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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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“Be Authentic”

Dana

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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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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What’s on Your Shelf? A Reading Interview with Joelle Sanphy

Joelle's shelfie.

Joelle’s “Shelfie”

Please welcome Renaissance-woman, Substitute Teacher, and Library Assistant, Joelle Sanphy ’08 to the blog this week. (Interested in checking out a book Joelle mentions here? Linked titles will take you to the MDA Library Catalog record.) Continue reading

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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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A Conversation with Stephen Moyer

An interview with Stephen Moyer ’82 conducted by Chloe ’16. Check out some of Chloe’s other posts on the blog including: Pumpkin Spice Oreos, Filling Your Empty Canvases (Making a Dorm Room Feel Like a Home, Not a Box), and Speaking of Squirrels.

Hi Stephen!

Hi Chloe.

Whats your position here at George School?

I am a member of the Religion Department teaching Essentials of a Friends Community and Holistic Health. I have taught Spiritual Practices and Quakerism as well. I’m also the faculty sponsor to the Model United Nations club. I coach all of the running sports–boys and girls cross-country and boys and girls indoor and outdoor track so I’m coaching all three seasons and I’m the head of Drayton Dormitory with my beloved wife, Laurie. Continue reading

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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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