Zady Hasse ’18: Community is at the Core of Everything

By Brenda Lange

At Miquon, Zady learned the value of collaboration and of trusting herself.

It’s been only two years since her Miquon graduation, and Zady Hasse already recognizes the positive effects that experience has had on her life.

“I learned persistence at Miquon,” she begins. “I learned to trust in myself and trust that things will come together, and if you push through the discomfort, you will succeed and be proud of yourself.”

Reading and math did not come naturally for Zady, but she learned to “push through” with gentle support and encouragement from her teachers. 

Zady struggled with anxiety when she thought she might never learn to read. “I was a super-stressed little first-grader,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘I need to learn how to read! This is a basic skill!’ I have always loved books, but I was just anxious about learning how. I even told my mom I didn’t think I would ever learn.”

Twenty-six reading baskets labeled A-Z sat in the first-grade room and held books in ascending order of difficulty. As students gained reading skills, they moved from the books in the “A” bin to “B” and then “C,” and so on. Zady kept reading books from the early letter bins, past the time she thought she should, and finally, one day, got up the courage to talk to Rossana Zapf, her teacher.

Zady had Rosanna for first, second and third grades, and remembers her approach fondly, and as one that is emblematic of all of Miquon.

“I told her I was upset and was afraid I would never read better, and she came back with so much reassurance, that it was okay, and that I would learn to read, and then she told me that the level I was on was fine!

“I remember that stress, and how it got better, and now I love to read. It’s one of my favorite things. You don’t realize how much you can love something when it doesn’t come naturally, or easily,” she says.

Reading in the classroom loft with Rossana and her classmates became a comfortable, instead of stressful, time for Zady, and it extended to spelling, and her memories of being excited and proud when she spelled words correctly. She began to eagerly anticipate book groups and still counts reading as one of her top hobbies. 

“I like fiction best, mysteries and fantasies and books written in verse,” she says. “There really isn’t a book I wouldn’t read.”

And then there was math. “This didn’t come easily to me either, but I pushed through, and when I look back, I get it, and I am pleasantly surprised. You just have to trust that you’ll figure it out.”

Community first

Zady also learned the importance of being in community with other like-minded individuals, and even spoke on the topic in her first year at her new school after her Miquon graduation. 

At Penn Charter, where Zady is currently enrolled in eighth grade, she pushed through nervousness to be her class speaker at the eighth-grade graduation when she was only a seventh grader. (One student from each grade is chosen to be a speaker at the ceremony.) 

Zady Hasse ’18 began playing field hockey for the first time in seventh grade at Penn Charter.

“It was on short notice, and I was surprised they picked me, since it was my first year in the school. I talked about the feeling of community in the school, how I was quiet in the beginning, but learned that when I trusted in the welcoming kindness of everyone there, everything was fine.” 

Zady knows now that she learned the power and value of community from her Miquon third and fourth grade theme study involving the colonization of America and the lives of the Lenape Native Americans.

“This was so important to me . . . community is a core element of everything, and when we function well together, everything just works better.”

Beginning in the fourth grade, Zady and her classmates studied the Lenape who lived in the region of the northeast on land where Miquon is now situated. Concurrently, they studied Colonial America and learned about each culture by reading, watching documentaries and by doing hands-on projects and simulations.

First, the students read books about the colonists and about the Native Americans. Then they chose characters and did role play to really immerse themselves in the lives of the people they were reading about. And in some cases, including Zady’s, the children would continue this role play on their own.

“We built a Lenape village outside,” Zady says. “The teachers didn’t assign it, we just wanted to do it. We went down to the bamboo forest and used bamboo to build wigwams and built a few with bark and bamboo. We found black walnuts (they had watched a documentary about the Lenape that demonstrated how they gathered and ate black walnuts), but we didn’t eat them,” she said with a laugh. She describes how the film also showed the Lenape gathering bark and stripping it to create string.

“We learned all about how they interacted . . .  and we learned all the different roles and jobs that they could have in the tribe.”

She also remembers that a tribal elder could ask another tribe member for something and if you couldn’t give it to them, the elder would smear mud on them.

“When our tribal elder asked me for something, I didn’t have anything, except the tooth I had just lost, and I offered that to him,” she says, with another laugh.

When learning more about the men and women who colonized America, Zady says the Miquon children role played coming to the new continent on the Mayflower and wrote letters to family members who had remained in England. “My name was Elizabeth, and I chose to be 20 years old. I wrote that I had a younger brother on the ship, and I wrote to my family that ‘William is not being helpful!’”

Zady and her friends immersed themselves so completely that the characters weren’t just characters anymore; they were real people, who lived real lives.

Looking back, I realize that I learned how community works and how working together you can build an entire village, you can build anything,” she says. “Being a part of something and seeing how it benefits everyone was so special.”

She believes her class bonded during that year, and when she remembers her graduating class, she remembers those lessons learned through play.

“We were playing and didn’t know what the outcomes would be, it wasn’t something that had a solution, but seeing the final result and seeing something that we played come to life, was amazing to me. We cooperated and had one goal and worked together, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Moving on to middle school

Collaboration and teamwork became such a “big deal” for Zady, that she chose Penn Charter in part for the sense of community she felt when visiting there. It also is strong in the arts and sports; Zady loves to dance, and has been studying ballet since she was about five years old and began playing field hockey for the first time in seventh grade.

A lover of the arts, Zady had the opportunity to perform the role of Clara in the 2019 International Ballet Exchange production of ‘The Nutcracker’ with Donetsk Ballet and Wissahickon Dance Academy. (Photo credit: Julieanne Harris)

“I had never played before, and I worried that everyone would be good, and I would have to catch up, but it wasn’t like that at all. Everyone helped me out and I made a lot of friends there too, and now I want to continue in high school. It’s my favorite sport.”

Zady also tried out for the all-school musical when in seventh grade and acted the part of a marionette in “Pinocchio.” She calls the show her favorite stage experience, ever: “I just decided I would try out, that I had nothing to lose, and then there I was on a platform on stage with strings attached, and it was awesome, not something I was expecting,” she says.

Currently, she’s participating in the after-school art club where she is focusing on learning how to paint faces, something new.

“Again, it’s the trust issue,” she says, “and an evolving process.”

As for her future beyond high school? She loves science, which she also credits to Miquon and her experiences finding “little creatures in the creek, where we did experiments for three years to determine the health of the creek, and it was so cool to see how it improved over time,” she says. “I feel pulled in different directions, because I also love various forms of art, so I’m leaning in those two directions.”