went viral (the White Sox called her powerful throw "one of the most impressive pitches of all time" on Twitter), the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, turned her into a bobblehead doll. Admirers can purchase one, and part of the proceeds support a scholarship named for Sobieck.
The spotlight has given Sobieck an opportunity to spread a message she works to impart on her students at Marian Catholic: maintaining hope and leading a balanced life.
"I say to the kids every year, ‘You have a profound opportunity to model for the world what the world isn't. The world fears difference,'" says Sobieck, who leads a ministry group called Go Exteme for Jesus, where students bring food, clothing, and blankets to the homeless. "You learn to collaborate and grow and learn together and agree to disagree." Meredith Barnett
Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, is home to one of the top viticulture and enology (wine making) programs in the world. So, logically, the Cornell Alumni Association launched a wine collection in 2018. Here's a little taste of the program.
Graduates had been asking for wine for years, says Anna Pollock, associate director of engagement initiatives. "They want to serve it when they toast career milestones, share it with family at important events, and give it as gifts to their Cornell friends. Raising a glass of Cornell Alumni Wine to share a toast is a unique and intimate way to celebrate the importance of Cornell in their lives," she says.
The alumni association partnered with Millbrook Vineyards, owned by alumnus John Dyson.
The inaugural collection—a cabernet franc and chardonnay—sold out.
The label features a watercolor of campus by alumnus and professor emeritus Robert J. Lambert Jr., class of '50. MB
In October 2018, nine high schoolers—scuba gear in tow—headed to Anilao, Philippines. Their mission? To plumb the waters just south of Manila, collect environmental data, and clean up plastic trash. Meet the Yokohama International School's Underwater Explorers, who are taking learning to new depths.
Started in 2017, the club gives students the opportunity to hone their diving skills on four to five diving trips throughout the school year. The 680-student Yokohama, Japan, school—one of the oldest international schools in the world—has offered diving opportunities for students for a decade. Its mission? "Live, learn, lead."
‘'We try to really embody that with our group," says Matthew Broughton, technology coach at Yokohama and a certified dive coach who leads the club. "We're out there creating these experiences, giving these students leadership opportunities but also learning in a really unique, hands-on, applied way."
On the trips, students collect data for Project Baseline, a nonprofit citizen science organization. They snap photos, measure water temperature and visibility, and make observations about plastic trash in the water and on the beach—a significant issue in Southeast Asia.
"I've always enjoyed being underwater," says student Silvia, a junior who began diving at age 11 and one of the group's leaders. "[On the Philippines trip] I saw the impact that we have on the ocean and where our trash actually ends up."
It may take years for the data the Underwater Explorers send back via spreadsheets to Project Baseline to have an impact—but collecting the information and opening students' eyes to environmental issues is part of the experience, says Broughton.
"Fun is a huge part of our group—but we do it through the lens of service," he says. MB
One part of a head of school's job is to keep a school community safe. Morgan Scoville, head of The Fay School, had an unexpected chance to put that to the test in August 2018 when he gave two criminals an actual run for their money.
Scoville—who's been at the Houston, Texas, school since May 201—is an avid runner, with 16 marathons under his belt. On Wednesday, Aug. 22, when Fay was closed in observance of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, Scoville set out for a five-mile run along Houston's Allen Parkway. Along the run, he watched a black SUV push another car off the road and crash into a telephone pole. When two men took off running from the scene, Scoville acted fast.
"I thought, ‘Those guys know they've done something wrong. I've got to follow these guys; there's no way they can outrun me,'" says Scoville. Sprinting after them, he told people in cars along the way to call 911.
After a half-mile chase, police swarmed the area and arrested the culprits. The story made headlines, landing Scoville interviews with Runner's World and news outlets—and introducing him to parents as a leader.
"We'd only been in school for maybe two weeks. The parents were still learning about me and who I was. The story demonstrated that, ‘Hey, our kids are going to be safe. He's going to take care of our children.'"
Fay staff, in fact, had just completed active shooter training; being safety-conscious was particularly top-of-mind for Scoville, who started his advancement career working in admissions at his alma mater, St. Andrews School in Delaware. His enduring message to Fay's 300 students after the incident: Do the right thing and be proactive.
The experience underlines how important it is for educators and independent schools' staffs to be prepared to think outside their normal running routes—literally and figuratively.
"Education hasn't changed in a long time. Let's take appropriate risks. Let's do something innovative," he says. MB