Category Archives: Alumni

“Be Authentic”

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Dana Falsetti ’11 during assembly.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

Lots of college students have no clue what they want to do with their life. They wander aimlessly from class to class, stressed but not overly worried for their future. They commit to multiple majors before choosing a career. Dana Falsetti ’11, a plus-sized yoga teacher and Instagram blogger, was one of these students.

During her college years, Dana thought she wanted to be a lawyer. Little did she know, her calling was something else entirely. Now, instead of practicing law, she travels the world teaching inclusive yoga. Recently, she has been to Arkansas, Denver, Seattle, and Thailand. She is only twenty-three, yet she seems to have a world of knowledge.

“Growing up,” Dana said during a recent George School assembly presentation, “my life was defined by the numbers on the scale.” Dana struggled with her weight all throughout childhood. In her sophomore year of college, she lost over a hundred pounds. She expected to feel happier, prouder, and better. However, this was when she hit her lowest of lows. The expectation she had was shattered. She felt the same as before she lost the weight, just lighter.

It was the summer after her sophomore year when she started yoga, on a spur of the moment decision. A studio near her house was offering classes for the summer for a relatively low price and she just went to check it out. She expected it to be easy, but her expectations were again shattered. Not only did she struggle immensely in the class, but she blamed it on her weight. She hated the class, but she went back again anyway because she “had something to prove to myself.”

After taking yoga classes all summer, Dana started an Instagram account that now has over 280,000 followers.

Instagram now calls Dana a public figure, while Buzzfeed wrote an article called “19 Badass Instagrammers Who Prove Yoga Bodies Come in All Shapes And Sizes” that featured her. She has been on the cover of Om Yoga Magazine, she was nominated for a 2017 Shorty Awards for Excellence in Social Media (Health & Wellness), and she has a combined social media following of over half a million.

Her Instagram documents her life as a yoga teacher, body activist, and empowered woman with captions that read like journal entries. Each one promotes body positivity, confidence, and strength.

Social media has been a favorite of trolls and haters since its creation, but Dana does not worry about this. She ignores the comments against her by simply not caring about those opinions. She is happy with who she is and her goal is to help others be as happy as her.

So her best advice? “Be authentic.”

 

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Filed under A Day in the Life, Alumni, Student Work, Students, The Curious George

The Things I Learned in the Silence

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by Shanti Lerner ’15

This post originally appeared here and was shared with permission.

The things I learned in the silence.

The attack on OSU last Monday definitely reiterated the idea that silence is important. During the event of the attack, I was sitting in a dance room that was under lockdown at the North Recreation Center with 50 other students. No one in the room was speaking to each other but I knew we were all experiencing the same emotions. Everyone was quiet, curious, and afraid. When the shelter was lifted I felt a sudden wave of emotions hit me. I realized that although I was not directly affected, I was definitely affected emotionally. I’ve seen stuff like this happen all the time on TV, but I never imagined I would be part of something like it in real life.  Days after the event, I was expecting many of the people I knew to be talking about it, however, I have yet to hear anything. I still wonder why it seems like the issue has been swept under the rug. Perhaps people are in shock, maybe they don’t have time to think about it, or they simply just want to move on from it. But I know that just because no one is discussing it doesn’t mean people aren’t thinking about it, which reminds me of the first place I learned about the value of silence.

Not so long ago, I was at a place called George School. For three years of my high school career, I attended a Quaker boarding school in Newtown, Pennsylvania. No, Quaker is not the same as Amish. The Quakers or the “Society of Friends” are historically members of the Christian religious sect but have more liberal understandings of Christianity. The Society of Friends is united in the belief that there is that of God in every person. Quakers don’t attend church, don’t read bibles, they avoid creeds, and hierarchical structures. However, they do attend meeting for worship.

Meeting for worship entails people coming together in a meeting house or any space and sitting in silence from 40 minutes to an hour. Usually, meeting for worship is set up in such a way that all people are facing the center of the room. During meeting for worship, if a person feels moved by the silence then one can share their feelings or thoughts to the people in the meeting house. I had to attend meeting for worship twice a week for three years. I wasn’t allowed to look at my phone, speak to the person next to me, or even fall asleep. It was just me and my thoughts. It’s almost like meditating except if someone in the room speaks and I resonate, there’s chance I can speak and share.

In my three years at George School I probably only spoke in meeting a countable number of times and every time I did it felt scary.  It was frightening to stand up and share my feelings, my thoughts, and my opinion on issues. But when my heart was beating fast and I was getting nervous I knew that’s when I had to speak. I had to break my silence and have the courage to set whatever it was that was in my head FREE. Once I did, it always felt amazing. I never felt judged because I knew for a fact that everyone was experiencing the same thing as me, people had feelings, problems, they were thinking, imagining, but were also frightened by the idea of standing up to speak in a vulnerable state.

I will admit that there were days where I dreaded going and it wasn’t until after high school that I realized the value of that silence. In my busy school schedule now, how I wish I had that chance to be able to go to meeting for worship and just relax and think to myself without any distractions. 40 minutes of silence may seem hard in this day and age but I think being able to just take a step back from whatever is going on in our lives is an important practice to maintain. It’s good for calming yourself, thinking, breathing, and forming an opinion. With all the technology and the constant interaction with people, we tend to forget to be holistically present with ourselves and our environment. While I was patiently waiting for the shelter to be lifted I felt like I was in meeting for worship again. The silence took me a step back from what was going on and it allowed me to realize that I was affected by this attack too and everyone I was with at the time.

Often times, people tend not to voice out their opinions on serious events to avoid conflict. Although I’ve been feeling bothered by the fact that a lot of people aren’t voicing out the magnitude of what happened or simply how they are feeling, I know all of this is happening in the silence. Which I realized is not a bad thing. Just like how it felt to speak in meeting for worship, its hard to voice out about an event like the attack that had just happened. But at the same time, its OKAY to just be silent and think about it and how its affecting you, your friends, and the greater community. Sometimes we need silence to be able to realize some things. But, if by chance your heart starts pounding fast, you get a little nervous, and you get the courage to speak out loud, go ahead. Breaking the silence might give you a feeling of relief.

Shanti invites readers to connect with her via email.

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Religion or Religions Department?

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by Tom Hoopes ’83 Head of Religions Department, Assistant Dean, Coach

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked this famous rhetorical question, and school children for generations have used it as a foil for considering the power and meaning of words and names.

It is a question that we in the Religions Department recently considered in a searching, deliberate process. You may have noticed in the previous sentence that I said “religions,” with an “s” rather than “religion.” If so, good catch. You might be wondering, “what’s the difference?” I am so glad you asked! Allow me to tell a story…

Some years ago I found myself in a hospital bed, having experienced a grave illness which was not diagnosed at first. (They not-so-jokingly called me “the House patient,” referring to Dr. House on TV, who takes the presumably unsolvable cases.) I felt deep, abiding gratitude for the care I was receiving from myriad professionals, including many doctors and nurses as well as the people who took my temperature and blood pressure and changed my IV tubes, the people who brought me food and those who changed my bedding. I was there for two weeks, so people came and went with regularity.

People were consistently friendly to me, and engaged me in light conversation. I decided this was the perfect opportunity for an experiment! Usually the question would come up, “what do you do?” I noticed a pattern emerging. If I said, “I teach religion,” they would politely acknowledge my response, and then gently change the subject or fairly quickly find a way to end the conversation and get on with their work and out the door. By contrast, if I answered with, “I teach world religions,” the response, almost uniformly, sought deeper engagement. People would say, “oh, that sounds interesting, tell me more” or “World Religions was my favorite subject in college” or, “which religions?” The variety of their responses was as diverse as the people.

Given that this was a large, urban hospital, I encountered a full gamut of skin tones and people visibly presenting as members of at least four different religious denominations known to me (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu), and numerous more discovered upon further conversation.

“What is going on here?” I thought to myself. Recognizing my vulnerability to confirmation bias and selection bias, I did my best to control these in the few days I had remaining in the hospital. Upon my discharge, I have continued this experiment in multiple venues for the last several years, with complete strangers at baseball games, weddings, shopping malls, parties, and anywhere else I may go. My results in the hospital have been replicated with extraordinary fidelity.

What I have determined is that the statement, “I teach religion” was consistently getting interpreted as a statement of my efforts to promote one doctrine or dogma at the exclusion of others, and many people find it to be a conversation stopper.

So do I. And so does George School. Our work in the Religions Department is to create a safe, stimulating and open context for students from all backgrounds to try and make sense of the dizzying array of knowledge claims they encounter on a regular basis in their lives. Learning about some of the major religious traditions of the world—including their symbols, practices, rituals and representations of the divine—is a wonderful portal into the discipline of becoming a world citizen. Alongside the rest of a George School education, courses in the Religions Department help our students to learn about their world and themselves, thereby equipping them to let their lives speak in ways that engage other people.

We do not “teach religion”—we do not teach what to believe, nor the right (or wrong) way to think. Rather, we teach the beliefs and practices of many religions, and we invite critical inquiry, so that students learn to appreciate and value the wisdom traditions that have come down to us through the ages, while reconciling them with their own experiences and family traditions. I have yet to have a student in class that did not learn a substantial amount about their own family’s spiritual and religious traditions; and in most cases the experience has deepened their appreciation for those traditions. Indeed, I would claim that most of the students at George School who identify as religiously faithful see me and the other members of the Religions Department as strong allies for their journey. May that continue to be so.

When we gathered to consider possible alternate names for our department, we considered a variety of options which are visible at other high schools that include, Religious Studies; Religious Thought; Contemplative Studies; Religious Life; Quaker Studies; and various combinations of each of these. While each of these has compelling justifications, as a team we were able to reach unity in support of “Religions,” because it had the greatest virtue of accuracy and inclusiveness for almost all of our courses. This includes Theory of Knowledge, which can be taught as a cut-and-dry philosophy course, but at its best it is fundamentally aligned with the Quaker mission of George School, to seek truth and to invite students to let their lives speak. While that may not be “religion,” per se, it is certainly congruent with the overall mission of the Religions Department.

Going forward, the Religions Department looks forward to the Quaker discipline of continuing revelation. In the last several years, we have begun to offer the following courses: Religions of the African Diaspora, Feminist Theology, and Spirituality and Sustainability. I am considering augmenting my current Peace Studies class to create one more explicitly focused on spirit-led non-violent direct action. A fundamental precept of Quakerism is the importance of staying open to new Light, and keeping the dialogue going. If you have ideas for courses that you think might be offered through the Religions Department, or other thoughts about this blog post, I look forward to hearing from you.

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George School Alumna Shares Touching Thanksgiving Story

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by Alyson Cittadino, with permission and assistance from A.V. Crofts

Anita Verna Crofts ’88 writes about her love of travel and food in her new book Meet Me at the Bamboo Table. Anita is a bicoastal educator as well as writer on faculty in the Department of Communications at the University of Washington and Associate Director for the Communication Leadership graduate program. She also curates the blog Pepper for the Beast which covers everything from breakfast in war zones to best practices for pie transportation.

Meet Me at the Bamboo Table includes a touching story about Anita’s 2001 trip to Berlin where she celebrated Thanksgiving. Anita was kind enough to let us share this excerpt with our readers. As families across America gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, we hope you’ll read and enjoy this heartwarming piece.

Wishing the George School community health, love, and peace this holiday season.

Learn more about or purchase Anita’s book here.

Connect with Anita on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/avcrofts

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/avcrofts

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/avcrofts

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Five Reasons to Attend a TEDx Talk

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by Alyson Cittadino

Are you considering attending TEDxGeorgeSchool but aren’t really sure if it’s for you or not? This might help. Happening on December 3, TEDxGeorgeSchool features thirteen passionate and remarkable speakers that are doing innovative work in the fields of design, science, and engineering. Speakers include a Nobel Laureate recipient, the co-chair of Physicians Against the Trafficking of Humans, and co-founder of BalletX. In addition to the great lineup of presenters, TEDxGeorgeSchool will feature informative breakout sessions and opportunities to interact with George School students.

But, if we still haven’t convinced you, here are five reasons to attend a TEDx Talk.

It will expand your knowledge base. TEDx Talks have a theme, but the individual subjects are usually relatively different, making it a well-rounded event. For example, TEDxGeorgeSchool is focused on innovation, but subjects range from opera to bean breeding to engineering toys that inspire learning.

Attendance at TEDx builds community. Network with likeminded individuals, industry professionals, or leaders just like you and grow your professional (or personal) network. Plus, adding the experience of a TEDx Talk to a resume, shows future employers a desire to learn and a real interest in the industry.

The breakout sessions. In between each speaker session, TEDx requires breakout or “brain break” sessions. These sessions can include anything from learning tai chi or singing to dancing lessons and chocolate tastings. Audience members will not be disappointed with the wide selection of choices designed to get the juices flowing just in time for the next fascinating speaker.

You will meet really interesting people. TEDx Talks encourage a diverse audience to mingle with the presenters. TED requires an application-based registration process to guarantee that a good mix of professionals, students, and community members are in the audience. The unique format of the talks also allows ample time for attendees to interact with speakers and each other.

Experience face-to-face communication in a digital world. TEDx Talks allow presenters the opportunity to speak directly to a live audience; not through a camera or chatbot. Interact with these speakers in person, in real time, face-to-face, and learn about the innovative work they are doing.

Learn more about TedXGeorgeSchool here.

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A Note on the Need for Civil Discourse

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By Head of School Sam Houser

Anyone paying attention to this election season, regardless of party affiliation or ideological orientation, would probably agree that the quality of much of our political discourse is not what a healthy democracy deserves. Across the political spectrum, we have heard presidential and other candidates—and their supporters—make claims and statements that are sometimes shocking, disrespectful and insulting to individuals and groups of people. Often, such claims and statements shed little light on issues confronting the country and the world and therefore are of limited value to the electorate.

I write to remind everyone at George School that as an educational community, we are obliged to model in our own behavior and cultivate in others the ability to engage in honest and well informed but also civil and respectful discourse about a range of topics, political and non-political. We do this in order to increase our understanding of one another, of humanity generally, and of the wider world. As a Quaker school, we are devoted to seeking the Light of God together and discerning and honoring the inner Light in each of us—all in the manner of Friends who prize respect for the individual, intellectual and personal rigor, integrity, and the health of our community.

We need to remember that our community is comprised of people and families holding a variety of political perspectives, who support various candidates for office and policy proposals for many different reasons. In light of this, we should be careful to treat each other with respect and avoid the temptations of snap judgments, name calling, and dismissiveness. If we choose to discuss politics (as with anything else), let’s talk honestly, thoughtfully, and responsibly about our interests and commitments, and the worries and hopes we have for the world. We may not agree on what we discuss, and we might not persuade others to our own point of view. But I firmly believe that substantial, respectful, and civil conversations strengthen our community as they advance our understanding of one another’s life experiences, concerns, and animating passions. At their best, they mobilize us to improve the world without being held back by our differences.

Thank you for keeping George School safe, strong, meaningful, and good.

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Reflecting on Lessons Learned Through Service

by Jake Malavsky ’15

This summer I have been following the service trip blogs posted by current George School students. Reading their reflections caused me to think about my own service trip experience and how it has shaped my life after George School.

Every George School student spends a minimum of 65 hours participating in service learning. Some work locally while others travel around the world to locations ranging from Washington DC to Vietnam. In the spring of 2015, I joined a group of George School faculty and students on a trip to Mississippi to work with Habitat for Humanity. This trip would prove to be one of the highlights of my senior year.

Mississippi is the poorest state in the country and we traveled to the Mississippi Delta, one of the most impoverished areas of the state. Our trip lasted two weeks and we split the time working at two local Habitat for Humanity sites.

Having grown up near George School for most of my life, Mississippi was unlike anything I had ever experienced. This was evident when a few of us walked into a gas station convenience store to find jars of “koolicles” for sale. The bright red color of these pickles soaked in Kool Aid was an immediate sign of the difference in cultures. Instead of shutting down in the face of these differences we were encouraged to open ourselves up to them.

For me one of the most rewarding aspects of the trip was our interaction with the communities that we were serving. Years of volunteering in this area had created a neighborhood of Habitat for Humanity housing. Every day after we finished working the children of Clarksdale would show up in front of our house wanting to play games. The youngest ones would try and tackle us to the ground as we joined in on their after school traditions. I felt that, even more than the assigned physical work, our real service happened during those afternoons of tag and hide-and-seek.

When I think back on what I learned, I can boil it down to one main idea—I learned to be open. Since leaving Mississippi and graduating from George School I have carried this idea with me. With all the fear caused by recent events, it seems to me that being open to different cultures, ideas, and traditions is a lesson worth learning.

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Why Americans Should Care About Improving Education in Africa

by Liz Grossman ’05

Liz is a former teacher who is passionate about the global development of education, specializing in West Africa. She is particularly interested in the use of internet technology to improve access to and quality of education in the developing world and she has completed independent research studies on the topic in both Cameroon and Senegal. Currently, she is the External Relations Manager at Tostan Training Center in Senegal. She has a B.A. from Northwestern University in Communications Studies and International Studies, and an M. Ed from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in International Education Policy.

In my Quaker high school, George School, we were taught all of our subjects within the framework of believing the world and society can be different.  George School seeks to develop citizen scholars committed to openness in the pursuit of truth, to service and peace, and to the faithful stewardship of the earth.

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Where there’s a Potluck, there’s Community

by Karen Hallowell, director of alumni relations

Nothing says “community” like roasted chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, zucchini bread, and a birthday cake.

Organized by trip leaders Rosey Rosetty-Wagner ’08 and Kwame Hall, the students of the George School service learning trip in Washington, DC hosted a George School alumni community potluck supper on Sunday evening. And, in keeping with potluck tradition, it was truly a community effort!

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What IB Ceramics at George School Taught Me

by Autumn Atkinson ’13

When I officially became an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma candidate three years ago, so many doors opened for me. The IB program was rigorous and sometimes made you want to quit, but after all of the examinations were over and the diploma was in your hands all of the hard work and dedication suddenly became worth it. For me, I have no doubt that all of the energy the IB diploma required has definitely paid off, thanks to my hard work I have enough credits to graduate college in three years and to earn my masters degree in the fourth year.

Though there appears to be a lot of emphasis on the exam results, I learned that the program isn’t about the scores you get; it’s about what you learn. In each of my classes I was presented with challenging material that was engaging and current—we were never given busy work.

My favorite class was IB HL Ceramics with Amedeo Salamoni. For two years I spent every free moment in the ceramics studio improving my technique to make my pieces finer in order to create my IB portfolio. Since I was in the diploma program I was able to explore ceramics freely and make what my hands desired. When the class was making boxes, I was on the porcelain wheel making tiny bowls or adding decals to bisque fired pieces. I spent so many hours in the studio producing delicate work that Amedeo submitted two of my pieces to the 16th annual National K12 Ceramic Exhibition, and both of them were accepted. For my work, I was awarded the Lucy Roy Memorial Scholarship.

Making a cohesive collection of pottery and keeping a research journal were two of the major IB requirements. In the journal I was supposed record my investigation of ceramic artists, history, culture, and how these things related to my own work. This was my least favorite part of the course, but looking back, it would have been lacking without it. Researching your art and finding out what other artists are doing is essential, otherwise your art will exist in isolation and the process won’t be informed. After I sent in my journal for examination, I realized my research had made me a better artist.

The best part of the two year course was the collaboration with Amedeo. Every day I asked questions and he never became impatient. He was always so full of ideas and willing to help when something wasn’t going right. He was always excited about my projects and offered constructive criticism. With Amedeo as my teacher, I felt that I was making real art.

Before graduation all IB Art students put their work on display. When my pieces were behind the glass shelf in the Mollie Dodd Anderson Library I felt so proud of all the work I had done and the way my show had come together. Everything I learned about ceramics during the course—from centering and cleaning the wheel to trimming and glazing techniques—was evident in my show. Each piece embodied three years of dedication to art.

When the IB scores finally came out I was disappointed not to receive my predicted scores, but a year later the numbers don’t matter to me. I learned so much about ceramics—not just how to make a bowl but how to create, critique, and refine. These are skills that go beyond the studio that I will take with me forever.

I’m not studying art in college, but that doesn’t mean I don’t apply the skills I learned through IB ceramics to all my courses. Aside from the technical and aesthetic elements of ceramics, I found that when you put all of your focus and energy into one thing the result is sure to be rewarding. My IB Ceramics experience instilled the idea that hard work and dedication are extremely important to any area of study and that being able to accept failure and learn from your mistakes is essential to success.

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