“Harley changed the trajectory of my life.”
—Katherine Rich ’08
Katherine says there are two key reasons Harley made such an impact on her.
First, Latin class with Jessica Densmore (Upper School language, 1997 to present). Spanish and French are the main languages at Harley, but students are required to take one semester of Latin in Grade 8. The language is then an elective in Upper School. Katherine stuck with it (and Spanish) all through her time at Harley. She also studied Greek with Len Wilcox P ’01, ’03, GP ’34 (Mathematics, College Counseling 1969-82, 1986-2020) during the lunch period and she said Len inspired her and really encouraged her studies in this ancient language. In fact, she was such a voracious student, he let her borrow all of his classic language books to peruse on her own time. She did and she enjoyed them immensely (see photo below)! She also shared, “I was the only student in the AP Latin class in my senior year. That was fun, very cool that Harley let me do that even though I was the only one. We read Vergil’s Aeneid.”
At Allegheny College, she majored in neuroscience and minored in Latin and Ancient Greek. “Harley prepared me well. I tested right into advanced Latin and went from there and continued Greek, too.” She is still proficient in Latin and has found that it helped in her career. “There is so much value in the language. As a nurse, I never had to memorize the medical terminology because I understood the root of the language.” When it came to learning other romance languages, Katherine said, “Due to my knowledge of Latin, I am usually able to get the gist.”
The second reason Harley made such an impact was Hospice class with Bob Kane (English and Hospice, 2003-13). Mr. Kane once said something that has stuck with her for her entire life; she doesn’t go two days without thinking about it: You don’t want to have any regrets on your death bed. You never want to say, “I wish I had lived my life authentically doing what I want to do, not what others expect me to do.” After she heard this, she thought to herself, “What do I want to do in my life? What do I want my life to look liked? How can I live authentically and true to myself?”
After she graduated from college, she used her neuroscience degree to do research, but discovered that she didn’t like doing research. She found a job at Rochester General Hospital as a float patient care technician and found fulfillment and enjoyment connecting with patients. While her work life was going well, she was not taking care of herself, started putting on weight, and her mental health suffered.
At Rochester General, a supervisor saw potential in her and gave her more responsibility and Katherine learned that she liked nursing administration. In 2016, Katherine entered the University of Rochester’s accelerated nursing program and after one year, she received a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. Following her degree, she worked in the intensive care unit at Strong, often with terminal patients, and she says her work in Harley’s Hospice program really helped her in this high stress environment. She also found that although she enjoyed the work in critical care, she was starting to gravitate toward psychology.
In January of 2020, she entered the Master’s in nursing program at the University of Rochester, with a focus on psychiatric nursing. That month, she took on a weekend job at Monroe Community Hospital in the chronic ventilator unit—right before the pandemic hit. She said 2020 was an especially difficult year for her. Responsibilities on the unit grew and she became a supervisor for the registered nurses on duty. In order to protect the patients in the ventilator unit, she spent months in isolation, not seeing family or friends. After that difficult year, in 2021, she decided that “life’s too short.” She’d seen so many patients and colleagues die and seen COVID bring down the health system. She became more determined to do well in school, lose more weight, and take her life back. She was also determined to tackle the campaign of misinformation on social media and use her work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner to destigmatize mental health.
Last fall, Katherine did an internship at the Schuyler County Mental Health Clinic—and the importance of her work really hit home. At the facility, there are hundreds of high need patients, waiting lists, and only two nurse practitioners. In these communities, there are few providers, fewer therapists, and a lack of access. There is generational poverty that persists among families with lack of transportation, as well as chronic drug and alcohol abuse. Katherine saw this growing up in Canandaigua and she feels a real need to go back and serve these rural regions of New York State.
Katherine graduates from U of R in May, and she just bought a house in Canandaigua. Right now, she is working with a more urban and suburban population at Strong Ties with adolescents and young adults. She is working with one of her professors to find a job in the rural setting where she can focus on psychopharmacology.
Katherine works arduously to lead that authentic life that Bob Kane exhorted. Her work is important, but she needs to make sure there is a good work/life balance. “I still work on my classical Latin translations from time to time, and started working on Ars Amatoria (by Ovid) a while ago—my goal is to get back into that once school is over and I have started at a new job. In the meantime, I re-read Catullus’ short poems.” When Katherine is not working on her classical languages, her hobbies include modern board games (like Pandemic, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, Ponzi Scheme, and Viticulture), legacy board games (like Charterstone), hunting or sailing with her dad, and some video games. She says if anyone local wants to play board games with her, she’s always looking for new people to play with.