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!

Visiting Artist Exposes Fine Arts Students to Four Printmaking Techniques

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

Athenian was pleased to welcome Madalena Parreira, master printmaker and set designer, to serve as our 2019-20 Artist in Residence. Fine arts students in grades 9 through 12 were exposed to four new methods of printmaking under her instruction this fall. An alumni-supported Artist in Residence Endowed Fund provides a guest-instructor opportunity for an artist every year. The students’ diverse, personal, and visually-interesting prints made for an alluring display in the Center for Visual Arts (CFTA).  

Madalena was invited as a result of her long-term artistic collaboration with fine arts instructor, Sally Baker, who previously studied at Ar.Co (Center for Art and Visual Communication) in Lisbon, Portugal. Prior to serving as current head of printmaking at Ar.Co, Madalena taught art in secondary schools and colleges in Europe and the U.S., including for the United Nations International School in New York.

The program focused on four techniques. In the two weeks prior to Madalena’s arrival, Sally presented outstanding artworks in each technique and carefully explained what each printmaking processes entailed:

  • Silkscreen. A seventeenth-century method that uses stencils to block the passage of ink through a thin mesh; seen in the work of Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.
  • Etching. A sixteenth-century technique that uses acids to etch line and tone drawings onto metal plates; seen in the work of Rembrandt, Piranesi, and Goya.
  • Lithography. An eighteenth-century technique of printing on stones that was widely used to print stamps, maps, and packaging; seen in the work of Delacroix and Kathe Kollwitz.
  • Collography. A twentieth-century technique that involves creating plates from textured materials and printing in intaglio or by roller; seen in the work of the late Cuban artist Belkis Ayon.

Students were able to choose the type of printmaking they would explore within their respective groups; workshops were designed according to their choices. Following Madalena’s arrival, students watched live demonstrations of each step as precursors to developing their own prints.

We are pleased to report that the program was also viewed as a success by the artist herself, who remarked, “It has been an enormous pleasure to spend these days with such inquisitive and talented students. I was particularly impressed with their warm, polite and welcoming attitude from the first day, as well as their commitment and sustained effort and focus in all sessions. I have rarely seen young artists demonstrate such mutual respect and interest in learning.”

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!

Senior Story: Overcoming Shyness

Last year, seniors started delivering Senior Speeches at Morning Meeting. This Senior Speech is by Julie Qian ’20 and was delivered in early September.

Julie Qian ’20

A few days ago, my friend and I were talking and he asked me, “What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?” I could easily respond because there has been this one mortifying memory that’s haunted me for the longest time.

This story took place three years ago, when I was a new 9th grader at Athenian and let me tell you, I was painfully shy. You can ask any senior right now what they thought of me at that time, and they would tell you that I was either really quiet or that they didn’t know who I was because I was so quiet. Besides this, I joined the Athenian swim team even though I was incredibly nervous to go into a sport without knowing a single person.

The swim team has a wonderful long-standing tradition where we have a specific chant at the first home meet of the year. A 9th grader is selected to help perform part of the chant, and for some reason even though I was a quiet little thing, I was chosen to do so. I was really nervous, which only made things go downhill because I completely butchered the chant. I’m in front of my team, the other team, a second swim team, a ton of parents, and some students watching the meet when I just mess up the chant. I thought about this event for quite a few days after.

Me speaking to you right now shows how different I am as a senior now. I’m not sure if it’s clear to you all, but I’m not really super nervous speaking right here. This change isn’t that I used to be shy and now I’m no longer shy, but rather that I’m confident in who I am and the kind of person I want to be. Math classrooms forced me to accept that I’m going to be wrong a lot—honestly, maybe the majority of the time—and it doesn’t matter if the entire class hears me give a wrong answer. In lit classrooms, I was forced to present my ideas even if I thought they weren’t worth hearing. I held more responsibilities running clubs and helping as an ambassador or working on The Pillar newspaper.

This time you have here at Athenian is the perfect time to find your confidence and your growth, in whatever avenue you choose to do so.

To those of you who are really confident, you have the opportunity to be the one to reach out to others in your grade. I hope you haven’t judged shy people to be someone who isn’t worth knowing because some of them turn out to be the wittiest, kindest, and most wonderful people. You’re missing out.

I’m Julie Qian and that’s my senior story.

Bringing Environmentalism Back to Athenian

By Karen Hinh ’19 and Vikrant Goel ’19
 
This is the third 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 environmentalism delivered by Karen and Vikrant at Morning Meeting to the Upper School. The students rightly point out that the School’s focus on Environmentalism was “on pause” during our recent construction projects and they are leading the cause to recenter this pillar in the life of the School. 
 

Karen: Hello Athenian! We are presenting to you the Environmental Pillar at Athenian. Let’s be honest. It was, still is, one of the more forgotten pillars these past couple of years with all the change that’s been happening on campus, but we’re here to bring it back.

Vikrant: As someone who has always been interested in environmental issues, Athenian’s environmental stewardship pillar was one of the things that I felt passionately about from the very beginning of high school. It created an awareness in me about the importance of my personal responsibility, and the impact that I could make as an individual. It also encouraged me to choose working with an organization called Go Green Initiative for my community service project for junior and senior year, where I worked within my local community of Pleasanton to create awareness regarding a new recycling ordinance by going door to door to local businesses, talking to residents and students at public events, working with a team to conduct waste audits for the City of Pleasanton, and convincing the City School Board to comply with local recycling policy.

Karen: My inspiration comes from the science classes in elementary and middle school where I researched the effects of overfishing on the ocean, the benefits of renewable energy, air pollution in Beijing, etc. Raise your hands if you’ve had a class where you learned something similar. Yeah, right? So we’ve all had those little nuggets of knowledge along the way. But for me, the more news articles I read, the more videos I watched on YouTube about how food waste is the dumbest problem in the world, and the more I educated I got, the more invested in environmentalism I became. Fortunately, Athenian has given me a chance to see the lack of environmental education on campus these past couple of years, and that has only motivated me to do more for this campus to bring it back to the Green Ribbon school it was.

We need to care about the environment because it’s our home. We are the ones who have to live with the consequences of how we treat it, and the fact of the matter is that we haven’t been treating this planet very well in the past century with the era of fossil fuels and single-use plastic. Certainly not with a government that pulled out of the 2016 Paris Climate agreement, and that is now pushing for more coal jobs and less environmental regulation.

Vikrant: Last fall, I had the opportunity to write an article for my Journalism class, where I chose to write about the importance of instilling a culture of sustainability in schools, focusing on Athenian for my research. I was surprised to find that despite the fact that environmental stewardship is a core value of our school, we lost our focus, particularly during the construction on campus. For example, the majority of us didn’t even know that all of the compost and recycling was being hauled directly to the landfill, which was key during a time when we used disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. [Note that the School maintained separated waste disposal during the majority of construction, but there were several months when all waste was being redirected to the landfill. Because of the Environmental Science classes’ efforts, the School quickly restored our waste disposal last year and students increased the education on campus about proper waste sorting.] As a result, I really felt that change was urgently needed, and we did make some headway in the second semester last year, though I hope we can keep this momentum going in the coming year.

Karen: That’s why I started the Environmental Action Club. That’s why my friends and I are working on rebuilding the garden at Athenian with the club and a sophomore community service group. That’s why I won’t shut up about you tossing your food in the landfill bin, because it’s these small things that reflect how we choose to treat our planet and the future that we are all going to have to live with.

Thank you! Remember to come join us at the march next Saturday, and check your emails for more details. [This speech was delivered in September and a large cohort of Athenians attended the Climate March in San Francisco.]

Robotics Season: A Year of Firsts at FIRST Robotics Competition

by Lori Harsch, Robotics Advisor
This blog post is adapted from an email Lori sent to the Robotics Team at the conclusion of the season. We wanted to share the Robotics’ Team successes and gratitude with the community.
 
The 2019 Athenian Robotics Season has come to an end and as we roll into Spring Break I want to send one final all team email to wrap up the season and to send you all my gratitude for a memorable year.  This year we had a few firsts for our team…
  • First year in the Carter Innovation Studio. We were all finally in the same building and were able to collaborate and experience each other’s work in a way we haven’t been able to do before. We were also able to share our progress in real time with other non-robotics students who had classes in CIS.
  • First opportunity to build a practice field that we could use throughout the build season. Thank you Athenian School for allowing us to use part of the new Main Hall for our field.
  • First time to demonstrate our robot to our School. It was so rewarding to show our classmates and teachers what we have worked so hard on over the 6.5 week build season.
  • First year at a new regional. We have historically competed at the Silicon Valley Regional in San Jose. This year with the new March Term, we chose to attend the inaugural Monterey Bay Regional at Seaside High. Many of us got to meet Woody Flowers who came out for the event
  • I think FIRST also had a first….our very own Diego Rodriguez played the National Anthem on Day 1 of the competition!  Watch below, the link is cued to Diego’s performance.

Watch Monterey Bay Regional from FIRSTinspires19 on www.twitch.tv

As we move into the last couple of months of school, I want all of you to know that it has been a pleasure coaching and mentoring you all this season. I know we all have grown from the time we have spent together and I am so fortunate to be able to work with the group of bright, talented, and creative young people that you all are.
 
I want to thank you all for all your hard work and team support at the competition. This competition was new for all of us (new town, new venue, new hotel) and I appreciate you all for representing our School with enthusiasm and integrity.  Although the competition itself had its ups and downs, the team worked together to do its best to support each other through the tough moments and celebrate with each other during the high points. This resilience comes from the strong team bond that was formed during the build season. You all worked well together and helped each other learn and grow. All of you worked hard to design, build, and control our robot this year and it is always amazing to see these robots come to life in such a short period of time.
 
 
I also want to let all of you know how proud I am of this year’s leadership team – Karen H. ’19 and Jake H. ’19. You both had a big job to do and a large team to lead. I know it wasn’t easy and you two were stretched at times but you were able to get the job done and create a strong team. Your leadership and influence have inspired those that will follow and you two are part of the legacy of leaders for Athenian Robotics. And thanks for using the microphone even when you didn’t want to. 🙂
 
I also want to give a shout out to the students who talked with the judges at the competition. Our team was the first runner up for the Safety Award: I have pins for all of you. Props to Sam H. ’20 and Grace T. ’20.
 
Our team also won the Innovation in Control Award Sponsored by Rockwell Automation. This award celebrates an innovative control system or application of control components to provide unique machine functions. Vincent P. ’19 and Donovan Z. ’20 were the primary contributors to this innovation. Here is the poem that was announced during the awards ceremony. and a description of the innovation.
 
Why use ONE camera when you can use TWO?
Keeping your focus, orientation is true.
Aligning a grid, for an overlay scene.
Line up your shot
and
score like a dream!
 
Utilizing two cameras, the team was able to provide the drivers with a modified driver’s assist that helps them align with the goal. Both cameras are multi-threaded and made to run asynchronously. The second camera takes in the image first and using a pose estimation algorithm named SolvePnP in OpenCV, it simulates a 3D space with a 2D image (similar to an AR marker) and gives us our robot’s position relative to our goal. The location and other data will then be superimposed onto the first camera, which is what the drivers actually get to see. 
 
 
Congratulations team! Well done!
 
Finally, I want to thank David Grier, Paul Ambrose, Jamey Jacobs, Tané Remington ’06, James Cahill, and Eugene Mizusawa for their generous time and talents. Our students learn so much from you all and the guidance and mentorship you have so freely given have been the backbone of our team. And thank you Doug Moffet and Gerard vanSteyn for you help supervising the students during the weekday evening sessions. I appreciate the second pair of eyes and ears!
 
Special thanks to Lori for her leadership and countless hours working with our students. The School is grateful for everything Lori has done to ensure the success of the Robotics Program! 

Education for Democracy: Real Change Is Messy—and Worth It

By Rosie Corr ’19 and Josh Tnoe ’19

This is the second in a series of blog posts that highlight Athenian’s Pillars, the foundational values that we share with all Round Square schools. This second installment is a speech about democracy delivered by Rosie and Josh at Morning Meeting to the Upper School.

Josh: When we hear democracy, a lot of us think about our government, and all of the positives and negatives that come with it. But democracy is a lot more than the body that governs. It is the people—the community. To me, democracy means being involved in the community instead of being complacent. It means being outwardly focused on the community around you, and working to make sure your voice is heard and that changes are made where they are due. It means not taking no for an answer, and fighting for what is right and what you deserve.

Ben Granat ’19, Rosie Corr ’19, and Josh Tnoe ’19 worked together on a Democracy in Action class project about Town Meeting at Athenian

Rosie: There are plenty of opportunities for formal democracy on this campus—Town Meeting, our renamed Forum meeting, class or club leader elections, and so much more. But some of the most powerful change is made when you don’t take the beaten path. Real change is made by passionate individuals who aren’t afraid to take a stance and get their hands dirty. There is often a misconception around Athenian that it is possible to make democracy a quick and easy process, something that can happen in an hour, from idea to implementation. And when that doesn’t happen, we feel discouraged and disenfranchised. But that is real education for democracy.

Josh: Learning that democracy isn’t easy is the first step. It is difficult, and it is messy, but for those willing to really fight for what they believe in, it can actually have a substantial impact on the school you and your friends attend, giving you real change without the backtracking and empty promises.

Rosie: It’s also why Democracy in Action is one of the most challenging, yet most interesting and rewarding courses you’ll ever take. And that is why I am so proud to be part of a school that embraces education for democracy and lets the students speak truth to power; without our voices, Athenian couldn’t really be Athenian. Thank you.

Book Expo: A Community Partnership

A few weeks ago, Athenian hosted its second annual Book Expo. While our Book Expo shares a lot in common with other book fairs at other schools, there is quite a bit that makes it uniquely Athenian. It was important to us that we make this Book Expo a community event, so we partnered with Orinda Books, a local independent bookstore and every title that was showcased at the Expo was hand chosen by one of our librarians or an Orinda bookseller.

While a major purpose of the Book Expo is to encourage recreational reading among students, it also catered to our adult community. We wanted to give parents an opportunity to come on campus, meet our librarians, and browse titles for their children as well as themselves. We stocked a variety of popular adult fiction and non-fiction titles, which were a big hit. Ten percent of all book sale proceeds went to support our library program and 10% of the proceeds went to Bella Vista, an underserved elementary school in Oakland that we have a longstanding partnership with. This year we raised nearly $400 for these causes, which will go towards purchasing books for both libraries.

With the money we raised from the Book Expo last year, we were able to purchase more than 50 new books for Bella Vista’s library. Because community service is a foundational pillar of the Athenian community, we wanted to do more than just donate books. Eight students from the Middle School and Upper School Library Advisory Boards got together in June to visit Bella Vista and read books to their K-5 classes. The students paired up, chose a few favorite picture books to read, and went to three different classrooms during their visit. The elementary students were so excited to have visitors—they enjoyed being read to, and the older grades had fun with Q & A sessions afterward, asking our students questions about middle and high school life. Our students ended the day feeling like they had made a positive difference and were excited about future partnerships. We look forward to our next trip to Bella Vista!

Community Service: A Practice in Kindness, Activism, and Self-Awareness

By Izzy Millet ’19 and Jennifer Salako ’19
This is the first in a series of blog posts that highlight Athenian’s Pillars, the foundational values that we share with all Round Square schools. This first installment is a speech about community service delivered by Izzy and Jennifer at Morning Meeting to the Upper School.

Izzy: One of the first things I want to emphasize about community service is that it is a service, and while it will certainly benefit you as you go through the different stages of community service at Athenian, your first priority should always be those you work in service of. It’s intended to be a sacrifice of your free time, a donation of your skills and effort, and a commitment to helping others. It is not always convenient, or easy, or even fun. But if you dedicate yourself to the work, even if it is just for one hour a week, it will be an enriching and life-changing experience and one that is full of lessons to learn if you keep an open mind.

Jennifer: When most people think about community service, they usually think “oh, this is just another thing I have to do to graduate. A few days at St. Anthony’s or Glide, and I’m done.” But I want to remind you that it can be more than that. There is a reason why Community Service is a part of the Athenian experience, let alone, a Round Square pillar. When you pick your project, pick something that you feel passionate about, something that you believe aligns with your interests. If you enjoy playing an instrument, you could give free lessons to younger kids in your area. If you do martial arts, then you could organize a self-defense workshop. There are tons and tons of projects and ideas you can take on, and they do not have to be boring.

 

Izzy: One of the things that I’ve always loved to do is to work with kids, and when I was designing my community service project for my junior year, I decided to work with Jewish Family and Community Services. I was able to start tutoring with an Afghan refugee family who had arrived in the United States only a few weeks earlier. During the rest of the summer and through my junior year at Athenian, I biked to Concord every weekend to work with the three boys on their English conversation skills, school work, and to spend time with the family. I’ve had the pleasure of handling this project off to Micah ’20 and Avrah ’19, and I am hopeful that it has the potential to stay in the Athenian community for years to come.

 

Jennifer: In the future, I hope to pursue a career in medicine and possibly establish a teaching hospital outside the US, so I decided to volunteer at the Sand Creek Kaiser Permanente. I have been a volunteer since January 2017 year and the experiences I’ve had as well as the people I’ve met are a part of the job that I appreciate the most. Never before did I imagine that I would be able to have such a deep conversation with a deaf woman I helped out at the pharmacy. I never thought that the impact I could make on someone’s life could be so huge and I take that experience to work with me every day. I think I’ve learned more about the place I’ve grown up in for the past 17 years in the last 6 months because of this job, and I am so happy I chose to do it.

 

Izzy: One of the reasons I think community service is a pillar of Athenian, and one that we pursue so actively, is because of where we stand as a school. This is a college prep private school. We just completed a multi-million dollar campus reconstruction, and virtually 100% of students graduate with the option of attending college. Because of the countless privileges we are provided by virtue of attending Athenian, it is so important that we continue to be aware that there are many people, in the Bay Area, in California, and across the world, who are not granted these same privileges. Community service allows us to practice kindness, activism, and self-awareness.

 

Jennifer: Another reason why I believe Athenian includes this pillar as part of its foundation, is because community service is not something you can learn in school. It’s something you have to experience firsthand in the real world, and it’s a space for you to reflect on what you know, or what you thought you knew. Giving back to the community and appreciating that which it has provided you is something many often take for granted. Understanding how you want to give back is another step in understanding yourself and what you stand for. It’s the part of you that Athenian wants you to recognize can make an impact not just as an average student, but as a global citizen.

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.