Dodd Middle School eighth-grader Sofia Della Porta is excited for the end of the current school year.
When around her friends, the group usually expresses in near-unison their desire for June to roll around and for summer to begin. But Della Porta has ulterior reasons for anticipating the end of this school year — she’s looking forward to the next one.
“When every one of my friends says they can’t wait for school to be over, I always agree and say, ‘Oh, yeah, me too,’” Della Porta told The Herald recently, “but for me, it’s because I can’t wait to go back to school in the fall.”
When September does roll around this year, Della Porta won’t be attending Cheshire High School. She won’t be leaving Cheshire either. Della Porta was recently named the 2021 Town Scholar at Cheshire Academy.
Cheshire’s only boarding school provides an annual scholarship to one Cheshire student per year, who will be entering ninth grade in the coming school year. The scholarship is good for all four years of the student’s education at the Academy.
Della Porta was one of several applicants for the award, according to the Academy, but she stood out because of both her academic and extracurricular excellence.
“We are so excited to have Sofia join us,” Head of School Julie Anderson said. "She has an outstanding record of academic achievement, service, and accomplishment, particularly in the field of music.”
In keeping with tradition, the school informed Della Porta of her acceptance in surprising fashion. According to the middle schooler, she was sitting in her room one day in March when she heard a vehicle beeping in the street outside of her home. Assuming that the driver was irritated by an animal in the roadway or another vehicle that wasn’t moving fast enough, Della Porta paid it little attention.
That is, until her mother, Gina, appeared at her door.
“My mother told me to get my shoes on and come downstairs,” recalled Della Porta. “I was just like, ‘Uh-oh, what is this?’”
As the teenager made her way downstairs, she caught sight of what appeared to be balloons outside a front window, and when she finally opened the front door, all was revealed.
“They just screamed, ‘Surprise!’ and I was just so shocked, so excited,” said Della Porta. “I couldn’t believe it.”
In the doorway were representatives from Cheshire Academy, including Anderson and the Cheshire Academy mascot.
In addition to the balloons, the group presented Della Porta with a framed copy of her acceptance letter.
The revelation brought great joy, but also a sense of relief, Della Porta admits, as the youngster had been anxious to learn her fate ever since applying for the award beginning last year. In fact, Della Porta has been dreaming of attending Cheshire Academy for most of her young life.
“Since I was in the third grade, I’ve wanted to go to the Academy,” admitted Della Porta. “My mother went there, was a part of the Class of 1997 (as well as a recipient of the Town Scholar award), and I grew up hearing her tell stories of what it was like when she was there.”
“It was so wonderful to imagine going to a high school that you can be a part of for the rest of your life,” she continued.
“What is great about Cheshire Academy is you can be whoever you want to be, try new things, and meet people from all over the world,” said Gina Della Porta, in a statement released by Cheshire Academy. “Every holiday, we would invite students from all over the world and have them spend Christmas and Thanksgiving with us.”
Up until approximately two years ago, Della Porta and her family resided in North Carolina, making her dream of attending the Cheshire boarding school seem a little more distant. However, the family eventually moved to Cheshire in 2019, and it happened to coincide with Academy’s 225th anniversary celebration.
Della Porta had a chance to visit the campus for the first time during those festivities, and the experience only heightened her passion to attend.
But wanting to be a part of the Academy community and being accepted are two different things. Applying for the Town Scholar award is an involved process that requires applicants to complete essays, acquire references, and conduct interviews with administrators. Della Porta’s attitude towards the essays were that she was “going to write what I’m going to write,” but the prospect of interviews brought on a little more anxiety.
“I just kept thinking, ‘OK, don’t mess this up,’” she recalled, with a laugh. “I was nervous, but then you get on the (interview) call and everyone is just so nice, and it really was just a normal conversation.”
After the process was completed, the waiting game commenced. Della Porta anxiously anticipated an announcement over several weeks, acknowledging that, to her, it felt like it was taking “so long” to hear back. Finally, the surprise announcement came.
“It was so nerve-wracking, but I’m so excited to know, now, that (Cheshire Academy) is going to be my school for the next four years,” she said.
In addition to her academic success, Della Porta is an accomplished soccer player who played with the Cheshire Soccer Club, as well as a musician. In fact, the teenager will be traveling to Nashville this summer to have a few original songs professionally recorded.
The ability to continue her extracurricular interests at the Academy was another reason why she was so excited to apply to the school.
“On one of the tours of the campus, they showed me around the music rooms. It was just amazing.,” she said.
Now, the youngster is excited to finish out the school year at Dodd and enjoy her time with friends before moving into a new chapter of her young life.
“I am just so happy,” said Della Porta. “It honestly is like a dream come true for me.”