Upper School Co-Curriculars
As part of our mission to know each girl, Laurel’s faculty and staff are at their best when guiding young women toward the discovery and sustenance of passion and purpose.
Upper School students have the opportunity to explore traditional leadership through school government, club and athletics leadership positions. They are also encouraged to find and share their voices with the local, national and global communities. Upper School students have been members of the Ohio delegation to the World Food Prize and active participants in Students Shoulder to Shoulder; in 2014, our school government president took the stage at TEDxCLE to advocate for the release of Chinese prisoners of conscience.
Building confidence is the mainstay of a Laurel education. Our alumnae go on to stand out at highly-selective colleges, run businesses and better the world, in part because of the leadership opportunities they were afforded during their time at Laurel.
Whether elected to a position of leadership in Student Government, establishing a club or school organization, managing a stage production or shepherding her soccer team to victory, there are endless ways for a Laurel girl to lead in the school community and to find her voice. One of the many leadership opportunities available to Laurel girls is the Entrepreneurial Program.
Entrepreneurship means fostering in girls a spirit of possibility coupled with business savvy. Laurel’s Upper School encourages girls to find their passions and fulfill their promise by fostering an entrepreneurial mindset. If you can dream it, you can do it. Through our Entrepreneurial Program and our partnership with the Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum, Laurel girls have the opportunity to develop and present original business ideas – and, in some cases, see them come to fruition as well as winning school-sponsored and local competitions. Whether it be pitching a new business idea to C-level executives from the Cleveland Cavaliers, establishing Gator Books (a student-run book buy-back program) or marketing and selling products at the Young Entrepreneurship Market at Shaker Square, Laurel girls are problem solvers, often collaborating to bring ambitious, real-world businesses to life.
Examples of Laurel girls excelling in entrepreneurship include:
Capstone Entrepreneurship Cohort
Laurel’s Capstone Experience, by design, cultivates purpose, relationships and leadership using one of four lenses—Civic Engagement, Entrepreneurship, Global Studies, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics). Students in this program explore issues through guided research, intellectual discussion, relevant internships and purposeful travel. Girls in the Entrepreneurship cohort experience the start of a new business initiative, the building and execution of an idea from the ground up and the risk of failure. This year, students will be leading a trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley to study how one of the hotbeds of American entrepreneurship works. Students also planned a daylong outing visiting and interviewing local business owners in the Coventry neighborhood. Like entrepreneurs, Laurel girls are leading the way.
R3 - Recycle, Reuse, Refashion
Julia Saltzman ‘17 created her business R3 (recycle, reuse, refashion) after being the runner-up for Laurel’s “Entrepreneurship Challenge” and winner of “promoting sustainability and stewardship through entrepreneurship”. Julia repurposes clothes from current brands and scraps of material to make new clothes. She has had the opportunity to sell her items at the Shaker Square Farmer’s Market and Laurel’s Artisan Bazaar. She was also featured in the September issue of Cleveland Magazine.
Berthy Feng ‘15 took second place honors in the 2014 Regional Veale Business Plan Competition. Berthy is the creator of the all-natural lightweight protein snack “ProFrut”. She was the winner of Laurel School’s second annual business plan competition. Berthy competed against eight other independent schools giving a 10-minute "pitch" about her business in front of a panel of judges, followed by a 10-minute Q&A period.
First Place at 2015 Bizdom.com Pitch Contest
Last September, Laurel Upper School students attended the Bizdom.com Pitch Contest hosted at Quicken Loans Arena. Students spent the day developing pitches with students from around northeast Ohio to address the prompt "how can the Cleveland Cavaliers improve the fan experience for people not at the game?" Rachael Grossman’18 developed the winning idea for the competition, taking first place! Rachael suggested a format for a Cavaliers’ game virtual reality experience and was awarded the top prize in the competition. In addition to Cavs’ gear, Rachael’s group earned a private meeting with Len Komoroski, CEO of the Cavs, to discuss the feasibility of their idea and how it can improve fans’ experience.
STEM and Entrepreneurship Opportunities
This fall, Laurel students had the opportunity to attend the STEM Forum on Commercialization and Entrepreneurship, a program that opens students’ eyes to the future, inspires creative and outside-the-box thinking, and facilitates interaction with an impressive group of STEM and venture development thought leaders who are creating part of the entrepreneurial future in Ohio. Students at the forum attended four interactive talks on topics that ranged from biofuels to biomimicry and NASA missions to medical advancements.
Gatorbooks is Laurel's student-run school-based textbook business that offers Laurel's Upper School students a convenient way to buy next year's school books at reduced prices. There is also a buyback program.
In 2016, Kana Cummings ’18 and Catherine McCarthy ’18 retooled their “Gatorbooks” business after facing some issues with inventory and cash flow. Kana and Catherine undertook a rigorous study of their own strategies in order to improve their profit margin and they were recognized for their hard work and clever strategizing with first place at the 2016 Laurel Entrepreneurship Challenge.
Development of each student’s individual voice is a cornerstone of Laurel School’s curricular philosophy. To serve this objective, Laurel School offers coursework in speech in Upper School, with a three-year progression integrated into Ninth Grade Lifeskills and Tenth and Eleventh Grade Guidance classes. In addition, Laurel maintains a long-standing commitment to the Senior Speech and a highly successful interscholastic Speech and Debate program.
- Each Upper School student completes a full credit in speech by the conclusion of her junior year. This is accomplished through modules in Lifeskills and Guidance classes in Grades Nine through Eleven.
- Students in Ninth Grade Lifeskills complete a two-week module in speech dynamics.
- Students in Tenth Grade Guidance complete a two-week module in argumentation.
- Students in Eleventh Grade Guidance complete a two week module in oratory and writing for speaking.
- Each Laurel student presents a ten-minute Senior Speech during her senior year. The student works with a faculty advisor to prepare her speech. Senior Speeches are presented in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They are attended by the entire Upper School faculty and student body.
Interscholastic Speech and Debate
- Laurel’s Speech and Debate team competes under the Ohio High School Speech League and the National Speech and Debate Association. The program is ranked in the top 10% of all programs nationally for 5 consecutive years.
- Approximately fifty students participate in Speech and Debate each year, making the team both the largest co-curricular program and the largest competitive team in the school. Between 20% and 25% of Laurel students participate in Speech and Debate during their Upper School careers. There are no try-outs and no cuts; any student who wishes to participate may do so.
- Students compete in nine different speech events and four different debate events. The season lasts from September through March, with tournaments each weekend from late October through early March. Each student practices twice per week during this time.
- Experienced team members occasionally have opportunities to compete in prestigious national circuit tournaments. Recently, Laurel has competed at tournaments in Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts (Harvard) and Pennsylvania (University of Pennsylvania).
- Laurel has consistently ranked in the top five teams in the Cleveland district. Laurel has crowned four state champions (including 2015 state champion in Extemporaneous Speaking), numerous state finalists and many district champions. In every year from 2012 through 2015, more than one-third of the Laurel team qualified for the state tournament. In the past five years, Laurel students have debated at the City Club of Cleveland three times, more than any other school except University School.
- Laurel School placed in the top six in nine tournaments during the 2014-2015 season.
- Berthy Feng ’15 won the 2015 OHSSL State Championship in US Extemporaneous Speaking and was named the top speech competitor in the Cleveland District for the second consecutive year.
- Berthy Feng ’15 and Jayne O’Dwyer ’15 competed at the 2015 National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Finals in Dallas this past June. It was the second trip to the National Finals for both students. Jayne finished in the top 60 competitors in the nation, and Berthy finished in the top 30 competitors in the nation.
- Laurel students won 14 individual tournament championships in the 2014-2015 season, including seven by Berthy Feng ’15 and three by Emma Wolinsky ’16.
- Lisa Peng ’14 won the 2014 OHSSL Cleveland District Championship in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and won the 2014 City Club of Cleveland Debate Championship.