This is Tierra Sherlock
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo Credits: Tom Russo Photography (Chicago photos), Tierra Sherlock and Marlyn Sherlock
Multi-talented Rutherford High school Senior, Tierra Sherlock, has lived in Rutherford her whole life. Tierra is successful in all that she does, including Choir, Theater, Academic Decathlon, the RHS newspaper, RHS literary magazine, her academic studies, and much more. This is Rutherford spoke with Tierra Sherlock about her success and her plans for the future.
TIR: What have you enjoyed most about your time at Rutherford High School?
TS: We’re given a considerable amount of freedom when structuring our curriculum and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of taking a wide range of classes. Unlike many magnet or college prep schools, at RHS there isn’t a lot of external pressure to take the hardest classes and get the highest marks. You determine the rigor of your school day and if you are willing to challenge yourself, the administration and teachers are here to push and support you.
Mr. Ken Lacy, Social Studies teacher at Rutherford High School, explained, “Tierra is not only inherently brilliant and talented but has a ferociously competitive personality that drives her to excel, above and beyond simply comparing herself to her immediate peers. She combines that with a powerful work ethic, and is also deeply curious about the systems and formalisms that underlie our academic disciplines. As a result, she is not only good at learning formulae and formats and jargon, but is also interested in comprehensively understanding the underlying patterns, and as a result can anticipate and extrapolate extremely well, particularly in areas where she already has a good deal of subject knowledge.”
TIR: Mr. Jason Narozny, Advisor of the RHS Academic Decathlon team, was happy to share his thoughts about Tierra and her success with Academic Decathlon, “Tierra's dedication to Academic Decathlon is unwavering. Her leadership makes the activity more than just about learning. The bonds she builds between her teammates serve as an example for the underclassmen. So for the team, showing up to a review session doesn't feel like going to class, it feels more like hanging out with good friends.” Tell us about your personal experiences with Academic Decathlon.
TS: Even though we take individual tests on the day of the competition, Academic Decathlon is very much a team effort. The friendships and bonds that I’ve formed with my teammates are what has kept me coming back each year. It can get very overwhelming to tackle the AD materials on top of a regular course load, but we all support and encourage one another. We have a good balance between holding each other accountable and not taking ourselves too seriously.
TIR: In addition to Academic Decathlon, you are also a musical theatre actress. Tell us about your most recent role as Roxie Hart in Chicago.
TS: Thus far, Roxie Hart is the role I’ve played with the most depth and complexity. Usually, I have to focus on vocals the most, but Roxie really demanded that I develop my character and spend more time on the acting. It was fun to get to completely change my look with a full costume and wig.
Ms.Courtney McManus, Director of the Musicals at Pierrepont and Rutherford High Schools, explained, “Tierra's success comes from an innate drive she has. Ever since I first met her in my 8th-grade classroom, Tierra has had willpower and grit, unlike anyone I have ever seen. As a student, she is a voracious learner who wants to dig deeper into everything. Her writing is eloquent and insightful, far beyond her years. In regards to theatre, she is simply passionate about the production of it all. She not only gets the steps right or remembers her lines, but she is also able to find nuances in her characters that are conveyed in her actions and speech. She is the all-around fine arts student, one who appreciates both the dedication it takes to create and the beauty that it brings into the world.”
TIR: Mr. Matthew Vaccaro, one of the Directors of The Little Mermaid, told TIR an incredible story about how when you were in seventh grade you were able to step in at the last minute to play the lead role in the musical. The lead actress became very ill and could not do the final performance. You rose to challenge and stayed up almost all night working with other cast members to learn the music, lines, and choreography for the part of Ariel. Mr. Vaccaro explained, “She was exceptional. She did things as that character I never expected her to do. In my eyes she became a leader that day....without anyone knowing.” In which other shows have you performed?
TS: I’ve performed in The Lion King, High School Musical, Cinderella, and Mamma Mia!.
TIR: What have you enjoyed most about doing musical theatre in the Rutherford Schools?
TS: The theatre has always been such a welcoming community. Our directors, Mr. Vacarro and Ms. McManus, do everything in their power to support their students and make this program better every year.
“I have worked with Tierra since she was in 7th grade. Her success is all due to her talents, her drive, her spirit, and her will to succeed, as well as her support system in friends and family. Tierra has a natural talent in theater and has worked tirelessly to improve year after year. Where her expertise truly lies is with her belief in people and the people she is surrounded by. I like to think of Tierra as the soft-spoken leader. You will never see Tierra try to dominate a conversation or direct people to do things. Instead, she inspires people by leading by example. Every day, Tierra would come to practice with a smile, go through her lines, help others who were confused all while working on her own paper for class, or studying for Academic Decathlon. Tierra has the ability to succeed in every facet of her life, and I often joke with her to ‘remember me when she becomes president,’" explained Director of the Musicals at Pierrepont and Rutherford High Schools, Mr. Matthew Vaccaro.
TIR: You are also a writer and have worked on the R-Hi, the school newspaper, and Scribe. How have you been involved in both of these publications?
TS: Last year I was an Assistant Editor for Scribe and this year I’m the Editor. I started submitting when I was a freshman so it’s cool to come full circle and now be the one deciding which pieces go in.
TIR: Choral Director and Music Teacher at Pierrepont School, Mrs. Connie DeFazio, told TIR, “Tierra is a shining star. She is so very talented but also focused on her studies. She is humble about all that she does (and how well she does it). She rises to every occasion!” As a singer, you are involved in the RHS Choir, as well as other Honors Choirs. Tell us more about your choir experiences.
TS: I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the Bergen County Choir, NJ Region 1 Choir, All-State SSA Choir, and All-State Mixed Choir. When I started participating in Honors Choirs, I was in awe of the talent around me and of the sound that we could produce after only a couple of rehearsals. As amazing as these experiences have been, they’ve also exposed me to a variety of conductors and styles and made me appreciate our choir director and conductor, Mrs. Blanchard, much more.
Rutherford High School Choral Director, Mrs. Patricia Blanchard, was eager to share her thoughts about Tierra, “Tierra is one of those rare students- not only is she intelligent and extremely hard-working but also kind and generous. She has a level of maturity that you don't often find in high school students. Despite her immense talent, (both her intellectual talents and her musical achievements) she is surprisingly humble. She has always been a strong leader in choir and in the musicals, and she will be greatly missed next year!”
TIR: Mr. Jason Narozny also told TIR, “Besides having natural intelligence in spades and being an excellent and avid reader, Tierra is able to devote herself utterly to any task she decides is worthwhile. It's that rare combination of hard work, diligence, and talent. Also, I doubt she sleeps -- apparently that can wait.” As an extremely well-rounded student, what else have you participated in during high school?
TS: I’ve been a member of the French Club since freshman year and I’m now the French National Honor Society President. Over the last two years, I’ve also participated in the Heroes & Cool Kids mentorship program.
TIR: Where will you be going to college in the Fall?
TS: I will be attending Brown University.
TIR: Mr. Ken Lacy also told TIR, “Tierra is very smart, and has spent most of her life aggressively using her smarts to learn how to be exceptional at the business of schooling. She is a successful student both because of who she is and what she has painstakingly trained herself to be. Given her personality, aptitudes, and skill sets, she would probably be successful at virtually anything she chose to put her mind to.” What will you be pursuing in college?
TS: Brown’s curriculum is unique in the sense that I don’t have any general education requirements outside of the requirements for my major. This frees up my schedule a lot and gives me the chance to take a lot of classes across disciplines. I’m currently undecided, but I intend to pursue English and Neuroscience.
Ms. McManus told TIR, “She is, by far, one of the most brilliant people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her light shines brightly, and everyone around her notices. She takes each challenge as it comes, and never gives up on herself. Most importantly, she has grown into a poised and graceful leader. It is because of actors like her that our program has become so strong. Rutherford theatre kids for years to come have so much to owe to her. It breaks my heart to see her venture off to Brown, but there is a great, big, beautiful world waiting for her with open arms. I know that she will make us proud.”
TIR: Have you had any mentors that have helped you along your journey so far?
TS: I’ve had so many incredible teachers who challenge me not just to be a better student but also to be a better person. I wouldn’t be where I am now without my seventh and ninth grade English teachers, Mrs. Espinosa and Ms. Dougard.
Ms. Melissa Dougard, an English teacher at Rutherford High School, told TIR, “I have been teaching for 20 years and I have seen hundreds and hundreds of students come and go.....never have I ever met a student quite like Tierra Sherlock. When I had her as a student in one of my Honors English 100 classes close to 4 years ago, I quickly learned that there was very little, content-wise, that I could teach her that she didn't already know....she was just that bright. Her writing was mechanically perfect and insanely thought-provoking, and when she spoke in class it was only to enhance the discussion; she was (and is) wise beyond her years. Tierra is an old soul for sure, and within minutes of conversing with her, I forget I am talking to a teenager. She has a fire in her eyes that inspires me to be a better teacher and reminds me why I came into this profession; I remain constantly grateful that our paths have crossed."
Mr. Matthew Vaccaro also told TIR, “Working with Tierra has been a privilege and an honor. She is so dedicated to what she does, and watching her grow over these years has been fantastic. She is one of the kindest and most selfless people I have ever met. I can't even count the number of times she has put others before herself. I honestly do not know where my career as a director and an educator would be without Tierra Sherlock. I am grateful to call Tierra my student and my friend.”