Category Archives: Life After George School

A Reflection on Life After Graduation

Sarah Kelly

by Sarah Kelly ’17 

On May 28 I graduated from George School. On August 17 I will be moving in to my dorm at Philadelphia University. This summer and the time I have had between these two dates has been probably the most exciting time of my life, as I gather up all my dorm supplies, meet new friends, find a roommate, figure out my schedule, go to orientation, and so much more.

But with this excitement, also comes anxiety. I grew up on this campus, from being at the George School Children’s Center, then Newtown Friends School, and then George School again. I have known some of my friends since I was 2 years old and a student in the Children’s Center. These 81 days between high school graduation and the start of my college career, have been and will continue to be strange. I am no longer a George School student, but I am still only barely part of the Philadelphia University community. This is the first time I will be in a community other than George School.

If I had to give advice to rising seniors of George School, or any high school for that matter, it is not to worry about this potentially awkward in-between time. Instead, use this time to focus and try to identify your own identity, not relating to what school or community you belong to. Although it may feel like you don’t belong to anywhere during this time, that is ok, because you learn a lot more about your own self during times like these. You will have plenty of time to shape your identity around a community in the next four, five, six, or more years in college. And if this task is too daunting, too scary, then don’t sweat it. Because once you are part of the George School community, you never really leave it. It is ok to be part of more than one community. Just do not let leaving this one, great, small, George School community make joining a new one difficult. Just because you graduate, does not mean you cannot talk to your old friends. Remember you are not alone, because everyone else is experiencing the same feelings you are. Trust me. I did too.

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Letting go of hierarchy: what I realized at my 20-year reunion

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This post originally appeared on www.DepthWorldwide.com

by Delilah De La Rosa ’97

A couple of weeks ago I attended my 20-year high school reunion. I went to George School, a Quaker boarding/day school (I was a boarder) in Newtown, PA. For those that are not familiar with Quakerism, no, it does not have to do with the Amish. It is a Christian-based religion that operates on the core belief that we all have the light of God inside us, ALL OF US. As G.S. explains on its website, “This straightforward, elegant idea basically means that everyone has the capacity to do good and the facility to be great. You just have to listen to that of God within you and recognize it in others.”

This core belief manifested in several ways while I was at G.S. (and still holds true today):

Everyone and I mean EVERYONE from students, faculty and staff addressed each other by their first name. This subverted the idea that teachers/staff/adults had authority over students.

Instead of being preached to or following orders/rules, our religious service was meeting for worship where we sat still in silence for quiet reflection, and if we felt moved, we addressed the people in the Meetinghouse with the inspiration coming through us.

Everyone, no matter what your economic status, had to do co-op, an on-campus service program where all students performed various tasks to help in the daily operations of the school; money saved through the program supported the school scholarship fund.

G.S. did not promote, in fact, rejected superstar culture academically, athletically and socially; cooperation/community instead of competition/hyper-individualism was stressed, thus, there was no valedictorian, sports hero or prom royalty. As a matter of fact, we didn’t have a prom. We had a senior-year dinner dance where all students had to ride a chartered bus to get to the dance hall in an effort to curb materialism and stratification among students.

While I came from a junior high school that instilled in me the importance of community, this high school experience challenged a core belief and overall consciousness I had deeply internalized: there is a hierarchical order to life. I held a (conscious and unconscious) belief that all living things were ranked in order of importance (i.e. the planet belongs to us humans, not we belong to the planet) and that some humans were better/worth more/mattered more than others. This originated from and was constantly affirmed by family, school, religion, culture and society.

Since this was true for me, I committed to the onerous, insatiable and futile task of being THE best (not MY best) so as to claim my position at the top of this hierarchy. I wanted to look the best, dance the best, be the coolest, be number one in my class. I remember that at the age of 9, I felt so humiliated for not receiving first honors after having so consecutively for a few years (beaten by the new girl in class) that I pleaded with my mother for me to not go back to school anymore.

So one can imagine how unfamiliar this idea of all of life matters PERIOD (no more, no less) was to me when I entered high school. You’d think it would offer a healthy reprieve from the consciousness I held that was causing me suffering. Instead, I resisted.

I wanted to continue being top of the class, but how could I be top of the class when there was no award ceremony or public announcement to honor those that performed the best academically? I was forced to focus on performing MY best without competition as the driving force; the driving force had to come from within. At the time, I couldn’t see how this would benefit my well-being and personal growth, and instead felt that the “fun” was taken out of the equation because I could no longer dominate.

I felt a bit shortchanged by not having a typical high school prom. After all, it would’ve been the perfect opportunity to showboat and see who could outdo who (with my striving to come out on top, of course).

I remember complaining to my advisor about the school’s lack of hierarchical culture (not in those words) and expressing my desire to go to an elite college institution that promoted exceptionalism, where I’d be among the best of the best. She responded with a reminder of G.S. values where “every soul is sacred and worthy of respect,” but in true Quaker fashion, didn’t force it down my throat.

Although I resisted, I was still immersed in this culture 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (most weeks) and it left its imprint. My driving force had to come from within, not from where I ranked among others. Inspiration became integral. I was able to connect with people from all walks of life in a meaningful way. I was able to connect with nature, which paved the way for what has become my love affair with trees. I was more emboldened in believing in goodness in all of life.

Experiencing life without the need for hierarchy was one of most liberating, creative, enriching, powerful and happiest times in my life. It was only when I held on to hierarchy that I suffered.

And yet, that’s what I did for many years after that, going to and getting caught up in the culture of an elite, top-ranking college and working in the entertainment industry where it’s unapologetically hierarchical and hierarchist. I became embroiled in the soul-sucking endeavor of being the best, being special, being on top (of others). I couldn’t resist the lure of hierarchy if it meant that I was winning.

In the last 10 years however, I started to develop an awareness of this being one of many ways to view and experience life, and that I was enmeshed in this particular consciousness. I started to see how this idea of there being a hierarchical order to life compromised my personal growth and well-being. I started to see how it caused suffering, being out of alignment with my true nature and the truth of we are one, and thus, real power that we all hold within. And more recently, I started to see the many factors–people, places and experiences–that fostered a sense in me of there being a consciousness that was more expansive, harmonious, loving and aligned with my truth, the truth.

When I went back to G.S. after nearly 20 years, I was deeply moved by the realization it was no accident I chose to immerse myself in a culture that challenged a limiting consciousness to which I was loyal. In my mind at the time of choosing to go to G.S., I was intrigued by the idea of going to boarding school, of independence, and having a college experience at the tender age of 14; I thought it was interesting and that it would look interesting, stand out as special. But I realized 20 years later that it was actually my soul’s way of having me experience a consciousness that was more aligned with my true nature and the truth.

I realized how much I resisted letting go of hierarchy, how I wasn’t ready to fully embrace this new consciousness at the time. The only way I knew to be powerful was to be exceptional, dominant, on top of the pyramid; I couldn’t comprehend there being another way to view and experience life. Since I longed for a sense of empowerment (like all of us) and held a distorted view of power, I felt the need to keep hierarchy in place, something I’d have to contend with along the path of embodying a new consciousness, the truth.

I also realized that while I can still hold on to hierarchy and vacillate between the old and new consciousness, I’ve been making my way back “home,” making a conscious commitment toward embodying this new vision of and approach to life that’s more aligned with the truth. This coming full circle struck me precisely as I stood in the Meetinghouse after 20 years. What I’ve come to know and embrace as my truth, the truth, and the several values and practices that keep me aligned with it, were rooted in this place. And I was destined to this place to make my way back home.

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Blast From The Past: Gleeson Zooms In

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(Photo by John Gleeson’ 65) One of the many fruits of Coach Gleeson’s new photographic passions: “Kevin Newbert drives by Zach Treadway”

by: Sumanth Maddirala ‘18

“George School was a wonderful place to work and raise my children. I left with many fond memories. I knew, however, that sooner or later I would get restless and need a new avenue of pursuit. I have found just that.” 

During the heart of spring 2009, among the blooming flowers and towering trees surrounding the George School fields, two men walked into the batting cage of the baseball field: an avid athlete and his dedicated coach. The young man stood at the plate, ready to swing at the ball with all the power he had. The coach stood at the other end of the cage and pitched a baseball to his student, who was eager to show his coach the fruits of his efforts. The batter swung at the baseball, which soared through the air and ricocheted off the sturdy walls of the batting cage. However, within moments the ball crashed into the side of the coach’s head, causing his body to collapse onto the hard-packed dirt below. That coach was a man who had dedicated his life to his students and athletes and went by the name of “Gleese.”

Before long, “Gleese” was saved by a passing student skilled in the art of CPR, who happened to be Tyler Campellone, the son of the head grounds man Vince Campellone. With Juana Moody’s assistance, the students were able to get “Gleese” to St. Mary’s hospital, where he discovered his heart was “a ticking time bomb” with five major arteries nearly sealed. Within hours “Gleese” went through bypass surgery and within months he came back to George School. While this may have been a chance for coach “Gleese” to end his career with “a bang,” he chose to keep going and continue his teaching for as long as he could.

Forty Seven years was the number of years that George School was blessed to have the loyal alumnus, athlete, coach, and literary scholar John Gleeson ’65, as a member of its faculty. Between being the head of the English department, serving as the head coach of Varsity Football for thirty years, raising his two children, and nearly dying from a baseball crashing into his head, Gleeson has captured many memories of George School for years to come. However, Gleeson’s eyes, which have watched over the George School community and peer into the heart of its community, have decided to switch focus and look through a different lens.

That summer, John Gleeson decided that it was time to relinquish his title as “the living legend” of George School and pursue other interests. When the leaves of the George School tree turned to red and yellow this fall, Gleeson himself decided to turn a new leaf and pick up the camera. As of now, Gleeson has returned to the sports field but instead of coaching, he is capturing the action and enthusiasm of the game with his camera as full time sports photographer for Suburban One Sports, a website that covers the ins and outs of Bucks County sporting events. In addition, Gleeson also continues to write a column for The Advance of Bucks County, which allows him to continue his passion for writing outside the classroom.

Gleeson had been longing to invest time in photography, a dream he had held for thirty years. Reflecting on his new life Gleeson says, “[I]t is nice not to have classes at eight in the morning and a seemingly endless string of evening meetings.” While Gleeson is not as stretched as he was at George School and is much more independent, Gleeson is still hard at work behind the camera, stating that he is “experimenting with [his] ritzy Nikon camera and discover[ing] its full potential.” Gleeson had been longing to invest time in photography, a dream he had held for thirty years. “With his additional leisure time Gleeson says he has been able to enjoy literature that he had been longing to read, saying, “I just finished the 800-page novel Redemption by Leon Uris, a great book capturing a good deal of Irish history but far too weighty and lengthy to fit into a high school course.”

In the end, having been a member of the George School community for fifty-one years, Gleeson still holds the school in his heart and soul. Gleeson and other retirees have often, “mix[ed] reminiscences about George School with the life [they] are living outside of George School,” reflecting on what has changed in their lives. Gleeson misses his students and their sense of companionship the most saying, “I rarely talk to my subjects but just try to capture them as they perform. George School is a complex place but there is a warmth and sincerity about all the people who make up the school that is hard to find elsewhere.”

With each passing year more of George School’s most dedicated faculty and staff will retire, leaving a hole to fill in the community. However, with each passing year the community is blessed with the presence of new faculty who will go on to succeed their predecessors and ensure that the community will continue to “mind the light” the way they always have. Most importantly, though, the teachers who have dedicated their lives to George School impart a final gift to the community upon their departure: a reason for their students to succeed and become good citizens of the world. Ultimately, though Gleeson himself no longer walks across the George School campus, his legacy lives on through the students he inspired and the athletes he encouraged.

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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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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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Following Through

by Autumn Atkinson ’13

Editor’s note: Autumn will enter her second year at Sarah Lawrence College this fall. She is a member of the George School Class of 2013, a former prefect, Terra leader, and IB Diploma recipient. 

In 2008 I was flipping through the Georgian my mom received as an alumna. I said “Mom, I’m going to George School.” She didn’t think I was serious, but at that moment I decided that I was going to go to George School. I scurried about filling out the forms and writing the essay. Before I was even accepted I knew there were several things I wanted to earn at George School:

  1. A spot on the tennis team
  2. A prefect position
  3. Admittance to a good college
  4. An IB diploma

As I became a George School student and learned how things worked my mind went crazy with ideas. I wanted to be one of the few seniors who were asked to stand up during the Recognition assembly over and over because they earned Honor Roll and Head of Schools list each term at GS. I wanted to be cast in plays, write really good essays, and learn French inside and out. Oh, I was also on my best behavior because I was terrified of getting in trouble.

Admittedly, I was a bit high strung as a freshman.  My teachers were not shy about commenting on my ‘enthusiasm’ in the first midterm reports. In response to the comments I received relating to my Global Interdependence class Mark Wiley, my advisor at the time, told me that if I wanted to do the IB I would have to do better in my history class. When he said this, I was so hurt because I didn’t know how to do better and I knew he was right.

At George School, I was continuously asked to do things that I didn’t know how to do both in and out of the classroom. I had no idea how to talk to my roommate about difficult things, and I didn’t know how anyone could sit quietly through meeting for worship. I was always really nervous about tests, exams, tennis matches, and being late to check-in.  At the end of my sophomore year, I was faced with the reality that I was growing up quickly and the hardest years of my life were quickly approaching. I was terrified.

To my surprise, my third year at George School was the best of them all. My classes were very challenging but rarely dull. I learned so much about time management, perseverance, friendship, and balance.  I worked hard to make the best of situations and to keep focused on what was important.  What I learned out of the classroom was just as important as learning about French Culture or sustainable sources of electricity since life is constantly throwing you obstacles. At first, I had no idea how to do most of my assignments.  Writing a page for my IB Art Journal was overwhelming and critical essay writing—well getting through the Scarlet Letter was a challenge in itself.  One of the biggest hurdles of junior year is the Culminating Paper. There was nothing to prepare me for the amount of mental clarity that was necessary to write a 4,000 word comparative essay on two great works of literature. However, I cannot express how grateful I am that George School requires a paper of this caliber. The experience made twenty-page papers in college seem easy.

Suddenly my class was leading the campus, applying to colleges, and getting antsy about moving on. I struggled a lot my senior year with the thought of leaving George School because of the uncertainty that lay ahead.  Let me be honest—I have no idea how I made it through that year. I stretched myself a little too thin between being an IB Diploma candidate, a West Main Prefect, and a leader of various clubs like Terra. I learned so much that year, but perhaps the most important thing is something Ralph Lelii told me after a TOK class. He said that no one’s voice or thoughts are more or less important than your own.

Before I knew it IB exams were finished, I had committed to Sarah Lawrence College, senior prom was the most fun I’ve ever had at a dance and I have never felt as settled as I did in Commencement Meeting for Worship. Suddenly I was in my white dress walking towards Nancy Starmer to get my Diploma.

I remember feeling elated and proud just twice in my life so far—once when I received my acceptance letter to George School and the other when I received my George School and International Baccalaureate diplomas.

 

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Holiday Greetings from George School

This year more than one hundred George School students, faculty, and staff joined together to share messages of gratitude with alumni and friends. We invite you to view the video by clicking the play button on the image above. Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season from our community to you!

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Finding My Community

grad-17Emily Alexander graduated from George School in May 2012. She is a sophomore at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. where she studies psychology. She has a passion for musical theater, which has continued into her time at college.

I started my freshman year at the George Washington University, more often referred to as GW, in August 2012. The GS high school experience is unique, and definitely aided me in my adjustment to the change in lifestyle. Specifically in terms of academics, I found that my high school education had prepared me well for the long papers and extensive exams that are common in a university’s curriculum. I was never too daunted by the length of my final term papers for classes because I had already written ten or twelve page papers for classes in high school. Though there were still periods of academic stress, I was never buried under work because George School had taught me how to prioritize and manage my time when it comes to completing homework and more extensive assignments that may overlap with each other.

It was not only the rigorous academics that prepared me for the collegiate lifestyle. At a school of roughly 10,000 students, it sometimes seemed difficult to find a community within the larger student body. George School’s community is so distinct and welcoming that I immediately longed for that feeling when I started college.  I participated in theater productions during my first year and found myself beginning to feel that sense of community, but I knew there was still something missing. It was not until the spring semester of my freshman year when I realized what that missing aspect was: service.

At George School, I learned that service is essential to fostering a community of growth, love, and peace. There was a high importance placed on service, whether it was participating in the MLK Day of Service, attending a service trip, completing co-op each week, or learning about local and worldwide service opportunities at assembly. It was impossible not to serve the George School community and beyond in some way during high school. I felt that I was not properly serving the world and my community in college my first year, so I decided to let George School’s emphasis on Quaker values lead me to a new opportunity and community at my school.

1461178_10153454152525587_149853138_nI chose to rush the co-ed community service fraternity on campus, Alpha Phi Omega, this past fall. Though the pledging experience was sometimes difficult, the opportunities I have received through joining APO have reconnected me with the service and sense of community I enjoyed so much during my time at George School. I have to complete 24 hours of service each semester, though I usually complete more than those hours because of all the opportunities in DC.  I spend a few hours each week volunteering at a local soup kitchen, a student-run organic garden, the Ronald McDonald House, and many of the other new service events that appear on APO’s service calendar.

APO gives me an outlet to nurture two of the tenets of Quakerism that I learned at George School: service and community. Whether I am grabbing dinner with my fellow brothers or planning new service events, I always know that I am embracing some of the core aspects of my high school experience that George School taught me.

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Emily poses with a member of her fraternity and a student from Washington, D.C. at a fair for Little Friends for Peace, an afterschool program that provides peace education for children in low income neighborhoods in D.C.

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