New Kids on the Block: Learn about 2022-23’s new arrivals

Click on a student’s name to read about them, or scroll for the complete story!

Rehan Afzal

Dylan Donohue

Liam Donohue

Ferishta Halim

Daniel Holz

Jess Kravchenko

Anisha Mondal

Ashly Omalu

Lila Reynen

Itzel Zamora

Lillian Wang

Ava Dunham

Parker Byers

Irene Jung

Julianna Hemmer

Stella I.

Aakash Arumugam

Siri Atluri

Rehan Afzal

After attending Westlake Charter School in Natomas, freshman Rehan Afzal is eager to practice and contribute his photography skills to The Octagon.

Q: What are some of your hobbies?

A: I do photography. Now that I’m in The Octagon, I’ve started doing it more than in middle school.

Q: What is your favorite part about photography?

A: The process of learning it has always been fun. It’s rewarding because you can see, visually, yourself improving over the course of time. It also lets you see some interesting places with different perspectives as you change your lenses. You see things a little bit differently, and it’s especially nice when you get a beautiful product at the end.

Q: What is your favorite photo that you have taken or a project that you’ve worked on?

A: I don’t have a specific favorite photo, but I like some of the urban photos that I’ve taken. I also have some really nice landscapes. 

Q: What other hobbies do you have?

A: I also play golf. I’ve been playing since I was pretty young with my dad. I love just improving, and it gets more fun as you get better.

Q: What do you like about golfing?

A: When you’re in nature for hours, it can be a really nice way to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Of course, it’s fun when you hit good shots, and it’s really bad when you hit bad shots, but I just enjoy playing with my friends and family. I enjoy spending time with them.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I don’t have a specific food, but I like a lot of different cuisines. The flavors in the Southeast Asian and South Asian region are pretty nice. It’s good stuff. Vietnamese cuisine is especially nice. There are a lot of fresh flavors and spices from that area. My family is from Pakistan, so I also love my culture’s food. Outside of that, I enjoy cooking, so I’m constantly exploring new cuisines. 

— By Lauren Lu


Dylan Donohue

Dylan Donohue is a freshman at Country Day. He previously attended Gold River Discovery Center.

Q: What got you into playing the guitar? How did it start?

A: It started because I had learned in primary school. I stopped doing it for a while. My mom wanted me to have a huge hobby, so I just had to pick up the guitar again. 

Q: What are you looking forward to this year, both academically and also outside of school?

A: Academically, I’m so happy to have a challenge, as I went to Maryland schools for a while, and they have a lot more advanced concepts. During the last few years in California, I’ve been finishing all of the classwork early. 

Outside of school, I’m looking forward to meeting new friends and new people. I’m trying to be a little bit more out there instead of just being of a certain small group of people. So I’m just looking forward to meeting new people and having new experiences.

Q: What career will you pursue later in life?

A: Something I’m really into is marine biology. I have been fascinated by sea life since I was a little kid. When I found out later on, when I was seven, that there’s this profession to just study sea life,  I thought that would make a good career for me.  

I just think being a marine biologist will make me see a new perspective of the world. Right now I kind of just see it from human eyes and what we do. If I  learn about the water and the sea creatures in there, I can see how our actions affect the other creatures and sea life and what we can do to make sure we can prevent anything catastrophic from happening to our ecosystem.

Q: Have you lived anywhere other than Sacramento?

A: I was born in London, so technically, I’m a British citizen. I’m also an American citizen. I moved to America when I was four years old, into Baltimore. I lived there for most of my life. Then about four years ago, we moved to California. 

Q: What is your favorite place that you have traveled to?
A:  I would say Ecuador because it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We traveled by boat, so I lived on a boat for a week, which was really nice. I was able to see a lot of animals that I might not see in my lifetime again. They may not even be around, like the blue-footed booby, or other birds and animals like that.

— By Rehan Afzal


Liam Donohue

Freshman Liam Donohue previously attended Andrew Carnegie Middle School in Orangevale, California. 

Q: What do you like about Country Day so far? 

A: I like how it’s really focused on academics. My old school wasn’t really that much invested in the students, so I think the teachers really do well in that.

Q: What do you not like about Country Day so far? 

A: I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure everything out. Sometimes, I don’t like it when I have a full schedule. 

Q: What is your favorite class right now? 

A: I would say fifth period, which is free period. But if I would actually pick a class, I don’t know so far.

Q: What is the most difficult class for you right now? 

A: Probably Latin. It’s the first year that I’ve ever taken a foreign language. 

Q: What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened in the school year for you so far? 

A: Just starting out, but Ancil Hoffman was pretty fun since the Black Team finally won after seven years. 

Q: What did you like specifically about the game? Other than you guys winning, of course. 

A: Doing something different other than just school. It’s very interesting. It’s not just soccer or something, so everyone plays.

Q: What school events are you excited for? 

A: Boy’s volleyball — I know that’s still being scheduled and everything — and I think having a boy’s volleyball team is a big improvement. 

Q: How does high school differ from middle school for you? 

A: There’s a lot more freedom, not just in choosing your classes, but also our responsibilities, like having a free period or going off campus. 

Q: What extracurricular activities do you do? 

A: I also do Mock Trial. It’s kind of an elective, kind of a club, and then I also joined business club. I don’t do much that’s not really connected to school right now. 

Q: What clubs are you interested in or excited to participate in in the future? Is there anything else you’re interested in?  

A: Student Council could be fun, seeing what Student Council can bring to the table. 

— By Siri Atluri


Ferishta Halim

Freshman Ferishta Halim previously attended Starr King Elementary School in Carmichael, California. She enjoys playing soccer and drawing.

Q: Do you have any siblings or anyone in your family that you look up to?

A: You might think that this is crazy, but I have eight sisters and one brother. Two of my sisters are in college and one is in high school, but not at this school. My oldest sister, Khadija, is the most honest, strong person that I have ever had in my life. She’s supporting me so much, and I look up to her all the time; I want to be like her. She has a job, she’s in college, she works full time and I’m just so impressed by her.

Q: How is SCDS different from your previous school?

A: My previous school was way bigger than here, but there were also a lot of Afghans like me, but here there’s nobody Afghan. Also, in my public school, I didn’t like the lunch. Here, I love it. Everyone is so friendly, everyone is so encouraging.

Q: Do you have any hobbies or are you on any sports teams?

A: I like to play soccer with my friends. I used to be on a team, but my season just ended. I also like to draw sometimes when I am free.

Q: What goal do you have for this school year?

A: I’m trying to get good grades, but also trying to be more active and involved with everyone because I’m not the person who gets involved so fast. So I’m trying to make friends and connections.

Q: What are some things that you want to accomplish this year?

A: I want to join soccer in the spring; the girls soccer team for the school. And then I really want to know how to speak French by the end of this year. I’ve just started, but I will learn eventually. 

Q: How long have you been taking French? Did you take languages at your old school?

A: I didn’t have a chance to take French because I was learning two new languages, which are English and Turkish. Two years ago I came here and I couldn’t take French class in my middle school because I had to take this class for kids who came from a different country and didn’t know how to speak English. I didn’t know either, so I had to take that class for two years and now this is my third year, and I’m taking French from zero.

— By Sophia Monasa


Daniel Holz

Freshman Daniel Holz previously attended Winston Churchill Middle School in Carmichael, California.

Q: What is one thing you want people to know about you?

A: I want them to know that I’m a hard worker; I always strive to get the best grades and the best results in fencing.

Q: Can you tell me about your fencing?

A: I started fencing when I was in first grade. My siblings and I tried tennis, soccer and other sports, but it didn’t work for us. My mom found fencing and thought, “Hey, these kids really like destroying our house with lightsabers, let’s put them in fencing.” 

Lucky for us, there happened to be a fencing place near where we lived. We developed really good skills and our instructors took notice of this. 

We started getting private lessons and then competed in national tournaments. I entered my first nationals tournament, the biggest fencing tournament of the year, in 2018. I got 10th in my age group. I was 10. Since then I really started to hone my skill and become a fencer. 

Toward the end of 2018, I won my first tournament. I started working really, really hard and aggressively to train my skills. And when 2019 rolls around, I won the nationals tournament for my age group. 

At this point, my mind was set on this: “This is the one thing I’m going to be really good at.” Nationals 2021 rolls around — nationals 2020 didn’t happen because of COVID-19 — and I won again.

Q: Do you think you wouldn’t have been into fencing if you weren’t skilled at it?

A: Fencing is a very expensive sport. If we hadn’t excelled at it, then we wouldn’t be doing it today.

— By Ishaan Sekhon


Jess Kravchenko

Freshman Jessica Kravchenko previously attended Arcade Middle School in Arden-Arcade.

Q: What are some of your hobbies? 

A: I really love music. I mostly sing and play the guitar and piano for about two to three hours a day, and I would 100% say I’m a musician. 

Q: What got you into music? How did it start?

A: I started singing when I was 5. Actually, I first got into singing because of my mom. I remember she would always listen to singers and sing, and I would sing along. After a while, she was like, “you’re good at singing,” so that’s where it all began. 

I also have this personal connection to singing when I was a child. I had asthma, and I had to go once a week to a doctor for medication. So, although it wasn’t easy at first, singing really helped me get over it. I have this good memory of singing from the start. 

Q: What made you fall in love with music? 

A: Actually, I didn’t instantly fall in love with music. I used to have trauma from piano when I was a child from a teacher that constantly screamed and yelled at me when I was a small kid. You know, it took time to kind of get over it. But once I did it, music just became so much fun. Just sitting there and practicing and once you get a feel for the music, it’s like a new language or like reading a story. Music really affects what we feel on an emotional level. In a way, it has a power to it. So, it really means a lot to me. 

Q: Are you considering pursuing a musical career? 

A: I’m considering a multitude of things, and I’m still not sure yet. But, you know, I love music, and I feel like it’s a big part of my life. I definitely want to continue playing music, professionally or not. But for now, we’ll see where it goes.

Q: Are you excited about joining Country Day? A: Yes! I like the inclusivity of this school. It’s not just in general, it’s how inclusive, how respectful and how nice everyone here is. You know, it’s just a very nice environment. I’m also very excited about the choir program here. It’s actually really fun if everybody works together and gets involved.

— By Garrett Xu


Anisha Mondal

Freshman Anisha Mondal previously attended Winston Churchill Middle School in Carmichael.

Q: What’s one thing you would want someone to know about you?

A: Even though I’m not very social, I would like to make a lot of friends and talk to new people. Especially this year, since this is where you can make new bonds since it’ll probably be more difficult to make friends in the later years of high school.

Q: Where is your favorite place that you’ve traveled to?

A: Every year we either travel to India to meet the rest of my family, or they come to us and stay with us for around six months. I really just enjoy going to see the rest of my extended family.

Q: Do you speak any other languages?

A: I don’t speak any other languages, but I can understand my mother tongue, which is Bengali. I’m trying to learn it, and I was learning it over the summer from my parents. I want to learn it because I think it would be pretty cool to be bilingual and because most of my family speaks Bengali and not English.

Q: What’s your favorite subject?

A: My favorite subject is math. I like the different aspects of solving problems and the different ways to find the answer. I just really enjoy using numbers.

Q: Do you participate in any extracurricular activities?

A: I’ve been playing the piano for eight years, and I’m in this program called Certificate of Merit. There are different levels, and you have to learn different songs, and they have to be memorized. I’m also doing Mock Trial because I used to do debate in middle school, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Q: Do you have a favorite genre of music or artist you listen to?

A: I really like Melanie Martinez’s songs, and I’ve listened to all of them, so I’m not sure I have a specific favorite.

Q: Are you more of a dog or cat person?

A: I don’t have any pets except a fish that died, but I really want a dog as a pet. I also love cats, but I would never have one since my parents are scared of cats. Also, I prefer dogs because they’re more loving, and I’m scared of cats’ claws and teeth.

— By Emily Cook


Ashly Omalu

Q: Where is your favorite place that you’ve traveled to? Why? 

A: My favorite place I’ve traveled to has to be Cayman Islands. I really liked the beach, and I enjoyed surfing and snorkeling. 

Q: What is your favorite memory from middle school?

A: Maybe the last week of school when we didn’t do anything. We just hung out.

Q: Do you play any sports? 

A: I did do swimming and tennis. I stopped, though.  

Q: Do you speak any other languages? 

A: Yes, I speak a little bit of Spanish, French and Swahili.

Q: What’s your favorite food, or some of your favorite foods?

A: I love sugar cookies and snickerdoodle cookies. I like Fettuccine Alfredo. I like boba; love boba. 

Q: What’s your favorite type of music or some of your favorite artists and musicians?  

A: I do like a little bit of, not so much hardcore rock, but just rock, like Queen and Deftones. I also like Tyler the Creator. I like rap music and R&B. 

Q: Do you have any songs that you really like or are a must-listen on your playlist? 

A: “She” by Tyler the Creator. That’s one of my favorites. 

Q: Are there any classes that you really like so far?

A: I like English. I like the book we read, called “Animal Farm”. It’s interesting, and we wrote an essay. I like writing, so writing an essay is not too difficult.

— By Siri Atluri


Lila Reynen

Freshman Lila Reynen previously attended Winston Churchill Middle School.

Q: What was the biggest difference between your old school and Country Day?

A: I would say it is the amount of people. When I was at my old school there were about 1,100 people, and over here it’s something like 500. So it is kind of unusual. It’s weird seeing everyone and knowing like half of them, versus in Churchill it’s easier to get lost in the crowd.

Q: What would you say is a fun fact about yourself that you like to tell people?

A: I usually tell people about my hobbies and how I’m pretty good at art.

Q: What medium of art do you like?

A: My medium is usually graphite pencils, and I use them for things like sketching.

Q: Do you play any sports?

A: Not really, but I do a little bit of weightlifting at home.

Q: Do you like to read?

A: I like to read. Honestly, I don’t really read as much as I probably should, although I’ve really been enjoying Animal Farm recently. But you know, that was assigned by my English class.

Q:  What do you do in your free time after you finish your homework?

A: When I’m finished with my homework like I mentioned previously, I tend to do a lot of artwork. 

Q Does your family go on any vacations over the summer?

A: During the summer we tend to have two week-long trips. Around early July, my whole family and some of my extended family go to Camp Michigania. It’s in Northern Michigan, and we stay there for a week. It’s like a family camp; they have a bunch of activities that you can do every day, and the food is amazing. It’s an alumni camp. Usually a week or two after that we go to another alumni camp which is around Lake Tahoe.

— By Anika Nadgauda


Itzel Zamora

Itzel Zamora previously attended the Language Academy of Sacramento.

Q: How do you like Country Day so far? 

A: I think it’s a good school. It’s just very small, although the teachers are great and the education is good.

Q: How was your previous school different from SCDS? 

A: I think it was different because it was a charter school, rather than a public school. My old school was a bilingual school, so we were taught English and Spanish.

Q: How was your transition from a public school to a private school? 

A: It was a weird transition, but I would not find it that different other than the size of the school. 

Q: Was moving away from your friends a hard transition? 

A: That was difficult because I had been with them since kindergarten.

Q: What’s something that surprises other people about you? 

A: Spanish is my first language. I have been speaking Spanish even since I was born. I did not learn English until preschool. Right now the main language I speak at home is English,  but with my grandparents, I speak Spanish. 

Q: Do you have any main interests? 

A: I like fashion and art, too. I’m not that great at art, but I love fashion.

Q: What is your most memorable childhood memory? 

A: Spending time with my cousins. Those are fun memories. I have 35 first cousins. 

Q: What’s your favorite show? 

A: I like “Gossip Girl” and “Vampire Diaries.”

Q: What music genre do you like? 

A: I would say I like pop music. I like Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny. From Harry Styles, I like “Falling.”

Q: What is your favorite food? 

A: I like tacos. You can make tacos out of anything. 

Q: Do you have any siblings or pets? 

A: I have three younger siblings. My younger sister has a dog. His name is Quico. He is a poodle-chihuahua mix.

— By Eesha Dhawan


Lillian Wang

Freshman Lillian Wang previously attended Winston Churchill Middle School in Carmichael.

Q: What’s an interesting fact about yourself?

A: I’ve been doing synchronized swimming for about eight years. I go to Walnut Creek to swim about five to six times a week, and I get home pretty late each night.

Q: What’s your favorite middle school memory?

A: One of my favorite memories of middle school was Chinese class. The class was overall pretty fun, and the class was more participatory than lecture-oriented.

Q: What’s your favorite place to travel to?

A: I really like Sichuan in China. Unfortunately, I can’t enjoy the food there because it’s way too spicy, but I like the scenery. The last time I went to Sichuan, I hiked up Mount Qingcheng, and I also saw some pandas. Overall, it’s a great place to visit.

— By Ryan Xu


Ava Dunham

Freshman Ava Dunham previously attended Courtyard Private School in Sacramento, California.

Q: How are you liking the Country Day atmosphere so far?

A: It’s really nice; I’m really happy with it. I wasn’t expecting it to be as welcoming as it is based on other experiences that I’ve had at other schools.

Q: In what aspects is Country Day a better atmosphere for you?

A: My school wasn’t as big, so we weren’t able to do a lot of the activities that you can do here. We didn’t have any school dances or anything like that. 

Q: Is the workload of freshman year harder than in middle school?

A: I’d say there’s more homework, more time and dedication, but it’s been a lot of fun so far. 

Q: What is something that you consider yourself good at?

A: I really enjoy history, and I think I’m pretty good at it.

Q: Are you thinking of going into more of a history-based major in the future?

A: As a career, most likely not because I want to go into a STEM-based career. However, as an interest or hobby, yes.

Q: What is the hardest subject in your opinion?

A: I think the hardest subject would be geometry or physics.


Parker Byers

Sophomore Parker Byers, who previously attended Forest Lake Christian in Grass Valley, packed his bags for his new start at Country Day.

Q: What is your favorite subject and why?

A: I like chemistry because it is a lot more hands-on than other classes.

Q: Do you play sports? If so, how did you get into the sport?

A: I play tennis. My parents played tennis a lot, so they started to push me to get out on the tennis court.

Q: How long have you been playing tennis?

A: I’ve been playing for almost my whole life, but I just started competing at school for around three years…it’s something that I grew up on, so it’s kind of like a lifestyle. 

Q: Describe a time that you remember the most while playing tennis.

A: I think winning our league last game with my doubles partner and then getting second place in sections was pretty fun.

Q: What’s an interesting fact about yourself?

A: I can do a backflip and play the guitar.

Q: Do you like dogs or cats?

A: I like dogs.

— By Irene Jung


Irene Jung

Sophomore Irene Jung previously attended Saint Francis High School in Sacramento.

Q: How did you end up at Country Day?

A: I really didn’t like my old school, and a lot of my friends went here. I decided that this might be a better alternative than Saint Francis, where there was a lot of trash-talking.

Q: Has Country Day been better?

A: Yeah, people here are a lot nicer and it’s more friendly. I ended up running for president; I didn’t make it, but it was a fun experience. I also made a lot of friends.

Q: What has been your favorite subject so far?
A: I like science. I want to be a doctor, and I like to focus on biochemistry.

Q: Do you have any hobbies or interests?

A: Typically I’m fencing. At first, I did a lot of sports, but I didn’t like any of them until I tried fencing. I was surprisingly good at it and kept winning, so I decided to continue. 

Q: Are there any weird facts about you?

A: I don’t like being tall. People say that’s weird. I’m 5’9”, and people say you’re so lucky to be tall, but I don’t think so.

— By Saheb Gulati


Julianna Hemmer

Sophomore Juliana Hemmer moved from Arizona to California to August and is starting in-person school spending her freshman year in online school. 

Q: What middle school did you go to?

A: I went to a middle school back in Arizona. I went to Basis and then I went to an online school for high school. 

Q: What did you do over the summer?

A: I spent some time with my family while on a vacation in Mexico, and then I spent the rest of my time at home relaxing. 

Q: What is your favorite memory from middle school? 

A: I used to have a lot of friends back in Arizona, and I spent a lot of time with them in middle school. 

Q: Do you have any hobbies?

A: I enjoy cross-stitching. I like to draw and read in my free time. I play the piano occasionally. 

Q: Do you like to read? If so, what’s your favorite novel?

A: I love reading. I really enjoy reading Russian literature. 

Q: What’s your dream profession?

A: I’d like to be a doctor. I know it’s a big goal, but if not I’d really enjoy having a profession in medicine.

By Anisha Mondal


Stella I.

Sophomore Stella I. previously attended The Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California, for high school before transferring to Sacramento Country Day School after her freshman year.

Q: Why did you decide to come to Sacramento Country Day School?

A: We bought a new house, so we wanted to move here to Sacramento so we can be close to school. I decided to come here specifically because I like the campus and the small class sizes.

Q: What are you looking forward to this year?

A: I’m looking forward to getting to know the people and the school better. I’d like to get more involved and volunteer at school events.

Q: Are you involved in any sports or activities?

A: I played junior varsity volleyball this year as a setter. As for other activities, I also like to go roller skating and skateboarding. It’s good to just take a break and exercise.

Q: Do you have a dream profession?

A: I’d like to work with computers. I like math and design, and I want to work on games of all genres. I’m thinking about majoring in computer science or engineering in college.

Q: Do you speak any other languages?

A: I speak some Bulgarian at home, and I take Spanish at school.

Q: Do you have any family overseas?

A: Yeah, I used to visit them more when I was younger, but, right now, we’re still in a pandemic and it’s not as easy for them to get vaccinated. I like getting to visit my mom’s side of the family since they’re in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. We typically go sightseeing around the capital.

Q: What’s your favorite genre of music or artist?

A: I’d say my favorite genres of music are indie or rock music, and my favorite band is Gorillaz.

— By Emily Cook


Aakash Arumugam

Junior Aakash Arumugan previously attended Rocklin High School and does cross country. 

Q: What are some of your interests?

A: I like to watch movies and videos. I like to run, which is my sport.

Q: How long have you been running and how much of your time does running take up?

A: I’ve been running for eight years and I run for about two hours everyday.

Q: Why are you passionate about your sport?

A: It just makes me feel satisfied, going on a run every day. After that it just makes me feel calm. My mind is calm. 

Q: I saw something of yours about Ferritin At Home Testing Kits. What is Ferritin?

A: Ferritin is a protein that contains iron, and I’m researching that because ferritin levels are very important for runners to measure. In the current situation, one would have to go to a lab and test your ferritin, and it takes a lot of time out of your day to test your ferritin levels. So I want to create a test kit at home so that you can measure your ferritin levels.

Q: How are you liking your new school so far?

A: I like it a lot. It’s a peaceful environment. There are not as many kids as in the public schools I went to, which had a lot of kids. But here it’s fewer people and everyone knows each other.

— By Zema Nasirov


Siri Atluri

Siri Atluri is a junior at Sacramento Country Day School. She previously attended school in Detroit, Michigan.

Q: How would you describe your experience in Michigan?

A: I went to Detroit Country Day since third grade. I had been there for a long time, and I was really accustomed with the way things went there. I made a lot of good friends, and I had a really good friend group there; it was really hard to leave that all behind. I really miss even just the campus and being able to hang out with my friends after class, but it was really stressful sometimes, and there was a lot of work.

Q: Why did you decide to transition to Country Day from Michigan?

A: My sister is actually way older than me and we’ve never really had the chance to work together because of our age gap. She really wanted me to move here to be with her for my last two years of high school. It was also because I kind of like the vibes here when I visited. I was like, “You know what, why not,” because my old school was also getting really stressful, and knew I was only going to get even more stressful junior year.

Q: What are some of your favorite hobbies to do outside of school?

A: I really love writing, poetry and singing. I really love to sing. It’s one of my passions, and I love doing art as well. I used to make jewelry and metals for school. I have been singing ever since I was little; my parents encouraged me to sing, ever since I was four. I was obsessed with singing; I was in choir all throughout elementary up to sophomore freshman year. I’ve been singing for a long time. I’ve done both Indian classical music and choir.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most during the school year?
A:  I’m looking forward to running the Asian Pacific Islander Student Alliance, along with (juniors) Lauren Lu and Julie Tsoi, our vice presidents. Just being in a lot of different extracurriculars including the Octagon is something I’m really looking forward to. At my old school, I didn’t really have the opportunity to join a lot of different extracurriculars just because of the amount of academic work I had to do. I’m really excited to be able to pursue other interests. I was able to sign up for a creative writing class, which I haven’t been able to really spend time on since middle school, things like that too

— By Daniel Holz

Print Friendly, PDF & Email