Connections are vital. As we are reminded nearly every day in the media and educational literature, connections are especially important in a fast-paced and often impersonal society. At Allendale Columbia, the importance of connections is a core value. To emphasize and instill this value, AC’s Upper School used the first Friday of the school year, Class Day, to focus on building connections between students and between students and faculty.
Each class’s activities centered on a theme with the goals of bonding as a class, community building, and fostering interaction between faculty and students outside school, setting a tone of mutual respect and positive teamwork. These events addressed skills and themes which help instill our core values, and they help build the community and connections our students will rely on for this year, and years to come.
9th Grade: Community
Ninth grade focused the whole day on making connections with each other, beginning with some team-building activities with seniors. They then boarded a bus and headed to RocVentures. The staff at RocVentures guided the students in some very fun and challenging games that required teamwork. They also spent some time on the high ropes course and the climbing walls, where they learned a bit of resilience, a healthy respect for gravity, and trust in their teachers, who belayed them, and RocVentures staff, who guided them in the ropes course. In the afternoon, students did an introspective activity, in which they were asked to think about how their learning could connect with their passions or interests, and they ended the day with a fun, collaborative activity with the 4th and 5th graders. This activity, directed by Randy Northrup, involved Lower and Upper School students working together to make balloon hats and connecting all of the hats together, so that the whole group was essentially wearing one very large, comical-looking balloon hat.
10th Grade: Equality
Tenth graders worked with David Sanchez from the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in an eye-opening workshop centered around conflict without contempt. After a cultural lunch with Indian food at AC’s International House, the afternoon revolved around a role play activity to make students aware of their various social identities. The day concluded with yoga to introduce an effective stress management solution.
11th Grade: Leadership
Herb Alexander from Roberts Wesleyan College conducted a workshop for the junior class on forward planning and self assessments. Hilary Bluestein-Lyons from STAGES and Noah Chrysler from RIT’s improv group then conducted a workshop on improvisational theater, which teaches participants how to listen and communicate effectively. The juniors then put on a show for the 2nd graders. They are poised to use the leadership skills they cultivated that day.
12th Grade: Legacy
A trip to Niagara Falls was riddled with activities focusing on legacy and team building. A scavenger hunt and a ride on the Maid of the Mist were two highlights. The class spent the night at AsburyCam p and Retreat Center on Silver Lake, continuing the conversations about the legacy they will leave at AC. As they sat around the campfire theat night and shared what they liked about each other highlighted the bonds they share. The morning ended with skits about their 20-year reunion.
Posted in: Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
After a successful inaugural “Advisory Day” last year, Allendale Columbia continued using Friday of the first week of school for Middle School students to participate in a meaningful bonding experience with their advisors and fellow classmates. On September 7th, students engaged in various on-campus and off-campus experiences to begin their year-long work focusing on each of their class themes.
This year, the 8th grade spent their advisory retreat at Mount Hope Cemetery where they performed community service and learned about many legacies of the Mount Hope “residents” from guide Pat Corcoran. Ms. Corcoran was very impressed and grateful for the enthusiasm and energy the 8th graders put into clearing brush, digging up weeds, and “picking up” around several sections of the cemetery. Students also learned new things about Mount Hope’s famous residents, such as how many people visited Susan B. Anthony’s grave during the 2008 presidential election and the legacies left by Frederick Douglass’s wives. They also learned cool facts about many others buried at the cemetery, including Margaret Woodbury Strong, Hiram Sibley, and Emma Sibley Watson. This day helped set the stage for a year-long exploration of their own leadership within the Middle School and the legacy they want to leave behind as they move into the Upper School only a short ten months from now. At the end of 8th grade, a capstone project in their physics, history, and English will highlight all the work and progress these students have made over the course of the year. This retreat also served as a springboard for the students to think about their goals and look ahead to the 8th grade trip to Gettysburg and Washington DC.
The 7th grade partnered with Best Buddies and School of the Holy Childhood this school year. Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). On Friday, students were introduced to Best Buddies and spent the day at Charlotte Beach with a group of students from School of the Holy Childhood.
The theme of the 6th grade year in advisory is ”independence.” Sixth grade is a perfect time to introduce topics of independence as students transition from Lower School to Middle School. Students spent advisory day on campus focusing on community building as a class and within advisory groups. Advisory groups were tasked with creating, designing, and building their own “origin worlds”. Similar to writing a science-fiction story, students were asked to think about their own unusual powers and create a fictional world from which they came. These worlds included geography, traditions, language, and supernatural elements. Students then designed and created these worlds out of gingerbread. This task asked students to think about themselves both as individuals and as members of the Middle School community. Self-advocacy, accountability, and individuality are key parts of this day and the 6th grade advisory program.
Posted in: Eighth Grade, Highlights, Middle School, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade
For the second summer, local Allendale Columbia students participated in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) here in Rochester. IYLEP* is a four-week exchange program for promising Iraqi students to visit different U.S. cities and learn about leadership, peacebuilding, and civic engagement. Rochester is the only host city that has American students participate in the IYLEP program for the full two weeks, which allows them to build a strong bond and further break down stereotypes and misconceptions.
“Before this program, what I thought and knew of Iraq was based off what I see in the news, and sure, we have our differences, but we have way more in common than I thought,” said AC student Garrett Wilson.
During their time in Rochester, Iraqi and AC students visited an array of places, ranging from workshops at the M.K. Gandhi Institute, site visits to Rochester International Academy, a service project at Foodlink, and a night out at a Red Wings game.
On August 16th, students, host parents, and members of the community gathered in the Curtis Performance Center for the IYLEP Student Showcase. As guests trickled in, IYLEP participants laughed, sang NSYNC, and posed for selfies together, further proving that teenagers are teenagers, no matter where they’re from.
“Just because we’re from different places, it doesn’t mean we have different kinds of hearts.” – Mikayla Gross ‘19
Showcase presentations included a student-produced video highlighting the activities and friendships formed over the course of the two weeks in Rochester; a skit depicting some of the cultural differences identified between American and Iraqi students; and a touching thank you video to the host families. Many participants spoke about the lasting impact of the program, including the simple experiences like living with pets or riding a bike.
The evening concluded with the presentation of awards to the IYLEP participants by RGC Executive Director, Cecelia Hencke, and Program Facilitator, Mary Beth Moyer, followed by a friendly mix and mingle over refreshments in the Dining Commons.
“The lasting impact of this program is the person-to-person connection formed between people from diverse backgrounds,” said Hencke. “It increases international understanding and promotes positive U.S. foreign relations and a more peaceful and prosperous world. The program has a multiplier effect because the students are now ambassadors of one another’s country and will help further breakdown the stereotypes or misconceptions.”
Allendale Columbia School has been involved with IYLEP since 2017, when the AC Center for Global Engagement partnered with Rochester Global Connections (RGC), a local nonprofit organization that promotes cultural exchange, to bring this opportunity to our community. Local high school students who participate in the program are eligible to receive accreditation from AC’s Center for Global Engagement. This year’s participants included 11 high school students and one adult mentor from Iraq and eight local Allendale Columbia students.
Since the program’s founding in 2007, IYLEP has brought more than 2,300 promising Iraqi high school and undergraduate students to the U.S. In addition to promoting mutual understanding between the people of Iraq and the U.S., IYLEP also fosters relationships within the diverse group of Iraqi participants, who represent a broad range of ethnic, religious, and geographic backgrounds.
During their program, IYLEP participants visit two to three U.S. cities where they engage in experiential learning activities and cultural exchange. Upon their return to Iraq, they implement projects in their communities, such as organizing peace festivals and providing relief services to refugees and orphans. As an investment in global understanding and peace, IYLEP has created a cadre of future leaders of Iraq.
It is clear this program benefits both American and Iraqi students alike. Together, it prepares them to become global leaders- to learn global empathy, compassion, and humility. They learn leadership skills- such as working with people from diverse backgrounds, problem solving, teamwork, dialogue, and self confidence. From this experience, students are prepared to be successful in our global and diverse society and be empowered to make a positive difference in our community and communities around the world.
“We hope to continue this program on an annual basis, so I encourage local students to apply!” said Hencke.
*IYLEP is sponsored and funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by World Learning.
Posted in: Global Engagement, Highlights, Partnerships
The AC Center for Global Engagement and Rochester Global Connections is looking for host families for two weeks in August! From August 5th – 19th, AC Global Connections Leadership Academy will have 13 Iraqi students on campus to work with our students on leadership and civic engagement. These Iraqi teenagers have been selected by World Vision and the US Department of State as being the most promising future leaders of their country. They will be in the Leadership Academy weekdays from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and our wish is that, during the evenings and weekends, the host student gains an authentic cultural experience by participating in family activities. While this is a volunteer experience, it is an extremely enriching multi-cultural opportunity for both your family and the host student and creates a life-long friendship. If you, or anyone you know, are interested in finding out more information about your family hosting a student, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or abaerharper@allendalecolumbia.