Out of the Mouths of Babes: A Brief Overview of the Allendale Columbia Student Commencement SpeakersPosted on June 18th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School
By Ted Hunt, AC History Teacher
“A few weeks ago, I was thinking about A/C and what it has meant to me over the last four years; after all, I had a graduation speech to write.”
With those words, Brandon Block, Class of 1985, began the first senior Commencement speech in Allendale Columbia School history. The list of student speakers now numbers thirty-five, and what a group it has been: articulate, poised, thoughtful, and diverse in just about every parameter imaginable: gender, race, and ethnicity; urban, rural, suburban. Over the course of the last thirty-four years, these speakers have had two commonalities. First, their speeches collectively represent some of the most impressive student prose imaginable and, secondly, I have had the pleasure to work with all of them as they crafted and rehearsed their speeches. Year after year, our student speakers were able to distill the essence of Allendale Columbia, its programs, and its people as well as any group of professionals we could have hired to market the school. I saved each and every one of those thirty-five speeches and I would like to share some of their highlights. (more…)
Posted in: Alumni News, Highlights, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
“First, relax. Get together with other people. Start with one thing. Get off screens and get outdoors,” encouraged Allendale Columbia alumna Mary DeMocker ’80, in her talks with parents and students while visiting her high school alma mater. She talked about her book, The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil-Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids, and Still Get a Good Night’s Sleep, which is a finalist for the 2019 Oregon Book Award.
“Parents are hardwired to protect their kids,” she said at the event and in her book, providing them with food to eat, providing care and comfort when they’re sick, helping make sure they get their homework done, and more. And that’s why, she says, parents are the key to saving children from the chaos of climate change. She started when she became a parent and realized she needed to do more than recycle and change lightbulbs, that change would only come from community and political action. (more…)
Posted in: Alumni News, Highlights, Middle School, PACK, Upper School
PACK invites you to a special Coffee Connection with AC alum, Mary DeMocker ’80.
Author Mary DeMocker presents an inspiring talk about how to feel empowered in the fight for a healthy planet. Leave with at least three ways even the busiest parent can help change our system – not just our light bulbs. Her book, The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution, is a finalist for the 2019 Oregon Book Award, and has been featured on Yale Climate Connections and recommended in The New York Times. Mary will have copies of her book available for purchase.
Wednesday, April 3rd
8:00-8:15 a.m. Treats and coffee
8:15-9:00 a.m. Presentation
No need to RSVP! We’ll see you there on April 3rd!
AN INTERVIEW WITH MARY DEMOCKER (an excerpt)
Why bring this message about system change specifically to parents?
Every parent I know would do anything to keep their child safe. We’re great at teaching kids to cross the street safely, or to alert an adult if they’re being bullied, or not to text while driving. But we also want to protect our kids in the long run, and that means protecting their habitat.
Can you describe your book?
Gladly! It has 100 chapters divided into eight sections, such as “Save Time and Money,” “Care For Your Soul,” and “Raise Empowered Kids.” You can read it start to finish, or crack it open and see what title appeals to you. Each chapter has a short story—I choose the funniest or most moving moments from my 21 years of parenting—and ends with two to ten ideas for busy people with varying levels of time and money to try.
Aren’t parents too busy to take on climate change?
We are busy, and that’s why we need easy, affordable, fun ideas that fit into busy family lives. Many of the ideas take only a minute or two and cost very little or nothing. I want to emphasize that this book isn’t about doing more. It’s about doing some things a little differently.
Coffee Connection is the monthly parent social for all AC parents, host parents, and guardians. It’s organized by the volunteer group, Parents of Allendale Columbia Kids (PACK). If you have any questions or want to get more involved with PACK, please email the PACK President, Kristin Rorapaugh, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abdul Wali Akrami, a humble hero who helped U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan, received a car and insurance to help him resettle in Rochester as a result of AC ninth-grader, Elina Natarajan’s inspired “Change You Can Count On” fundraiser at Allendale Columbia School.
Natarajan rallied the Community Service Club to help with the project, in which students in each grade and faculty sought to fill 2-liter bottles with loose change. All those coins added up to $743.00 to support No One Left Behind (NOLB), an organization that helps resettle the Afghan and Iraqi heroes who assisted the U.S. as drivers, interpreters, and special assistants.
“I was inspired when I met Matt Zeller and Janis Shinwari after a discussion at school,” Natarajan explained. AC alumnus and 2018 CNN Hero, Matt Zeller ’00, is a co-founder of NOLB with his Afghan translator Janis Shinwari. “I heard Ellen Smith (the Rochester Chapter Head) talk in the evening forum about raising money to help provide vehicles to these relocated helpers, and I thought, we can do that!”
“Wali” and his family fled his home country of Afghanistan to go to Pakistan when it became too dangerous under the Taliban. He returned when U.S. forces arrived to, as he put it, “help restore our country”. He became the trusted driver and special assistant to Fulton Jones, DynCorp International’s Deputy Program Manager for the Ministry of Interior’s Mentoring Program working with the Afghan National Police. Jones is the one who sponsored Wali’s visa. “On two occasions while we were traveling in my vehicle around Kabul, nearby coalition military bases or Afghan governmental institutions were attacked by Taliban insurgents. Wali quickly assessed the situation and realized that we were in danger of being hit,” Jones wrote in his letter of recommendation, and related how Wali got them to safety. “Wali risks his life daily just coming to work…but firmly believes what he is doing is right and worth the risk.”
Wali’s son, Aleem, related some of his father’s story to the packed Curtis Performance Center at AC, while tears of gratitude streamed down Wali’s face. A family friend, Jawad Tawakali, who moved here as a child, translated Wali’s thanks to the group. “It feels good to know we could help,” said Natarajan, who also noticed the tears. “It was a very emotional moment.”
Interested in supporting No One Left Behind? Send donations to:
No One Left Behind, Inc.
888 Pittsford Mendon Center Road
Pittsford, NY 14534
You can also email Irwin Solomon at email@example.com.
Posted in: Alumni News, Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
By John Palomaki
Get to bed earlier.
Don’t wait to the last minute to start your homework.
Get out of your room and make friends.
Do your laundry.
Talk to your teachers.
Manage your time.
Find your passion.
School work comes first.
Surround yourself with good people.
Turn your homework in on time.
Make sure you get enough sleep.
Just do the work.
Think about who you are.
Admonitions from parents or teachers? Not this time. These are some of the many tips Allendale Columbia graduates gave Upper School students based on their college experiences. (more…)
Posted in: Alumni News, College Advising News, Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
Veterans Day celebrates our soldiers and marines who served this country or, in some cases, made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. But what about all those people who help our troops? The people who live in the country that is being torn apart by war. The people who risk their lives to help our soldiers communicate, navigate, and survive. What about them?
Matt Zeller, an AC Class of 2000 alum, left our campus with ideas of being a lawyer or a politician and went on to earn degrees from Hamilton College and Syracuse University before joining the U.S. Army.
In 2008 his life, and his future, changed forever. (more…)
Posted in: AC in the News, Alumni News, Authentic Learning, Entrepreneurship, Global Engagement, Highlights
After navigating the tricky feat of holding a reception in Boston during a Red Sox playoff game, Mick Gee, Karen Higman, and Kayla Himelein packed their bags and headed to New York City. Along the way, they had a lovely visit with former Headmistress Miss Joan Twaddle at her home in Rhode Island.
Then it was on to New York to enjoy the company of a lively crowd of alumni and parents.
Among the guests present was beloved former faculty member Lorraine Van Meter-Cline who, with celebrity-like magnetism, had alums of all ages flocking to her. Over the course of the night, the drinks flowed freely, as did the stories, and rumor has it, a number of attendees continued the party for several hours after the reception, where AC stories continued to be shared along with many laughs.
Also present at the reception was former staff member Karyn Vella, who was recognized by Mick Gee, Head of School, for her monumental work on the Impact Initiative Campaign. Thanks to the support of AC alumni, parents, students, faculty, and staff, AC exceeded its $4 million campaign goal and is now able to provide students with enhanced access to innovative and authentic learning opportunities.
“The energy of the New York City reception was just incredible,” recalled Karen Higman, Director of Advancement at AC. “It was refreshing to see so many recent (within the past five years or so) AC alumni gathered together. And to personally witness the connection they still have with one another… and with Lorraine! It truly shows just how strong those bonds are between AC students and faculty alike.”
We, of course, must also give a special thanks to Mr. Stephen B. Ashley, our gracious host, without whom none of this would have been possible.
We look forward to seeing YOU at an upcoming alumni reception or event soon!
Save the Date
Thursday, December 20th
Annual Alumni Holiday Reception (Rochester, NY)
Each year, members of the Alumni Office travel around the country to reconnect and reminisce with AC alumni. This year’s first stop was Boston!
On Tuesday evening,Head of School Mick Gee, Karen Higman, and Kayla Himelein enjoyed catching up with alumni and friends at the Union Club of Boston. Among the distinguished guests was former Head of Upper School, John Harrison. Alumni and friends reconnected with former classmates and shared stories of their time at AC over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Regardless of background or graduation year, many of their stories revolved around the shared experiences they had with beloved faculty and the personalized care and attention they received as students at AC.
Mick Gee and Kieran Draper P’19, Current Trustee, also spoke to the group about the progress of the school as we come out of the Impact Initiative Campaign and the establishment of AC’s new Centers for Impact. Thanks to the support of AC alumni, parents, students, faculty, and staff, AC exceeded its $4 million campaign goal and is now able to provide students with enhanced access to innovative and authentic learning opportunities.
Save the Date
Thursday, December 20th
Annual Alumni Holiday Reception (Rochester, NY)
We hope to see YOU at an upcoming alumni reception or event soon!