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Co-Curric Alternatives
Inthat Boonpongmanee '19 Staff Writer
January 24, 2018

After-school co-curriculars are a requirement at Deerfield, which include anything from sports to theatre, or community service. However, another option is the co-curricular alternative program, which provides a way for Deerfield students to pursue other activities that are important to them.

For example, Jackson Cohlan ’18 works with other Deerfield students to produce original music, working daily in the Hess Center’s recording studio. His latest release includes the voice of Caitlin Sugita ’18. When Cohlan first came to Deerfield, he “considered [himself] an athlete and had never really been artistic.” Cohlan got into making music after he stress-fractured his femur playing soccer during his freshman and sophomore years.

Credit: Whitney Vogt
Michael Meng ’18 and Neil Nie ’19 work to automate a golf cart.

Kishor Bharadwaj ’19 is researching language, aiming to facilitate automatic translation. Bharadwaj grew up under a multilingual roof, speaking many different languages on a regular basis. His experiences inspired him to look into the phonetics of different languages, and he is finding that seemingly unrelated languages share many of the same sounds. Bharadwaj summarized, “My goal is to teach a computer to process language in a way that I do.”

On weekends, Parker Luber ’18 heads over to nearby Mt. Stratton, Vermont to teach people how to snowboard. He has been snowboarding ever since he was young and completed the programs at Stratton. When he was old enough, he followed in the footsteps of his sister and brother by becoming a snowboarding instructor. This is now his third year with the same co-curricular alternative. Luber stated, “I enjoy snowboarding because it is about relaxing and having fun, … getting me away from everything and out of the Deerfield mindset.”

Michael Meng ’18 and Neil Nie ’19 are working together to automate a golf cart. Since it is virtually impossible for Nie and Meng to explicitly code directions for every possible situation, they are using machine learning, which teaches the cart to interpret images and make steering decisions by supervised learning. As the model learns more from its training data, it will be able to perform independently in the real world, making intelligent decisions without supervision.

Arayana Carr-Mal ’20 is a violinist who uses music service to hone her skills. Music service is “a very individual co-curricular” where music students with a variety of experience levels spend time practicing, rehearsing for competitions, or simply playing together. Carr-Mal enjoys music because to her, music is a “cathartic way to express [herself].”

Anna Mishchenko ’19 is working with Thomas Song ’19, Shreyas Sinha ’19, and Kareena Bhakta ’20 to prepare for public forum debate. Deerfield’s debate club normally focuses on parliamentary extemporaneous debates, a style that doesn’t require prepared research and focuses more on speaking ability. However, in Public Forum, research is strongly emphasized. Mishchenko described this style of debate as “more about having a deeper understanding of the topic than the team you are opposing.” Her goals for this term are to “become better debaters ourselves, and to have a set in stone plan to help the novices.”

Deerfield’s athletic alternative program has given its students the opportunity to pursue unique interests outside of the classroom. All signs point to the continued growth and development of this program in the future.