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As an eighth-grade gymnast and tumbler, Sophia Cutrubus dreamt of cheerleading for a high school football team. She lived in Ogden, an hour north of Salt Lake City. So when her parents broached the idea of applying to Rowland Hall, she balked.
"I didn't know what the school was like at all," she said. To appease her folks, she attended an Upper School open house, where she chatted with English teacher Dr. Carolyn Hickman and history teacher Dr. Fiona Halloran. Then, she spent a day shadowing a student—Sophia still remembers Rob Wilson's biology lecture about the human heart. Her interactions with students and faculty revealed a community that cared deeply about education, she said. "I immediately understood why I should be here."
So her mom helped her complete school and scholarship applications, including one for a Malone Family Foundation Scholarship. Then, one evening in early 2014, the eighth grader visited her grandparents' house, and walked into a deluge of confetti and silly string—her mom had planned a surprise party with family and a few friends. She opened her Rowland Hall admission letter, and then a separate scholarship letter. She still remembers reading it line by and line, and seeing the grand total and how the Malone Scholarship covered most of her family's costs. "It was just a really emotional thing," she said. She was moved that Rowland Hall wanted her to attend and financially empowered her to do so.
Back in spring 2011, a similar celebration transpired at Rowland Hall when administrators learned the Malone Family Foundation—after a rigorous evaluation process including an on-site visit—had deemed us one of their 50 scholarship schools, and the only in Utah. "We were jumping up and down and giving people high-fives," Head of School Alan Sparrow said. "It was a great honor to be selected as a Malone Family Foundation school."
Media executive and philanthropist Dr. John C. Malone and his family started the foundation in 1997 to enable motivated students to attain scholarships to top independent schools, according to the foundation website. These students must also demonstrate financial need—without the Malone Scholarship, they'd lack the resources to attend an independent school. At Rowland Hall, the $2 million endowment each year provides a total of $100,000 in scholarships for six students in grades seven through twelve. Once a student earns a Malone Scholarship, it follows them through their Rowland Hall career. Since 2011, the program has helped 12 Winged Lions attend our institution.
Being a Malone School offers advantages beyond the endowment, according to Mr. Sparrow. Every June, he and other Malone School heads gather at Stanford University to share ideas. They also benefit from the college's many resources and speakers—this past summer, for instance, they heard from the director of Stanford's artificial intelligence lab.
Here at Rowland Hall, our head of school applauds the Malone Scholarship for attracting students whose perspectives enhance the community. "They're all motivated to get as much as possible out of the education we offer," Mr. Sparrow said of our scholars. "At the same time, they give back to the community through their participation—whether in classes, or on sports teams, or in the arts—and fully immerse themselves in the school community and beyond."
Sophomore and Malone Scholar Andres Torres came here as a seventh grader, and like Sophia, found Rowland Hall to be a natural fit from his first interview with our Admission Office. The debater and track athlete especially enjoys his history and science classes, and excitedly shows off his smart-phone case adorned with the Voyager spacecrafts' Golden Record design. He might want to be an engineer one day, he said, and appreciates how Rowland Hall has expanded his knowledge. "Academically, it's a great fit for me," he said. "I like the workload, and the amount of things I learn is pretty vast."
Being a Malone Scholar simply means valuing your education, Sophia echoed, and it's changed the way she approaches school. "Before I came to Rowland Hall, I didn't really know what it meant to push myself and to expect the best of myself," she said. "It really woke me up." She embraced the challenge and flourished in the community. "I had to start thinking about ethics and morality, and pushing myself not to just get that A, but to really feel proud of the work I was doing," said Sophia, who's also expanded her cultural horizons here: she sits on the Inclusion and Equity Committee, and spent her Project 11 teaching dance to middle schoolers in the Navajo Nation.
Since her freshman year, Sophia has tackled an ambitious roster of classes and learned to reach out to teachers for help. Faculty, in turn, have encouraged her. "They're really invested in who you are as a person," she said. "To them, you're not just another person sitting in a desk."
The respect is mutual; Sophia's instructors commend her intellectual curiosity. In January, history teachers Dr. Nate Kogan and Dr. Fiona Halloran took the then-junior and five other students to the American Historical Association's Annual Meeting—read about the trip in this Fine Print story. According to Dr. Halloran, Sophi (as she's often called) happily attended sessions on all kinds of obscure topics, and on various peoples of the past: "North Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America—she was interested in everyone," the teacher said.
"She's bright, energetic, critical, observant, and kind," Dr. Halloran added. "On top of these gifts, Sophi is a person who wants you to try the amazing lemon tart she's enjoying...She's enthusiastic and eager for others to share her pleasure in every excitement she encounters."
Since Rowland Hall doesn't have football or cheerleading, Sophia turned to the next best thing—our dance program, led by Sofia Gorder. When Sophia nervously auditioned for Dance Ensemble, an older peer, Hannah Riter '15, took the novice under her wing and ushered her through the choreography. With a lift from classmates like Hannah and the passionate, dynamic Ms. Gorder, Sophia fell in love with the artform and became a standout performer, now in Dance Ensemble VI. Rowland Hall has helped Sophia find her niche, and next year, she hopes to attend college for dance and biology. In Dr. Halloran's opinion, Sophia is talented enough to do nearly anything. "She's going to sample the world and land somewhere interesting, doing something unexpected," the teacher said. And Sophia credits Rowland Hall for encouraging her self-exploration and self-expression these past four years—it's been worth her hourlong commute.
To learn more about our Malone Family Foundation Scholarship, visit rowlandhall.org/scholarships.