You can sense it in the delicately shaped chocolates that she makes for friends and teachers during the winter holidays. You can see it in her eyes as she listens intently in class discussion and lecture. It’s in the instructions she writes for jarred cake ingredients and in the slightly upturned corners of her mouth as she hears you gush about how delicious each bite of one of her decadent desserts is.
It’s genuine and unabated passion.
Sierra will attend The Culinary Institute of America in the fall, where she will pursue pastry arts with both the passion and devotion that she has become so well known for at Cape Henry Collegiate. Incidentally, her passion for pastry correlates with her first year in Virginia Beach and at Cape Henry, when she not only relocated with her family but also had to experience a new school without her father at home as he set off for a seven-month deployment soon after the move.
“Eighth Grade was a really hard year for me,” Sierra recalls. But she adapted in a unique way. “I used to bake with my grandmother all the time when I was little, so I sort of got the notion to try it out myself at home here. I soon continued baking as a coping mechanism.” Thus her lifelong passion was ignited.
As Sierra’s experimentation with candies, cakes, cookies, and breads became more and more sophisticated, she grew a deep appreciation for the patience and precision that baking truly takes. “I think that challenge of fighting your inner urge to rush the baking and decorating process is most rewarding once you finally complete a dish,” she says. Such a statement will come as no surprise to Sierra’s teachers, who are familiar with Sierra’s patient devotion to the completion of challenging tasks.
Not only does Sierra hold herself to the standard of quality and excellence that made her a standout to the admissions board of CIA, she also infuses creativity into all that she does. Ms. Judge recalls how Sierra’s “profound understanding” and “sensitivity for all things poetic” resulted in an exceptionally creative Honors English exam in which Sierra interwove segments of Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time with original music and dance. “Sierra breathes life into literature and art,” says Ms. Judge. “Both her video and her written analysis were quite simply remarkable. Additionally, she created a gift of artwork that still hangs on my classroom wall.” Ms. Judge left a lasting impression on Sierra as well. “Ms. Judge opened the door to my creativity, not only in English but also with her intense passion for her work,” says Sierra. “I saw her every day, filled with joy and smiling because of literature and teaching and this was an ‘aha moment’ for me. It made me want a profession where I’m overjoyed to go to work.”
Sierra also mentions the profound influence of her art teacher, Ms. Erbig, whom she recalls as “one of my biggest supporters ever since I met her in Ninth Grade” and whom she credits with encouraging her creativity in art, which has more in common with pastry than one might think. In fact, Sierra calls pastry “edible art,” and anyone who has had the pleasure of both seeing and tasting her work knows that she truly treats it as an art form.
Sierra plans to exercise her creativity to her fullest when she embarks on her new life in New York, and looks forward to the challenging and unique courses offered at CIA like “The Anthropology of Food” and “Creative Artisanal Chocolates and Confections.” Even with all of the exciting opportunities ahead of her, she acknowledges that she will miss the close-knit community at Cape Henry, and especially credits her dance team as her “rock” that is “like a second family” to her.
When asked what advice she would give to the rising seniors, Sierra says, “I would tell the rising senior class to enjoy their senior year. Keep trying to get good grades, but enjoy the time you have left with your friends and the community. Make your senior year memorable.” If they follow in Sierra’s footsteps, the Class of 2021 will make more than just their senior year memorable.
As we look back on all that Sierra has accomplished at Cape Henry and outside of it in these past four years, there is so much to celebrate. We are proud of her resolve to follow her passion and we are grateful to have been a part of her journey. And while we will miss getting to experience some of the first tastes of Sierra’s edible art, we will miss Sierra herself even more. Congratulations, Sierra!