Scholars Symposium 2017

“If Blues Band is the day in the fall when I feel most happy and proud of our community, the Scholars Symposium is that day in the spring for me. I realize what good hands our futures are in when I hear these incredible students sharing their knowledge, ideas, and passion with such remarkable poise and conviction.”

                                                                              -Liz Perry, Head of Upper School

Liz took the words right out of my mouth. Blues Band and Scholars Symposium bookend the school year spectacularly. And I know why: both events leave you in a bit of awe.  You know you’ve witnessed something truly exceptional.

St. Luke’s Scholars 2017

An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.

St. Luke’s Scholars are the School’s mission come to life. Listen as a teenager educates the room about Infectious Disease in West Africa, or Genetic Luminescence, or Damnatio memoriae in the Roman Empire…it’s the epitome of deep learning.

These students become experts and that’s learning that lasts. When you develop a topic, execute a research plan, put forth a thesis, draft an extensive research paper and present your findings in public—I can promise you, it’s something you will remember forever.

Last year, my daughter Sarabeth worked on her Global Scholars project. She studied healthcare and nursing in India. I saw firsthand how a student moves from passionate but fairly superficial understanding of a topic to deep understanding. For Sarabeth, progress came through research, questioning, writing, rewriting and translating her findings into something meaningful for an audience. P.S. She’s studying to be a nurse.

In a few weeks, videos of the Scholars presentations will go online. I’ll share and urge you to watch a few. I bet you’ll find yourself thinking “This is exceptional.”

 

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

SJLS: Curious Leaders

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.”

Samuel Johnson

 

We are all born curious. And if lucky…our curiosity grows.

Tapping our students’ innate desire to know more about each other and the world around us—that is the inspiration behind the Social Justice Leadership Summit (SJLS).

I attended the SJLS in 2014 and wrote: “In more than thirty years as an educator, I have never participated in an event that built as much trust, or inspired as much faith and hope as the SJLS.” Nearly three years later, the SJLS continues to thrive. There were 35 students and faculty the year I attended. This year (January 28, 2017), there were sixty.

Dr. Stephanie Bramlett, Director of Inclusive Excellence & Leadership, describes the SJLS to students this way: “SJLS is a one day leadership retreat where you will explore your own personal identities, learn about perspectives different from your own, and most importantly seek commonalities with classmates. With all the divisions in our world right now, we should all be working a little harder to find commonalities.”

The SJLS is also a catalyst for student leadership, as Dr. Bramlett points out: “Two years ago students put together ideas that inspired the launch of my new American Cultural History class. Last year, students saw a need for more diversity programs in Middle School and this year, those same students will run a Middle School workshop called Ally Afternoon. Another idea that students made a reality is “Dive-Ins” where students host conversations and welcome diverse perspectives. They don’t just talk. They take action.”

I’m particularly enthusiastic about the Dive-Ins because they foster civil discourse—an essential leadership skill.  Topics have included Colin Kaepernick’s controversial protest of the national anthem and a Dive In about students’ hopes and fears around the new president. More than 50 students have dived in to tough, important conversations.

My hope is to have a student or two share reflections from this weekend’s summit. The positive anticipation leading up to this weekend was palpable. According to Dr. Bramlett, senior Matthew Lindsay best captured the pre-summit excitement: “It’s going to be lit!”

I’m pretty sure that’s good 🙂

St. Luke’s is a private independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit!

The Confidence to Lead

A group of ten year olds earnestly discusses whose life they will affect—the young woman in Indonesia whose village needs water filters, or the young man in Jordan trying to pay his school fees?

 The Fifth Grade Kiva Club is making a difference in the lives of people all over the world. Their teacher (Ty Wieland) provides structure and students take the lead—presenting work to peers, driving support and selecting fund beneficiaries. So far, the Kiva Club (including advisories and families) has loaned $6,400 to more than 120 people working to better their lives .

Take a look at the video below, created by our students (with a bit of help from Ty and Academic Technologist, Eli Fendelman). I watched it and marvelled at the elements of our mission on display—an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.

I am grateful to these compassionate, young leaders who are living our mission. They inspire their peers, teachers and, most of all, their  Head of School.  

 

 

True Patriots

To criticize one’s country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment. Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism—a higher form of patriotism, I believe, than the familiar rituals and national adulation.  

—Senator J. W. Fulbright

 

When Senator J. W. Fulbright told a roomful of students at Johns Hopkins how important it is to question and criticize your country, he was describing what it means to be a citizen. For him that meant criticizing McCarthyism and the Vietnam War during his 30-year career in the US Senate. To him, patriotism was about far more than singing a song or pledging allegiance. It was about standing up for what you believe.

It may seem strange that loyalty and disagreement go hand in hand, but consider this: a real friend tells the truth; learning means asking questions; and honest discourse, the kind that brings about change, begins from a place of respect. Finding that place is tough, and it requires a great deal of practice.

At St. Luke’s we practice finding that place. We practice empathy, and we practice finding our voice. We learn to have difficult conversations and  remain respectful of diverse opinions. Our confidence to lead grows from this practice.

During the course of this Presidential election, a great deal of the discourse has been uncivil, and it’s hard to imagine how Senator Fulbright would have reacted. Appalled at the current culture of personal attack? Or approving of the dissent so essential to democracy? Both, I suspect.

When we head to bed on November 8th, a significant number of Americans will not be happy. Regardless of outcome, true patriots will stand by their country, ready to criticize and improve it and defend every citizen’s right to an opinion and a voice.

On November 11th, St. Luke’s honors the very men and women who defend our rights and secure our freedom. Our annual Veterans Day celebration takes place during Grandparents Day so that we may salute those who served across generations. We’ll sing the National Anthem, learn about the origins of this special day, and remember the courage that defines our nation.

Veterans & Grandparents Day Assembly 2015

St. Luke’s Success

Many very different people make up the St. Luke’s community. Yet, without exception, we share a common goal: we want our children to be successful now and in the future.

I think a lot about success. I’m fascinated by how hard it is to define. Its meaning changes—like a chameleon—with every use.  For some it brings to mind wealth or fame. For others, it might include a strong family life or contentment.

At St. Luke’s, we measure our success by our mission—instilling a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead. That, to borrow from Head of Upper School Liz Perry, is what gets us up in the morning.

St. Luke’s interpretation of success defines us. It keeps our ladder leaning up against the right wall. Learning, stretching, becoming compassionate, confident, intellectually and emotionally well-rounded people. Those words have the ring of St. Luke’s success.

One does not have to look far for examples..

Such as twenty senior scholars sharing a year’s worth of hard-earned knowledge during the Scholars Symposium. Students boldly took on topics such as: The Role of the Internet in a Free and Closed Society, The International Oil Conflict, The Effectiveness of Commerce-Based Philanthropy in Combating Global Poverty and Setting the Stage for Augustus, Rome’s First Emperor.

Such as Middle School students working in mixed-grade teams to design an interactive sculpture for our science wing. Our designLab launched the Finding da Vinci challenge during a Middle School assembly. Students were confident, curious and creative. They collaborated, built prototypes on the fly and “pitched” ideas. They embraced the process of trial and error, and felt the triumph of figuring it out.

On the Hilltop, we see success in glorious art on our walls, professional performances on our stages, and the sportsmanship that defines our playing fields. We see it in a young writer reading a personal story, beautifully crafted and expressed. And we see it at the COLT Poetry Contest—the Connecticut  Super Bowl of language competitions—where St. Luke’s students took first place in five categories.

Even more indelibly, we see St. Luke’s success in the reflections of a 9th grade girl who learns something about herself, the world and her capacity to make a difference:

I have just left the two hour J-Term showcase, and I have a feeling of accomplishment that I have rarely had throughout my life. I have always thought that the feeling of getting a challenging test back with the big red A on the front was one of the best feelings you could have at a school. However, right now, I realize that I was wrong. After the J-Term showcase, I feel that I have professionally pitched an organized idea that does true good for the world…Doing a week of hard core research on this topic has truly opened my eyes to the world around me. Before this week, I considered poverty to be an issue that was more prevalent in other states or countries. However, this week I learned that poverty is a much more local issue than I thought. This topic is so sad to think about, and I really learned a lot about myself this week. I think I realized that I should be less ignorant toward the issue of poverty and try to do more to help.

What does success mean to you? I’d like to know. Share your thoughts using the comment feature on this page—or write to me directly at davism@stlukesct.org.

 

                            

Unafraid

“When I hear that word it feels terrible. It’s like someone just wiped away my family’s whole history.”

Earlier this month, the Student Diversity Leadership Council (SDLC) led an unusual Upper School faculty meeting. The students asked faculty to share thoughts about use of the “N-word” in our culture and at St. Luke’s. They asked us to think about its origins and whether different people should be able to use the word.

Some parents will be stunned to hear that language is used on the Hilltop, but your children will likely confirm it happens…a lot. Daily for many Upper School kids, and at least weekly for most. They might be quick to reassure you that “it doesn’t mean the same thing as it did when you were young.” It’s used in a “friendly” way, often by students of color, but not exclusively by them. It does not carry the same awful weight it once did.

The quotation at top is from a St. Luke’s student of color. It tells a different story. This young woman feels every ugly ounce of the word.

On Thursday, the SDLC will lead the N-word conversations with Upper School students during an extended “fishbowl” Meditation period. On January 30th, students and faculty will have deep, important, sometimes difficult conversations at our 3rd annual Social Justice Leadership Summit. Previous participants have found that this experience gives them both understanding and confidence to engage in discussions of differences and injustices (real and perceived) that most of us find so scary or sensitive that we avoid having them.

These are courageous events. Not just for the students and teachers who participate, but for St. Luke’s. We don’t have to have these hard conversations. We could just outlaw the N-word and move on. Talking is awkward. It also stirs up resentment. Several parents tell me they are offended by these conversations. Their children feel guilty even though they are not racist. “Don’t we have better things to spend time on?”

My answer is: No. There is nothing more valuable than teaching our children to think, debate, and learn from one another. Racial, religious, economic and gender biases and prejudices exist. While each of us wishes that were not so, we do our children a disservice by pretending otherwise. Our intent, our mission, calls us to teach our children to tune into issues beyond their own bubbles. Connect, contemplate, discuss, disagree, debate. Respect and learn from views different from your own, even as you perhaps deepen your own convictions and try to persuade others to your point of view. If we can’t talk about challenges, we certainly can’t solve problems.

The Atlantic published a thought-provoking piece highlighting what happens when students are unwilling—or unable—to engage in civil debate about matters close to the heart:

…I see some of these well-intentioned young people undermining the First Amendment; spitting on people with whom they disagree; using stigma and “call out” culture rather than persuasion against non-bigoted speech; physically intimidating members of the press; bullying students who disagree with them; shredding newspapers because they disagree with an article; and calling for dissent to be punished. They don’t understand why this is both counterproductive and wrongheaded.

We want more for our students. They will draw upon the courage of their convictions. They will embrace civil debate and tough conversations as a privilege and an obligation. They will be served well by their St. Luke’s experiences and the fact that we don’t shy away from uncomfortable topics.

They will be unafraid to go forth and make a difference in the world.

P.S. If you’ve not yet done so, please watch Jim Foley’s brilliant Meditation on hip hop and the power of language.  Jim educates, entertains, and ultimately persuades listeners that the history behind words matters.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable

In her Ted Talk about the importance of diversity, Mellody Hobson describes what it’s like to be seven and the only black child at an all-white birthday party. She asks why raising the topic of race in a conversation is like “touching the third rail.” She challenges us to be “color brave” instead of “color blind.” She reminds us that being socially responsible is less about being polite and more about being “comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

A recent Atlantic article by Robert P. Jones points to “hidden racial anxiety” that persists despite public rejection of blatant racism. Jones warns that the decline of open racism has potential side effects: “For researchers, journalists, and policymakers, the new challenge is that this positive social norm may make the public less willing to speak openly and candidly about race.”

Hobson and Jones place a spotlight on the critical importance of candor. We can’t fix what we don’t acknowledge.

Refusal to ignore injustice is central to St. Luke’s mission of lifelong learning and social responsibility. St. Luke’s Director of Diversity, Dr. Stephanie Bramlett, speaks eloquently of the need to embrace discomfort in pursuit of inclusivity. This message was front and center at St. Luke’s first Social Justice Summit earlier this year.

When we intentionally strengthen our students (and our own) capacity and commitment to oppose injustice, we demonstrate a St. Luke’s tenet—developing good people is as important as developing great students.

At the end of last week, I saw this photo on the school’s Facebook page

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 2.18.38 PM.png

The St. Luke’s Amnesty Group added their voices to the social campaign to bring back the kidnapped Nigerian school girls. Yesterday, the group had a bake sale to raise money for the Malala Fund (http://malalafund.org/), which donates 100% of proceeds to Nigerian NGOs. The image of these students, advocating for fellow students across the world, brings the following to mind:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

                                          – Martin Luther King

P.S. Just saw that Head of Upper School, Liz Perry, tweeted this highly relevant article from Slate.com re: why “Millenials have a hard time talking about race & discrimination.”

The Beauty of Difference – A Student Perspective

Senior Kai Burton

Senior Kai Burton

As a  follow up to last week’s guest post by Stephanie Bramlett, please read this personal quote from SLS Senior Kai Burton. Kai attended the December 2013 NAIS People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

 

 

 

 

 

Attending the SDLC last year was one of the most pivotal moments in my

life. It was the very first time I realized how large and beautifully different the

private school world is. I didn’t feel like I was a part of a minority, but rather, part of

something bigger than race, ethnicity, socio-economics, gender, sexual orientation,

religion, etc. When I was there, those things didn’t matter. Knowing that no one

there was the same was comforting to me.”

 

Kai hit upon a key belief those of us committed to diversity and inclusion share: It’s a large and beautifully different world. Schools that pursue and celebrate those differences better prepare students for the future and deliver a richness of experience not otherwise possible. My deepest thanks to Kai and Dr. Bramlett for eloquently widening my lens.

Welcome Back to the Hilltop

“Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

William Shakespeare

On this day, everything is possible. We can ace this course, score that goal, invent the next big thing, and save the world. As we walk into school for the first time, all bets are off, all dreams within reach.

A good summer fuels this optimism. This was certainly the case on the Hilltop, as construction began on the new Science Wing. As you arrived today, you saw a big pile of dirt – or mud – but I see kids and teachers in the labs and hallways, brainstorming, designing, building. I see people of all ages getting pumped about science, feeling it in their veins. So many possibilities!

This summer, St. Luke’s students also went into the world to find their voice and make a difference. Five students (Jojo Brame ’14, Lauren Britt ’15, Doug Butman ’14, Wyett Dalton ’14 and Christian Duncan ’14) joined Sonia Bell (Director of College Counseling) and Kate Parker Burgard (Director of Character Education) on a week-long Youth Service Opportunities Project in Washington, D.C. As Kate wrote on the Center for Leadership blog: “Each day, we got up and traveled to a different site where we helped with some of the many services available to help those in need.  From sorting clothes at the Community Family Life Services, to picking up trash for Parks and People, to packing juices in the Central Food Bank, to preparing food in the DC Central Kitchen we had a great chance to lend a hand to these critical support services…in trips like these I often think the biggest difference we make is in ourselves.”

Jereme Anglin (Director of Theater Arts), Dale Griffa (Music Department Chair), Lisa Hobbs (SLS Parent and Musical Accompanist) and 17 students found their voices performing Godspell at the Fringe Festival in Scotland (photo gallery). A few days into the festival, I received this email from SLS parent Jon Jodka:

“Kim, Henry and I have been here in Scotland since Saturday morning and we are having a ball. We just enjoyed the third Godspell performance in four days and I felt I couldn’t wait to get home to let you know that the St. Luke’s group here is doing you and the entire Hilltop community proud. Their performances have been high energy, filled with great song and heavy drama at the end. Jereme, Dale and Lisa all deserve huge congratulations for the way they have inspired these young men and women to give their all in front of an international crowd. More important than the performances, in my opinion, is just what a great group of nice kids this group is..they seem to genuinely care for and be rooting for each other. Kim and I are so appreciative that Nick has had the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful experience. I’m sure you will hear plenty about it when they all return to CT but I wanted to share my joy and excitement with you while still here.”

Some of us found our voices and made a difference closer to homeWeddingMM & M while reuniting with family and friends. I must say, however, that I lost my voice on my son’s wedding day, July 27th, unexpectedly overcome by emotion as I watched the ceremony that included my other son as officiant and my daughter as bridesmaid.  Sometimes emotion sweeps over us when we least expect it to.  In this case, it had something to do with the joy that any father would feel when seeing his children together in a wedding ceremony.  On further reflection, I realized my tears also sprang from the hopes I have for each of my children.  The future holds little certainty, of course, so in that moment the power of possibility, concentrated by the power and optics of a deeply personal public ritual, felt both potent and overwhelming.

As the new school year begins, I don’t want to lose the meaning of those moments. As we rush toward our possibilities, let’s remember why we’re here.  We come to school for the sake of our children, to nurture their possibilities.  We do so by encouraging and pushing them to be their best selves, and frequently that work manifests itself in one of the many timeless, traditional rituals of school.  Like a wedding ceremony, the many public rituals of school sharpen our sense of what children can become.  That sense of possibility is what keeps many of us coming back, year after year, to this most noble profession and this most inspiring school.  As we begin this school year, I hope every St. Luke’s student, teacher, and parent feels awed by their hopes and dreams, by the power of possibility.

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!”

Søren Kierkegaard

Enter to learn. Go Forth to Serve. Welcome back to the Hilltop.

“If you ever need someone to have your back…pick one of this group.”

Fine advice delivered by English teacher Lisa Goldschmidt at last week’s Upper School meditation. Lisa introduced several students who traveled to Oaxaca Mexico this summer to help feed a hungry community. Much has been said and written about this trip, including my own September meditation and October State of the School. This was the first time, however, we heard directly from students. The Center for Leadership’s Director of Character Education, Kate Parker Burgard, shared her thoughts on the Center for Leadership blog:

“We knew they would be challenged by the work, the living conditions, and what they learned. However, these students were challenged even more when the majority of the group fell ill. Despite these unanticipated circumstances, the group pulled together, along with their friends from our partner school (Rangitoto College) in New Zealand who were working with them. Through teamwork, perseverance,  and camaraderie they were able to fulfill the mission of their trip and get food to over 2000 people in the Oaxacan jungle.”

Have a listen as these students share some of their stories and their reflections of what they learned through serving.

“We live a few hundred yards from the Spencer on Byron Hotel.”

The following is Mark’s Summer Letter to the SLS Community:

Dear St. Luke’s Community,

“We live a few hundred yards from the Spencer on Byron Hotel.”

I received this email message from Mary McLeod, mother of St. Luke’s squash coach Cat McLeod (a native New Zealander) the day before I went “Down Under” to Australia and New Zealand in July. My trip included school visits in Melbourne and Sydney, and a seminar (including more school visits) in Auckland with 30 international school heads. I saw great schools in a different part of the world. Taking advantage of brilliant and inspiring school leaders from China, South Africa, Jordan, Colombia, Tonga, Oman, Singapore, Mexico City, the Cook Islands, New Zealand, and the United States, the other delegates and I deeply engaged one another on issues of best practices and the key competencies that schools should be developing in their students and teachers. The diversity and quality of the schools and people made this a professional growth experience of the highest order, which I will share in various ways with St. Luke’s students, faculty, staff, parents, and trustees.

For now, though, let me reflect on the fact that I went to the other side of the world, almost to Antarctica, where – as described in Mary McLeod’s email – my assigned hotel sat practically in the front yard of the house in which one of my colleagues grew up. That stunning fact, a reminder of how small the world has become and the speed with which new ideas and different perspectives can find themselves in the same place, connected me, warmly and joyfully, with home even as it captured – simply and neatly – the importance of imbuing our students with global mindedness.

As a measure of the kindness and hospitality of New Zealanders, Mary and Tony McLeod invited me to dinner at their home, where we were joined by Cat’s sister Rachel who recently began her teaching career in Auckland. Using the local lexicon, we “got on” superbly, with credit to Mary, Tony, and Rachel who made me feel like an old friend. It’s no longer a secret where Cat got her unfailing good cheer and generous spirit.

In fact, the good cheer, generous spirit, and easy intimacy of New Zealanders everywhere captured the hearts of each seminar delegate. We came to see these qualities as cultural norms among Kiwis. Whether Maori or European, their kindness to us was equaled only by their passion for their beloved All Blacks – the national rugby team.

Although this experience taught me some new lessons, many of which have relevance for St. Luke’s, it also affirmed our school’s fundamental belief that students learn best in a happy, well-connected school community that emphasizes positive relationships among students and adults. When a school fills us with joy, as ours can even when it pushes us to the limits of our abilities, it draws us in and motivates us to become our best selves.

Sure in that knowledge, and missing the hum and buzz created by 530 students and 110 adults on the Hilltop, I send the hope that while you play, relax and, yes, read much during these last weeks of summer, perhaps you also look forward to September with some of the same anticipation of joy that I do. Not only do I look forward to your return, but also to the hopes and dreams that come with the beginning of every school year.

With warm regards,

Mark C. Davis

Frank Henson: A Shower of Knowledge from Botswana

It is my pleasure to turn this week’s space over to English teacher Frank Henson. Frank was the first to participate in St. Luke’s teacher exchange – a Center for Leadership initiative. The exchange provides faculty with opportunities to immerse in a different country and culture. Frank blogged throughout his journey and was kind enough to write the following reflection upon his return:

Before I left Maru-a-Pula(MAP), the 40-year-old host private school in Botswana for my recent teacher exchange, I asked my students what they had learned during our three weeks together. I was gratified (and relieved) to hear many of the answers I was looking for. This was the perfect ending to my African trip, which is now a memorable blend of fascinating people and culture, hospitality and kindness, adventure, and the many eager and smiling faces of my MAP students.Now it is time for me to say what I learned during my three weeks at MAP. In consideration of space, I will reserve the full download for faculty posting, but a small list for sampling includes a powerful program that encourages outside reading, the “streaming” of students, and the benefits of spending eight months parsing Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar line by line.But my most transformative learnings were macro in scope. They transcend literacy, Cambridge exams versus SAT’s, and grammar. They are about vision in building student leaders, and they form an inspiring connection to St. Luke’s mission and offer potential lessons for us. I will detail these below, but first, some context about Botswana is in order.

In its 2012 edition of The Economist Book of Vital World Statistics: A Portrait of Everything Significant in The World, The Economist magazine’s annual report on some 196 countries, Botswana is listed 14 times. Within a population of two million people, the country has the second highest incidence of adult HIV infection in the world. Not surprisingly, then, the average life span is 58 years. Botswana is second in having the highest disparity in wealth between the upper and lower classes, and the average level of education is 8th grade. Despite a strong diamond industry, 25% of the country’s population is out of work. Lastly of note, 100% of the Botswana energy is generated by coal. Imperatives, needs, challenges, and change.

 

Although there are many goals and factors that have gone into the forging of MAP’s mission, the implications in the numbers above have driven two of the school’s key distinctions, certainly as they relate to education, both public and private, in Botswana.Distinction number one:knowing that service is critical to building leaders, but also recognizing the gravity of the country’s problems, MAP has devised a service program that is immersive, continuous, and embedded within the school’s ethos. MAP begins its service program in 7th grade, extending through 12th grade and post-graduate years, sending all 600 students out three times a week to community programs that the school has been servicing, in some cases, for 30 years. Fleets of buses leave at 2:00 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, as impressive a display of coordination as anything we’ve ever mustered, driving students to schoolhouses in need (as near as 10 kilometers away); or to a food distribution center to the north; or to a home for the elderly.

To see these missions in service is inspiring, and I was fortunate to go on three trips while I was there (they were winding down for the semester as exam preparation began). I saw upper students actively and enthusiastically teach lessons in schoolhouses without prompting from teachers, calling on children whom they had known for years; I saw students converse with familiarity and compassion with elderly women to whom they had been providing weekly rations of maize for four years; I saw students sit with 50 year old students in rural one-room schoolhouses and help the students read pre-school and kindergarten picture books.

Although I saw one school-wide toiletries drive for the destitute, MAP’s missions are not mostly about treasure; they are about time and culture, experience and evolution, and familiarity and interactivity.

Distinction number two: in stark contrast to other schools in Botswana (and nearby South Africa) whose student populations are largely white and affluent, the student population at MAP is more than 65% students of color, with the remainder represented by some 33 nationalities. A full 50-plus % of the students are Batswana (plural form). Roughly one-third of the students receive financial aid. And here is one of the more critical numbers: MAP provides full scholarships to 28 orphans and vulnerable children who are now full-time boarding students. These numbers are a multiple of equivalent schools’ admissions and scholarships for these groups of students. Rather than be an educational island within Botswana borders, MAP offers students a truly African experience. The net result of MAP’s service commitment and scholarship support of Batswana students in need shows in the many careers chosen within the country. The school has produced leaders in national government, national arts programs, the sciences and healthcare, indigenous craft collectives, and teachers. Many of MAP’s alumni will attend colleges and universities in the United States and Europe and then return to Botswana for their careers.

These are not just my observations. The school’s administration is fluent in expressing their goals of immersive service work, providing an African experience, and shaping leaders for Botswana. To me, their strategies for achieving these goals are incredibly wise, and they constitute ideas I have learned from and will never forget. MAP students make a difference every week. The red dirt of Africa…the desire for food, work, and learning in the countryside… …the dedication and compassion of young leaders…Maru-a-Pula, whose name means “clouds of rain” in Setswana. Although it was my experience — I was there, I saw it — I think we can all benefit from MAP’s shower of wisdom.