On June 11, Ross School’s Class of 2018 transitioned from students to alumni at the school’s 18th annual commencement exercises. Friends and family from around the world gathered in the Center for Well-Being to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class.Read More
On Sunday, June 3, Ross School celebrated the contributions of its founder, Courtney Sale Ross, in advance of her transition to a new role as Trustee Emeritus. More than 400 members of the Ross community attended the gathering, including alumni, parents, current students, and special guests. The focus of the event was reflecting upon the ways in which Mrs. Ross impacted their lives and global education over the last 27 years.Read More
This week, Ross School students marked the beginning of Chinese New Year, a widely celebrated holiday in countries with significant Chinese populations. Special events on both the Lower and Upper School campuses invited all to welcome the start of the Year of the Rooster.
On Monday, January 30, 42 boarding students from the Upper School, all of whom are participants in Ross School’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, visited the Lower School campus in Bridgehampton to teach the young students about aspects of their culture. Among the activities the Upper School students shared were paper-cutting, a Chinese folk art dating back to the second century; zhezhi, or paper folding; Cat’s Cradle, a game involving a single string figure; and how to write the young students’ names in Chinese characters.
According to Lower School Mandarin teacher Xi Chen, though Lower School students begin their study of Mandarin as early as kindergarten, the exchange presented an unparalleled opportunity for them to receive one-on-one instruction from native speakers. “These students have learned their names in Mandarin, but the level of personal instruction they’ve gotten today is [really inspiring],” Xi said. “For many of them, they’ve interacted with more native Mandarin speakers today than in their lifetimes.”
Although the majority of the students visiting the Lower School were Chinese, students from countries like Brazil, India, Korea, and Russia also shared their countries’ New Year’s celebrations. Tenth grader Padma Devella shared details about the Indian holiday Ugadi, while others talked about the festival of Carnival and the figures associated with Russia’s holiday celebrations.
During a community assembly, Lower School students from every grade level commemorated the Lunar New Year with performances that ranged from a puppet show detailing the mythical start of the Chinese zodiac to a kung fu demonstration and intricate lion and dragon dances. Upper School students Amanda Ding, Alice Wang, Jessica Liu, and Bella Yang closed the assembly by performing two songs—one in Mandarin and the other an English-language pop song.
Mami Takeda, Ross School’s ESOL coordinator, explained that although this is the school’s first attempt at an exchange of this type, the hope is that it will become an ongoing tradition. “Today is a freezing day,” student Jayden Jing said during the assembly. “But we feel the warmth of everyone at the Lower School today. Thank you for celebrating the New Year with us.”
The Upper School campus celebrated Chinese New Year on Tuesday, January 31. Students in Levi Stribling and Lydia Qiu’s levels two and three Mandarin courses began their day by making pork and vegetarian dumplings to share during Ross Café’s themed lunch. The activity also served as a cultural introduction to dining practices in China, with students learning the proper way to serve a communal Chinese meal and the correct technique for using chopsticks.
At a later assembly, students learned about the history and significance of Chinese New Year, and were treated to performances by their classmates. Selena Hu played the song “Gold Snake Dance” on the guzheng, a plucked string instrument, and Qisen Hong sang the song “Miss Dong” by Song Dongye.
At the beginning of Ross School’s academic year, a few days are set aside for grade-level retreats. Each class participates in an activity meant to unite the group and help students to form new relationships with their classmates, but few are as comprehensive as the one designed for the eighth grade: an overnight adventure to Camp Bryn Mawr in the hills of Pennsylvania.
Since 2007, Eighth Grade Team Leader Mark Tompkins has organized an event that pushes students out of their comfort zones and forces them to rely on one another. Although Mark keeps the details of the retreats mysterious, students can expect to participate in activities that build team spirit; promote courage, self-awareness, and self-discovery; and cultivate social and interpersonal relationships in fun, physically active, and affirming ways. The result is a transformative rite of passage in Ross students’ journey toward becoming leaders of tomorrow.
Though the trip has occurred at the end of the school year for the past several years, this year’s class headed to the camp one week into the new school year. “September is a powerful, hopeful, and forward-looking time to take the trip,” said Mark. “It makes sense for us as we try to incorporate day students and boarders into a unified sense of who they are as a class. The trip is a touchstone to begin the year together.”
One of the first challenges students face during the retreat is spending an extended period of time bereft of electronics. As Mark placed the devices into Ziploc bags, students feigned sobbing as they kissed their phones goodbye and lamented about the dark times ahead. Though many struggled without the phone’s clock, they soon found new methods of entertainment—even devising a came of tic-tac-toe from twigs and stones. Mark said the impact of students spending time away from their computers and phones is greater each year.
Students were encouraged to be more mindful of being inclusive, to create new patterns in their engagement with one another, and to pay attention to actions and thoughts that suppress a sense of community. “Many students made conscious efforts and formed new relationships,” said Dean of Wellness and first-time retreat chaperone Cathy Yun. “I think that this is an element of human development that is challenging to most people, young and older.”
One of the trip’s highlights was seeing students overcome fears. Cathy remembers seeing a student poignantly conquer his fear of heights. “The beauty of his strength had a profound impact on me,” she said. “Witnessing that was one of the most powerful experiences I have had as an educator.”
Building on the foundational relationships established during the trip, students will continue to work to forge bonds with their classmates throughout the year. The hope is that they come away from the retreat with a sense of the strides they can make through continued effort and collaboration.
“The most rewarding part of the trip is that if the students buy into the process, they end up feeling incredibly powerful and connected,” said Mark.
Ross Lower School parents and families were welcomed to campus Tuesday evening for Back-to-School Night. The annual event offers an opportunity for parents to become acquainted with their children’s teachers and to gain a better understanding of what students are learning in their classes.
The curricular theme for this academic year is Activating Future Memory, and students’ first assignments implementing the theme resulted in an exhibition presented in the Lower School Multi-Purpose Room. In every grade level, students were asked to envision an aspect of the future 20 years from now; in turn, parents were encouraged to present their own version of the future, which was then displayed for comparison alongside the student work.
Inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes, fifth grade students authored poetry about their future dreams. Gymnast Delani B. wrote about her ambitions to represent the United States on the women’s gymnastics team, while avid reader Cameron M. wrote about his love of literature.
Students in the sixth grade were asked to create products that may be necessary in 20 years. Science enthusiast Tucker S. considered global overpopulation and designed a Lego prototype of a single-family home that could be used in the event humans have to colonize other planets.
“I knew it would be something involving space because space travel will be bigger,” Tucker said of his inspiration. I thought about the movie The Martian, and I wondered, ‘What if that could be reality?’” Tucker’s model home features an airlock, a communications room to interact with those on Earth, and a compact rocket that travels at 45 times the speed of light.
Scarlett G. designed a playground that would safely inspire children to be adventurous. It would include a swing set with a safety harness so that children could swing 360 degrees, a shape-shifting slide, and a basketball court with floating hoops.
Other grade-level assignments including creating future products, animals, and transportation, as well as creating Google doodles to represent the future.
“We had a lot of fun with this project because our parents were also active participants in it,” said Head of Lower School Jeanette Tyndall. “Thinking of the future requires imagination. We want our students to be constantly thinking of the future and dreaming big dreams, because those dreams can inspire ideas that could end up changing people's lives.”
As faculty and staff prepare to welcome students to a new year at Ross School, they are renewing their focus on global and local sustainability. To address these important issues, Ross Institute will host an evening with Dr. Steven Cohen, executive director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, which is one of the world’s largest and most distinguished organizations dedicated to the study of Earth science and climate change. The event will be held in the Ross Senior Building on August 27 at 6pm and is free and open to the community.
In his role at the Institute, Dr. Cohen oversees over a dozen research units and key partnerships with renowned international collaborators, and is an expert on complex issues facing our planet and its inhabitants.
Dr. Cohen’s talk, titled “A Positive Vision of the Transition to Sustainability: The Role of Research, Education, Communities, and Institutions,” will address current trends in sustainability and the need to devote resources to Earth observation, research and development of sustainability technology, and environmental education programs. He will also discuss the impact of climate change on New York’s coastal ecosystems and the need to build resilience in communities, such as those affected locally by Hurricane Sandy.
“I know that many projections of our environmental future seem bleak, but these projections do not account for the brainpower, creativity, and ingenuity of the next generation of sustainability professionals. They are the future, and, in my view, the best guarantee of a sustainable global economy,” Dr. Cohen said.
Dr. Cohen will also share the latest initiatives under way in the Earth Institute’s many research units, including the Center for Environmental Sustainability, the Center in Globalization and Sustainable Development, the Center for Sustainable Urban Development, and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society.
Jennifer Chidsey, chief education officer at Ross Institute, noted how well Dr. Cohen’s work fits with sustainability education initiatives being undertaken by Ross Institute and Ross School. “We share Dr. Cohen’s commitment to educating and inspiring students and members of our communities to take action to support global sustainability.”
As the 2014–2015 school year drew to a close last week, Ross School celebrated with multiple ceremonies marking the occasion of classes “moving up” to the next grade—a transition that, for some classes, also heralds moving to a new campus or a new section of campus in the coming year.
The festivities began in the morning of June 18 with the Early Childhood ceremony in the Field House at Ross Lower School. After opening remarks from Head of Lower School Jeanette Tyndall, Tennis Program Director and EC parent Vinicius Carmo proudly recalled the many accomplishments of the young students, and extended his best wishes for their bright and happy future. After a cheerful choral performance of songs including “What a Wonderful World” and “Adios Amigos,” pre-nursery, nursery, and pre-kindergarten students walked through a ceremonial archway of flowers.
Later that afternoon at Ross Upper School, eighth graders “walked the path” to the area of campus traditionally used by high school students to festive drumbeats, halting at the green near the Nike fountain to listen to speeches given by their classmates and teacher Mark Tompkins. Student Sarah Levine delivered a lively reflection on her class and the academic year; Lily Attias and Zoe Mintz presented “sweet and wickedly funny” paper plate awards to every member of their class; and Mark looked back on the eighth graders’ year with humorous words of wisdom that framed the milestones reached on their way to young adulthood.
In the evening of the same day, a beautiful ceremony at the Lower School campus celebrated an end to the sixth graders’ years at the Lower School, and inspired a look forward to an important new beginning at the Upper School. The event included remarks from Jeanette Tyndall; Caly Stewart, LS student government president; guest speakers Sharon Burns, Lower School counselor, and Chris Engel, director or Community Programs; and class speaker Emma Tiedemann, who spoke about how much she enjoyed her first year at Ross as well as her schoolmates and teachers. Caly then returned with classmates Marilyn Bruehl, Cameron McAuliffe, and Parker Firestone to present the class gift to the Lower School—a beautiful new archway for the students to pass under along their journey at Ross School.
Next, after heartfelt words of recognition for their amazing achievements, sixth grade teacher Deborah Minutello-Bartlett presented students with symbolic “Giving Keys” as a reminder that, just like a key, every person has a purpose. To conclude the event, the class of 2021 showed a music video they prepared chronicling their adventures at the Lower School.
The moving up ceremony for grades K–5 brought the school year to a close on June 19. After a warm welcome from Jeanette Tyndall once again, keynote speaker Will Greenberg ’15 offered a glimpse into the exciting challenges and adventures waiting for the younger students at the Upper School; then the students sang songs to accompany each class as they walked through the archway. Kindergarten began with their “Happy Water Medley”; first and second grades brought smiles with “Thank You”; and third, fourth and fifth grades joined voices in “Wake Me Up.”
At all ceremonies, heartfelt thanks were extended to the Parents Association, parents and families, teachers, and staff, whose tireless efforts help make Ross School an extraordinary learning environment for the students and community.
Congratulations to all for another terrific year at Ross School!
Members of the Shinnecock Nation joined with students, family, faculty, and friends to celebrate the first annual Green Corn Festival at the Lower School on June 17. The beautiful, new tradition included Native American dancers and drummers, traditional games, beading, food, and storytelling.
The festival kicked off on a sunny morning on the Lower School soccer field. Visitors meandered around the grounds, stopping at exhibits to hear about important pieces of Native American history and culture including ceremonial dress, wampum, weapons, and medicines.
In the afternoon, Ross School alumna and Shinnecock Nation member Andrina Smith welcomed everyone as the group formed a large circle around the field. She explained the significance of the corn festival and the special relationship between Ross and the Shinnecock, and then turned it over to representatives from the Shinnecock Museum who performed male and female dances telling the tales of the hunt, war, courtship, and coming-of-age. Others were performed to bring forth a healing or plentiful harvest.
As a fitting conclusion, the crowd gathered near the new Native American garden, already in early bloom, for a traditional blessing and tobacco offering performed by the members of the Shinnecock.
The annual Five-Minute Film Festival on June 12 celebrated original work produced by Ross School students in grades 2–6 in their Media and Technology classes. Working independently, in small groups, or as a class, the filmmakers first submitted a video proposal to Media Studies and Technology teacher Cortney Propper describing genre, setting, characters, and target audience.
Films this year included comedies, dramas, documentaries, and creative shorts showcasing techniques such as stop-motion animation. Students also demonstrated their understanding of the following media studies concepts:
- Media productions are constructions, and individuals make conscious and unconscious choices about what to include, what to leave out and how to present the content.
- Audiences negotiate meaning; it’s a collaboration between the producer and the audience.
- Each medium has a unique, aesthetic form.
The festival itself was a fun event that mirrored happenings at the famous Oscars gala—including the red carpet experience, the hush that fell over the audience as the actors appeared on the big screen, and “Rosscars” for the stellar films.
The filmmakers said it was interesting to watch the crowd respond to their productions. The videos were a mixed treat that had the audience rooting for “Catzilla” during a battle with a fierce rabbit one minute and following a fairy through a whimsical forest in the next. Other films, such as the second grade’s Earth Systems film, were influenced by school Science studies.
“The level of professionalism and commitment by the students is on the same level with big-production film. It’s wonderful to watch the creative gears turn as they ponder future careers in the industry,” Cortney said.
Earlier this month, the talented performers in grades 3–8 and 9–12 performed their spring concerts for appreciative audiences of friends and family. The programs included a diverse mix of classical, jazz, and global music and dance.
The grades 9–12 concert, held on June 3 in the Court Theater, kicked off with the Jazz Band’s renditions of songs by legends Hal McKusick, Horace Silver, and Victor Feldman and Miles Davis. The Chamber Ensemble changed the pace, performing Quartet No. 1 in C major, Little Fugue in G minor, and Csárdás. The Chorus then took the audience back to the Italian Renaissance with “Sicut cervus,” and returned them to the present with “Save the World/Don’t You Worry Child.”
The second half of the concert included a modern dance solo by Tali Friedman ’18, who performed a routine to “Switchfoot”; “Word Dance Solos: Traditional Choreography from China’s Border” by Wenqian Ziang ’15; and Ballet elective dances to Coppelia. The Global Rhythms drummers closed the concert, bringing the crowd to their feet to dance to their calypso beat.
A week later, students in grades 3–8 performed in the Great Hall. The Grade 3 Concert Band opened with “London Bridge,” “A Mozart Melody,” “OK Chorale,” and—just in time for summer—“Theme from Jaws.” The Grades 4–6 Recorders group followed with “Paw Paw Patch,” “Largo,” and “La Cucaracha.” The Grade 3 String Orchestra was next to impress with a number of pieces from Essential Elements, Book 1, including the “Can-Can” and “A Mozart Melody.”
The program moved on to the Grades 4–6 Concert Band with “The Marching Machine” and “Celebration Overture,” followed by the Lower School Chorus with “Do-Re-Mi,” in honor of The Sound of Music’s 50th anniversary, and “Reflection.” The Grades 4–6 String Orchestra kept the audience rapt with “Over the Rainbow” and “Classic Sinfonia”; the Grades 7–8 Chorus performed “Anima mea,” “Angel in Eternal Flight,” “See You Again,” and “Riptide”; and Grades 7–8 String Orchestra shared “Selections from Fireworks Music,” “Evening Prayer” from Hansel and Gretel, and Newfoundland folk song “Lumber Camp Song.”
Singers from Grades 3–6 had the audiences thinking happy thoughts and tapping along to “What a Wonderful World” and “Wake Me Up!”; and the Grades 7–8 Concert Band brought the beautiful event to a close with a diverse selection including Hebrew Folk Song Suite No. 3, “Music from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” and Selections from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Bravo, Ross School performers, for a year filled with song and dance!
Having the seventh grade students curate an annual art exhibition has been a tradition at Ross School for more than 15 years. The current show, The Illusion of Definition, opened in the Ross Gallery on June 5, and features professional East End artists Roisin Bateman, Don Christensen, and Anne Raymond. The seventh graders spent months preparing for the exhibition, learning about the intricate details that go on behind the scenes at renowned museums. They interviewed local artists, took photos, wrote biographies, selected works, installed the show, and hosted the opening celebration. Along the way, they were supported by Visual Arts teacher Jon Mulhern, Dean of Visual Arts Jennifer Cross, and seventh grade teacher Carol Crane.
The three artists presented in the show create abstract artwork using a variety of media. Roisin Bateman expresses the metamorphic effects of weather on nature in her paintings, pastels, and monotypes. Don Christensen’s paintings use geometric shapes and bright vibrant colors inspired by nature and music. In addition to canvas, Christensen paints on distressed wood and found furniture. Anne Raymond’s paintings and prints are known for evoking an airy feel, with light brushstrokes juxtaposed with darker, bolder ones. She mixes warm, cool, and neutral colors to suggest the wild forces of nature.
In the months before the opening, the students had an opportunity to work with each artist in their local studios to learn about their motivations and techniques. Students created their own art inspired by their visits, and their colorful stools and prints are also on display as part of the show.
Summing up the experience with the pros, the students said, “Working with the artists and witnessing their studios was truly inspirational. They gave us incredible tips on what we should do when making prints and monotypes. We also were able to talk about their interests, and understand the true meaning of their art.”
When it was time to install the show, the seventh graders, artists, and teachers discussed the best arrangement to showcase the beauty and detail of the abstract art. They moved gallery walls and experimented with placement, resulting in a 3D-like effect. For example, the students’ stools were arranged on varying sizes of display podiums in the middle of the gallery.
The students say the project was a lot of work, but teamwork made the difference: “If one gear in the system was stuck, we worked together to fix it.” They also have a new appreciation for everything that goes into running a successful gallery, and now feel that they will experience art in a different way in the future.
At the grades 7 and 8 Science Fair on June 2, students showcased the results of experiments in a variety of subjects such as sensory perception, memory, dreams, and mindfulness practices in sports. The exhibition is the culmination of work that started in September, which includes an initial project proposal and research question; hypothesis and experiment; recording of data and results; and the final conclusion.
First, second, and third place projects in each grade were chosen from a group of finalists. Projects were distinguished based on the student’s commitment to the research throughout the process and interviews with Science Fair judges, who scored the projects based on the quality of work, depth of students’ knowledge, and oral and visual presentation of the results. Judges included Ross Upper School Science faculty, three senior Ross students who were selected based on their Science, and Dr. Gidela Jia, a psychology professor from Lehman College.
Eighth grader Sophie Griffin placed first in her grade. She explored how different typefaces affect memory, and concluded that words in the sans serif font were best remembered. Second place went to classmate Jenna Kestan, who took an interesting approach to determine if the name of a product would impact its desirability: “I took the ice cream flavor peppermint, and for three days turned it into ‘Pink Panther Peppermint.’” She proved her hypothesis that people would purchase the latter product more because of the clever label.
Third place went to eighth grader Sarah Levine, who tested the blood pressures of children and adults to determine if the younger people had lower readings.
First place in grade 7 went to Ella Griffiths. “I wanted to determine if waxing skis would affect speed,” she said. “My research considered multiple variables, including temperature of the snow and type of wax.” She hit the slopes to personally conduct the experiments and test her theories.
India Galesi-Grant took second place for her experiment comparing the performance levels of males and females in overstimulated environments. Quentin Bazar rounded out the winners’ circle, placing third for using a 3D printer to create miniature wind turbine blades of various dimensions, and then testing their electrical output.
Eighth grade finalists also included Jade Diskin, Dualta Gallaher, Dede Rattray, Chelsea Han, Alex Saunders, and Zoe Mintz. Grade 7 finalists included Ally Friedman, Chandler Littleford, Laina Lomont, Diego Vanegas, Ava Seccuro, and Josie Smith.
“The hard work by all students was really impressive, and the competition among the finalists was very strong,” said Anna Strong, Science teacher and Science Fair leader. “They should all be proud of themselves.”
A sense of wonder was in the air at the recent Ross School Children’s Community Theater performances of Over the River and Into the Woods. The original play, written and directed by Performing Arts teacher Margaret Kestler*, follows adolescent boys Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer through encounters with fairy tale heroines and princesses.
The play opens with Tom falling head over heels for Becky Thatcher, which prompts Huck to warn his friend that no good can come from love and marriage. As examples, he points to the fabled tales of charming princes and their valiant deeds performed in pursuit of their lady loves—though in his humorous versions, the tales end slightly short of happily ever after.
The scenes draw the audience “into the woods” to the magical worlds of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, The Frog Prince, Pocahontas, and Beauty and the Beast, and the acting, scenery, and music were, in one word, “fabulous.” As the rousing applause subsided after the final act, the smiling crowd discussed the endearing tale of coming of age, with many recalling their own fond memories of adolescence and first brushes with love.
Bravo to the cast and crew!
*Special thanks go to the play’s music director Loreen Enright, Ann and Bill Stewart for the beautiful set design, Laura Eisman and Sally Wang for costume design, and Tathiana Teixiera for choreography.
Rave reviews and a full house: the cast and crew of Chicago, this year’s spring musical, definitely “had it coming.” Katie Morgan starred as Roxie Hart alongside Liza Marinokha as Velma Kelly, two Jazz Age female murderers in the vice-ridden city. JeongHo Ha played their slick defense attorney, while Big Kitty Xue and Yanni Giannakopoulos kept the crowd in stitches as prison matron “Mama” Morton and sob-story reporter Mary Sunshine, respectively. Malik Basnight rounded out the major cast as downtrodden Amos Hart, Roxie’s husband.
The musical opened with a rousing rendition of “All That Jazz,” starting the audience on a journey through a variety of vaudeville-style musical numbers. Enhanced with Fosse-style choreography designed by teacher Sheryl Hastalis, and accompanied by an orchestra led by Dean of Performing Arts Adam Judd and including some faculty and students, the entire cast rose to the challenge of the solo, duet, and ensemble pieces that are part of the canon of Broadway musicals, including “Mr. Cellophane,” “Razzle Dazzle,” and “Cell Block Tango.”
Director Gerard Doyle, Adam, and Sheryl all expressed their pleasure with the success with which the cast pulled off the three performances—and with the weeks of work that led up to the opening curtain. “I can honestly say Chicago was one of the best productions we have produced in my 11 years directing shows at Ross,” said Gerard. Adam added, “I was consistently impressed with how fully and often the cast and crew expressed their trust in each other.” This trust and commitment to perfecting performances was evident—Chicago was a smashing success!
The crew behind the scenes also contributed to a fantastic experience. Everything from lighting to set construction and sound design was artfully executed. The production team extended a special thanks to teacher Jon Mulhern for his work on set construction and to Ross alum Adin Doyle ’14 for putting in hours on sound design.
This year’s musical was one of grand proportions, and the time and talent put into Chicago was greatly appreciated by all that attended. Congratulations to the entire cast and crew for a job supremely well done!
In a lively concert held in the Field House at Ross Lower School on May 22, students in pre-nursery through grade 2 celebrated spring with a concert featuring familiar favorites, songs sung in Mandarin and Spanish, and joyful tunes heralding the beauty of the season.
Pre-nursery, nursery and pre-kindergarten students opened with uplifting traditional tunes “Forsythia,” “In the Springtime,” “Namaste,” and Spanish folk song “De colores,” as well as classic favorites, “What a Wonderful World” (which they also performed in sign language) and “You Are My Sunshine.” Their energy was infectious, and the audience was happy to sing along to the final tune.
Next, the first and second grades sang “Springtime Sunshine” and “LOL!,” a song that had the audience laughing in surprise when the students and first grade teacher Jamie Laggis popped up big letters on poster board to spell out the title of the tune in time with the refrain.
A group of talented second graders then performed “Merrily We Roll Along” and “Hot Cross Buns” on their recorders. All the students joined together to conclude the concert with “Zao fei ji” (sung in Mandarin), “Put on Your Green Shoes,” and a rousing rendition of Ritchie Valens’s “La bamba,” sung in Spanish.
It was a great opportunity to gather as a community to celebrate the beauty of the season.
Following on-campus screenings of The Good Lie, a 2014 movie starring Reese Witherspoon that tells the story of a family of Sudanese refugees resettling in the United States, actress Kuoth Wiel and Scott Fifer, director of the GO Campaign, participated in Q&A sessions with Ross students and other members of the community. They discussed their personal experiences working with refugees from Sudan and other war-torn African nations.
Scott, a former lawyer, told the audience how he founded the GO Campaign to improve the lives of orphans and vulnerable children around the world. The organization connects donors to high-impact grassroots projects aimed at changing lives and transforming communities. He had an opportunity to meet Margaret Nagle, who wrote the script for The Good Lie, and was moved to help do what he could to bring the film to as many groups and institutions as possible to help raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in which more than 100,000 refugees from Sudan are living in camps today.
Kuoth, who was born in a refugee camp in Kenya to parents from Sudan, shared her story and related how she became involved in the film. She said each actor brought emotional connections, an important element, to the film. Two of her castmates were child soldiers, and others had walked thousands of miles to safety after their villages were destroyed and family members murdered. She herself was not reunited with her older brother until years after her parents had fled the country. “At times we had to stop filming, because the emotion was so overwhelming,” she said. Ultimately, it was important for all involved to tell the story of love of family, sacrifice, and triumph of the human spirit.
Scott and Kuoth explained that the movie is also important because it portrays the refugees’ stories in a manner that all can relate to on some level. One moving scene involves family members saying goodbye when they are relocated to different parts of the United States. They said most of us have experienced loss, and this common ground helps connect us as human beings.
The two activists encouraged students to be aware of what’s going on around the world. “One of the best actions to take is to educate yourself on the issues and share your knowledge with others,” Scott said. “That’s part of the reason we are here today. Discussion can lead to important actions.”
Students were curious about Kuoth’s experiences in the refugee camp and her first impressions of the United States. They learned that as a child, Kuoth went to a school with more than 100 students and only one book.
“In comparison, you have the opportunities, resources, and encouragement at your fingertips, so there is no excuse for you not to strive to succeed and make a personal difference in the world,” Scott said.
The group also shared a laugh as Kuoth recalled her first experiences in Minnesota, where her family was resettled. “The concept of winter was huge, and we were all freaking out about the snow. I’m still not used to it,” she said with a smile.
Kuoth plans to continue acting, but she also will lend her voice to make people aware of the issues in Africa and around that world that are not being talked about in the media. “Hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced,” she said, “and we have to do our part to help find peace.”
Scott agrees. During a final discussion with members of the community, Assistant Head of Upper School Ben Bonaventura asked how Ross could get involved in helping his and other aid organizations. Scott promised to be in touch with specific recommendations.
The interaction was a moving and important experience for the students, and they were appreciative of the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts of the programs and individuals who are making a difference for children and families across the world.
Ross School would like to thank parent Suzanna Shaw for her efforts to organize the film screenings and following inspirational discussions.
On May 9, over 200 guests attended the 12th annual Live @Club Starlight gala in support of the Steven J. Ross Scholarship Fund. The benefit’s goal was to help Ross continue to provide a world-class education to a variety of students, regardless of their economic situation.
Ross School alumna Alexandra Fairweather ’08 served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the event, welcoming guests and discussing the importance of the scholarship fund. Chief Education Officer Jennifer Chidsey then spoke about the event’s honorees, Ross parents Barrie Glabman and Adam Schwartz, and their contributions to Ross School. Next, two students benefiting from the SJR Scholarship Fund shared the ways their Ross education enriches their lives, helping them to discover their passions and talents.
The evening began with a cocktail hour, followed by a fabulous dinner prepared by the Ross School Café team, led by Chef de Cuisine Liz Dobbs. The crowd then rocked out on the dance floor to tunes performed by music legends Joan Osborne, GE Smith, and Robbie Wyckoff.
Attendees also took the opportunity to learn about the more than 100 items available in the online and silent auctions, including a seven-night stay at the Luxurious Villa Janus at Round Hill Resorts in Jamaica, personal training sessions, local getaways, artwork, gift certificates to local businesses, and camp sessions for kids. Bidding continues at http://www.silentauctionpro.com/bidonline.php?groupId=463 through May 18 and at http://www.charitybuzz.com/RossSchool until May 22.
“Starlight is a wonderful event that unites our community around what is at the center of the founders’ principles—creating a stellar educational experience for children and helping them develop into the leaders of tomorrow,” said Perry Babcock, director of institutional development at Ross.
Starlight partners included Anke’s Fit Bakery, Bostwick’s Clambakes & Catering Company, Carpet One of the Hamptons, Cavaniola’s, Channing Daughters Winery, Chinatown, Edible East End, Fresh Hamptons, Hampton Coffee Company, Hamptons magazine, Il Capuccino, Lynch’s Garden Center, Montauk Bus, the New York Knicks, Pierre’s, Russian Standard Vodka, Sag Harbor Express, Sag Harbor Rum, Saunders & Associates, The Seafood Shop, So Cool Soaps; Wölffer Estate Vineyard, and Zico Water.
Ross ninth graders Victoria Hu and Jenny Chen were awarded bronze medals for their mathematics research projects at the Long Island Math Fair on April 24 at Hofstra University. Victoria focused on symbolic logic and the use of truth tables to determine the validity of an argument, and Jenny explained the importance of probability using a visual representation of the “Monty Hall” brain teaser, which explores a contestant’s likelihood of winning a prize on a game show.
Jenny and Victoria conducted the research in the context of the ninth grade’s mathematics enrichment project. Their mentors, including Dean of Mathematics Heather D’Agostino and Mathematics teacher Jessica Pollina, selected several standout projects and submitted them to the LI Math Fair Committee for review. Based on their work, the students were selected to present before official judges at the event.
The ninth graders competed against hundreds of students from across Long Island. Mathematics teacher Jennifer Biscardi, a judge for tenth grade research projects at the fair, said the overall quality of the work made for a very competitive atmosphere. Heather agreed, noting, “Jenny and Victoria were the only high school students from the East End of Long Island who shared their research, and we are so proud of their significant achievements.”
Congratulations, Jenny and Victoria!
On May 1, Ross Lower School welcomed grandparents and special friends for a day filled with warmth, laughter, and song. Guests were in for a number of special treats, from a sing-along in the Multi-Purpose Room (MPR), to the beautiful artwork on display, to a performance titled Beginnings, in which students presented the spiral of cultural history on which the Ross curriculum is based.
Early Childhood students began the event by performing the “Aquamarine Dance” from Carnival of the Animals, using colorful ribbons to represent the rippling beauty of our oceans. Spanish teacher Barbara Gaias said they also “sang their hearts out” in the traditional Spanish-language folk song “De Colores.” The classes wrapped up their delightful entertainment with “You Are My Sunshine,” inviting friends and families to sing along with them.
Elsewhere on campus, guests visited the Book Fair and Art Show. In the Art studio, works from students in grades 1, 4, and 6 included concentric tree ring paintings, Chiwara drawings, and Chinese brush paintings. In the Barn Building, mobiles and birds created by Early Childhood classes were on display, as well as the first grade’s “Tree of Life,” the fifth grade’s peace prints, and the sixth graders’ Greek pottery. In the MPR, art by grades K, 2, and 3 students represented seasonal trees, the layers of Earth, and “naturalists as artists” was a festive backdrop for the visitors.
Over in the Field House, students in grades K–6 wowed their audience with a magnificent performance of Beginnings, a dramatic narrative of the Ross Lower School Spiral Curriculum. Over the course of the show, through interpretive acting, music, and dance, each class unfolds and moves its chapter of the story forward, and offers a curricular gift to the next grade.
Overall, grandparents, friends, and students enjoyed the beautiful day with their loved ones. A special thank you goes to our Lower School parents, faculty, and staff for their contributions to another memorable experience for all!