About Hector at Phillips Exeter Academy

Hey guys! I am a Lower (for those of you who aren't familiar with Exeter lexicon, a Lower is a 10th grader) from fabulous Las Vegas, NV. I try to immerse myself in the opportunities here at Exeter; this year, I am part of Model United Nations, Biology Research Club, Astronomy Club, Physics Club, Science Bowl, Science Olympiad, painting club, French Club, Christian Fellowship, Chemistry Club, and so much more! I play violin and try to squeeze in some passionate practice times throughout the week. I row during the spring and fall (after just beginning this year, and I hope to pursue it throughout my high school career). My biggest interests are physics, astronomy, and robotics, and during free time I love spending time with friends and exploring the town of Exeter and beyond!

Exoplanets, RC Planes, and Manhunt

Hey Guys!

It’s been a cold winter — but that won’t make any of us slow down! Exeter has been as busy as ever.


For Astronomy Class, we’ve been analyzing 246 different stars through the Kepler I Mission to see how many of those stars have habitable exoplanets such as our own Earth. Kepler, a space-based telescope launched in 2009, has found 4200+ exoplanets to date. We are analyzing periodicity graphs to learn of the different ways the luminosity of stars can vary, either by intrinsic forces or by a planet transiting across our field of view. Here’s a photo of Killian ’16 and Mr. Blackwell helping us analyze our data.

analyzing dataMy team and I have been hard at work building this RC Plane — we intend to finish by the end of this term and fly it by Spring when it stops snowing! We’ve just finished the fuselage and are now working on the motors for propulsion and the servos for constructing our control surfaces. Thanks to Owen ’16 and Megan ’16 for their hard work!

RC plane

Yesterday’s assembly was also great — we had professors from Stanford come over to teach us about design. They emphasized that a hollistic approach to every discipline IS the process of design, that there are aesthetics in everything we choose to do. They are wonderful, prominent architects, who had established a Stanford-Exeter summer study program last year and who intend to participate with our school this coming summer for another architectural/design venture with current students. Here’s a  picture of John Barton ’78 and Amy Larimer, who came to our school yesterday.

Stanford professors

To end a wonderful week, our dorm decided to play manhunt in the gym this past weekend. 60 people were split into two teams,one of which was allowed to hide anywhere in the gym and the other to chase and bring them back to a designated “jail”. Our dorm had lots of fun — here’s a picture of our entire dorm together!

manhunt group

There is so much to do, and so much more to accomplish in the following weeks. What has always amazed me is that, no matter the weather, Exonians never slow down in what they do. Whether it be sports, or clubs, or school in general, we are always on our feet. Here’s to a winter filled with fun and work, in light of Spring Break to come!

The Usual Life: Astro, Robotics, and Math

These past few weeks have flown by! We’ve gotten our first taste of snow at Exeter, with surely much more to come around in the following months.

We celebrated the end of last term with a bang; Math class was surely one of my more fun — and more memorable — classes. Math classes at Exeter are a bit different than from to other schools: our textbooks are not split into chapters, but rather mixed together so they build from one another. Every problem is a real-world problem, which gives you a special insight to revisualize everything you see. Everything seems so different when math teaches you how to think rather than how to punch numbers into a calculator; it teaches you to see every problem as a math equation. Here’s our math class celebrating on the last day by ordering Dominos. Shoutout to Mr. Mallinson for the pizza!

Math Pizza

Fortunately, life after school never gets boring. Exeter offers over 100+ extracurricular clubs. Every Friday night we make an effort to make the long trek behind the school, far away from any bright lights and cars and distant enough to actually hear absolute silence, to reach Grainger Observatory. Behind our stadium Exeter has a 3 dome observatory with all the instruments you could possibly imagine: spectrographs and all the state-of-the-art telescopes you could imagine. Away from the city lights, Exeter has some of the clearest skies. Astronomy has always been one of my passions — ever since I was a kid I’d dreamt of delving into the deep skies and ponder over the true size and depth of the Universe. I’m glad that I can finally get to do that at such a wonderful school. Here’s a picture of Astronomy Club, a 10 second time exposure in the middle of the night of all of us in front of Chart House, the classroom and library in front of the domes.

Astro Exposure

A friend and I decided to conduct a little project this year. Both of us are avid Robotics fans who have been passionately devoted to mechanical engineering since we were little. This year, we decided to enter a competition I used to do during middle school. It’s called SeaPerch, and it seeks to excite high schoolers about marine engineering and STEM careers. We are just about finished with the building of our underwater submersibles; we plan to solder and wire them in the next few days and test them out in two weeks. Here is my friend Graham ’16 who gladly let me take his picture of our robot during assembly!

Graham Robo

This past term has passed so quickly! Keep yourself busy at Exeter – there is never nothing to do. As Christmas break approaches, I’m looking forward to Science Bowls, Model UN conferences, Robotics Competitions and Astronomy trivia competitions in the weeks to come. Happy Holidays Everyone!

Costa Rica!

hector costa rica groupThis might have been perhaps the most fun summer, with a 10-day trip to Costa Rica from ESSO (Exeter Social Service Organization, our community service program) with 12 fellow Exonians and 2 chaperons, Mr. Hawkins and Ms. McGahie.  Our team will forever be indebted to the University of Georgia at Costa Rica (UGACR) for sponsoring our stay. Upon landing into the country’s capital we were taken to the lush rural community of San Luis de Monteverde at the UGACR campus. 3 days of intense hiking through the forest ensued, with spectacular sights.

We then took on a brief community service project; after the community center experienced normal wear-and-tear, we sanded and varnished all the tables, laid a rock bed foundation for a building, and much more. Here’s a picture of the team digging a waterway for floods, so they don’t destroy the building:
hector costa rica farm

The next part of the trip was devoted to a 3-day homestay, a special, memorable experience for our team. After a day’s drive to a village through Guanacaste, we arrived in a town of 100 people in a place called Quebradas de Nando. I lived with a nice family of 4; Nena, Richard, and their two sons Arley and Andrey. I’ll always be grateful to Andrey, a master marimba player, who taught me how to play in just a few days.

To make their school wheelchair accessible, we created sidewalks and stairsteps around the one room schoolhouse. Here’s a picture of us carving the sidewalk:
hector costa rica sidewalkTo finish off our stay, we threw a giant tamale-making party and invited everyone! Here’s a pic of us with our culinary expertise:
hector costa rica dinnerThe final days of our stay were marked by leisure in paradise at the CIRENAS campus just a short trek (over two rivers and a mile-long beach) away. After surfing lessons and a horseback ride through the jungle, we spent our last days at the beach, enjoying the sunset.
hector costa rica horse

I’ll always remember the absolute paradise of isolation, the beauty away from hotels and cityscapes that make Costa Rica truly unique. It caught us in awe of wildlife and in love for sustainable living, from the simple lifestyles of Quebradas de Nando to the wildlife reserve at UGACR. Thanks to Michaella ’16, Rohan ’16, Sasha ’16, Spencer ’16, Kelvin ’15, Rebecca ’16,Efe ’16 Sacharja ’15, Ashley ’15, Julie ’16, Kelly ’17, our guides Mane and Amelia, our fabulous driver Fabio, and our chaperons Mr. Hawkins and Ms. McGahie for a truly memorable, transformative experience.

End of Spring Term :)

Hey Guys! It’s been a while since I’ve past posted, and so much has happened since!

This term, I’m taking History 215: The European Century. And as we approach the last few weeks of school (It’s almost summer!!!) there’s the last bit of work to do. I’ve been working hard on our last History Research Paper, one where we have room to explore Europe on the verge of World War I. As you can see, the books are piling!  Hectors laptop and books As I stare out my dorm room window writing my paper, I notice the days getting longer and longer and more beautiful. This past winter was brutal; now we can finally kick back, relax, and enjoy the sun. My friends and I took a little excursion out to the river last weekend; we explored town, ate out (there are many good restaurants within walking distance at Exeter), bought ice cream and strolled along the river’s banks. It was a beautiful night to be outside, a drastic change from the scenery back home in Vegas! At Exeter, your weekends are never boring, as there is always something to do. Hector along the river

I’ll be eternally grateful to Sam ’16 who bought us all coffee and donuts for English class the past week! We had just finished our biggest English essay to date called the Roots paper; in it, you would describe a story passed down in your family from generation to generation and how it has affected you personally. We decided to take an 8:00 AM class easily by bringing in Dunkin Donuts to read all of our essays. Here’s a picture of my English Class with Ms. Desmond.

Hectors DD in class

Lower year had gone by so very fast; it feels as if move-in day was just a few weeks ago. We all look forward to a bright and safe summer. I’ll post next month of Exeter’s ESSO Service trip to Costa Rica, of which I’m so excited for! As this year comes to a close, I can’t hope but reminisce of the memories I’ve made in such a short timespan; you learn to take Exeter day-by-day, enjoy the work you do around the Harkness table, and be amazed at the friends and connections you make along the way. All in all, Not bad at all.

A Second Home

I remember waking up at 5 AM on a Saturday morning, squinting my eyes from the screen on my mother’s smartphone, and the yelps of sheer joy as I read the words “Congratulations and Welcome to Exeter!”  from her e-mail. The questions, emotion, and uncertainty storming through my head were overwhelming.

The decision to come to Exeter was one that would change my academic career and my future forever. Coming from an immigrant family, the thought of boarding school, coming from a different background, and leaving home was petrifying. Yet I remember my first Experience Exeter classes well. The dark, cloudy spring morning never came to shadow the enthusiasm of kids around a Harkness table.  No one feared to be wrong, sound confused, or present a brilliant epiphany; stagnancy was the only enemy. I soon learned that one’s voice was one’s greatest weapon here at Exeter; you are implored to find it and use it, to show a passion around the table. At Exeter, no one cares who is on financial aid and who is not; we all come from different parts of the world to study and learn, battle it out on the playing fields, and do what we do best.

The first days of Prep Year were some of the most exciting yet terrifying days. After entering my new dorm room, I saw all the other new 9th graders unpacking. I reached over to lend a hand. The transition to Exeter is nothing to be intimidated of, as many people are in your same shoes; I quickly gained 60 new brothers who all bleed blue and gold from Wentworth Hall. I quickly came to learn the value of meeting new people. Make it a goal to introduce yourself to a stranger each time you walk to class. Cross your fingers every time new schedules are released that you are assigned classes with complete strangers. Find a pack of friends you know will last; these will be the connections that will last a lifetime.

And as many of us have, you’ll get your fair share of late night History research papers and English narratives. At Exeter, you’ll be constantly immersed with many brilliant people. As the days get shorter during winter term, workloads will pile. Yet at times like these, your lowest points become your greatest advantages. Remember: YOU were chosen to come here, rightfully and deservedly so. NEVER compare yourself to others. Set your OWN goals for yourself and track your progress. And by the end of your years here, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come, and your accomplishments will exceed your own expectations and those of others, up to par with your peers.

Exeter is so much more than just a school; it teaches one to listen rather than just speak, to doubt rather than just accept. Your independence compels you to search for and immerse yourself in a passion, target your weaknesses and question your strengths. Yet in the process, you fully realize the resources backing your endeavors, whether it be the courses, teachers, or friends who want to see you succeed. It’s your own discretion to decide HOW you wish to succeed, and HOW you wish to grasp Exeter’s offerings; at this moment, You are no longer just an application or a name on a piece of paper. Congratulations, welcome to Exeter, and God Bless!!!

Winter Term Comes to a Close

Coming from Las Vegas, where snow doesn’t even have to touch the ground for a Snow Day to be called, New England Winters are truly something to get used to. The winter wonderland is a paradise to all who adore it, yet is the bane of one’s existence for others! Don’t get me wrong, I love snowball fights and sledding; but when icicles start to shape on bikes and ice rinks start to form on the lawns and sidewalks, its all too much to handle!

frozen bike

One key thing to the end of terms: MANAGE TIME WISELY. As you can see here, I’ve put off my Classical Rome research paper until the last minute, and have to spend the next three days in serious research.

Hectors laptop

Yet there is an upside to the hard work and effort. Every weekend, I try to set Saturday as the day where I get to kick back, relax, and think nothing of academics. Last Saturday, the International Students hosted the first International Tea open to everyone. It’s a day where we all get to dress up and act fancy; tea from different parts of the world, snacks, and a chocolate fountain wrapped up my week.

Hectors tea

There are two more weeks of Winter Term! Soon, I’ll be coming back home to sunshine and home cooking. I’m set to participate this weekend at BosMUN, Boston University’s Model United Nations, and the New England Regional Science Bowl; wish me luck! All in all, one of the better terms I’ve had so far.

Martin Luther King Day

Hey Guys!

After being inundated with heaping piles of essays and Faulkner readings, we finally got to kick back and relax for some personal time for reflection.

MLK signs

MLK day is honored in a special way here at Exeter. We cancel classes for one Friday and host workshops during the day, inviting speakers from around the country to come and present ideas of Non-Violent Protest and Civil Rights. We had a terrific keynote speaker, a session of how prejudiced we are against hair, and a workshop hosted by Exonian Encounters to let us see how much we have in common with everyone else. How empowering a day it is!

Hectors snowy Academy Building pic

After the day passed and all the workshops, we decided to have some fun of our own. The New England Sun glared over the snow from the blizzard a week before, turning it to slush. And at night, where the temperature falls below freezing, the slush turns to ice. So, we had our own little ice skating rink in front of the Academy Building!

The guys on the ice

After the ensuing snowball fight (I was double-crossed by my fellow compatriots), we decided to move inside for a warmer way to spend our Friday. I still do not understand the craze people have with NFL Madden; I believe my friend’s PS3 has us all addicted.

The guys playing football in dorm room

I can almost count the weeks until Spring Break; 6 more grueling weeks until I return to the sunshine paradise of Vegas. But I will come to miss the snow, at least until the blizzards come again next year.

Winter Wonderland!

I can still count the hours that each day is getting shorter by, as the long 10 hour days drag on through endless snow caked on the sidewalks. Yet I know that every hour spent toiling in front of a computer screen while the blizzard wages outside, or the hours spent completing an English narrative or bending your mind around a Physics problem is all worthwhile. And coming from Vegas, the snow makes Exeter my own little paradise!

Hector's winter wonderland

We’ve received well over 6 inches of snow, with another 7 inches coming in today and later on this week. Understand that snowball fights are just any part of any Exeter experience, and no matter how bad you appear to lose (just like I did this weekend against some friends from Soule Hall), the simple fun moments that take place are the ones you will cherish for a lifetime.

Hector's gingerbreadTo commemorate the advancing of Christmas, we Exonians took to the Wentworth Bash, the best dance of Christmas season! I, however, preferred not to flash off my insane dancing skills and preferred to take part in a Gingerbread making contest happening right next door, open to all Exeter students. Just look at the masterpiece we created!

Last weekend was also a little time for some intense extracurriculars. I am a part of Model United Nations, a club at Exeter that mocks parliamentary debate in a United Nations setting. A team of 12 students and I went to St. John’s Prep in Massachusetts to debate. It was my first conference, my first taste of debate and international relations, the most fun I have ever had outside of Exeter.Hector's Model UN pic

And as we count the final days approaching Winter Break, where we all get to go back home for some well deserved Rest and Relaxation, I’ll always find the time to remember the fun in the snow,  the connections I make by meeting new people everyday, and the vast opportunities waiting for you to grasp.