Principal's Corner

Principal, Dr. Gregory Vacca

January 2019 Dear Indian Hills High School Community,

The start of a new year is always a time for reflection and goal setting. With that in mind, it feels appropriate that our students, teachers, and counselors are all busy thinking about and planning for courses and programs for the 2019-2020 school year. Our Program of Studies is rich with course offerings and electives that are available across all subject areas. The subject supervisors, teachers, and student volunteers have been actively promoting our elective options through a Junior Class meeting and a school-wide electives fair that was held in the cafeteria during all of the lunch periods. I encourage everyone to explore the full set of academic options available at
https://www.rih.org/academics and to explore areas of interest within our academic program. Please feel free to reach out to your guidance counselor or a subject supervisor if you have additional questions about available courses.

As the second marking period of this school year begins to come to an end, I encourage everyone to revisit the goals that you set for yourself when school began. Was this the year that you were going to maintain a more consistent work schedule? Was this the year that you wanted to try a new sport or activity? Was this the year that you were going to learn guitar and play at a school coffee house? Whatever your interest, it’s not too late to revisit that idea and commit to it. I wish you all a wonderful 2019. Continue to be curious, thoughtful, motivated and to be Braves!


Sincerely,

Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

Twitter: @IHHSPrincipalNJ

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September 2018

Dear Indian Hills High School Community,

As summer is coming to an end, the excitement of starting a new school year is upon us. Hopefully, we have all been able to partake in experiences that were engaging, relaxing, centering, and fun over the past couple of months. 

As much as September signals the conclusion of summer, it is also the time for new beginnings. A new start to a school year where you will be exposed to new ideas and new experiences. These are the elements of September that make it a month of optimism and renewal.

We also have the benefit of partaking in growth opportunities in an environment that is safe and familiar. One of the most celebrated components of the Indian Hills culture is the sense of family and community that permeates through our school. Students feel comfortable taking educational risks because they know that their peers and their teachers will support and encourage them along the way. A great example of this positive spirit is the time that the Senior Ambassadors take to bring our incoming 9th graders around the building, answer questions, and help to reduce the anxiety of making such an important transition from middle school to high school. This is also seen in the full stands at sporting events and the big crowds at concerts and plays. The spirit of this school is infectious and it is what I miss most when the halls are empty in the summer. 

Students, I encourage you to keep the Indian Hills spirit alive and to be involved in our full educational community. Join a club, an activity, or a sport. If that doesn’t work for you, come out to games and school events to support your peers and show your pride.

Parents, I encourage you to engage in our educational community as well. I fully understand how difficult it can be to balance work and family, but if you can afford the time, I believe that you will find it very rewarding. Information about our PTSO and other parent organizations can be found on our school website.

I wish you all a wonderful school year. Be curious, thoughtful, and motivated. Above all, Be Braves!

Sincerely,

Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

@IHHSPrincipalNJ

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May 2018

Dear Indian Hills High School Community,

May is Mental Health Month and in an effort to raise awareness, Indian Hills High School is promoting the connection between physical and mental health through the theme “Fitness #4Mind4Body.”  As a school, we have developed a long-term focus on the importance of encouraging and supporting full body health and wellness. We have been addressing the wellness needs of our students through monthly Wellness Wednesdays, the Stigma-Free initiative, SIDCHA, and GRIT.  We believe that engagement in physical activity can also go a long way towards maintaining good physical and mental health.  

A healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and proper nutrition can help to prevent the onset or worsening of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, as well as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems.  Maintaining personal health is also linked to aiding in the recovery from these conditions.

Time and again we find evidence that stress can have a huge impact on all aspects of our health, so it is important to take time to focus on stress-reducing activities like meditation or yoga.  Engaging in proper stress management can help us get the rest that our bodies and minds need to function at full capacity and take on daily responsibilities.  

It is important to understand that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is the goal. Living a healthy lifestyle may not always be easy, but by looking at overall health, a person can actively help to ensure Fitness #4Mind4Body.  

We encourage our students and their families to participate in the RIH #4Mind4Body Challenge for the month of May.  The below link is a calendar providing students and families with daily challenges that support the RIH #4Mind4Body Challenge for the month of May. See how many challenges you can do and let us know how it’s going.

For more information on May is Mental Health Month, visit Mental Health America’s website at: www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may

Please Click Here to see the RIH Daily #4Mind4Body Challenge Calendar 

Please Click Here to see Fact Sheets for additional information on the connections between physical health and wellness. 

Sincerely,  

Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

Twitter: @IHHSPrincipalNJ

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April 2018 

Dear Indian Hills High School Community,

The fourth marking period has arrived and Spring is upon us. Thankfully, the snow is melting and our Spring sports are able to get on the fields and play their games. This could also be a great time of year to to reap the benefits of spending more time outdoors.

With some extra hours of daylight, we may be inspired to get outside and be active. And frankly, after such a drawn out winter, having the opportunity to be outside and take in some fresh air is a relief. With our continued focus on addressing the wellness needs of our students through monthly Wellness Wednesdays, the Stigma-Free initiative, SIDCHA, and GRIT, partaking in outdoor physical activity can also go a long way in maintaining good physical and mental health. The added vitamin D, the opportunity to walk, jog, or run, and the exposure to more daylight are all elements of outdoor activity that can have a positive effect on a person’s mood and ability to concentrate.

According to the old adage, March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. I know that we are all waiting for that gentle lamb to arrive. When it does, let’s take some time to get outside and be active.

Sincerely,

Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

Twitter: @IHHSPrincipalNJ

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March 2018

Dear Indian Hills High School Community,

This month has already found us in the midst of a national conversation about school safety and recovering from late winter storms that have had a major impact on our local communities. These situations have tested our resilience and it is in this context that I am promoting Angela’s Duckworth’s book titled, GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. As a graduate student she began to study the psychology of success, and her book is a very accessible summary of her life-long study. In short, she believes that perseverance and our ability to deal with adversity is one of the strongest indicators of future success.

As parents and educators we work towards a shared goal of preparing our young men and women for future success. We teach content, we teach critical thinking and analysis, we teach our children and students how to navigate their way through difficult times. But how do we teach grit? How do we let our children know that we care for them and support them, and still step back enough to let them learn how to address difficult situations on their own? How do we find comfort in realizing that all of us learn our greatest lessons when we overcome failure? That is a challenge, but Dr. Duckworth explains that when we persevere through failure, we then gain the ability to tackle more difficult challenges in the future. In her book she provides examples of this concept in students, executives, artists, and athletes. Intelligence and talent certainly play a role in the future success of an individual, but her study shows that grit overshadows both IQ and natural ability. This is certainly some interesting food for thought. A few copies of the book have been purchased and are available to students in our Media Center. I personally believe that it is worth reading. But if you don’t get a chance to pick up the book, I highly recommend watching Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth’s brief TED Talk about G.R.I.T.

Sincerely,

Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

Twitter: @IHHSPrincipalNJ

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February 2018

Dear Indian Hills High School Community,


We all want the best for our children. This includes building strong habits that support high levels of achievement in both academics and extracurricular activities. We push for this because, as adults, we know the benefits afforded to our children when they can get into top colleges and universities. There is, however, a natural sense of stress that accompanies the pressure of meeting such high expectations.  This is why we continue to focus on balance and wellness in school.

Throughout the school year we have implemented strategies that intentionally target the physical and psychological wellbeing of our students: many students have participated in the Wellness Wednesdays that are sponsored by our Guidance Department;  we continue to promote reconnecting on a personal level with others by disconnecting from digital devices; and the district sponsors wellness breaks from the the academic side of high school life so that students can have a true vacation from their regular routine.

In addition, Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District is proud to support the Stigma-Free movement. The Bergen County Stigma-Free Campaign is a county-wide program that aims to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for issues related to mental illness. The campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of mental illness and to creating a culture in which residents feel supported by their community to seek treatment without fear of stigma.  With national statistics indicating a rise in adolescent anxiety and depression, we feel compelled as a school district to do what we can to reduce the stigma attached to treating mental health disorders. Ideally, we strive to have a culture where seeing a therapist for symptoms of depression and anxiety is perceived as being no different than seeing a primary care physician for a fever.

In support of this initiative, the district will be hosting a Stigma-Free event for the FLOW community. Since lime green is an identifying color of the Stigma-Free movement, we will be hosting a Lime-Out for both the boys and girls basketball games on Tuesday, February 13th. The girls team will be playing Ramapo High School at our home court, while the boys are playing the Raiders on their court. T-Shirts will be given away at the game so everyone can participate. I look forward to seeing you there!

We are also supporting the cause with a social media challenge to #bitethestigmaout by taking the lime challenge. As the hashtag suggests, the challenge is to take a bite out of a lime and post a picture or video of you doing so while promoting the hashtag. There will be a half-time presentation at the basketball games to kick-off the challenge.

Be brave and take a bite out of the stigma!

Sincerely,

Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

Twitter: @IHHSPrincipalNJ

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January Newsletter



Dear Indian Hills High School Community,

Happy New Year!

January is the time when we tend to set goals and intentions for the new year. We tell ourselves that we will join the gym and go regularly; we tell ourselves that we will eat better and choose healthier options; we tell ourselves that we will clean out our backpack/locker/workbag/closet and stay organized. All of these are excellent goals made with the best of intentions. However, the burden that we often put on ourselves when making a New Year’s Resolution is that we take on everything all at once. It can be hard enough to exercise more, eat better, and be more efficient, but to attempt to do that all at once can be unsustainable. It is in this spirit that Indian Hills is reigniting the SIDCHA initiative that was started last year. SIDCHA is an acronym that stands for: Self-Imposed Daily Challenging Healthy Activity. The concept is that if we choose one healthy activity that we can do on a daily basis, then we are more likely to stay with it and, even better, see results.

Since this initiative is self-imposed the intended focus can be anything: running a mile a day, doing core exercises, practicing yoga, meditating, keeping a daily reflective journal, etc. Some of these items may not seem like challenges to everyone, but the important part of setting a goal is making it your own. You know what your challenges are. When we take small steps to start working on those challenges, they can add up to a big feeling of accomplishment. The reason that I feel that this is worth promoting within the school community is because I believe that any regular activity that is healthy and challenging can help improve both physical and mental wellbeing. With that said, I encourage everyone to reflect on a meaningful personal goal and to commit to a SIDCHA.

I wish everyone a wonderful 2018. Let’s make it a great year to be a Brave!

Sincerely, 

Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

Twitter: @IHHSPrincipalNJ

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November Newsletter Dear Indian Hills High School Community,

Fall has set in and we find ourselves wrapping up our first marking period, closing out a sports season, and getting ready for winter. It is the time of year when we can all start to feel the grind of the school year kick in. It is within this context that Indian Hills will continue to focus on the concept of wellness and seek out ways to implement counterbalances to stress and anxiety within our school. After recently discussing this topic, Mrs. Cintron-Bashian, one of our Spanish Teachers, shared an insightful article with me from The New York Times Magazine on teen anxiety  that I’d like to share with you. While each individual handles stress and anxiety differently, the prevalence of anxious teens in our schools compels educators to address this reality. In addition to the work of our counselling staff does with our students,the Ramapo Indian Hills School District has also implemented three Wellness Weekends during this school year to address this issue. During these weekends no homework assignments will be sent home and no assessments will be scheduled for the day students return to school.  The first will occur this month during the Thanksgiving weekend. Our hope is that this will allow our school community to truly have time off that can be used to connect with family and friends. In addition to the Wellness Weekends we are promoting November as a month to connect with one another by temporarily going off the grid. This month we are challenging the entire school community to take one day, Tuesday, November 21, to limit their screen time and use of electronic devices in exchange for increased face-to-face interaction. We understand that in a 21st century learning environment the use of technology has great benefits, however, we can become so dependent on the immediacy of recognition and acknowledgement that comes from social media that the connections made through authentic human interaction can be lost.  We hope to allow the opportunity for our school community to reconnect with each other, while disconnecting from their devices. During this month we will pause to honor our veterans, many of us will grow beards to promote men’s health awareness, and we will take the time to be thankful for the gifts that we have in our lives. For me, I am thankful to be here at Indian Hills working with such a dedicated and supportive staff and with such an active and engaged group of students who work together to make our school such a special place.



Sincerely,

Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

Twitter: @IHHSPrincipalNJ

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October Message 

Dear Indian Hills High School Community,


I sincerely hope that you have had a wonderful start to this school year. It’s been a busy month with the start of classes, activities, sports, Back to School Night, the pep rally, and an unexpected late September heat wave. Through all of this, we have worked together to start the school year with a positive spirit, and I thank you for that.

As a means of maintaining the positive energy, the high school administration has developed themes for each month during this school year. These themes are rooted in the concepts of student engagement and wellness. September, for example, was Attendance Awareness Month. This promotion was born out of a deeply-held belief that student achievement and growth goes hand in hand with engagement in the learning process, and the opportunity for student engagement begins with being present for class.

October’s theme is respecting yourself and others. This month begins with a Week of Respect, when we will be continuing our consistent campaign to end bullying and to appreciate the differences in our diverse American culture. While focusing on respect for others, we will also be recognizing the importance of respecting ourselves. This means intentionally focusing on our own health and wellness. With this in mind, we will be helping to promote National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

As we step firmly into fall, I continue to encourage you to be an active member of the school community. Seek out a club, activity, or sport in which to engage; treat others with kindness and dignity; and continue to bring your spirit and pride to Indian Hills everyday.

Sincerely,

Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

Twitter: @IHHSPrincipalNJ


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September Message

Dear Indian Hills High School Students and Parents,

One of the most exciting aspects of working in education is that every September we have an opportunity to start over. We can build upon previous lessons and experiences while exploring new ideas, meeting new people, and engaging in new activities. This continuous opportunity for renewal and optimism is what makes the educational process so special.


Indian Hills High School is the place for you to expand upon your past achievements and explore something new. Here we offer a comprehensive educational program that will both challenge and engage all students in meaningful learning. Sometimes, the challenge is seeking out the class, the sport, or the activity that will become the basis for engagement. So, I encourage you to take risks and to be involved. High school is a wonderful time in life where we grow from young teens to young adults; where we begin to imagine what the future will be and what our place will be in that future. I encourage you to bring your curiosity, your enthusiasm for learning and growth, and your love of Indian Hills with you to school this year. After all, it is your high school experience; make it a great one!


Parents, I encourage you to be involved as well. I fully understand how difficult it can be to balance work and family, but if you can afford the time, I believe that you will find it very rewarding. Information about our PTSO and other parent organizations can be found on our school website.


I wish you all a wonderful school year. Be curious, thoughtful, and motivated. Be bold. Be Braves!


Sincerely,


Dr. Gregory Vacca

Principal Indian Hills High School

@IHHSPrincipalNJ