Tag Archives: students

Residential Life

by Vanessa Baker ’19

Living in the dorm has been the best part of my George School experience. Being from Michigan, I was pretty homesick when I first arrived at George School my freshman year, but the dorm staff and my friends made me feel unbelievably comfortable. There are four adults that live in each dorm and there are also four senior prefects who are leaders in the dorm and they help the dorm staff run the dorm.

Both my freshman and sophomore years I formed strong relationships with the seniors that lived with me, particularly the ones on my floor. The seniors had the almost awkward role of older sister while also being an authoritarian, but they were important role models for me while I was an underclassman. I also got to know some of the adults in the community through their role as dorm parents. One of the jokes I’ve laughed the hardest at is one my sophomore dorm head told me one night after check-in. I don’t even remember the joke, all I remember is physically rolling on the ground howling with laughter with another one of my friends.

The best part of living in the dorm, however, is getting to live with my friends—basically a nonstop slumber party. The bonds I’ve formed with the girls in my dorm are most definitely the relationships I’m going to cherish the most when I leave George School, which unfortunately will be sooner rather than later.

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Choosing Boarding School

by Shaina Gonzales ’19

The funny thing is, I never planned boarding school to be my future.

In fact, I didn’t even know it was an option—and even when I did find out halfway through my middle school years, I waved off the very thought of it. Besides, I thought, aren’t boarding schools for kids who want to get away from their families? A thing that only exists in books? A place for bad kids? A place that certain people had the privilege of attending?  I had a limited perspective on boarding school, but nevertheless, I was already dismissing this possibility out of the picture.

Most importantly, boarding school was impossible for me to consider, since I’m an only child of a single mother. My entire life, it’s always been me and my mom, and I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her alone for four high school years. She was on the same page with me, until eighth grade, when my high school placement program came into effect. I think the pivotal moment where both of our minds changed was when we listened to an alumni’s parent share her experience with sending her daughter to boarding high school—she was a single parent with an only child, making it instantly relatable for us.

Intrigued, I recall the mother telling her story— the pains of sending her daughter off to a faraway place, having to continue daily life without watching her daughter grow through high school, being a distant figure from her teenaged child. But then, she stated she doesn’t regret the choice she and her daughter made, and would do it all over again. She saw how happy and satisfied her daughter was from attending boarding school. The mother understood that the boarding experience was an experience that benefited her daughter— an experience day schools can’t offer.

I think that personal story was the catalyst for choosing boarding school. I was moved and intrigued by it, but still a little hesitant. In my twelve year old mind, it didn’t matter what I wanted – what mattered was if me and my mom mutually agreed, because we are a team. However, my mom was also gripped by the alumni’s parent experience.

I remember clearly her turning to me, taking my hand, and whispering, “Let’s give this a try.”

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Summer: The Perfect Time to Learn?

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by Addie Gerszberg ’18

While rest seemed to be a critical part of many students’ agendas this past summer, so was learning for the many of us who take the time to investigate passions that the busy grind of the school year often prohibits us from pursuing. For me, those passions are international relations and learning more about the world’s languages and cultures. This summer, I focused my attention on learning about Japan after I was grateful to have been accepted to the High School Diplomats Program at Princeton University.

This program, which has run for the last 30 years thanks to the generosity of AIU Insurance Company of Tokyo and the Freeman Foundation, focuses on friendship, community, and peace: values that were all consistent with what I have learned at George School. During the ten days of this program, my Japanese roommate, Hana, and I had the opportunity to see diplomacy at its most basic level: through friendship. Through each days’ themes and scheduling, all of the Japanese and American students engaged in meaningful activities and conversations. I will never forget when my friend, Mizuki, from Hiroshima, shared her grandmother’s experience of the atomic bombings of their city during World War II. Likewise, my friend Sayaka’s story about being from Fukushima and the impact the nuclear power plant disaster following an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 has had on her life was also profoundly moving. Through these friendships, what I had previously only learned in history books, came to life, and while those examples are of atrocities, the positive stories these new friends have shared are already too numerous to count. These jovial experiences of connection among us “high school diplomats” are best exemplified through two of my favorite days of the program: the Japanese culture festival and the Paula Chow Diplomat Talks.

During the festival, I gained cultural insights, and a closeness to Hana, that I had not had before through partaking in a traditional tea ceremony, appreciating the art of calligraphy, and playing games. This experience was only strengthened by wearing traditional Japanese dresses called yukata (light cotton kimono) with Hana. This gift from my roommate is one I treasure dearly.

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While the festival was light hearted, the Diplomat Talks took on a more serious note, enabling all of the Japanese and American students to have discussions about the world in which we live. Being a George School student and having learned about how to have these kinds of difficult discussions was the best preparation I could have had to fully embrace the experience. The program and my education complimented each other, and while George School has taught me how to be an engaged community member, High School Diplomats enhanced my ability to be a global citizen. Now a month after I have completed the program, I have been gifted with lasting friendships and a new knowledge set that has already enriched my first classes back at school. I hope more George School students can take part in this life altering experience, and current sophomores and juniors can check the program’s website for the application (available online from 9/15/2017–1/8/2018) for this fully funded opportunity.*

*For more information please visit the website: Highschooldiplomats.com or contact the American Director, Mrs. Celine Zapolski at (571) 234-5072 or celinezapolski@highschooldiplomats.com

 

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Friends Council on Education Statement – August 15, 2017

The violent expressions of hatred, racism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism in Charlottesville, Virginia were directly opposed to the values our schools stand for. These events serve to deepen our commitment at Quaker schools to teach our students habits of heart and mind that insist upon a disposition of openness and respect for every member of our community regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, place of national origin, gender identity or gender expression.  

As we wrote in November:

William Penn founded the first Quaker school in 1689, one hundred years prior to the formal addition of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution.  Penn directed that the school educate students from all walks of life, genders, religions, and ethnicities to prepare them to be moral leaders within the Commonwealth no matter what profession or trade that they might someday pursue.

Penn’s school created a program of study through which these young people might together imagine a more ideal society. Today all Quaker schools strive to serve this critical public purpose just a Penn imagined it in the earliest days of what would become the United States.

In time of uncertainty, and deep distrust, Quaker school communities turn to the Quaker values of peace, integrity, equality and community, as well as the longtime practices of peaceful conflict resolution and nonviolence, as touch points for navigating these turbulent waters.

It is our sincere hope that as children everywhere return to school that they may come together, in the spirit of respect for all, to find a way to listen deeply to one another, to value the gifts that all students bring with them to school everyday, that they might, together, imagine an ideal society.

Each of the 78 Quaker schools across the United States is founded on core Quaker values and practices. These principles strive to address issues of societal injustice. Friends schools seek to create inclusive and diverse communities and to live into the Quaker values of peace, equity, and social justice.

Friends Council on Education supports schools in their efforts to teach for justice and equity. To that end, we lift up just a few examples of how Quaker schools and Quaker school educators are actively working to provide students with skills in mediation, conversations about differences, and peaceful ways for resolving differences.

Upper school students have a social justice collective where they meet weekly to engage in conversations utilizing the model of Intergroup Dialogue. (Germantown Friends School)

Students participate in a Peer Facilitator Training Program that strives to provide students with skills in asking open ended questions, clarifying and summarizing what you have heard, giving respectful feedback – all with the goal of preempting conflict. (Media-Providence Friends School)

The social curriculum serves as a foundation for a Social Justice Unit as early as preschool focusing on fairness, inclusion, and community. (Friends School Haverford)

Upper school students team up with students at other independent schools to host a student-led Mid Atlantic Regional Diversity Conference. Students explore issues of identity (sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age, ability, socioeconomic status, gender, and religion) through activities that encourage building community and leaning into discomfort. (Abington Friends School)

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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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Here, Black Children Unite

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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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