Tag Archives: George School

A Reflection on the Senior Class  

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by Ralph Lelii

When the neurologist Oliver Sachs was dying in 2015, he had written initially that he feared his imminent death. He had a sense of dread about the future, and lacked faith in what would follow his demise. As he entered stage four of his cancer, he was treated by a young Japanese-American oncologist. He wrote shortly after in his last essay that he had been changed by the experience. When he saw the care, the competence and the dedication of this young physician, he realized his arrogance. He would die confidently, in his words, that the future was safe in the hands of the young.

Each year I find proctoring the IB/AP examinations a moving experience for several reasons, but today Sach’s words resonated with me. As I watched almost eighty of our seniors engage a sophisticated literary essay for two hours, I was deeply touched by their sense of purpose and duty and the need to construct meaning from what they had read, but more than that, I was conscious of what it is we are doing here at this school, what we must do.

Every one who works on this campus, no matter her role, is participating in the survival of our species. We are communal, collaborative, and highly social creatures, and whatever else we are doing, we are passing on what we know so that we might survive beyond ourselves. The truth of it was palpable for me today as I watched them in their youthful beauty and strength struggle with that examination. Despite our pretensions as adults, their imperfections and anxieties differ from ours only in degree. Freud said that we become truly adult when we realize that our parents suffer just as much as we do. I would add the corollary observation that we fully grasp the nature of the young when we grant them the complexity, the nobility and the mystery we attribute to ourselves.

Earlier this year, I had a minor surgery, although as I learned, there really are no “minor surgeries”. They are all risky and require great precision. As I lay in the OR, I was surrounded by eleven doctors, technicians, nurses and support staff, each playing their part in this elaborate and precisely staged medical ritual. I remember thinking of all the teachers each had encountered in their youth, all the men and women they had observed in so many roles, how they had absorbed both the utility of knowledge and the sense of ethical duty that accompanies it.

Today, watching our seniors, I felt again the simple truth that the far larger share of the future belongs to them, not to us. Despite our human tendency to think that the entire universe revolves and evolves around our own consciousness (it does not), it was satisfying to know that I, like Sachs, like every one of us, am just passing through. This work we do matters so much because it is fundamentally about the survival of our species, about our continued evolution and the adaptation it necessitates; they will do well when their turn comes, perhaps even better than we. In the words of the poet Sharon Olds, it is the oldest story of the human race, the story of our replacement.

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An Ongoing Commitment

by Sam Houser

At a time when transgender rights are again in the news, I am writing to affirm George School’s own commitment to welcoming and including students and employees who are transgender or gender non-binary, or whose families may include members who identify as transgender or gender non-binary. Similarly, we welcome the presence, active engagement, talents, and support of our graduates who identify as transgender or gender non-binary.

In April of 2015, the George School Board approved a policy stating the school’s intention to welcome and include transgender students in our community. This included providing appropriate accommodations and a supportive residential environment for those who are boarders.

In February of 2017, the Friends Council on Education issued a statement affirming that, consistent with the Quaker testimony of equality, Friends schools strive to create communities inclusive of all students, including transgender and gender non-binary students.

Last spring, the Friends School League (FSL) also adopted a similar policy regarding the inclusion of transgender and gender non-binary students into athletics programs among FSL schools.

All of these developments reflect a deep commitment on the part of George School and other Friends schools to foster healthy and diverse educational communities by valuing, respecting, and drawing upon the richness of differences to strengthen our education. This commitment stems from the very underpinnings of Quakerism that include teaching there is that of God in every person, that all people are equal and deserve equal respect and treatment, and that healthy communities are those that accept and nurture differences.

George School is a rare place. Here, people of many identities, from around the world, live, learn, and play together. Being a George School community member entails engaging with new and sometimes uncomfortable perspectives. This can be hard work, but the effort is an important one that will help us diligently mind the Light and prepare us to do good inside our school community and beyond.

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I Joined the Circus

by Colin Ganges ’16

In the summer of 2015 I joined the circus.

The Trenton Circus Squad to be exact. I had decided to volunteer in my neighborhood rather than participate in a school service trip because I felt that there was a real need in my own community. I was unsure about where I could help, but knew I wanted to interact with children.

I chose the Trenton Circus Squad because I thought it was a very unique idea, would give me the chance to learn new skills, and help in my neighborhood. The organization’s goal is to attract low income teens to help entertain children close to home. They also believe that performing arts are an effective tool to teach lifelong habits such as self-reliance and physical well-being.

trenton circus squad
Photo courtesy of Steve Sarafian

Before working with the team I had never participated in any circus nor did I have any skills associated with the circus. While there I learned basic acrobatics and juggling.

Our days were divided in two—the first half of the day was devoted to skills training and the second half to our upcoming performance. This allowed me to try all different forms of entertainment and find which one suited me the best. After deciding to focus on acrobatics and juggling I was able to practice those skills the rest of the days in preparation for our upcoming shows.

While practicing my particular routines I was nervous that my first show was in a few days, and all the skills I was planning on showing I had learned less than a week ago. We would run though the show three to four times a day trying to figure out the order of the performances.

People walking by on the streets would see us practicing and would stop in to watch for a few minutes. I would see children run in, excited just to watch us perform.

My most memorable moment came when a homeless man walked in to watch. The man who ran the Circus Squad saw him and went over to talk for a few minutes. He walked away and came back with a red clown nose for the homeless man. He put the nose on smiling and laughing while he walked out the door, even more excited than the children who would stop by. This showed me how important this community service was and how it could completely change someone’s day.

Another moment when our effect on the community was evident in the moments following the shows. After our performances we would teach the children and the adults in the audience basic skills. Everyone would be divided into five different stations with the audience cycling through.

I either taught juggling or the tight rope. At first I was very worried because I remembered how nervous I was while learning these skills and now I had to teach others. The children were so excited to try that I didn’t focus on how new I was, but on how happy they were. Some chose to try every skill possible while others stuck to one skill and didn’t want to leave until they could master it.

This opportunity for community service allowed me to help my community while getting outside my comfort zone to entertain others. I think back on how much fun I had and how this community service helped me as well as the children for whom I was there to perform and make smile.

Want to join the circus? Just ask me.

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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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Our Final Day in Beijing, and China

Our last day in Beijing and our last day in China. We woke up and headed out for breakfast outside. Given the choice between Chinese breakfast and a bakery, almost everyone chose the bakery. After breakfast, we rode over to Coal Hill, a small hill strategically located just south of the Forbidden City. The hill is just high enough to give a wonderful overview of the Forbidden City, a view afforded nowhere else. After going up and down the hill, we headed out to 798. This old factory was turned into artist studio and gallery space several years ago and offers a wonderful viewing and selection of modern Chinese art. After wandering around there for several hours we headed back into the city to meet a number of Chinese George School families for dinner; typical Beijing cuisine. Since we had to get up so early the next morning to catch our flight, we called it a night around 8 o’clock.

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Beijing Day 3

Another beautiful day in Beijing; quite seriously, blue skies and sunny, hot weather. We set off this morning by subway to have dim sum, Cantonese brunch, consisting of various steamed buns and dumplings, chicken’s feet, and other delicacies. After breakfast, we walked about 15 minutes to Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, a temple of Tibetan Buddhism. After another 15 minute walk and a brief stop for green tea ice cream, we arrived at the Confucius Temple. Temple is perhaps the wrong term for this complex, which was a place of learning and the place for the Imperial examinations, which determined who would become the highest-ranked officials. We next walked through the winding hutongs, or alleys, to arrive at a wonderful vegetarian restaurant.

The interesting thing about Chinese vegetarian restaurants is that the foods are made to appear and even taste like meat and fish. After lunch, we got on a bus and headed south to Tiantan 天坛, or the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven is where the emperor used to communicate with heaven, and is now a large, beautiful park. Across the street from the east gate is the Hongqiao Pearl Market. Everyone enjoyed shopping in this very Chinese market, full of clothes and shoes and accessories and electronics and bags, and where you can bargain until you get the deal you want. Above back of the hotel where everyone put their stuff away and got a quick shower before heading out again for a dinner of Beijing duck. This is a specialty not to be missed when visiting Beijing, and we were not disappointed.

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Beijing Days 1 and 2

We arrived in Beijing after a ten-hour overnight train ride from Yangzhou. Fresh from a good night’s sleep for some and a not so good night’s sleep for others, we boarded the bus for a short ride to the hotel where we dropped our bags before heading out to do a full day of sightseeing. We drove over to the south side of Tiananmen Square, where we marveled at the sheer size and scale of the square. We looked north toward Mao’s portrait and then headed to walk underneath it on our way into the Forbidden City. Continue reading

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Thoughts on our First Day at the Yangzhou Orphanage

by Savio ’17

We started off the day as usual, with a short rendezvous at Yangzhou high school. We were all refreshed off of our weekends with our host families, and ready for a good day of service at Yangzhou Orphanage. The bus ride was thirty minutes, but it ended up being about an hour because the staff made us wait while they organized. Upon finally entering, we were all surprised about the condition of the orphanage. There was a clean lobby with a front desk, multiple couches, and best of all, air conditioning. After touring the building, we split up into three groups. The first group was to mop the hallways and wipe all the surfaces of the 2nd floor. The second group was to feed some of the disabled babies. And the third group was to play with some of the physically disabled children.

I was in the first group, so we ended up mopping and wiping for roughly an hour and a half. Since we finished fairly fast given the amount of time, we got to hang out with a few staff members in their office. When all the groups were finished, we walked over to their cafeteria, which was in a different building. It had the set up of a restaurant, but the food was on a tray, and of similar quality to the food at the other schools we visited. After lunch, we went to a zoo and many of us were excited to see the pandas. Most of the animals were lying down and panting because of the heat, and rightfully so, as the temperature was about 96 Fahrenheit.

After an exciting couple of hours, we walked back to the orphanage to finish our service for the day. My group rotated to feeding the babies, which was difficult to say the least. One of the staff briefed us on some of the conditions that the kids suffered, and told us to not be too rattled by their appearances. The babies were lined up in the hallway and as we entered a few started to cry. Everybody chose a baby and we got to work. Although some of the babies were relatively cooperative, others were crying continually and not eating. Luckily, my baby began to eat after a bit of coaxing and patience. I used the “here comes the airplane!” tactic, which quite surprisingly works well. Many of the babies had cleft lips, which was off putting in terms of feeding them, but we managed and eventually the job was done.

After the feeding, we went into a room on the same floor, which served as their playroom. Some of the older toddlers that could walk and run were in a large pen that had a bunch of toys, and since so many GS students were with the babies, I decided to play in the pen. It ended up being a blast and I got a game of keep away going with a foam basketball, and they loved it.

My experience at the orphanage was notably different than the special needs school because of the disabilities of the children as well as their age difference. The feeding was a very straightforward job, but it put us in the uncomfortable position of being face to face with a child that looks very different than what we’re used to. At first, it really put me off, but after a few minutes I realized the baby girl I was feeding was no different than me, simply another human trying to survive in a world that can be harsh. If anything, I wanted to give these children the one on one attention and love they deserve and clearly yearn for. It was so fulfilling to see the smile on their faces as we played, or as they hung on my arms and climbed my back. They clearly had suffered from not only physical disabilities, but a lack of human touch. This is clearly some of the biggest areas of impact I, and my classmates, have accomplished during our time here, and I hope that impact lasts.

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Destiny is interviewed by a reporter from Yangzhou Evening News (扬州晚报)

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by | June 26, 2016 · 9:52 am

Last Day of Service at the Special Education School

Today was our last day at the school for the deaf and mentally disabled. After arriving on the campus, we took photos with some of the students and teachers in the school’s dining hall. We then went to the building where the administrators work and we had an arts and crafts class with some of the students. I worked with a nineteen-year-old that was quite intelligent, despite the physical and mental challenges she faced, and her knowledge of music and love for singing sort of surprised me. After doing arts and crafts, we wiped down all the chairs in the dining hall along with most of the walls. After eating lunch, we worked with two groups of deaf students. We were tasked with providing them help with making father’s day cards, which proved to be more challenging for the George School students who worked with the younger group of kids. Earlier in the day during one of our short breaks, we spent time learning sign language that was specific to China so that we could be of more help and better at communicating. Continue reading

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