Upper School

Student Life & Experiences

Part of the magic of Annie Wright Schools is what happens outside of class time. 
At the heart of the Upper Schools program is the belief that risk-taking, development of passions and shared experience are essential for growth. With these ideas at the center of every offering, students participate in a variety of meaningful activities, clubs and co-curricular experiences. Students gain independence, become meaningfully engaged and have a tremendous amount of fun.

Social events are an essential part of our program. In other words, we make time for play. Outings, get-togethers, dances, barbeques, impromptu gatherings and a range of other social events take place during school time throughout the year.

Student Activities

List of 3 items.

  • (s)Electives

    Two essential components are the hallmark of each (s)Elective: a community engagement project and an opportunity to travel to experience a deep-dive into passions, perspectives and skills. Trips have ranged from conferences in Seattle and camping trips to Oregon, to meetings in New York and expeditions to Japan, England and Rwanda. (s)Elective choices have grown out of student interest and continue to be refined as the student bodies change and grow. Current (s)Elective offerings include: Automotive Arts, Business, Community, Creative Writing, Mock Trial, Model UN, Inkwell student magazine, Sports Medicine, STEM, Stage Fashion, and SL&G/LABS (see "Student Government" below).
  • Student Government (Parliament)

    The Upper School for Girls' Student Life & Governance (SL&G) and the Upper School for Boys' Legislative Assembly of the Boys’ School (LABS) are the only single-gender (s)Electives, which engage students in strategic thinking, planning, communicating and representing their peers to the school administration. Members explore governance and policymaking and plan exciting events throughout the year.
  • Clubs

    In addition to (s)Electives, more informal student-run clubs develop organically throughout the year. The level of effort and dedication is no less admirable in many of these clubs, reflecting the passion and desire for excellence of Annie Wright students. These clubs have recently included dance team, crochet, Black Student Union, debate, gender & sexuality, coding, investment, physics, nature, knitting, ping pong, nature, STEM, philosophy, care for pets, Dungeons & Dragons, and various cultural affinity clubs (including Latinx/Hispanic, Chinese, Japanese, & Vietnamese). 

Social Events

List of 7 items.

  • Carnival of Games

    This annual social event converts the Great Hall into the largest game room in Tacoma! At this casual gathering hosted by USB students, faculty, staff, Upper School students and their guests learn and play a variety of games. There are special prizes at the end of the evening.
  • Mountain Day

    This long-standing tradition surprises students and faculty with a day-long adventure off campus in lieu of a regular academic school day. Historically planned by student leaders, this day can include hiking, picnics, beach sessions, ice skating, and even scavenger hunts.
  • Murder Mystery

    Hilarity ensues as faculty perform an original murder mystery playscript on campus, dinner-theater style. Previous titles include "The Science Fair (of Death)" and "BOYEEEE:  A Search for America’s Next Top Boyband."
  • Lip Sync Competition

    Students and faculty rehearse and perform in a concert-style Lip Sync Competition to a sold out Kemper Theatre audience, showcasing creativity, dancing, and camaraderie in the Upper Schools.
  • Casino Night

    Casino Night is the Upper School’s homecoming equivalent. US faculty convert the Great Hall into a Casino and host a semi-formal evening of Blackjack, Texas Hold-Em, and Roulette. Students use their chip “winnings” to bid on special prizes at the night’s end.
  • Fright Night Haunted House & Dance

    Upper School Students design and deliver a Haunted House experience for all high-school aged guests to experience as part of the fall dance.
  • Prom

    Our most conventional social event is designed by members of the Junior Class in honor of the Seniors, taking place at a special off-campus venue each Spring.

Explorations: trips & travel

List of 5 items.

  • (s)Elective Trips

    Through domestic and global travel, serving the community, inquiry, and leadership opportunities, (s)Electives develop shared passion, inspire strong student to student connection, push students to engage with multiple perspectives, and cultivate joy. Students are prepared to take courageous, independent action in response to local and global needs.

    (s)Electives currently include: creative writing, automotive arts, business, community, Inkwell (newspaper), Parliament, Model UN, science team, stage fashion, mock trial and sports medicine. Trips in 2023-2024 have included Germany, Rwanda and Canada outside fo the U.S., and Los Angeles, CA, Vancouver, WA, and San Francisco, CA.
  • Class Retreats

    Each March, Grade 9 students travel to a local outdoor venue (most recently, Cispus Learning Center in the Gifford Pinochet National Forest) to stay in cabins and enjoy activities designed to grow their leadership, reflect on their journey as members of the Annie Wright Upper Schools, and build their sense of belonging as members of the freshman class. Grade 9 retreats are single-gender opportunities for the Upper School for Girls and Upper School for Boys.
  • Grade 10 Expeditions

    This program was created to offer an opportunity for each Grade 10 student to do this, and more. To travel internationally and experience new and different cultures, to step out of their comfort zone, reinforce World History learning, and create lifelong friendships while strengthening relationships in coordinate travel teams. Upper School for Girls and Upper School for Boys Grade 10 students participate together in one of three destinations. 

    In 2023-2024, Grade 10 students traveled to Greece, Iceland and Belize. In 2024-2025, Italy will replace Greece in the menu of choices.
  • IB Global Alliance

    Annie Wright has partnered with three schools around the world to build the foundation for exciting and rich exchange opportunities for our community. 

    The three other Global Alliance schools are:
    • International School of Western Australia in Perth, Australia (ISWA)
    • International School of Paris in Paris, France (ISP
    • Windhoek International School in Windhoek, Namibia (WIS)
  • International Exchange

    AWS students welcome an exchange student into their homes for about one month. While their exchange student is here, they live the ordinary daily life of their exchange partner--for example, attending classes, sharing meals, going to sporting events, going to Point Ruston, seeing Seattle, hiking on the Olympic Peninsula, playing with the family’s pet - all the while practicing their English (and helping the exchange partner with their language) and experiencing the regular day-to-day life of an AWS student.  

    Later, the AWS student travels to their exchange student's home country for about a month and stays in their home, living their everyday life alongside them as well. Current partners include Mexico, Argentina, France, and New Zealand.