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Vayda finds “a new look” on life

After years of bullying, sophomore finally has a place to shine

The bell had just rung as students flooded out of the classrooms into the crowd of hundreds at a suburban public middle school. It was the middle of her eighth grade year, when sophomore Amelia Vayda was knocked to the ground by a football player, without reason. Girls and boys hurried up and down the narrow hallways set on their destinations, winding around fellow classmates, ignoring even the one being trampled by her peers.

“So many other things had happened that I just started not really caring,” said Vayda.

Having already dealt with being shoved into a locker, pushed down in the lunchroom and additional verbal bullying over the course of her middle-school experience, Vayda knew she had to leave.

“I just didn’t feel right,” said Vayda. “I decided to look at other schools. All of the friends [at my old school] didn’t want me to leave. They said if I left they might lose me as a friend, and I didn’t want that to happen, but I had to make a choice for myself and trust that I could do it.”

Vayda’s mother, Patricia, also saw the cost of leaving the school she had attended her whole life, but agreed that a change was needed.

“It is a risk to change schools right before high school and leave behind friends,” she said. “But sometimes making that change leads you to a place that is a much better fit for you in the long run.”

After attending open houses and shadowing at a number of private schools, Vayda was quickly drawn to Minnehaha.

Vayda works backstage at fall musical the Big River.
Vayda works backstage at fall musical the Big River. Photo by Maddie Binning.

“She had an immediate affinity for Minnehaha Academy,” said Patricia. “She noted the small classroom sizes and the positive interaction between the students and the teachers. She also was immediately aware that there was an environment of respect among the students.”

Amelia’s sister, Katherine, a senior at Edina High School, could see how the changes affected her emotionally.

“I could tell she was nervous about switching schools, however she knew that it was the right decision,” said Katherine. “She was very excited to go to a smaller school where she wouldn’t just be another student but a part of a community.”

Now a year and a half into her MA experience, Vayda is enjoying the opportunities, especially activities like alpine skiing and tech team. But she isn’t the only one benefitting from her switch to MA.

“She’s very insightful and contributes to the team because she’s very positive,” said alpine teammate sophomore Madison Webster.“She’s also very focused and is always looking to improve herself.”

Senior alpine captain Alasdair Boyle has found her to be an inclusive teammate, always ready to help.

“Although she has only recently joined the team, she definitely knows how it operates,” said Boyle. “She is always there to help. I think one of her best qualities is never leaving anyone out, on and off the hill.”

Junior captain Poppy Anema has also noticed her dedication.

“She works hard,” said Anema. “She is enthusiastic about everything and always willing to lend a hand when one is needed.”

Aside from ski team, tech is one of Vayda’s biggest time commitments.

“When the play starts, I’m basically here until nine o’clock just doing tech work some nights,” said Vayda. “During the [week of the play], I probably spend five hours a day on tech.”

Fellow tech team member junior Theresa Vitt, stage manager for the fall musical Big River, appreciates having Vayda there to help her out.

“She acts as a sort of an assistant stage manager,” said Vitt. “She anticipates what I’ll need and does it efficiently and well. I like that she gets things done, and I don’t need to spell things out for her.”

Aside from her tech work with the play, she works on chapels, assemblies and dances, as well as going to after school meetings to learn new things. Though Vayda hasn’t quite found the technical area she wants to learn about in depth, she still loves spending time on tech.

“I like both sound and light, and I’m trying to decide which to learn about right now,” said Vayda with a smile. “That’s my dilemma. Light is a whole different aspect because you have to worry about blind spots or dark shading, and then sound you have to worry about cues and whether it’s on or off for certain people.”

Performing arts technical manager Brian Hallermann appreciates her ready-to-go attitude.

Vayda works in the soundbooth during chapel. Photo by Maddie Binning.

“She’s always just looking for something to do, and there’s always something to do for us,” smiled Hallermann. “I’m never going to turn that down.”

Whether she’s in class, on the ski hills, or working on tech, Vayda can already see how changing schools has helped her.

“It’s given me a new look on Christian faith,” said Vayda. “It also has given me new opportunities for friends. Changing schools and getting the feel of a different school [will help to make] college a better step, so I’m not jumping from a school that I’ve gone to my whole life with all my friends to a school out of state. It’s good preparation.”

Beyond college preparation, her mother finds that she has gotten much more out of changing schools.

“She is much happier and more confident in herself,” said Patricia. “She [is] better able to express her true self.”

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About Maddie Binning

Maddie Binning is a senior at Minnehaha Academy and Editor in Chief of the Talon Newspaper. Maddie has worked on the Talon for four years and hopes to study journalism in university. When she isn't working on the paper, Maddie is both a freelance photographer and a photographer at Lifetouch Portrait Studios. She also has a passion for reading, music and traveling.

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