Four Athenian Alumni Donate 10,000 Masks to Our Local Community

Pictured from left to right: Jim Lin ’07, father Ting-Fung Lin, Shannon Lin ’09

In an act of tremendous global philanthropy, four Athenian alumni joined forces to donate and coordinate the delivery of 10,000 surgical masks to our local community. The alumni, former boarding students from Taiwan, gave Athenian discretion around their distribution. Jim Lin ‘07 and Shannon Lin ‘09 were the original organizers. When friends Jamie Chang ‘08 and Wesley Yang ‘12 heard about the brothers’ idea, they quickly joined the effort.

“I checked in with Jim and Shannon when the pandemic hit,” said Michelle Park, Athenian’s International Student Coordinator, ESL teacher and longtime faculty member with the School. “I wanted to say hello and see if their family was well. They asked if we at Athenian needed anything in regards to supplies, as the U.S. was just entering the COVID-19 crisis. They wanted to make a donation and wanted Athenian to decide who should receive the masks.”

Pictured: Michelle Park and Eric Niles with Maeshah Shaw and Jelani Moses of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers

After a long and complicated shipping process, Athenian received its first delivery last week and has now received the remainder of the masks. Donations have already been made to the SEIU United Healthcare Worker’s Union, John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek, the Springhill Medical Group, and The Gubbio Project, a non-profit serving the homeless community in San Francisco.

On Video: Jelani Moses of Kaiser Permanente

SEIU United Healthcare Workers West members Jelani Moses of Kaiser Permanente and Maeshah Shaw of San Ramon Regional Medical Center visited campus today to receive their donation of 4,200 surgical masks. In the video below, Jelani expresses his thanks.

Apart from sending a huge thanks to Jim, Shannon, Jamie and Wesley for their extraordinary kindness, we also appreciate those who worked to coordinate efforts on the Athenian side: Michelle Park and Vivian Liao.

Athenian Alumni Teach in Virtual Classrooms as Part of Distance Learning

Athenian faculty found silver linings as they adjusted to distance learning, tapping our global network of alumni to lend live classroom expertise. Andrew Gerst ‘09, Lizzie Miskovetz ‘10, and Julian Binder ‘11 joined David Otten’s Applied Science and Engineering course last Wednesday as guest lecturers. Karen Hinh ‘19 and Baxter Eldridge ‘13 joined on Thursday and Friday, respectively, all by Zoom videoconference.

“It was so great to see how our fledgling engineers from a decade ago are making huge design waves at Tesla, Microsoft, and Virgin Galactic,” David said, speaking of his Wednesday guests. “They had wonderful advice for our current batch of students…most importantly, to stop caring so much about your GPA, and instead focus on doing what you love and making the world a better place.”

David wasn’t the only teacher to integrate community expertise into student curriculum last week: former board chair and alumni parent, Dave Welsh, joined Head of School, Eric Niles Constitutional Law class to present the stock market through the lens of current events. Scaling up to accommodate wider community participation is part of a longer-term plan:

“I look at this opportunity to have alumni visiting as an unexpected gift of COVID-19 and distance learning,” said Head of Upper School, Amy Wintermeyer. “We were supposed to have a career day on March 11th and it was disappointing for both students and alumni to miss out. I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to find ways to still connect alumni with many of our students and I’m hoping we can continue to do this in the weeks following spring break!”

If you are an alumnus or another member of our community with expertise you think might be great for our classroom, send us an email and let us know! 

Beat Boxing with Eric Strand ’16

by Kim Palacios, Associate Director of Advancement, Alumni Giving & Engagement

Athenian was delighted to welcome alumnus Eric Strand ‘16 as a visiting instructor teaching beat-boxing skills to the hOWLers. Strand sings with On The Rocks, the nationally-known all-male a cappella group at the University of Oregon and traces some of his love for performing back to his Athenian roots. This September marked the fourth time that Eric visited campus to lend his expertise to student programs. He has also organized performances of On the Rocks on the Athenian campus. 

Eric’s visit is the latest in a series of alumni/hOWLers partnerships organized by Choir Director Emily Shinkle, whose track record of building two-way relationships between Athenian alumni and current students, and bringing alumni back to perform has been stellar. “I’m always happy to see former hOWLers continue on with singing in college and I love it when they want to come back to share what they’ve learned and inspire our current singers,” she remarked. 

Beyond bringing Eric back to serve students, Emily and the hOWLers have traveled to the Oakland elementary school where Melissa Barry Hansen ’85 is a 5th-grade teacher, teaching them how to sing in rounds, and two-part harmonies. An Alumni Cabaret held in January 2018 brought young alumni back for a vocally-focused variety show. Emily is currently in discussions with a cross-functional team to co-organize a new performance event that would feature a mix of students and alumni. Stay tuned for possible news!

Athletes with Character: Remembering Scott Leister ’05

Athenian student-athletes are known for their character, both on the field and off. We value leadership, dedication, service, playfulness, and compassion. Scott Leister ’05 was an outstanding student-athlete who embodied the pillars that are the foundation of an Athenian student. Scott’s life was tragically cut short at age 21 when he was killed by a drunk driver. August 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of Scott’s passing.

Scott before a high school dance

Scott embodied the pillars that are the foundation of an Athenian student. Scott played varsity soccer all four years at Athenian and was a valued member of the team, for his athletic ability, game strategy, and team spirit. He was also an active participant in international experiences, committed to community service, and a frequent outdoor adventurer. Scott went on to become a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Rochester, was a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, and was intending to pursue a medical degree to further his international humanitarian efforts. In 2013, California Highway Patrol published a service video about Scott.

Scott’s memory is kept alive at Athenian. For the last ten years, we have recognized a student-athlete with the Scott Leister Spirit of Athenian Award. The Scott Leister Award is inscribed with the following text: “We will teach our sons about Scott. We will cultivate in them the qualities he showed the world: Responsibility, Humility, Service, Play, Love. They will become men who live Scott’s message. They will teach their children about Scott and the values and qualities he embodied. Over and over again Scott will live in new lives. Like thousands of raindrops falling from the sky, his compassion and his play will keep dancing in this world and beyond.”

The winners of the Scott Leister Award to date are Ben Wang ’09, Jeff Sohn ’10, Jared Madden ’11, Ian Truebridge ’12, Tyler Huntington ’13, Anthony Aguilar ’14, Brendan Suh ’15, Andrew Kocins 16, Bradley Altomare ’17, and Victoria Akinsanya ’18.

To provide Athenian students with the opportunities Scott had as a young person, Scott’s family started The Scott Leister ’05 Endowment for International Community Service. Scott’s mom Carol Leister has become a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Advocate and she and her family have spoken to thousands of people including law enforcement officers and DUI offenders. And every year, Scott’s family sometimes accompanied by Athenians march with Walk Like MADD.

Athenian teaches students about the hazards of drinking and the fatal consequences of drinking while driving in its health classes. MADD publishes the following statistics on its website:

  • Drunk driving is still the #1 cause of death on our roadways.
  • There are 300,000 drunk driving incidents a day
  • There are 10,497 deaths a year. That’s 29 deaths every day and one death every 50 minutes. Each and every one of them is 100% preventable.

Life in Flight: What’s Possible After Athenian

Updated November 28, 2017

The core values of Athenian’s mission provide the foundation for 21st-century success: critical and analytical thinking, collaboration, teamwork, and creativity.  For proof of this, look no further than Keenan Wyrobek ’99.  During his Athenian experience, he built rockets, competed on the swim team, and embraced failure in projects and experiments as a learning opportunity. The skills Keenan built at Athenian served him well at Johns Hopkins and Stanford, and in developing the reading app Bam Boomerang and the Personal Robotics Program at Willow Garage.

In founding Zipline, Keenan combined his robotics expertise and a strong desire to help others. Recently featured on National Geographic’s Chasing Genius series and CNN, Zipline gets medical supplies to communities that are difficult to access. Keenan’s drone-operated delivery system sends urgent medical supplies to patients who can’t be reached otherwise. Health workers can order critical items like blood by text message from Zipline; within minutes, a drone takes off and medical products are delivered quickly and safely by parachute. Zipline, one of Keenan’s service-oriented tech startups, has raised nearly $50 million in funding for its innovative, humanitarian, life-saving projects and has delivered thousands of units of blood saving countless lives. Keenan tells us, “My Athenian education prepared me for what I do at Zipline. In my work at Zipline, I draw on the hands on the problem-solving experience, technical knowledge, and leadership skills I gained at Athenian every day.”

Keenan delivered a TEDMed2017 talk at the beginning of November sharing about his work providing blood and medical supplies to hard to reach populations and Zipline was a winner of the 2017 INDEX: Designs to Improve Life Award, which came with a €500,000 grant. One of the jury members, Ravi Naidoo, said Zipline “is a great systemic interplay of designers, governments and society bringing the best first-world technology to the poorest.” With a successful operation in place in Rwanda, Zipline will be establishing four distribution centers in Tanzania in 2018 and plans to continue expanding to countries across the world. Plans are in the works to begin delivering blood to remote areas of Maryland, Nevada, and Washington as well, serving as a pilot project for a global rollout redefining the delivery of emergency supplies.

Watch ZIPLINE – 2017 BODY WINNER from INDEX: Design to Improve Life® on Vimeo.

Alumni Wisdom: Life After Athenian

Today is Alumni Day at Athenian. Many of our young alums are still home on college winter break and are able to share with our students about their life after Athenian. Here is a collection of quotes from today’s Symposia on how Athenian prepares students for college.

“In terms of writing, Athenian does a great job…take your humanities classes seriously, take your history classes seriously, because the writing skills that you learn here will put you way ahead when you start college.”

“Athenian prepared me really well, or over-prepared me. I’ve been gliding through college.”

“Athenian prepares you to advocate for yourself and be comfortable with teachers, so it’s so much easier to get to know your teachers.”

“I felt well-prepared, especially in paper writing….You all are way more prepared than you think you are with writing exercises.”

“Athenian prepared me really well socially for college. I learned here how to be outgoing, and I think that’s really important when you’re trying to meet friends at college. If you’re outgoing, people will latch onto you really quickly. Academically, I talked to my roommate this year, and he said in high school, he was never really challenged. So he didn’t understand the idea of studying a really long time for a test, but that was just natural for me because here you’re challenged more than other places and that really helps.”

“The science department gives you a really solid base, a really solid foundation. The one thing that I wish I had practiced more when I was in high school was learning from a textbook.”

“Athenian also really taught me that is what is most important is what you actually learn and the person you are becoming. I think that we are prepared really well for a lot of the general education. We learn how to learn. We also learn how to work. If you can apply that same work ethic that you learn here, inevitably, as you get deeper into what you’re doing, there’s nothing that can prepare you for college, because hopefully, it’ll be a time when you’re pushing yourself, really trying to grow. So there’s no way to truly be prepared other than learning how to get through hard things. And Athenian is a hard thing, so that’s good.”

“I was actually a little worried coming out of Athenian that I didn’t do enough….and then I got into college classes, and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m amazed at how much Athenian has taught me.’ All the writing rubrics were identical. I was writing 5-7 papers a week and I thought they were a breeze. I was in some of my classes and some of the students didn’t know how to make graphs in Excel, and I thanked Bruce and Will silently for teaching me how to do that….If you’ve taken advantage of what Athenian has to offer, I’ve found that I’m really ahead in college and having an easy time because I was prepared so well.”

“You’re really prepared. I remember something I heard when I was sitting on that side of the conversation. And that is, college is 30% academics and 70% social. I’d like to echo that, because, at the end of the day, I have class for 12 hours a week. Compared to high school, it’s nothing. Honestly, you have to put in a lot of work [to the social scene].”

“I came to Athenian junior year. I learned how to be nice in general, so that even if everyone has their own groups, you can still be friends….this goes a long way. Many engineering students at my school have jobs in the best industries in the United States. The ones that I talk to, if I ask them for a job, I might get one, so that is a helpful thing. It helps me to be social and be patient and that’s something that I got from here.”

“I was someone who didn’t do the best at Athenian, but at the same time, I weirdly found myself really well prepared when I went to college….It can be a little rigorous. It’s easy to complain….I really miss Athenian in the sense that I feel like I didn’t appreciate it enough when I was here….Definitely appreciate what you have here. You have teachers who will grab you outside of class and smack you into reality. You’re not going to get that in college. You’re not going to have teachers who actually care for you. [Athenian teachers] care for you, they really do. All the things you have done for me, it really means a lot. That C that you would give me, it really helped me grow into the person that I am today. And you’re not going to get that in college as much if you go to a big school. Teachers won’t necessarily do that for you. They’ll give you the grade but they won’t tell you why unless you go to them….Go to your teachers, go to your professors later in life.”

“Socially, you’re going to have to put yourselves out there more than you did here. Sign up for things and put your phones away.”

Athenians Connected Around the World

By Chris Beeson, Director of Admission and Financial Aid

Many boarding schools travel each year internationally to connect with current parents and alumni as well as encourage prospective students to apply. I have done so for Athenian for many years, building our relationship with these important members of the Athenian community who cannot get to campus as easily as those who live nearby.

Athenian’s travel has been built around annual fairs organized in Asian cities by TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) for U.S. and Canadian schools. This year’s travels took me to eight cities (Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Saigon, Seoul, Shanghia, Taipei, and Tokyo) in seven countries in just 19 days! Though the fast pace of the trip is challenging, the warm connections made with Athenian families and alumni are heartwarming. In each meeting, I can build a stronger relationship for Athenian with these community members abroad.

14725707_10206928662911209_6895392832755584848_nI am truly touched by how much our alumni and parents value an Athenian education and experience. It is amazing how strong the bond to Athenian can be for alumni, some who graduated many years ago and some more recently. Alumni and current parents often join me to represent Athenian at the boarding school fairs as a testament to their commitment to the School. I am so grateful to the many volunteers who are by my side that not only know the School but can help bridge any language barriers that may arise.

In meetings with alumni and parents, I can share current information about what’s happening on campus as well as answer questions from parents and alumni.  I share with each boarding parent an update about their child. Both parents and alumni often value the chance to ask questions about Athenian now and our plans for the future.  With current parents, I can often fill in where information is missing and reply to any queries they have.  

Facebook has proven to be an amazing tool in locating and communicating.  After 23 years as the Director of Admission, there are many alumni I know but who may not have kept Athenian updated with their most current contact information.  I have been able to find some alumni on Facebook and then build out through their list of friends to locate others.  These connections are often met with enthusiasm and lead to wonderful gatherings on these trips.  

Here are some highlights of the fall 2016 trip:

  • Alumni, a current parent, and alumni parents gathered in Tokyo for dinner. Noburo Nishio helped represent Athenian at the fair in Tokyo.
  • Current parents met with me in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taiwan.
  • Alumni in Hong Kong gathered with me for dinner.
  • Parents and alumni in Ho Chi Minh City joined me for a meeting and lovely gathering.
  • In Bangkok, 12 alumni and alumni parents enjoyed a great meal.  I met with another recent alum over lunch. Krittaya Pichitnapakul once again helped represent Athenian at the boarding school fair.

Thank you to everyone who joined me for dinner, helped out at a fair, or just came to say hello. I look forward to next year’s trip already! Here’s to the international community that is Athenian!