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Friday, March 18, 2016

AP Spanish Literature Soaks Up Some Culture

Earlier in March, the AP Spanish Literature and Culture class took a trip to New York City. As a very small, all-girls class, we had planned an exciting day embracing our Spanish course and left some time for bonding in the streets of Manhattan.
The Repertorio, where the class saw the performance.
We drove to Trenton to catch a train and arrived at New York around 10 in the morning. We casually walked around until we reached the Repertorio EspaƱol, where we would watch a performance of La Casa de Bernarda Alba. Our teacher, Mrs. Ayers, arranged for our class to see this play the week after reading it in class, in accordance with the AP course. The presentation began at 11 o’clock and lasted just about one hour and thirty minutes, with a follow-up from the director of the play who asked the audience questions about the presentation.

We left the Repertorio and walked to the Hillstone restaurant, where we had lunch and discussed the play for a little and then gave our Spanish teacher a gift. The rest of the afternoon was filled with our class’ inside jokes, a mix of shopping, and some getting lost and walking around aimlessly. At 3 o’clock, we decided to take the train back to Trenton, but since we decided very last minute to come back earlier, we ended up missing our train! After this funny experience, we walked around looking for ice cream reflecting on how similar our trip was going to another Spanish poem we had read recently, called Walking Around by Pablo Neruda.
Jade, her classmates, and Mrs. Ayers in New York.
In the end, we did catch a 4 o’clock train and made it back safely, and our trip to New York had been a great success. Overall, our small group of girls made countless memories, strengthening our class bond and friendships, all the while incorporating our Spanish literature in the streets of New York.

~ Jade H. ‘17

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

An Afternoon of Jazz at GA

The Jazz Cabaret is a giant showcase for students in all three divisions to get together and show off the music they have been working on over the year. Always taking place in late February, the Jazz Cabaret never disappoints from the music to the food.  
Madison and the Singing Patriots Select warm up for the Cabaret.
Although most of the groups are bands of all different ages, Singing Patriots Select, the Upper School honors choir, performs a few numbers. It is nice to have vocals in the show to contrast the jazzy sound of horns, drums, and strings. This year, the school decided to move Jazz Cabaret from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon. This change gave the event a more relaxed atmosphere that fit with the 65 degree temperature outside.

The afternoon's featured Middle School saxophone soloist.
The music program really shined this year with some highlights being the amazing 5th grade drummers, the Middle School saxophone soloist, and Hayley D. ’16 joining forces with the Upper School Jazz Band, singing “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

~ Madison P. ‘18
Senior Hayley D. belts one out accompanied by the Upper School Jazz Band.

Compassionate in Spirit, in VA

GA students get to work on site.
Over President’s Day weekend, I traveled to Roanoke, Virginia with ten other students and two teachers. We planned this trip through the organization Habitat for Humanity where we were going to build houses. Barely capable of cutting with the band saw in Sculpture class, I was extremely anxious about my house-building capabilities. Within the first ten minutes after arriving on the building site in Roanoke, I was standing on scaffolding hammering nails into the side of a house. That same day, I was interviewed by a local NBC news station about what we were doing at this building site [see the story here]. The volunteers at the site, Brian and Jeff, were open to all questions and extremely helpful. They taught me construction jargon, such as “flush,” which means smooth, and “plumb,” which means level and balanced. Throughout my short-lived time as a construction worker, I used this lingo and fell right into place with my fellow workers. We worked for three days and during this time, the thirteen of us (with the help from regular volunteers) constructed a backyard shed, built and paved a walkway, and created a handicap ramp from scratch.
The ramp Sam and proudly helped construct.
Not only did I gain confidence in my construction skills, which I never imagined attaining, but I also gained relationships with people who I never would have connected with. Throughout the trip, I kept bringing up an ongoing analogy of “overnight camp” as I felt everything that we did, whether it be working outside (discounting the below freezing weather), eating meals together,
Enjoying some casual time in the church.
or sleeping in one room, everything reminded me of camp. Mrs. Cassidy and Ms. Blake were basically my counselors and the nine other students were my bunkmates. Unfortunately, the other students on the trip weren’t able to fully relate to this comparison, as I am the only one of us who attended overnight camp. But I believe that through my constant comparison to camp they were able to live vicariously through my experiences.

Beneath the famous Roanoke Star.
When we weren’t working on the construction site, we were playing knockout on the basketball court in the church that we stayed at, picking up food at the local Kroger super market, hiking the mountains to see the world’s largest man-made star, playing Sardines (which is basically like hide and go seek, but one person hid and we all had to find him), cooking and eating meals together, or just hanging out and getting to know each other better. I went into the trip a little nervous about the hard work and the weather, but those four days were filled with extensive laughter, group bonding, and produced my 10 seconds of fame. Though I went on the school service trip to Washington, D.C. last President’s Day weekend, this trip passed all of my expectations as I learned about a line of work unfamiliar to me and 12 new faces to say hi to in the hallway. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to attend this trip and I’m already urging my brother to go on the CSO trip next President’s Day weekend.

~ Sam F. ‘16

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Day of Unmasking at MARDC

Early this winter, Ms. Ayers [Upper School Director of Diversity] offered the members of BSA [GA’s Black Student Alliance] an opportunity to attend the Mid-Atlantic Regional Diversity Conference. She said that the conference would be a great experience for us to discuss topics concerning diversity with students from many schools. On Halloween, Cobree H. ‘19, Tai H. ‘19, and I arrived at GA early in the morning. Ms. Ayers provided transportation to the conference, which was held at Abington Friends School. When we arrived, we heard a keynote speech by Rodney Glasgow, a renowned public speaker, who was dressed as Dorothy from “The Wizard of OZ”. This talk focused on masks and the times in our lives when we decided to remove our masks and embrace the strengths that we had.

Following this talk, we were divided into home groups, where we would spend most of our time throughout the day. A very cool thing about this conference was that it was organized in large part by students and the home groups were facilitated by students. The first activity we did in the home group dealt with identity and how our true identity differs from what the rest of the world sees. We each received a blank masquerade mask, and on its front, we wrote adjectives that others would use to describe us at first glance. On the hidden side of the mask, we wrote the things that someone would not be able to see just by looking at us, and there were a wide array of responses that each person put wrote down.

After that session, everyone piled into the school gym to take part in the silent movement activity. In the gym, Mr. Glasgow went through a list of different types of diversities that included race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic background, family life, and physical, mental, and emotional health. In each of these categories, he would say a phrase like “I identify as ___” and each person that fit that category would walk to the middle of the gym. They would then be asked to observe the people standing in the middle with them, as well as those still standing by the walls. This activity showed the extent of diversity that each person possessed and how someone could be so many things all at once. When we returned to our home groups, we did another movement activity. We stood in a circle and the student moderators went down a list of diversity categories. Anybody in the group was allowed to step into the middle and make a personal statement regarding the category. Anybody in the room whom this statement resonated with would step into the middle in solidarity. This activity had a similar effect as the previous one and everyone felt very safe and willing to share personal experiences.
Akosua and the GA cohort at Abington Friends School.

During lunchtime, we were able to choose a specialized workshop to attend. The GA participants chose to attend the seminar on catcalling and the effect it has on those receiving it. Overall, the conversation was light and entertaining and we were able to hear points of view from both sides of the situation. Following this, everyone broke up into their affinity groups, which were separated by race. In my affinity group, we talked about racial stereotypes and the experiences that people of different races deal with simply because of how they look. The overall idea of that meeting dealt with “Don’t Box Me In”, a movement aimed at breaking preconceived stereotypes. Each group of people was then tasked with creating with a short rap that dealt with the idea of “Don’t Box Me In”. This was by far the liveliest and part of the whole day and everyone really enjoyed themselves.

To conclude the conference, we returned for our closing statements in the main auditorium. This was the most emotional part of the conference. Students expressed the gratitude they had for the conference and how it had helped them through very tough situations that they’d experienced. Once again, there was the air of candor and those who shared were unfiltered when they expressed their stories. We closed off the day on a good note and left with a new sense of awareness about how similar our experiences can be to those who seem to lead different lives.

~ Akosua A. ‘17