Tag Archives: students

Here, Black Children Unite

HBCU

HBCUs and their purpose as the cornerstone of the Black Community

by Messiah Williams ’18

You are probably wondering: What is an HBCU? HBCU stands for “Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” Now you may be asking, “What does that mean?” It basically means a college or university that has a predominantly black student body. The black population of these institutions are about 100%.

Although many think there are merely three or four of these colleges, there are actually 107 of these universities nationwide, attributing to their significance in African-American culture. That is roughly six percent of the total number of four-year institutions in the US today. Schools like Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Howard University are among the most prestigious of the HBCUs.

The first HBCU, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, was founded in 1837, in Cheyney, Pennsylvania. Funding for this university was donated by a Quaker philanthropist by the name of Richard Humphreys, who was born in the West Indies. He was a benefactor who funded the school in its early years.

After that several HBCUs were founded by white abolitionists who had riches and political and military ties. Individuals like Gen. O.O. Howard (Howard University), Clinton B. Fisk (Fisk University), Henry Martin Tupper (Shaw University) and others worked with the Freedmens’ Bureau to make instructive foundations for black people.

HBCUs have been a huge part of the black community ever since.

If we look at it in the grand scheme of things, the HBCU has been the catalyst and most important factor in the advancement of black people. If we look at some of our most prestigious black leaders, they are almost all products of HBCUs, such as Thurgood Marshall, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Toni Morrison. So, the reputation of these colleges and universities is irrefutable.

But the age-old question is: Why would someone want to go to a virtually all-black college? What would compel someone to go to a school with practically no diversity? The question may be different for each student that plans to attend, attends, or has attended an HBCU. Some say they have attended because of family legacy and others say they have attended because they love the environment.

I had a Q&A with Omar Williams, a GS student, who plans to attend an HBCU this coming fall. Here is the conversation we had.

Q: Which college do you plan on attending this coming fall?

A: Morehouse College

Q: Why an HBCU?

 A: As a black man, in America, I feel it is important that I find a sense of pride in being black, and attending an HBCU will help me reach that goal. It is an experience that many black people and people of color seek.

Q: Why Morehouse?

 A: Well, initially, my first choice was Howard, another HBCU, but things did not pan out as expected. But Morehouse was a close second, and I was not disappointed. One thing that was attractive to me about Morehouse is the alumni, such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., George School’s very own Julian Bond, and Samuel L. Jackson. Also, the culture at Morehouse grabbed my attention. The idea that the professors are not just there to teach students, but they are there to turn boys into men.

 Q: What would you say to someone who is skeptical about HBCUs?

A: Many people, including black people, are “iffy” about the concept of attending an HBCU. Some people see this as quasi-segregation, but I think that an HBCU is no different than an all-girl or an all-boy school. When you bring students together that share the same qualities and background it is an experience like no other.

 Many students in America feel exactly the same as Omar and can easily identify with what he is saying. The HBCU is seen as a “pit stop” for African-Americans to gain that sense of identity before they start their life.

HBCUs are not meant to exclude but are actually the opposite. Disenfranchised black students often feel excluded. Sometimes they do not feel they are a priority and concern in the American school system, and HBCUs act as a safe haven and home for these students.

Many of these schools were established before the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, so these were the only colleges black students could attend. They were and still are safe environments where black students can study and aspire to be great.

As the theme song from Cheers goes, an HBCU is a place “[w]here everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”

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March 3

After our wake-up call at 2:15 a.m., smooth flights at 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. and a warm reception at the Managua airport where the 11th grade class met us with their teachers, we drove to the school accompanied by the students. A late lunch of chicken, salad, rice, and fries was awaiting us. Everyone ate well! Soon after, we were entertained by dancers and a poetry reading as we took in the whole scene. Such excitement! The students in pairs went into the older students’ classrooms and helped the teachers with their lessons. By 6:00 p.m., one by one, families came by to pick up their GS student. It was lovely to see them meet. We hope you like the photos!

Starting tomorrow, the students will write the blog entries. They are doing fine; their Spanish is really quite impressive as they dive into their first evening of immersion. We’re heading to bed now and hope that they are too. Tomorrow, we will visit Managua.

Tom and Cheri

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Nicaragua Service-Learning Trip Blog

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Feb. 28, 2017

Welcome to our Nicaragua Service-Learning Trip Blog! We have a fantastic group of eight juniors, bursting with energy and excitement for all that awaits them in Managua, Nicaragua. They are Niccolo, Alex F. (alias “Alejandro”), Alex C., Phil, Greg, Maia, Tali, and Alyssa. Please come to this site daily to see what we are doing and how we are feeling. Participants will make daily entries along with as many photos as we can take!

Packing Day

This afternoon, as a welcome break from their fourth final exam, our group came together to sort all the incredible donations that they had collected. School supplies, toys, games, personal products, clothes, shoes, dental supplies, and more were spread all over the very classroom where many of them have spent endless hours practicing their Spanish. It was a lovely sight to see our kids get to work. What a challenge fitting everything into the donation suitcases! Many thanks already to them, to you, to your friends and family for all you have helped make happen. The donated suitcases, monetary contributions, luggage donation fees, and most of all, your SUPPORT…

When we post our next blog, we will be in the hotel at the airport, or maybe, we will already be with our host families getting to know everyone. Stay tuned and feel free to sign in and respond to any posts. The kids love it. Soon after we land in Managua, you will be notified of our safe arrival. Thank you again for all the sacrifices you have made to allow your child (children!) to be with us. We are honored to share this experience with them.

Tom and Cheri

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Spring Service Learning Trips

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This week forty-seven students, faculty, and staff will be departing on annual service learning trips. This year’s destinations and projects are:

France—March 2 to 18

Departure: Thursday, March 2, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.
Return: Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 9:25 p.m.

Started in 1957, this relationship represents the longest running student exchange program between an American and a French high school. George School students work as teachers’ assistants in a variety of educational settings and live with local host families. A trip to Paris is one of the highlights. Students also join their host families for local sightseeing. French students, in turn, visit George School several weeks later.

Mississippi—March 5 to 19

Departure: Sunday March 5, 2017 at 5:30 a.m.
Return: Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 2:25 p.m.

Students work with Habitat for Humanity, helping to build affordable houses alongside those who lack adequate shelter in northern Mississippi. The group also enjoys potluck dinners with current and future Habitat homeowners and other members of the community. Students build relationships with the community as they build homes. There are also opportunities to explore local sites of interest in northern Mississippi.

Nepal—March 5 to 20

Departure: Sunday, March 5, 2017 at 5:30 a.m.
Return: Monday, March 20, 2017 at 8:45 a.m.

George School students will assist the school community in laying the foundations for two new classrooms for Janapriya Primary School. The school is located near Dhampus, 200 km west of Kathmandu. Following the service learning work the students hike into the lower foothills of the great Annapurna massif, walking for four days through traditional Hindu villages to enjoy spectacular views of the mountains. The trails explore lush oak and rhododendron forests, and students camp in serene locations that showcase dramatic views of the Annapurna Range.

Nicaragua—March 3 to 18

Departure: Friday, March 3, 2017 at 6:00 a.m.
Return: Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 10:48 p.m.

Students work as teachers’ assistants in our sister school in Barrio Riguero, a working-class Managua neighborhood. Other service opportunities may include repairing and upgrading schools and health clinics in impoverished areas. Students stay with host families who speak very little or no English. Cultural excursions typically involve visits to artisan markets and historic sites, as well as the lakes and volcanoes for which Nicaragua is known for.

Washington, DC—March 5 to 17

Departure: Sunday, March 5, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.
Return: Friday, March 17, 2017 at 10:05 p.m.

Students volunteer at Martha’s Table, So Others Might Eat (SOME), DC Central Kitchen, and a local mission. Martha’s Table assists children and families with food, clothing, and education. SOME is an interfaith, community-based organization that exists to help the poor and homeless with food, clothing, and health care. DC Central Kitchen recycles food, provides culinary career training for unemployed adults, and serves healthy school meals. Using Hostelling International as home base, students will have the opportunity to visit museums and explore our nation’s capital.

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International Student Assembly – From my Point of View

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by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

George School’s International Student Assembly takes place every winter and students of all nationalities look forward to it. There are a variety of acts—from singing and dancing to Kung Fu and magic tricks. This year, Jason Chien’s ’18 Kung Fu performance was authentic right down to the clothing. Kiana Wong ’17, from Jamaica, performed an amazing modern dance to a popular song Don’t Judge Me by Chris Brown. Anney Ye ’20 and Jennifer Chang ’19 sang a popular Chinese song.

The International Student Assembly is one of my favorites each year. Students from all cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities have a chance to show off some of their many talents. American students get a chance to be immersed in traditions from all over the world. The assembly is enlightening, introspective, and entertaining. The audience can tell that the performers are having fun. Everyone has international friends at George School, and everyone wants to see their friends perform. I believe the International Student Assembly brings George School students closer to their roots—and to each other.

George School is home to hundreds of students, representing forty-three different countries. So why is it that students stay away from the unfamiliar when deciding what to perform? I imagine they could feel like their traditions won’t be respected, but what I think is more likely, after having spent so much time in the United States, they begin to assume American culture as their own. I would think the performers want to choose something they know, so the songs they hear on the radio on a regular basis are a good place to start. Maybe culturally traditional performances are harder to prepare or recognize. Being from the United States myself, I cannot explain the reasons for why international students choose the performances they do. I suppose it all depends on the student and how close they feel to their culture. Either way—culturally diverse performances or not—the international student assembly is not one to miss.

 

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The Death of Four Square?

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by Eric Wolarsky

It’s not too often that great moments in history light up like a neon sign and flicker at us through the ages. The competition to design the new bronze doors for the Baptistery in Florence in 1401 shouts out “The Italian Renaissance begins here!” And the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989 dramatically signaled the end of the Cold War, though teenage me was too obtuse to understand that at the time.

As George School inches closer to its 125th year, we need only look at the images of its earliest students on the walls of the Meetinghouse to see how much the school has changed over the years. But most of that change occurred in a long, slow evolution, and the obvious watershed moments were few and far between. However, a momentous change is underway at George School this year, and the rapidity of its stunning arrival has left many in our community feeling whiplash.

For me it began on a pleasantly brisk morning in the first week of December. Having descended five flights of stairs from my apartment in Central dormitory to the Children’s Center in the basement of Main, I finished dropping off my son, walked down the hallway past the offices of our IS department, and emerged on Red Square en route to my office in Marshall. That’s when I noticed it.

There was a group of students in a tight circle on Red Square, playing hacky sack. It was pretty early in the morning, and Red Square was otherwise abandoned, and I didn’t think much of it at the time.

I walk back and forth between Marshall and Main a half dozen times per day. And an eerie sense of something strange, something out of place started to grow within me with each subsequent trip that week. Each time I would cross between the buildings, I would see a group playing hacky sack, maybe two, and no one playing four square.

“Huh,” I thought to myself. “Fickle teenagers and their passing fads. This will surely pass.”

But several days went by, and it didn’t pass. I was growing uneasy.

As dean of students, I can’t just ignore major events affecting our student body. But I didn’t understand what was happening, and it was disorienting. Faced with this mystery, I did what I always do. I asked Twitter.

erics-tweets1 For 24 hours, Twitter offered no answers. But the next afternoon, crossing Red Square at the end of my work day, some students playing hacky sack asked me what I thought about “the poll.”

“What poll?” I asked.

“The poll on Twitter,” they replied.

It turned out that George School’s observant assistant director of communications had seen my tweet and launched a Twitter poll asking the community to vote between activities: four square or hacky sack. Engrossed in my work all day, I hadn’t seen the poll yet. By the time I took a look an hour later, there were already 44 respondents, and hacky sack had a big lead.

For 24 hours interested parties waited to see how the poll would turn out. Alums in the Twitterverse chimed in with opinions. Tweets about the validity of the poll were bandied about. When it was all said and done, Team Hacky Sack had won, 53% to 47%. There it was in indisputable pixels on a screen. The impossible had become possible, and a community that had been defined by its allegiance to the subtle art of four square – for decades! – had suddenly pivoted.

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The pro-hack students were ebullient in their victory. And, to my surprise, it has been a lasting victory. I haven’t seen four square played in nearly two weeks now. It is as if the entire student body, through some silent, secret shibboleth, has cast off the defining communal activity of our central plaza.

I’m not entirely sure yet how I feel about this. There was something egalitarian, something creative about four square. It served as a metaphor for the school’s values. Can hacky sack wield the same symbolic force? Will it be as inclusive and engrossing? After the winter’s frost has come and gone from Red Square, will the school revert to muscle memory, and the four square ball will come out again on an unseasonably warm day in late February? Or is this it from now on?

Those questions will be answered in time. What I know today is that many of our students are proud that they’ve staked out a new identity. They’ve shown that they are not beholden to tradition, and that they don’t have to do what their older siblings did when they were here. We may lament the passing of four square, but we must honor the spirit of independence that animates this hacky sack movement.

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Filed under A Day in the Life, Musings from Faculty, Students, The Deans' Office

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.

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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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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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