Sarvodaya: “The World We Wish to See”

By Mark Friedman, Round Square Coordinator and Community Service Director

We are having a wonderful time at the Round Square International Conference in Madhya Pradesh, India hosted by The Emerald Heights International School. Morgan G. ’22, Chris C. ’21, and Nathan M. ’21 are doing a great job of reaching out and are making lots of new connections.

We started our trip in Mumbai. We visited the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Rabajai Clock Tower; markets; Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest outdoor laundry; and Dharavi, the world’s third-largest slum. We also got to spend time with Harnoor, a former exchange student to Athenian who flew down from Delhi to meet us.

The conference theme is Sarvodaya, which means “the world we wish to see.” The Emerald Heights International School describes Sarvodaya as follows:

“The theme of the conference is Sarvodaya-The world we wish to see. Sarvodaya is a Sanskrit word meaning progress for all. The word is a combination of two terms: ‘Sarva’ meaning one and all and ‘Uday’ meaning welfare or uplift. Combined the word signifies ‘Universal Uplift’. Very appropriately the conference is scheduled in the week when the world celebrates the Mahatma’s [Gandhi’s] 150th Birth Anniversary and the week that follows is dedicated to non-violence and peace. This is in keeping with our school’s philosophy.”

Conference Facebook page

The keynote speakers at the conference have been a diverse lot. We heard from Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi on the 150thanniversary of Gandhi’s birth. Other keynote speakers include a member of parliament who worked with the United Nations for 30 years, an Indian performance artist from LA, and a robot.

Every evening includes an hour-long cultural performance from conference delegates. Weather willing, this is followed by an outdoor dinner buffet with a huge spread of food and outstanding dance performances. Each evening has a special theme and is truly spectacular.

We have met the folks from Chanderbala Modi Academy, the school that is hosting us after the conference. The conference delegates are the ones who are hosting our students and they seem very excited to host.

The monsoon season refuses to end, so we have had a couple of rainstorms, some with intense wind. We are having a great time and we look forward to spending time at the Chanderbala Modi Academy!

Traveling to Colombia and Coming Back “A Whole New Person”

by Lev Dufaux ’23

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts that highlight Athenian’s Pillars, the foundational values that we share with all Round Square schools. This installment is a speech about International and Multicultural Understanding delivered by 8th grader Lev at Morning Meeting to the Middle School.

We had hiked for about an hour or so, the air thinning more and more with each step up the mountain. Our conversations began to slow as we rose over 9,000 feet. Once we neared the top, gasps and yells of excitement broke out of our airless lungs. Our dewed faces lifted when we saw a big blue-green gleaming lagoon cradled by a bowl of jungle, like a potion being brewed in a witch’s pot. Last year, I went to Colombia for a Round Square conference that Athenian annually takes part in, along with three other Athenian Middle School students.

The Round Square trip was an opportunity to bond with people all around the globe, immerse myself in a culture very different from American culture, and develop leadership skills that will help me and others create a better home for everyone. South America was new to me, and I had no idea what to expect. Colombia led me through a whole other culture; it almost felt like a new world. Like a hug and kiss whenever you meet someone, or the smell of exotic food that lingers through the air. When I explored Colombia, I experienced new flavors, new landscapes, a new language, and a very loving community. Dancing was a very big part of my trip there. We had dance competitions to our favorite Reggaetón songs, laughing at how terrible we were at Cumbia. We tried all kinds of new wild Colombian flavors, my personal favorite being hot chocolate and cheese, which melts on your tongue like cotton candy. I met all kinds of new people, not just American and Colombian, but also Chilean, Peruvian, Mexican, Brazilian, Canadian, British, Argentinian, and Danish people.

One moment that changed who I am today was when we did a service project in a small school in the mountains. At the school, we created murals, made a new playground, took care of the children, and made the school a more enjoyable place. When we sat there in the worn down schoolhouse, I realized that the kids were not super young, but closer to my age. Later, our guides told us that they were so small because they didn’t have easy access to food. Keeping these children in mind keeps me grateful for my community, and it compels me to help others. Knowing that I made these children’s lives a little better keeps me focused on leading because it changed not only their lives but mine as well. I became inspired to stand up and lead, and I now feel comfortable sharing my opinions.

Never have I gone on a trip to a foreign place and come back as a whole new person. I met so many new people that I still talk to this day, and more often than not I find myself thinking about all the great experiences I had with all kinds of wonderful people. I miss the smell of freshly made ajiaco soup pouring out of small restaurants and the taste of homemade arepa that gives you a reason to step out of bed in the mornings. I miss the warm hugs and kisses when you meet someone. I miss my good friends that I made that I still talk to today. I haven’t forgotten about Colombia one bit, and still keep a part of it on my wrist every day, a bracelet the color of the Colombian flag. Special thanks to Esteban and Cynthia for organizing and supervising the trip, and to Kyle P., Kate L., and Maddie G. for coming along with me.

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.

Round Square Service Trip in India: Update from Afar

by Mark Friedman, Director of Round Square and Community Service

Read the first post from the trip here.

We finished up our time at the Pathways School and are now in Delhi. The three Athenian girls on the trip and the three Pathways World School girls that were their hosts really bonded. They said it felt like they had known each other for months, not four days. They couldn’t get enough of each other during our last hours at the school, sharing all manner of contact information and strategizing about ways to see each other in the future. But eventually it was time for Yukti, Maansi, and Anya to go back to being regular Pathways’ students and for Malia, Isabella, and Olivia to head off for other parts of India. Our luggage loaded into our vehicle, we waved goodbye to our new friends at Pathways. It was also goodbye to the calm of rural India. Good-bye to horse-drawn carts, fields of blooming mustard plants, and piles of cow pies. Our next stop was the Delhi, home to over 45,000,000 people, and the boisterous cacophony of Old Delhi.

While the distance isn’t so far from Pathways to the heart of Delhi, the number of cars in the way made it a two-hour journey. On our way into the city, we picked up our tour guide, Dolly. She talked about her 37 years as a guide and showed us pictures of her daughter’s wedding, which included seven events. Dolly told us that her daughter had an arranged marriage. Her daughter is very committed to animal rights and the one thing they checked before approving the marriage was that the potential husband would allow her to continue this work.

That afternoon, we visited the Jama Masjid, one of India’s largest mosques. It was built by Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who also built the Taj Mahal. The people visiting the mosque—faithful, entrepreneurial, or curious—were almost as interesting as the structure. Then it was off for a rickshaw ride, a great way to travel the crowded streets of Old Delhi. Even getting to dinner that evening was an adventure: a 20-minute walk through the darkness along crumbling sidewalks with car headlights and beeping horns rushing past.  Gratefully, the inside of the restaurant was a calm retreat.

The next day we visited the government buildings left by the British and taken over by India, such as the Parliament and President’s House.  They’re built in a style that combines European and Indian architecture.  The President’s House is on a long axis with India Gate, a memorial to the Indian soldiers who died in World War I.  The sightlines to the India Gate weren’t worth much however, as it was barely visible through the thick soup of Delhi’s air pollution.

We visited the first Mughal mausoleum, Humayun’s Tomb. The Taj Mahal is the most famous Mughal mausoleum and was built by Humayun’s great-grandson Shah Jahan. Humanyun’s Tomb is gorgeous, but just as important are the grounds. Our word for “paradise” comes from the Farsi word for “walled garden.”  Qutb Minar is another UNESCO World Heritage site and commissioned by the first Muslim ruler of Delhi.  Finally, it was off to Akshardham Temple, which is only five years old.

Today, we get up early for the 3½ hour drive to Agra, once the capital of the Mughal Empire. Agra is famous for the Taj Mahal and also for the Agra Fort, which was once the home of the Mughal emperors. I have been to the Taj Mahal before, but the experience was still astounding. We all know what it looks like, but it is breathtaking to have it standing there in front of you. Our guide, Ashish, was very knowledgeable. Part of what is great about the Taj Mahal is the stone work. There’s amazing stone inlay throughout the building. And the famous white marble on the outside is translucent, which means the building looks different as the light in the sky shifts. We couldn’t help taking tons of photographs. And one of our favorite parts of visiting the Agra Fort was looking upriver to the Taj Mahal on the banks of the Yamuna River.

Tomorrow we have to head out at 6:00 AM to the Genesis Global School, another Round Square school near Delhi. We need to get there in time for a 10:00 AM all-school assembly.  I hope we’re not expected to make a presentation! After a full d
ay of activities at the school, the Athenian students head off with Genesis families to do homestays over the weekend.

Round Square Service Trip 2017: Athenian Delegation Reports from India

by Mark Friedman, Director of Round Square and Community Service

Greetings from Pathways World School, located in a rural area south of Delhi.  It was a long journey here. Our three hours in the Amsterdam airport were an unexpected pleasure, though—we wandered through shops full of wooden shoes and tulips and ate our last fresh vegetables for two weeks. Landing at 3:00 AM, the Delhi airport was thronged with people. Thousands stood in long queues to enter the country. Every shop was open. Usually, I do one big currency exchange for everyone in the group because you get a better rate exchanging more money, but not in India.  Because of India’s demonetization policy, you can only exchange US$85 per passport.

I love the first taste of the air in a new place. Leaving the airport, we drank in the pungent and smoky air of Delhi. Arvinash, a stylishly-dressed history teacher from Pathways was waiting for us. Despite the fact that our flight from Amsterdam had been delayed, our group was unified in wanting to stick to the day’s schedule, which meant getting to breakfast by 9:00 AM after only a couple hours of sleep.  We are all staying on the Pathways campus, the girls in a dorm and me in the guest house.  The dorms here have a guard on duty 24/7, a woman in front of each girl’s dorm and a man in front of the boy’s.  As I said good night to the three Athenian students and the security guard at their dorm, the sounds of singing and chanting from a nearby temple filled the early morning air.

A few hours later, we arrived at the cafeteria.  The school’s 500+ boarders had finished long before. We surveyed the food, looking to see what we could eat to follow the rules of only eating foods that were “cooked, bottled or peeled.” Toast and cereal were our main breakfast fare.

We met three girls—Yukti, Maansi and Anya—who would be our hosts for the next four days.  They made a presentation about the school’s ongoing work supporting government schools in local villages and then we were off to a school 20 minutes away. The drive itself was fascinating. Women wearing bright colors with huge bundles of wood branches balanced on their heads.  Thin cows wandering and sitting alongside the road.  Hundreds of cow pies drying in the sun, to be burned later as fuel. The village school is located less than a mile from the city of Gurgaon in a village called Parla.  It seemed incongruous to be in rural India and have dozens of 20+ story apartment towers looming nearby. The school we were working at was founded in 1931 by the grandfather of the current service director at Pathways, Sunil.  What a treat to be there working with him! As we drove to the school, Sunil pointed out a plot of land that he said belonged to his family for “thousands of years.”

Our first day at the village school, we started painted murals.  It was Friday, but a school holiday. There were dozens of boys from the village there to play cricket and watch—or occasionally help—us. Not a single girl. One of the school’s art teachers was there, Druvswamini, and she helped sketch the original designs for the murals. The village only has electricity in the evening, so Pathways is putting in a solar system at the school as that is the only way to have electricity during the daytime—and without electricity there can be no computers at the school. Some of the equipment for the solar system arrived that day.

The full moon was that night. The village’s temple is across the street from the school. As the morning wore on, more local women arrived at the temple to drum, sing, and chant. Sunil and I went to visit and then brought the six girls over. The first time the girls sat with the women, but the second time our girls danced with the local women. Lord Shiva is the local god and the song that the women sang was about him.

Part of the temple structure was the old well for the village where the women all used to come for their water. Most of the local water is from the ground. The water table used to be 30 feet down but is now 200 feet, and dropping 10 feet each year.

We headed back to school for a late lunch. The students have physical education and sports every day and the Athenian girls chose to go horseback riding. Before dinner was a cultural event about slam poetry and spoken word. There were also a number of songs performed, all accompanied by guitar. Interestingly, it seemed like something that could have happened at Athenian. Indeed, Isabella performed a song with one of the Indian girls serving as our host. The three Pathways’ girls joined us for our post-dinner debrief.  We had an interesting conversation about how women are treated in Indian society.

The next day was Saturday and we headed back to the school at Parla. In addition to finishing the murals, we also helped install some new wash stations for the students. Good hygiene and washing before each meal is part of our strategy for staying healthy in India, but it’s also important and challenging for the locals.  Pathways supports many local schools with new wash stations. Pathways not only installs the hand washing stations at 17 local schools—in partnership with Rotary International who donated US$60,000 to the Pathways for this work—but the Pathways maintenance staff visits the local schools to do ongoing maintenance on the donated items.

After lunch, our group of six students and a few Pathways teachers headed off to go camping.  A short ten-minute ride from school, we came to an outdoor adventure facility.  We had fun going down the zip line and were challenged by things like a climbing wall and cargo net. While warm during the day, it does get cold at night. We ate dinner around a big fire. At 10:00 PM, the Athenian students retired to our tents, though the cold meant that most of us slept poorly.

We were up at 6:00 AM for trekking, or hiking.  A red sun rose over foggy fields.  Cow pies dried alongside the path. We scampered up two rocky outcroppings for views of the surrounding countryside. Then we headed off to the Surajkund International Crafts Mela. This featured over 1,000 booths with crafts from all over India and many other parts of the world. We were joined by several faculty families on this outing, which made it extra special. The crafts were amazing, if overwhelming in their profusion. Olivia attracted a lot of attention and many people wanted to have their picture taken with her.

On our last day at Pathways, we began with a visit to Prakashpuri Temple, which is set in a peaceful valley. We visited a meditation case in the nearby cliffs and were served chai. Then it was off to visit two government schools that Pathways supports. We wandered amongst classes high-fiving students and admiring their school work. Finally, we arrived back at the Parla School and finished the murals we had been painting.

Sunil, Pathways’ community service director, is the one teacher from the area.  He invited us to his home in the late afternoon.  We got to meet his wife, daughter and parents, tour his home, explore his village, and go on a 90-minute hike in the countryside. What a treat! Then his wife made homemade curry and poori.  The wheat is grown in the family’s fields and ground at his house. We were so well fed that we skipped dinner in the cafeteria.

The three Athenian girls and the three girls from Pathways have grown very close. It’s astounding to think that they didn’t know each other four days ago. When they’re together, it’s a riot of animated talking and laughter. We depart Pathways tomorrow for Old Delhi and the farewells will be sad. All three of the Pathways girls are interested in coming on exchange to Athenian, so one way or another I expect these relationships to continue.

That’s all for now! I’ll check back in with more in a couple of days.

Athenians Win NYT Year In Rap Contest Again

Athenian classes have won The New York Times’ Year In Rap Contest 4 out of its 5 years. The sophomores in US History begin the year by looking back on the previous 365 days’ of news. In one class period, each class worked together to craft a poem of rhyming couplets capturing the year 2015 in an original rap. This year, two of Athenian’s entries were among the 11 winners from over 800 entries.

Take a look at Athenian’s 2015, 201420132012 entries and contest winners, too.

Winner: Jackie, Rosie, Annie, Kyle, Diego, Ashna, Maria, Sofi, Avrah, Robby, Catherine, Cailin, Jonathan, Josh B, Josh T, Josiah (US History)

Twenty-sixteen made us laugh and cry,
Keep reading below and soon you’ll know why:
We lost Princess Leia, Willy Wonka, and Snape
Stop with the videos- we get it, you vape!
Throughout the year, we watched in agony;
Brussels, Orlando, Nice – we saw tragedy
The Obamas’ priorities were global education,
But Melania never learned about plagiarization
As Black Lives Matter took the nation by storm,
Quarterback Kaepernick refused to conform
The Dakota Access Pipeline was heavily debated,
Celebrities joined in because the project was hated
Britain left the EU 52 to 48,
Trump won – will Americans now emigrate?
Michelle’s moving lessons won’t pass us by
Remember:  when they go low, we go high

Winner: Gopaal, Chika, Henry, Olivia, Haley, Anne, Ginger, Jenna, Avery, Jason, Sydney, Jin, Darya, Liam, Derek, Z, AJ, Bryan (US History)

2016 was a crazy year to say the least,
And ISIS continued to prevent world peace.
Even though Hillary won the popular vote
Donald Trump now has a reason to gloat.
Mosquitos carry Zika, tiny bugs aren’t a joke,
But in 4 new states it’s now legal to smoke.
Seventy-five years since Pearl Harbor was bombed,
Obama and Abe apologized for what their countries did wrong.
Harambe being left on the rocks to bleed
might be worse then the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead
Britain left the EU leaving Europe in dismay,
Assad and the rebels left Aleppo in disarray.
The deaths of celebrities such as Prince, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali left people low
All across the world people played Pokemon Go
Far, far away, two black holes collide,
Waves were detected when a chirp rang inside.

Lulu, Sravani, Kamcee, Kate, Olivia, Alina, Kaitlyn, Ben, Justin, Hannah, Blake, Noah, Jade, Sam, Grant, Siena, Nick G, Nick W (US History) 

Rain drop, drop top
2016 has come to a stop-stop
In Orlando Florida 49 Pulses cut short
‘Cause LGBT people Omar didn’t support
Dakotas halt construction of the oil pipeline,
we witnessed the downfall of Clinton and Vine
Kaepernick took a knee for police brutality;
Keith Lamont Scott, and many more casualties
Bombs from planes create Syrian ditches
Warriors throwing games like the Cubs throw pitches
Melania gave a speech we all know Michelle did
Politics dragged – like Harambe did the kid
And don’t forget Hamilton, the show that swept the nation
Got a record breaking 16 Tony nominations
Man buns, memes, and dabbing continue to roam
These trends need to die and Pokémon go home

Mojoyinoluwa A., Will C., Ellie C., Vikrant G., Karthik G., Rosalie K., Jerry L., Julian M., Isabella M., Jack M., Tyler M., Evan R., Matthew R., Amanda S., Chris V.  (US History)

We say goodbye to Obama after eight historic years
Clinton is Trumped, bringing half the country to tears
Planet Pluto, no longer a stranger
and as of now, pandas aren’t living in danger
The death of Alan Kurdi is a tragedy of its own,
now the war torn Syria has become a hazard zone
A choker trend reached an all-time high,
as contouring served as the ultimate disguise
Samsung has a really bad year, phones exploding everywhere
while Apple kills off their jack as if they don’t even care
The Cubs celebrate their first win since 1908
while the Brazilian soccer team suffers a much darker fate
In 2016 we lost so many great artists
Rest in Peace to all those departed

Alisa C., Toby C., Hemen D., Savi D., Dara G., Karen H., Lauren H., Yevhen (Jake) H., Jolene K., Michael K., Jackson M., Vincent P., Jennifer S., Mark S., Jacob V., Yifeng (Steven) Y. (US History)

2016 was an elevator, with many ups and downs
Freedom had a price, while hate was making rounds
In the land of the free and home of the brave,
Clinton v. Trump sends the nation into rage
We’re still fighting Zika, Flint’s flooded with lead
Yet with cancer tests and transplants, humanity’s not dead
The cosmos, now mapped, full of gravity waves
While bats’re drinkin’ nectar in shadowy caves
Samsung catches fire, VR and drones take flight
Cyberterrorism and hacking become a public plight
Phelps and Biles winnin’ metal at the Games
Broncos, Cavs and Cubs, takin’ pride in their names
Princess Leia and her mother, in death honored
Wonka, Snape and Bowie, heroes’ talents squandered

Brad A., Rahul A., Emily A., Aidan C., Trang D., Mackenzie H., Lilly H., Chloe K., Hannah M., Kylie P., Charlie R., Joseph S., Thuan T., Sophie T., Sally V., Hannah W., Sunny Y. (Vietnam Seminar)

2016 is one we’ll never forget
An auspicious leap year leaves us with regret
Although the Cubbies broke the curse of 108 years
The end of Muhammed Ali brought us to tears
May he rest in peace with Comrade Castro
Don’t forget Bowie, music fire as Tabasco
Top celebs like Kim K and Wintour
Lit up the MET carpet in crazy couture
Samsung tried to create a virtual reality
Now phones blowing up is just a normality
Britain’s exit shocked the world to the core
Obama drops the mic and is President no more
Look into the future with the US polarized
Gotta try and see through each other’s eyes
In 2017 we hope for the best
Even as humanity is put to the test

Abant B., Cameron C., Courtney C., Abigail E., Monty G., Nadia K., Zoe K., William L., Caleb M., Will M., Lily N., Evan S., Oliver S., Timmy T., Olivia W. (Vietnam Seminar)

Russian hacking sent the public into a fury
Virtual reality being bought in a hurry
The UK voted Brexit and problems have arisen
The Feds arrested Chapo and put him up in prison
On his way to the grave is Fidel Castro
With Bowie, Prince, and Cohen in tow
Muhammad Ali remembered as a great swinger
Float off now butterfly; now that’s a real stinger
Chicago Cubs ~ no more World Series drought
Team USA winning day in, day out
Zika made everyone in Rio freak
Injustice at home brought riots to the streets
A twitter warrior; many called him unfit
And now a Trump presidency has the nation split


Being an Exchange Student at Athenian

As a member of Round Square, Athenian participates in a robust international exchange program. We send more than 35 sophomores abroad to sister Round Square schools every year and host just as many on our campus.
We recently hosted a student from the Bridge House School in South Africa. She wrote our Round Square Director, Mark Friedman, a lovely letter about her time at Athenian.

Hi Mark!

I wanted to apologize because when I left Athenian, I never got to formally thank you and Emily for the effort and thought that you all invested in order to make my exchange so memorable.

When I asked past Bridge House students that had attended Athenian on exchange about what to expect, they immediately smiled and told me that I was going to love it. I then met Justine earlier in the year [when she came here on exchange] and I knew that if your students were similar to her, I would find it difficult to leave, and I was right. I have completely fallen in love with your school, the food, the lifestyle and most importantly, the people. I have made memories and friends that I will never forget; and even though Athenian is not like the typical American public school that we see on TV in South Africa, it is perfect just the way that it is. I admire the determination and passion that your students have for their work, their constant big smiles and the happy atmosphere throughout the campus, and (I’m sure that you have heard this many times before) the absolutely breath-taking views. I find it difficult to convey how perfect my experience was to my friends and family because it went way beyond anything that I had anticipated. I notice myself constantly thinking about everyone that I miss.

Mathomo and I are excited to share our experience with the younger Bridge House students that will be attending Athenian in the years to come. I now know that they will never be able to forget these two months of exchange, because how could they forget two of the best months of their lives.

I hope that everyone is doing well.
All the best for 2017,
Ella Solms

Another student from Bridge House School recently applied to come to Athenian. In her application, she wrote the following:
“I have a great interest in The Athenian School in California in the USA, because most of the people that I look up to and my friends have been to the school and have nothing but great praise for it.  They almost all recommended me to go there.  What mainly attracts and interests me about The Athenian School is that they are said to embrace cultural diversity, encourage intellectual independence and tolerance of different global perspectives. …  Why do I think I am the most suitable candidate for the exchange program? I am a young and talented African woman with exceptional leadership qualities. I am thirsty to broaden my future horizon and learn more about other people’s different way of life. Given this opportunity I would be a great ambassador of not only my school and my community but also my country as well. I intend to share my values of Ubuntu with my host school and community.”
Athenian’s exchange program continues to grow. This year, we have students traveling to and coming from Argentina, Australia, China, Columbia, Germany, India, Peru, South Africa, South Korea, and the UK.

Understanding The Industrial Revolution Through Paper Airplanes

img_7276The Industrial Revolution was a turning point in Western Civilization that affected every aspect of daily living. The 9th Grade World Cultures classes are beginning a unit on industrialization and imperialism before launching into globalization. To give them a taste of what the revolution was all about, the classes simulated a factory environment.

Nancy, dressed in foreperson jeans and work shirt, barked out orders to the factory workers: they had to build as many paper airplanes as they can in 5 minutes that could fly a predetermined distance. After a brief planning period, the students attempted a variety of methods to build airplanes. Some students worked together in an assembly-line fashion while others worked independently.

img_7289Then came the quality control. They went out to test the airplanes and only a fraction of them were successfully assembled.

While paper airplanes were never built in factories during the Industrial Revolution (that we know of), this experience gave students a taste of a factory workers’ life: a competitive environment, unreasonable expectations, only seeing a piece of the whole, and experiencing efficiency as the highest value.


What We Learned at Model United Nations

Model UN is a simulation of the United Nations conference, which brings high school students that represent one of 193 countries together to discuss international issues and crises and propose solutions to them. According to the UN Charter, the mission of the United Nations is to encourage and maintain international peace and security, friendly and diplomatic relationships with other countries, as well as to create an international center for nations to work to achieve these common goals. Each delegation is assigned a country, and as a class we represented Israel.  As delegates of Israel, we were divided into separate committees where we discussed and debated issues such as drones, organized crime, and the Zika virus, hoping to pass resolutions proposing solutions to the problem through Israel’s perspective.

Preparation: Preparing the Country Book

In order to be fully prepared for Model UN, we began by researching the political history of Israel and various country policies before going in depth on our particular committee topics. After we finished researching Israel’s global priorities, human rights concerns, and current events, we started to focus on our assigned committees and wrote position papers to further delve into and propose solutions to the topics we would discuss in our committees. Despite the arduous process of researching and putting together our country book, our hard work paid off at the conference when our books provided valuable information that we were able to quickly utilize during our committee sessions.

Committee Experience

In the committee meetings themselves, we were challenged explain and advocate for our country policies to the best of our ability, and apply these policies to potential solutions.  We talked about issues in moderated caucuses and we wrote resolutions and collaborated with other delegates in unmoderated caucuses. In our experience, representing and speaking for a certain country in a conference was be challenging at first, but once we got used to the MUN procedures and language, most of us became much more comfortable and active participants. This came much easier to Elliot Sasson, a student-delegate who represented Israel because it is a country that he has an emotional connection with and has visited multiple times. The MUN experience was admittedly challenging, but we learned a lot during the process and gained experience we can apply throughout our lives.

Take Away

Despite the common perception of Model UN as a debate tournament, it actually entails much more preparation, applied skill, and enthusiasm. As someone who has participated in parliamentary debate, I can tell you that Model UN is a totally different experience. Instead of short prepared speeches delivered by participants in a formal debate, committee meetings are unpredictable as there is no clear victory or defeat. Other than a one-minute speech, the rest of the meeting depends solely upon the opinions brought up by the delegates, which contributes to how much energy is needed to participate. In regards to the personal interaction during the meetings, it is definitely out of some people’s comfort zone to constantly engage with strangers who you refer to by the country they represent. Nevertheless, Model UN is a must-do for anyone interested politics or international relations and will definitely boost one’s knowledge of world affairs in general, which perfectly envelopes the Multicultural understanding pillar at Athenian. As a class, we performed very well at CCCMUN and 2 out of the 5 delegates representing Israel won awards. Hannah Williams won the award for “Outstanding Delegate,” the top most honor that can be received and Rahul Arockiaraj won the award for “Exceptional Delegate,” the second most honorable award. Also from the F Period class, Devin Dhaliwal won the “Distinguished Delegate” award which is the third highest honor.

As participation within the Athenian community grows, so will our opportunities to explore deeper into the world of MUN. For example, this year we got invited to visit the New York City MUN, which takes place at the UN headquarters. The competition includes possible appearances from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. This and other potential opportunities that may come up only benefit the Athenian community, in general. Again, as a class, we would like to stress the amount of knowledge gained from MUN and strongly recommend it to anyone who is even remotely interested. Please spread the word to anyone else you might think will enjoy taking part in MUN.

Coming of Age at The American Indian Film Institute Festival

By the Indigenous Gothic Literature Seminar: Lily H. ’17, Julian L. ’18, Bill L. ’18, Nat M. ’18, Jordan M. ’17, Harry M. ’18, Poppy N. ’18, Matthew T. ’18. Photos by Nat M. ’18

The Indigenous Gothic Literature Seminar taught by Andrea Cartwright visited The American Indian Film Institute Festival in San Francisco on Thursday. There, we spent the day viewing films created by different Native American filmmakers, including students from the AIFI Tribal Touring Program Youth Series.

The films tackled issues of cultural appropriation, loss of tradition, stereotyping, and reservations, while simultaneously celebrating varying Native cultures through creation stories and dance.

As a class, our favorite films were two documentaries that focused on coming of age: the first was Ohero: Kon Under the Husk, a documentary about two Mohawk high school girls participating in a four-day fast as part of a coming-of-age ceremony.  We drew some parallels to own experiences on AWE.  The second documentary we enjoyed was Little Wound’s Warrior, which unpacked a recent suicide epidemic on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota through interviews, mainly with high school students.

After our trip, we remarked that we now have a better understanding of the importance of including diverse voices and perspectives in media; for many, the festival’s slogan, “Defending Our Way of Life Through Film,” was particularly resonant.  Junior Natalie MacIlwaine observed: “I can now more clearly and directly see how the media is used as an outlet and way to express emotion of young people, as well as inform and further unify a community that shares similar feelings and culture.”  Senior Lilly Huang noted that: “As people who are minorities, often their voice is lost. When expressing their voices in such creative ways,  I think it really calls to attention what they want to say.”