Summertime and the Living Is…Meaningful

How are you spending your summer?

While some people look to summer for relaxation and vacation, many Athenians fill their summer time with opportunities for cultural exchanges, acquiring new skills, and developing new interests. Twenty Athenian students are spending a large part of their summer either on exchange at Round Square schools or on a Round Square International Service Project while many faculty spend their summer pursuing their passions and curiosities. Take a look at what Athenians are up to while school is out of session.

Making an Impact as Global Citizens

Natalie paints an older classroom in South Africa.

Read about Natalie and Anna’s adventures in South Africa building and painting a classroom for the Lwaleng Primary School outside White River, Mpumalanga.

Sharing space in Romania

Learn about Nick and Vidya’s adventures in Romania, camping, clearing trails and painting safety signs in the Apuseni Mountains. Madelyn is in Peru at a remote location and so their trip is not hosting a blog.

New Perspectives: Adventures in New Places

Kelsey at the Scotch Oakburn School in Australia

Kelsey at the Scotch Oakburn School in Australia

Other Athenian students are on exchange at Round Square schools around the world. Arman, Bronwyn, Trevor, Anni, Kari, Kelsey and Tom and Priya are in Australia; Brody is in Japan; Rebecca, Abraham, Trenton, and Nia are in South Africa; and Eli and Isa are in Argentina.

When I finally arrived at Jacqui’s house I knew that my experience would be exceptional because her family actually lives on a safari and game ranch in the bushes of South Africa called Kuduland Safaris. Her mom handed me a package of biltong, like beef jerky, and showed me my room. I was surrounded by animals: I saw antelope out my window and could hear lions roaring from my room. The Knott family was extremely welcoming and made it so that I felt very comfortable in their home before the end of the first night. I spent a week at her home before I would be going off to school and my experience was extremely special to me. By the end of the week I already hiked up to the mountains to watch the sunset with an incredible view, learned how to drive a stick shift on their helicopter runway, went into a lion cage to feed the lions, got chased by an elephant on a late night safari, saw her father hunt a wildebeest, touched a baboon’s butt, drove a four-wheeler, and visited the official “Dole” orange farm. I also had some amazing food prepared at her home. The meat was actually hunted on the farm! One of my favorite dishes was pup, which is like grits that you hand-dip in gravy. –Nia Warren ’16 on her first week in South Africa

Dick Bradford, Upper School Head, is traveling with his wife, Molly, to Tbilsi, Republic of Georgia, visiting their daughter and Athenian alum Meg McClure ’10. Meg is working for an NGO involved in Georgian human rights.

Life-Long Learners

More than 35 Athenian students are enrolled at Athenian’s Devil Mountain Summer Camp, taking classes and going on adventures. Another dozen or so students and young alumni are gaining valuable life experience by working as camp counselors, TAs and lifeguards.

Bruce Hamren, science teacher, is participating in a Teacher Institute at the Exploratorium, discovering options for data collection and visualization while learning new tools for the Art and Science of Making class.

Teachers Gabe del Real and Kalyan Balaven will be representing Athenian at the International Academic Forum conference. Kal will also be recording a full-length album called “The X-Factor” which tells the story of Hip-Hop as culture and will be an integral part of his new BlendEd course, Beats, Rhymes & Life.

Jessica Donovan, Head of Middle School, and several other Middle School faculty, went to an iPad conference at the Hillbrook School in Los Gatos to prepare for the 2nd year of 1:1 iPads in the Middle School.

Sharing Our Passions

sweeney todd final posterMark Mendelson, theater tech teacher, is the vocal director for Sweeney Todd at Ohlone College which runs through this Saturday. It’s a big show in an outdoor amphitheater with a big cast and big orchestra–get your tickets now!

Adam Thorman, photography teacher, has a photo show at Helix in Los Altos. Check out a feature of his work on the Bay Area Art & Science Interdisciplinary Collaborative Session (BAASICS) site.


Leave a comment below to share what kinds of intellectual explorations and meaningful contributions you and your family have been engaged in this summer.

On International Travel and Cultural Exchanges

Four Middle School students traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa for the Young Round Square Conference this past spring. The students wrote brief reflections of what they learned after 10 days traveling and living with young students from all over the world.

As many of you might be traveling this summer, we’d love to hear your own thoughts about your experiences! Comment below with your own travel or cultural exchange stories.

Experiencing How Others Live

P1020608The Round Square conference in Johannesburg, South Africa was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Throughout the conference, I met so many people from all around the world who soon became some of the best friends I have ever had. I learned so much about myself as a person and about different cultures from all over the world. It is one thing to learn about other countries, but actually experiencing firsthand the way people live and act from around the world is completely different. The experience has changed my life forever and I know that I will now approach my friends and life back at home in a different way. If there is one thing that I could take back from the conference, it would be that even though we are all different from one another, we are all the same age striving for the same goals. I can now go back home knowing that there are people from South Africa, Singapore, Canada, India, France, England, and all around the world who would consider me their friend. The conference has changed my life, and I know that there will always be a piece of South Africa in my heart. — Genevieve DeWalt

Be Grateful and Do More

The Round Square conference was the experience of a lifetime. I know that I can’t take Round Square with me, but I can take the lessons that I have learned back home. The three lessons that I value the most and that I wish to teach my friends are:

1. The importance of the existence of the rhinos,

2. How we should be grateful for our everyday appliances, and

3. How we as a school can reduce our ecological impact on the earth.

P1020454The rhinos are an amazing species, with an amazing design and different breeds. But what makes a rhino an amazing species also makes it an endangered one. As many people know, the rhinos have been poached to near extinction. I have been shown disturbing pictures of rhinos who have had their horns chopped off. This has made me realize that rhino poaching is a real event. When I heard that rhinos were being killed for their horns a while ago I felt bad forthembut I didn’t have the motivation to help them. But, when I saw those photos, I felt the suffering that the rhinos were experiencing, and that emotion is what I want to share with my peers at the Athenian school. I want to teach them that rhino poaching is a serious event and should be stopped.

It is common knowledge that we are very fortunate to go to school. I hope that my peers at Athenian know that we are going to an amazing school, and that there are other people in the world who have not been as fortunate as we are. In South Africa we saw villages made up of huts that contain families that have never dreamed of an education, and large groups of people who live on the streets. Though there isn’t a way in which we can help them, we can feel more grateful for all of our everyday luxuries such as indoor plumbing, water and electricity. We should stop saying “I want the latest iPhone”, or “I don’t like the food” because there are people in the world who would do anything for our lifestyle. Students at The Athenian School waste an absurd amount of food each day. People take food, and then they throw it all away. We should be more aware of how much food we waste and we should realize that our waste could feed many people in Asia. –William Chabala

Learning to Be Me

P1020386Overall, this Round Square trip to South Africa has been an experience of a lifetime. It has made an unforgettable place in my heart, and I will always cherish the memories associated with this trip for my whole life. I remember before I left for this trip, I was more excited to visit South Africa rather than engaging in other activities. The day I arrived in South Africa, I made two of my best friends who live on the other side of the US (East Coast). I noticed that all of us were here to learn about different cultures and values. I learned many new things and moral lessons about everyday life, not just multicultural awareness. As the days passed by, I made many more friends with different personalities. Everyone was a different person, and it also taught me not to be any other way, and to just be myself because that’s who I am. Even my best friends I made there had their own opinions, which I am very appreciative to have gotten to understand and know. I know that no place on this planet is perfect or the same in anyway, but what matters the most is what I took out of this conference. We were all together from different places around the world at one specific place. We learned to join our hands together and accept our differences, our cultures, our opinions, and our personalities. I didn’t know that this would become such a life-changing experience from my perspective. On the last day of the conference it was very hard on me and my best friends to leave each other and go back to our normal lives. And honestly, after just a week at the conference and Camp Discovery, I feel like a totally new and different person. The person which I have now accepted. There is no way that I’m going to forget this memorable trip. I want to thank everyone (including my parents) for letting me go on this experience of a lifetime. –Savi Dhoat

Making Connections

P1020540This trip has taught me a lot of new things about a lot of topics. One of the many things I learned there that I will take back is leadership. In South Africa, we did a ton of activities based on leadership that I will take with me everywhere I go. This trip was meaningful to me because now I know how different people and places act. Now that I have had an experience of that I think I will look at the world by a new light. Having gone on this trip will also better my community service next year because in South Africa, we had all kinds of talks about saving animals, service projects, etc. In 8th grade, for my project, I think I have an idea I can work from now. The people really were my favorite part truly. Being able to meet all these new people will have an impact on me for a long time. All in all, this trip is probably one of the best experiences I have had in my 12-year-old life. –Chika Amamgbo