Author Archives: GeorgeSchoolVoices

Focused Studying

by Ryan Tufford ’20

At George School, most new students think that the amount of school work is overwhelming. Coming here last year, I had the same worry. I thought it would be hard to adjust from my middle school workload to a rigorous high school workload. To my surprise it was not that difficult to adjust. It took me a bit of time to balance my school work with things outside of school like sports and even enjoying a social life seemed like a challenge at first. I learned that there are ways here to become better at time management, some that are mandatory at George School, and some that I had to personally work towards.

As a boarder, I have a required study hall period from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Sunday nights. This may seem like a hassle for new students, but it is hard to put into words how beneficial those two hours a night can be. It is a time where I am required to focus on work, and I would not be as productive without study hall.

Some nights I am unable to complete all my work in the two hours, so I have to adjust my schedule and this may mean less socializing during or after dinner. Nonetheless, the ways I have changed to obtain a better schedule here have had a great positive influence on me. I know I definitely had to make changes to balance out school work and activities after school, but those changes were not that hard to make.

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#SayYesToGS — A Parent’s Perspective


Ava Navarro ’18 signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) to join Duke University’s fencing team. Her parents, grandparents, friends, and coaches joined in the celebration.

by Al Navarro
Parent of Ava Navarro (Class of 2018)

With the deadline for matriculation decisions approaching, I am guessing there may be some parents out there who may be new to the concept of boarding school and find themselves in the middle of considering whether or not to send their children to George School (or another private school) instead of their local public school.

I wanted to share a perspective of a parent who is fairly well-versed in the boarding school world. Our older daughter graduated from a boarding school, and our younger daughter (who is in the George School Class of 2018) attended another boarding school for her first two years of high school. Additionally, my wife was a boarding student at the private high school we both attended years ago. So I have researched, toured, and re-visited many of the “usual suspects” in the Mid-Atlantic and New England areas.

In the context of this experience, we have been VERY happy with George School’s approach to just about everything. I would probably single out their college counseling process as especially good in comparison to our experiences with the other schools. To me, it just struck the right balance in terms of timing and communication. George School has been a great place for our daughter to finish her high school experience.

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Culture Shock, Vietnam and Plastic Bottles: Lessons Learned (thus far) at GS

226-William Street

by Will Street ’18

When I was first driving through what I would later call Newtown, my first thought was, “Wow, this place is super white.” Now, I would ask that you excuse me for that, as I come from a city that is quite literally the blackest municipality in the country with an 82% African-American or Black population. I also ask that you remain conscious that I had always been around people who looked differently than me, but an entire city? Never that.

When I hit George School’s campus, though, I released a long, loud sigh of relief when I saw a group of people of color walking across campus, and a smile went across my face when I saw that the group was not monolithic. There was an Asian student, a black student, a white student, and a Hispanic student all laughing and enjoying each other’s company. What I did not know that day is that, that friend group would mirror mine in the coming years. I would make an Asian friend who lives in the bustling city of Seoul, I would make friends who look like me but their origins span from the Bronx to Somalia and I would make white friends from small, rural towns in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This is proof that George School is not just a melting pot, but it is a massive cauldron of cultures, races, and identities. All that said, there were still growing pains in me reaching this conclusion.

Walking into my room on August 31, 2014 would be the event that would change my perspective on culture and would challenge my patience and my desire to keep an open mind. I stopped in front of the door, and the name read “Truong Son Nguyen Viet” and I felt my face scrunch up and my parents prodded me to open the door. They were seemingly as nervous and unsure as I was. I opened the door and I saw a tall, lanky, large headed (Son, forgive me for that) figure standing and putting away his clothes. He turned around  and there was a brief pause. He broke the silence by saying, “Hi, my name is Son” and held out his hand for me to shake. Admittedly, he was harder to understand, but we’ll address that later.

The first couple of months were bad. We argued about the room being cleaned (I was the dirty one), my volume of showers a day and how loud my friends were when they came inside of the room. A couple of years later, he would later admit that he wanted to make a roommate switch, but luckily he didn’t. After our rough patch, we made a deal that if I taught him to speak English more proficiently, he would teach me Vietnamese curse words. As a freshman, this was a sweet quid pro quo. There were many nights where we would talk and whenever he mispronounced a word, I would kindly tell him the correct pronunciation. In return, he would spend 10 minutes helping me properly pronounce how to tell someone off in his language. We would have extensive conversations, albeit at times uncomfortable, about foreign policy namely the Vietnamese war and how the way we’re taught about it differs. These conversations changed how I viewed the world and encouraged me to be a more understanding, open minded global citizen and he admitted that I changed his perspective on race and how he viewed people of color. We remained roommates up until our senior year, and it was not by choice that we were separated. We were given prefect in different dorms.

Now, at this point you may be wondering what plastic bottles has to do with one of my important lessons. 9th grade, I had been elected to student council as a class representative, and my motives were not pure. In fact, I had this Machiavellian-esque plan to take over the council that ultimately failed, so I would go on to fight every battle that came before us as a council and was debateable. There was one moment that would teach me a lesson that would be important to my development as a GS man. One day, a proposal came before us to discuss the use of plastic water bottles. I thought to myself: “this is my chance!” I tirelessly researched plastic bottle usage and how it would hurt the American worker. I said my points before the meeting, and people looked at me confused and some were chuckling. Later that year, Tom Hoopes would give me the wisdom I needed all along and that was to pick your battles carefully. That made me realize that every hill is not worth dying on and there are more noble and pure causes to have discourse over. This skill is going to help me in my life as a public servant and global citizen and it will always remind me to make sure my motivations are pure and that something is a fight worth fighting.

There it is. I tied together Culture Shock, Vietnam and Plastic Bottles. I reckon Kim McGlyn is to be given credit for that!

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My Life in IB Theater

211-Andreas Makris

by Andreas Makris ’18

I have never been the most outgoing kid. So, the art of theater, in which actors must cast aside any self-consciousness and put their bodies and personalities in the hands of a separate character, might seem like a strange choice of hobby for an introvert such as myself. I would be lying if I said that disregarding other people’s perceptions of me is not a challenging task. However, as I am now half-way through my second year of Mo West’s IB Theater Arts Class, this is a challenge that I have learned to manage and grown to love.

One of my biggest fears when I started acting was abandoning my own identity. Luckily, Mo has helped me work towards overcoming that. She emphasizes Sanford Meisner’s acting techniques, in which the actor does not lose his/her individuality, but rather uses it as a guide to embody a particular role. This preservation of my element is a source of comfort for me. It offers me assurance as I venture into the spirit of another person. Once I can do that, I am free to explore the exciting world of acting.

The last time I was in an after-school production was sophomore year, when I did not yet have the knowledge I have today about theater. Now that I have more experience as an actor, I am looking forward to demonstrating what I have learned in The Laramie Project. Although acting is not an ability that came naturally to me right from the start, this art has become both fun and relieving for me, as it has helped me build confidence to express myself in my everyday life as well.

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Day 13, last day of work, Mississippi Clarksdale

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by Kaitlyn Lee ’19

Today is our last day here in Mississippi. Over these two weeks, we met lots of wonderful people, learnt the foundation of building houses, bonded with one another through this hardship, and we have survived. In my mind, I still feel like we were here just yesterday and time flies so fast. I still remember the time I was exhausted through priming the walls in Tutwiler, till this day where my right arm is still sore from hammering the top of the house in Clarksdale.

We worked only on the second house today, and witnessed how to make the concrete as the foundation of the shed. Since we didn’t have access to the water we were supposed to have, a concrete truck came by and poured in the concrete as opposed to making the concrete ourselves. We successfully made the concrete for the shed and also the pavement for the sidewalk outside the front door. I was surprised how Ben reused the excess concrete from making the shed and turned it to the sidewalk. This was my first time actually witnessing the making of a foundation, and I was intrigued by how you turn seemingly useless dirt and cracked concrete into a brand new one. It was a very insightful experience.

After all the work, we took our group picture with Ben (our supervisor) and headed back to the dorm. We cleaned up the dorm, ready for tomorrow’s departure.

Originally, I wasn’t excited to give up my spring break in order to do service in a place I have never been to and with people I have mostly never met before. But after this experience, I understood that doing service isn’t a burdensome thing after all. I learnt many new things from people that came from very different backgrounds from me, and I enjoyed this experience of learning their culture and (of course) their unique accents. I think I also grew an interest in country music (I never thought I would say this) and understood a lot more about the history and culture of the southern part of the United States.

At the end of this blog, I would like to thank everyone we encountered through this trip, especially Valerie, Brendan and Emma for taking the time to lead the trip. Thank you for being so considerate and working so hard to make sure we enjoy this trip as much as we worked.

Once again, thank you and it’s time for dinner.

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Mississippi

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by Max Malavsky ’18

After a long day yesterday we woke up, ate a breakfast that consisted of baked oatmeal, cereal, and oranges, then we piled into the vans ready for another day of work.

We roll up to the “worksite” (the house we’ve been working on) at around 9am, hop out of the vans and meet up with Ben at the front of the house. The door is already open and the group files into our places. At this house, we worked on making face boards and frames for doors. Beau, Ben, and I focused on taking down the lengths of the frames and figuring out the correct angle measurements that were needed to accurately make a frame. After Beau found the necessary length of one side of the frame, Ben would take it out to me at the saw. There, Ben and I would find the angle that would make the frame fit. Don’t get me wrong, this process was very tedious and time-consuming, but it got the job done and Ben insisted that this was not only the correct way, but the only way that we could accurately make measurements on the frames.

We worked in the morning from 9-12. Beau and I filled the house with music, while sparking conversations about today’s rap music with Ben and the other members of our group. It turns out that Ben happens to be a huge 2Pac and Snoop Dog fan. When asked what his favorite album of all time was, he immediately replied, “Dude, are you serious? The Chronic 2001, of course.” We carried this discussion throughout our morning work until we were interrupted by Wanda. Wanda works in Clarksdale and came into our house. She was impressed with our work and by the fact that we were giving up our spring break to work with Habitat for Humanity, and decided to by us Dominos for lunch! The group gathered outside and talked about the afternoon’s activities while we were waiting for Wanda to bring us our lunch. After a few minutes of small talk, Wanda arrived at the worksite and we took the pizza back to our Habitat house for lunch.

During lunch we made major progress on our new pastime: puzzles. Puzzles and 2018 Mississippi Service Trip go together like peanut butter and jelly. We have taken puzzling to an entirely new level and have put in WAY too many hours into completing the three puzzles we’ve already conquered on this trip. We are currently trying to tackle a 2,000 piece puzzle as of now and it is going quite smoothly.

After lunch we once again piled into the vans and headed to the second house that we have been working on this week. Here, Beau, Ben, Alyssa, Jacob and I headed to the back of the house to dig ditches in the scorching Mississippi afternoon sun. We listened to music and continued our conversation from earlier in the day about our individual tastes in music. It has been great getting to know Ben over these past couple of days, he is definitely a person that I plan on writing to after this trip. During the afternoon, we worked from 1:30-4. Once we finished, we drove back to our Habitat house for some puzzling before our potluck dinner.

Ben and Nat came to our house at 5:30 and cooked until 6:45. During this time, the members of the group played with the neighborhood kids. I developed a close connection with a young boy whose name I think is “Darius” but he cannot speak very well so honestly I’m not quite sure what his name is, so I told everyone to call him D. He is a very aggressive child who loves to pull hair and threaten other kids. However, we bonded very quickly. He always asks me to carry him, he sits me down to talk to him, and gives me the occasional kiss on the cheek.

It was time for dinner, we said goodbye to the kids and sat down for a delicious meal. Once the meal was finished, our guests left and the members of the group returned to our new favorite hobby. Yes, you guessed it, puzzling.

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Mississippi

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by Susie Mott ’18

I emerged from the girls’ dorm at 8:00 this morning to a finished 1,000-piece puzzle. I admire the determination it took to do this in one night.

Today, Ben had us installing hurricane clips and assembling the wooden foundation for a shed on South Edwards Ave. The hurricane clip crew worked along the perimeter inside, thoroughly nailing metal to beams and walls such that the roof ought to remain on this house in high winds. The rest of us filed outside, where we moved a pile of wood scrap across the yard – uncovering a newt, and a whole bunch of roly-polies! When starting the shed, Ben made sure each of us got a turn with the hammer, offering mini motivational speeches to anyone who became unsure or frustrated with the task, ensuring that we finished each nail off well.

Two other men showed up to help at this site; Bill and Mark, wielding a power saw. Mark addressed us collectively as “teens.” “Hey, teens!” “Teens! Come help with this!” I spent much of the morning standing by the scaffolding as a safety measure (“If we fall, that’s our mistake. If you don’t catch us, that’s your mistake, and there will be lawsuits! Lawyers everywhere!”), and found out that they’re history teachers. They offered to let me have a go with the saw, but asked Valerie first, and she vetoed this on account of my safety.

We had the afternoon off work, so by popular demand Valerie and Emma drove us to have a look at Ole Miss. I conked out in the van, as did most of my peers, but I was aware enough to notice the shift out the window from cotton fields, patched-up houses, metal fences, mallards swimming around the trunks of trees in opaque flood water, to neatly manicured lawns and huge houses enclosed by walls. I noticed benches in town designed such that homeless people won’t sleep on them.

Ole Miss is big. Just, so huge. We left Valerie and Emma at a Starbucks and trotted off to explore Oxford, Mississippi. This involved Insomnia Cookies, a book store, a bright red British telephone booth, and the most interesting-looking shop on the square: End of All Music, a record shop accessible by a staircase in an alley. We also noted a couple of Confederate memorial statues. We piled back into the vans as bells rang “For the Beauty of the Earth” across the university.

We visited Ground Zero Blues Club for dinner and music. Morgan Freeman was there. He high-fived me and shook my hand. I swear this actually happened and I’m not just redoing Terry Culleton’s surrealism assignment.

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El Catorceavo Día

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by Mallory Fritsch’19 and Bea Feichtenbiner’19

After breakfast at Rafaela’s, we went to the younger kids school. Since it was the last day of classes, all the kids were dressed in their summer clothes, so there were kids in bathing suits and shorts as opposed to their traditional uniforms.

In the “Nivel” classes, there was a celebration on the patio.  Before the celebration began, there was music playing and all the little ones were dancing.  Many of them stood on tables and chairs while teachers and parents recorded the cute little ones dancing.  All of the little kids gathered at tables to wait for the delicious bowls of watermelon, banana, and mandarin oranges.  After the summer snack, there was a large dance party where all the kids gathered on the now open patio. They all danced around and with the helping GS students and the teachers.  Towards the end, the first grade peaked their heads out to watch all the GS students dance to American music, but also learn some traditional Nicaraguan dance.

In the “Grado” classes, all the students got bowls of fruit, complete with mangoes, mandarins, jocotes, watermelon, apples, and bananas. As the finished their fruit, students ran into the hallway and began dancing to the music. At one point, Sidney and I started a conga line that was so long that the beginning was practically touching the end. Students got picked up at 10:00, which is 2 hours before the usually do, so we used the extra time to paint baskets for the dance teacher, Roberto. Then we, of course, had dance class and we all perfected our dance to perform the young students tomorrow.

After a brief break for lunch, we returned to Nicaraguita to spend the last day with the older students.  We all conversed and danced around while waiting for the the goodbye ceremony. The ceremony, similar to the Welcoming Ceremony, was complete with dancing, poetry, and English speaking from the older students.  Us George School students also had to perform the dance we have been working on in dance class. This took us by surprise since we didn’t feel that we were ready. We all struggled lining up in the pairings for our dance, and when we began the dance, the song wasn’t the right version!  We all made the best of the situation, trying our best to still dance to the music playing. Luckily for us, the students laughed with us at the misfortunate performance.

The eleventh grade students then walked us back to Rafaela’s, where we ate dinner and got ready for our last party with them. After a dinner of tacos with barbecued meat, we sat outside as a group, just hanging out and listening to music since it was one of our last nights together. At 7:00, the eleventh grade came to pick us up and walk us to one of their houses for the party, where we all danced and hung out. Since it was Alyssa’s birthday, we had a cake both at Rafaela’s and at the party. When it was time to leave, we all got a little emotional, especially, Hadley, because we didn’t know if we were going to see all of our Nica friends tomorrow. We’re still not sure, but we don’t think so. We’re all sad about leaving, but ready to go home.

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El treceavo dia

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by Zachary Wander ’18

Today was another work day. We were going to a Habitat for Humanity site (Hábitat para la humanidad), called Los gutierrez, located in San rafael del sur.

We had to be at Rafaela’s house at 6:30 to be able to eat, leave and arrive on time, so we were all pretty tired. At 7:30, we all boarded the bus, and took a 1:40 drive to where we were going to be working. There, we learned exactly what we were going to be doing for the rest of the day: we were going to be digging. Specifically, we needed to dig out a hillside, in order to prevent the nearby house from flooding when it rains. The dirt we were to dig out was going to be used to redirect the water to the side of the house, while the extra space between the hill and house acted as extra protection.

Before we started, though, we had to put on a lot of safety gear. Because we were using pickaxes to loosen the dirt and clay, we all needed to wear hard hats to prevent injuries in case of a stray swing. It was also recommended that we wear back braces (which we all did), so that the constant motion of swinging an axe or moving a shovel wouldn’t cause any damage.

Once we started (around 9:30), it was already very hot, and there were no clouds in the sky at all, so it just kept getting hotter. But we all persevered and worked through the heat, pickaxing out dirt, chiseling the sides of the cutouts we made, and moving the loose dirt farther up the hill. We were told that the best way to dig out the area was to divide it up into sections, making 2-3-foot wide troughs to dig out and level (2 had already been started when we arrived). It was surprisingly slow work. Even after 2 hours, we hadn’t even finished 1 trough.

At 12:00, we took a break for lunch, starting again at 1:00. The plan was to leave at around 2:00, so it was pretty obvious we weren’t going to dig out the whole area. However, in that hour, we did manage to finish the 3 troughs, all of us tired and covered in dirt.

We got back to Rafaela’s at around 4:00, where a lot of people decided to make a trip back to their homes to take a quick shower. After that, we ate dinner, and then waited to go to another party at Kevin’s house. I wasn’t planning on going, so I left at 6:30, but the rest waited until 7:00 to leave.

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Mississippi Day 10

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by Jacob Hoopes ’19

A very early morning has become 8:00. I don’t know if anyone was awake then. I got up around 8:30. We had a small breakfast of leftovers from previous meals. The French toast from yesterday’s breakfast was brought out again, although a common first meal was cereal, either off-brand honey-nut-cheerios or Lucky Charms, both in bags. We aimed to be out by 8:50 in order to be at the house that we would be working on by 9:00. We left at 8:55 and arrived at 9:05, a little late, but totally acceptable. The group split up to do different jobs around the house. Tiles were to be put down on the floor where glue had been applied (yesterday), painting needed to happen in the room that would become the bathroom, and cabinets asked to finish being painted and reinstalled. I worked with the cabinets. Reaffixing the hinges to the recently painted doors went fairly smoothly, although the first four I installed were put in backwards, so I had to redo them.  People did their things, and soon it was time for lunch.

We piled in the vans and headed to the dorms, leaving many projects unfinished. Lunch was unexpectedly tasty! Valerie made quesadillas for us from some of the remaining tortillas and a variety of cheeses. While Valerie worked her way through those, a handful of us continued to work on the two 1000 piece puzzles that we brought out; one was found on the shelf and was both partially completed and missing pieces and the second had been bought yesterday at Walmart. Some of the neighborhood kids came by and wanted to play on the lawn. We are not supposed to let them in, keeping to someone’s rules. Anyway, some folks went out to play, I was not among them; I was enjoying working on the puzzles. The people who played with the kids came back in, wishing them well and parting fast, although with difficulty. The kids have proven to be very clingy, supposedly they do not get many opportunities to play, so when people like us come in and are willing and generally excited to play with them, they seize the chance and don’t let go. We finished both of the puzzles during this lunchtime. After lunch, we went back to work.

We showed up at the house, but Ben, the supervisor, told us that he needed to pick up some material and that he had to leave but that he’d be back soon. We waited in the car so as to stay warm; some people ended up sleeping during what turned out to be a period of relaxing that lasted about half an hour. Eventually, he came back. The first thing that he had us do was carry the wooden trim, which he had just brought, into the house that we had been working on. We laid it down, and he directed us to get back into our vans and follow him to the second house. It was much closer in layout to the houses that we had worked on last week, except it had an additional bathroom, by the master bedroom. It was also much less far along in the construction process, consisting of only a wooden skeleton. We brought some wood in that was laid outside, some long 2 x 4s and a great deal of plywood boards. We took a picture inside, perhaps it’ll end up on the IG soon. We went back to the first house and resumed work.

My job continued to consist of working on reattaching the cabinet doors, which at the corners, where two hinges competed to occupy the same space, was especially difficult. A group got the opportunity to use a nail gun to install some of the trim, after it was painted. That seemed fun, and just the right amount of dangerous. We finished screwing in the last pieces as our work day ended. People had washed the paint brushes and done all the usual cleanup. We went back to the dorm.

After dropping the people riding in her van at the dorm, Emma went off to Walmart and bought some things. By a partial popular consensus, Emma bought one 1000 piece puzzle and one 2000 piece puzzle. When she got back, work on the 1000 piece began. We relaxed during the first stages of puzzle-building. Some slept. Dinner consisting of delicious, GS-people-made macaroni and cheese with the added bonus of green beans was served. The neighborhood kids came over again and caused an uproar, hitting the dorm with sticks and piling up against the door; it was noted by more than one person that it seemed like the apocalypse. Some people went out and played with them, but the puzzle still seemed to be the main focus. The kids were let go and we played a game I know as Spanking Yoda, although it goes by many names. After that we returned to puzzling. We have worked on it for upwards of four consecutive hours today, for some, the only breaks were dinner and Spanking Yoda. It seems possible that we will finish it tonight, in the after-hours.

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