Tag Archives: athletics

Building Family at the Equestrian Center

 

by Kailee Shollenberger ’18

We often neglect to take a moment to connect with the world that encompasses us in its beauty every day. I find we are losing the awe we once felt watching birds soar through the sky, seeing flowers bloom in bright colors in the spring, and listening to the pitter patter of rain on our bedroom windows when we were children. As a young girl, I always found myself able to connect with horses, something many do not have the opportunity to experience. During my search for a high school, I looked high and low for something, anything, about a school that would enable me to strengthen my understanding of myself, as well as about the beauty and secrets hidden in nature. Upon arriving at George School, I was immediately captivated by the beautiful horses and extensive Equestrian Program. I finally knew where I belonged and was determined to be a part of the family housed at the barn.

Now almost halfway through my senior year, I can confidently say the barn has been a place of solitude and comfort for me through the stressful weeks of exams, as well as the joyful moments, like receiving my acceptance letter to Bucknell. I had never been part of a team as close-knit and family oriented as the equestrian team here at George School. Tiffany Taylor, our director of the Equestrian Center, has become a second mother to me, ready to offer guidance through unfamiliar situations or a simple hug when needed. She has taught me more than I ever thought I would learn through riding. The horses are another source of wisdom that have remained a constant through all the changes I have gone through in my time here. At the end of the day, going down to the barn offers an immediate sense of relief when I see the horses munching on hay or whinnying at each other. High school is stressful, but the barn is a place where that all vanishes.

When I am riding, all I need to focus on is my connection with the horse. I have no choice but to be present and ready for anything these animals may throw my way. Centering myself, literally on the horse and figuratively in my mind, is something so important to my well-being. This time spent riding and caring for the horses at the end of the day is my time to build a connection and understand a creature so different, yet so similar to me. These horses have a mind of their own, and they are not afraid to let you know when you need to relax your arms while you are riding or create a stronger connection between your leg and your reigns. They are exquisite creatures with so much to teach us.

Not only am I fortunate to spend time with these animals every day, but I could not be happier to say I am part of the equestrian team. The key word here is team. When people think of riding, they often think it is just you and the horse. How could there be a team? I am here to say loud and proud that they are right. We are not just a team, we are a family. Through these years, I have fostered friendships with my fellow equestrians unlike any relationships I have had before. My family at the barn is the biggest support group I have, constantly letting me know when I have done well, but also when I may need to work on myself riding and socially. There is no possible way for me to express my gratitude to this family through words, but I want them all to know that I love them.

I hope to experience a family like this at Bucknell, and look forward to bringing the wisdom and love I have gained here at George School to Lewisburg, PA. Whether you find peace with horses or simply taking a walk, remember to dedicate some time each day to center yourself and connect with your surroundings.

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The Opposite of Hazing

2016-10-03-24

Photo by Jim Inverso

by Amanda Acutt, school counselor and Paul Weiss, athletics director

Last spring Amanda and I presented a concept during assembly that we described as “the opposite of hazing.”  Our intent was to challenge the community to engage in purposeful behaviors that we called “Friending.”  Essentially, we asked the community to embrace the concept of engaging in pro-social, empathetic, and sometimes uncomfortable, leadership behavior. We were trying to communicate the behaviors and feelings that underpin being in a safe, supportive, and mindful community of Friends.

Most people are generally familiar with the definition of hazing. Traditionally the term is applied to ritual abuse used as an initiation rite in fraternities, sororities, military settings, sports, or clubs.  The actual definition of hazing has recently expanded to include “any action taken or any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment, alienation, or ridicule, and risks emotional and/or physical harm to an individual, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”*

Many institutions provide community education and resources focused on identifying, reporting, and preventing hazing, and we believe this is an important part of culture creation.  However, our intent is to address culture creation in a different way.  We would like to start a dialog about an intentional approach to creating a safe, mutually supportive, and empathetic school culture or as we like to call it, the opposite of hazing.

This proactive approach to culture creation is consistent with many of the fundamental elements of a Friends community. The George School Mission (found HERE) says the following: “Students learn about the tension between the individual and community, that fairness and justice are inherently tied to each other.  They learn to express themselves without trampling others…” and “…in what seems a fitting fulfillment of our mission, George School students joyously go out in the world comfortable in their self-awareness and confident that they can make the world a better, kinder place.”

Our mission is not simply to educate academically, it is to perpetuate the values inherent in a Friends community, and for George School graduates to carry these values with them. When we ask if there is hazing in our community, we are asking the wrong question.  Instead, we should ask interconnected questions like:

  • What does it mean to intervene, to be a hero, to champion someone else, to be empathetic?
  • How aware are you of how others feel, of whether someone feels excluded, unheard, unseen, or uncomfortable?
  • What can you do, individually and collectively, to take responsibility for each other?

One of the things that is lost when we talk explicitly about hazing is the proactive ways in which we can do more for each other and our community.  The higher-level expectation is to seek out opportunities to connect with each other, particularly individuals and groups in the community who are most likely to feel different, disconnected, alienated, misunderstood, or invisible.

There are many examples of George School students exhibiting behaviors that embody the opposite of hazing. Here are just a few.

  • The student who sees a new student in the dining hall looking around nervously and calls out “come sit with us!”
  • The student who stops another student in class who is disrespecting a first year teacher.
  • The student who sees another student is upset and walks them over to the Student Health and Wellness Center, stays with them, and offers to let that student join her group of friends so they feel less alone and more connected.
  • A student who sets up a meeting with the school counselor to ask for tips on how to help a friend through a difficult time.

These examples are real. These students did not know they were being observed, and had no motive other than their belief that their behavior was the right thing to do.

Perpetuating a culture of treating each other as Friends is not limited to students interacting with each other.  This is one of the reasons we call everyone by his or her first name; we try to foster an environment in which every individual has intrinsic value, and making sure we see, hear, recognize, and care for each other is the shared thread in the fabric of our community.

The call to action is simple: strive to be intentional, externally aware, and empathetic.  Thinking about what behaviors not to do is a start, but leadership and positive culture creation is a deliberate process.

When the intent to do the “opposite of hazing” is shared by many, the effect is powerful.

*paraphrased from www.hazingprevention.org

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Filed under A Day in the Life, Faculty and Staff, Students