College Counseling Calendar

Minimester 2024

The Steward School
Opportunities for exploration and discovery  
Each spring, Upper Schoolers take part in a Steward tradition: Minimester week. Freshmen participate in community service projects and tour colleges. Sophomores and juniors can do an internship at a local organization or travel. Seniors put the finishing touches on their senior projects. Coordinator of Service Learning & Engagement Taquisha Bell and Upper School English Teacher Peter Hurley served as coordinators of Minimester.

On Location
Spartans of all ages explore the bounds of their creativity through hands-on learning, and during Minimester 120 juniors and seniors got a glimpse of the career world when they participated in internships. During five fast-paced days, Spartans gained hands-on experience at businesses and organizations, including CBS 6 News, a Porsche dealership, veterinary hospitals, MCV Children’s Pavilion Center, The Science Museum of Virginia, Architectural Design Studio, and law firms. 

Pedro Lujan ’25 interned at River City Inclusive Gym, which aims to improve the lives of people with disabilities through fitness and fun. Under the guidance of owner Mike McGrath, Pedro worked one-on-one with athletes, coaching them through workouts that included obstacle courses, strength training, and stretching. 

“My favorite part of interning was meeting all the amazing people,” said Pedro. “I loved working with the athletes.” Pedro advises his peers who are considering a Minimester internship “to keep an open mind and enjoy the experience!”

On campus, Bryan Innovation Lab Dean Brad Kovach and Program Specialist Megan Young mentored five interns, who led workshops for junior kindergarten and kindergarten students. Thatcher Hartman ’25 built storage containers out of wood and play areas for the students and said, “I was impressed by Mr. Kovach’s knowledge of engineering and Ms. Young’s ability to relate to and teach kids of all ages.” 

Freshmen Minimester
In collaboration with Steward’s College Counseling Office, Spartans begin touring colleges during their freshman year. During Minimester, ninth graders toured the campuses of Randolph-Macon College and the University of Richmond and met with admissions representatives. 

Freshmen also engaged in service opportunities during Minimester, lending their hands (and hearts!) at the Bryan Innovation Lab, Project Homes, Henrico County Food Bank, The Doorways, The Faison Center, Hickory Hill Community Center, Toolbank, Woodland Cemetery, and Pocahontas State Park. 

Maddie Hayden ’27 and her classmates spruced up the Bryan Innovation Lab community garden and helped Pocahontas State Park rangers clean cabins and dig up daffodil bulbs. 

“At the park, we also learned survival tricks from a park ranger who served in the military,” said Maddie. The best part of Minimester? “I enjoyed spending time outside with people I like. I got so muddy and I saw so many cool things, like lizards and frogs! Serving our community is important because it is up to us to make the community a safe, happy place where everyone can thrive.”

Travel Time
Experiencing the wider world through travel is one way that Spartans are engaged by ideas that encourage critical thinking, empathy, and civil discourse. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors could choose from two international Minimester trips: Spain; or Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland.

In Northern Spain, students visited local markets; learned how to flamenco dance after watching professional dancers perform; visited museums; explored the beautiful Basque coast; and learned to play Jai Alai, a game that involves hurling a ball against a wall and catching it with a hand-held, curved basket.

“We had the time of our lives shopping, seeing the amazing architecture of Gaudi, and attending an FC Barcelona soccer game at the Olympic Stadium,” said Upper School World Languages Teacher Julia Tompkins, who led the trip.  

Laney Vanderbeck ’26 loved visiting the Prado Museum in Bilbao. 

“It was especially impactful because of its Renaissance art,” she said. “I saw some of the paintings that we had touched upon in Spanish class … it was so interesting to see them in real life.” Laney also discovered the challenges and rewards of speaking Spanish with native speakers. “[The trip] forced me to do everyday activities like ordering food completely in Spanish,” she said. “This was great practice and helped me improve my skills.” 

The trip to Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland was led by Upper School Social Studies Teacher Jim Haske. Highlights included excursions to Berlin’s East Side Gallery, a 1300-meter stretch of the Berlin Wall consisting of murals done by 118 artists; and the Glienicke Brucke (the Bridge of Spies), the border crossing between East and West Germany where Soviet and American spies were exchanged during the Cold War. 

In Prague and Kraków, “It was difficult not to be charmed by the sights, sounds, and smells as we meandered through the streets,” noted Mr. Haske. “It was Auschwitz, however, that was our most powerful stop. We quietly walked through the camps, listening to a guide on our headphones, paying respects to lives lost, and identifying lessons that can be applied in the future.” 

Javier Price ’24 said the most compelling part of the trip was being immersed in different cultures.
“Minimester travel enriched my school experience by grounding me in places that can often seem abstract in a textbook,” said Javier. “Since we're separated by the ocean, we have a hard time quantifying historical events … now I have a more in-depth understanding. Also, traveling with classmates made it feel more like an adventure, which I enjoyed.” Asked what he’d say to classmates considering a Minimester sojourn, Javier said, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a chance to see the world with friends, and a way to widen your perspective.”

Eleven eighth graders, led by Upper School World Languages Teacher Drew Forlano and Middle School World Languages Teacher Claudia Ramirez, got a glimpse into the wonders of Minimester when they traveled to Costa Rica. In San Gerardo, they cleared a garden plot at the local elementary school and planted vegetables. They also worked alongside people from the community and spent a few nights with families from the community. In addition, our travelers learned about cheese production at a local farm, hiked to the Nauyaca Waterfalls, enjoyed a day of surf lessons, and visited Manuel Antonio Park where they saw monkeys, toucans, and sloths! Mr. Forlano said, “We finished the trip with a lesson about chocolate production and a workshop where students made their own chocolate bars to take home.”

Ms. Bell said, “Minimester was rewarding for everyone. It was amazing to see students engaged in service projects to strengthen our community, and to see student interns diving into new experiences. Opportunities like these enable Spartans to network and to acquire lifelong skills.”


General Contact

The Steward School
11600 Gayton Road
Richmond, VA 23238

phone: (804) 740-3394
fax: (804) 740-1464

Media Contact

If you are a member of the press and would like more information about The Steward School, please contact Director of Marketing and Communications Rachel Williard at or (804) 565-2319.

If you are looking for contact information for a specific Steward employee, please click here.
Copyright 2024 The Steward School