By Zach Selassie '18
From an outsider’s perspective, St. Albans seems to adhere to the stereotypes that go hand-in-hand with all-boys, private schools. We wear a blazer and tie everyday; the vast majority of us live in affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods; most of us go to colleges and universities that have a history of being for white men. In all fairness, however, St. Albans has improved its racial diversity since I began attending. In fourth grade, just four out of the forty-four students in my grade were black. Now, nine out of the seventy-eight are black—a number which more accurately represents the national average.
Among the faculty, the lack of racial diversity is worrying. There are just eight teachers of color in the entire school. We speak profoundly about how important diversity is, but what is the school doing to promote it? Racial diversity among teachers does not appear to be changing any time soon. Of the six new faculty members being hired in the Upper School next year, one is Latino, and five are white.
The lack of representation in the St. Albans administration trickles down into the way that students behave. I have heard students utter “n*****” far too often, and I have seen Snapchats of students mocking their racial features. A lack of racially diverse role-models fosters a lack of respect for people of color.
Since I first told my classmates that I wanted a Black Student Union (BSU), they have mocked me heavily. Whenever I point out that something is racist, I receive a slew of sarcastic comments such as: “You should have a BSU for that.” A BSU is not a pity party for Black students to point out racism. It is meant to be a forward-thinking organization working in tandem with our school to promote racial diversity and to bring to light issues hampering the Black student experience. St. Albans is one of the only private schools in DC to not have a BSU. Sidwell, GDS, Maret, NCS, WIS, and others have a BSU. Why shouldn’t St. Albans?
Many students don’t know this, but St. Albans used to be segregated. The black students would have classes in what would now equate to closets underneath the kitchen while the white students would be attending classes in the much nicer classrooms upstairs. In our history classes, especially US History, this should be a topic that we spend a great amount of time dealing with. As important as desegregation is, it is equally important to acknowledge that we still go to the same St. Albans that once would have forbidden I take a class with white people because I look a certain way. Not once have we discussed this in any class. In a predominantly white institution, both the school and the students need to work their best to preserve the black voice that is so often left out of the day-to-day conversation. The best way to do this is through the creation BSU.
My greatest regret from my time here is that I didn’t push enough for the creation of a BSU. I hope that an underclassman reads this article and continues working to create a better environment for all students.
Assembled by Kubair Chuchra '18
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By Zack Martin '18
Last Friday, the Bulldogs went out to compete against St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes in their second IAC matchup. Coming off of a historic win against Landon the previous week, the Dawgs felt confident leading up to the face off with the Saints. However, they made sure not to underestimate the Saints; the IAC is strong all around this year, and the chase for the banner is still up for grabs amongst several teams. The Dawgs came out strong in the first quarter and jumped to an early lead, but took a step back in the second and trailed at the half 6-7. With some halftime adjustments and renewed energy, the Bulldogs came out firing again in the third, and found themselves holding a 13-8 lead with a minute left in the fourth. The Saints caused a scare in the final minute, scoring three goals in quick succession, but the Dawgs still pulled away in the end with a 13-11 victory.
This game gave the boys their second IAC win, and a current overall record of 9-7 (2-1 in IAC play). The Bulldogs are currently tied for 1st place in the IAC and are ranked #7 in the Madlax DMV High School Lacrosse rankings. Ranked at #6 is Bullis, who the STA “better” Bulldogs play at home this Friday, April 27 (4:30pm). This could quite possibly be considered the regular season game of the year, and it’s also Senior Day for our STA Dawgs. The hype is real, and the Bulldogs have won 7 of their last 8 games (including a current 6 game winning streak). They’ll need all the support they can get, so clear you calendars for this Friday afternoon, and get out to that.
By Natalie Kalitsi ‘18
NCS Diversity Forum 2018 began with an opening assembly in the Cathedral. I gave the welcoming address, Priya Phillips spoke about her grandfather’s struggle to pursue success, and Jada Fife offered a reflection on her pursuit of the American Dream and her confrontations her age and gender. Our keynote speaker, National Poetry Slam Winner Gayle Danley, performed a piece about her childhood aspirations, her relationship with her mother, and how her American Dream has manifested itself in her life as it is now.
Immediately following the morning gathering, Upper School students proceeded to their first workshop of the day, where student-facilitators guided classmates through an exploration of how much one’s personal values align with the idealized values of the American Dream. This first workshop offered students a chance for personal reflection about their own affiliation with the American Dream and about how their definition aligned (or differed) from the ideals of the American Dream perpetuated throughout popular culture.
Next came a series of grade-wide activities. Teachers led a spectrum activity, in which students expressed their agreement/disagreement with statements read aloud by standing between the polar ends of the room. As facilitators read statements such as “I believe America’s large prison population contradicts the foundation of liberty that America prides itself on,” or “I believe that we focus too much on this country’s past,” students found the opportunity to discuss with those around them about why they hold their particular beliefs, and how those beliefs could be challenged by those with opposing views. The spectrum activity became a physical representation of the diversity of opinion existent within each grade and the Upper School as a whole.
After the spectrum, each grade proceeded into fishbowl exercises. During these fishbowl exercises, each grade had the opportunity to discuss their personal stories in front of their classmates. With the entire grade sitting in a circle around a small set of chairs, students would sit in the middle and share their personal connection to topics with the rest of their classmates. Students were asked to share their personal experiences with ____ and the American Dream (i.e. religion and the American Dream, race and the American Dream, etc.). While the activity generally started out slow, many courageously opened up to their classmates about the trials and silent struggles they endure as both members of this community and people living in America today. The fishbowl activity brought back many of the concepts groups had discussed in workshops into a much more personal and relatable setting.
After a quick lunch, the Upper School went through teacher-led workshops. This year, each department had the opportunity to design a hour long workshop that demonstrating how their discipline related to the day’s theme. With titles like “Consumerism and the American Dream”, to “Words as An Agent of Change,” these works shops not only allowed teachers to intersect their own realm of knowledge into Diversity Forum, but also gave students the opportunity to learn about the American Dream as it relates to aspects that they wouldn’t always have the chance to explore in other scenarios.
The day concluded in Shifter, where senior editor for the Atlantic David Frum, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Nicole Austin-Hillery, and Deputy Vice President of the Institute for Hispanic Health, Rita Carreon, constituted our political panel. The three spent an hour discussing the American Dream as it relates to politics, how policies and demographic shifts have affected it, how those in this country view the American Dream, and how this changes the manner in which they try to pursue it.
Lastly, Gayle Donley joined us once again to MC the Diversity Forum talent show. Both Middle and Upper schoolers gave a number of musical and dramatic poetic performances at this wonderful gathering.
By Kate Mabus '19
This past weekend, the NCS crew team sought to "protect their house" at the TBC (Thompson's Boat Center) Tussle Regatta. At this annual rowing event on the Potomac River, different high schools crews—like NCS, STA, Whitman, and Mclean—that practice out of TBC spent the morning racing in two duels and the afternoon racing in a final. This year, NCS also hosted Loyola Academy, a crew which hails from from Chicago and has previously competed against NCS at the national level, most recently at SRAA Nationals last spring. Overall, the day was successful, with first place wins from the freshmen eight, third varsity eight, and junior four. The first varsity boat finished in 2nd and the second varsity boat in 3rd. At the end of the day, the team honored its seniors and blessed NCS's new boat and winning four, the John Green--named in honor of coxswain Kendall Green's ('16) father. The ceremony was a great way to bring the team together to end a good day of racing.
By Anaya Rodgers '20
Fourth grade was my first year going to a school where the majority of the students looked different from me. Originally, I found this overwhelming because it seemed as if all the other girls, even if they did not know each other beforehand, became friends with each other much more easily than they did with me. It took some time to find people to befriend, but eventually I met my best friends, both white and completely different from me. Before I came to NCS, I thought it was nearly impossible that I could become so close with people I believed to be so different. Moreover, the people of color in my grade who I assumed would be so similar to me were not at all. I had to learn to separate my previous assumptions with the truths that became evident to me as I continued my journey at NCS.
After fifth grade, my two best friends both moved away, leaving me back at square one. Only this time, I had a new perspective. After trials with making and breaking friendships, I finally arrived to upper school where, unbeknownst to me, several friendships would become sisterhoods.
The first thing I remember hearing when I arrived at NCS was a description from my big sister about a club called the Black Student Union (BSU). So, as I got closer to upper school, the idea of joining that club became more enticing. At my first upper school BSU meeting, I saw new faces and learned about everyone’s experiences. Surprisingly enough, every young woman had something different to share about themselves. I assumed, because we were all black, that we would all have the same narrative. The reality was on the contrary. The more meetings I went to and the more I got to know each girl, the more I realized that the only major similarities between us was that we were black women at a predominantly white school trying to prove the negative stereotypes about us wrong. And that is when I had an epiphany: the point of affinity groups is not to share the same experiences, but to embrace our inner diversity though our race is the same. One of my peers once said to me, “if you can make a black student union, why can’t we make a white student union?” To this I would respond three things: the first is that the history and stories we hear are often examples of sisterhood from the perspectives of white feminists. The second is that stereotypes surrounding white people do not doubt their worth or their ability to be successful based on their race. Lastly, I would say that we often leave our sisters of color behind for fear of white tears.
Affinity groups are not meant to be exclusive, but to appreciate the beauty in being whoever you are. They are meant to prove that you can find lasting relationships with the many allies in a community, but also show that you can always rely on those who may share common struggles with you to console and advise you. To me, NCS’s Black Student Union is a place where I can acknowledge the challenges of being a black woman, which we can only understand and express while admiring the strength of our sisterhood.
To my 4th grade self, I would say to remember that you are more than a color; you are a woman who can live as she pleases with whom she pleases. Also, I would add to remember that this opportunity to question integrated friendships is a privilege that you did not always have. As Kwame Nkrumah one said, “those who would judge us merely by the heights we have achieved would do well to remember the depths from which we started”.
By Max Niles ‘18
Is St. Albans or NCS more diverse? It’s a complex question. According to the NCS school website, “Students of color constitute 39% of the NCS student body” and “NCS awarded more than $3.5 million in financial aid to 20% of the student body for 2017-2018.” The St. Albans website paints a pretty similar picture, as students of color makeup 38% of the student body and 25% of students receive financial aid. By the numbers, the schools are dead even in terms of racial and socioeconomic diversity. So, that should make for equal amounts of diversity, right? Yet again, the answer is not that simple. Diversity cannot be measured by a simple percentage of students of color or amount of financial aid given. Diversity depends far more on how the community accepts and embraces the differences of the minorities within it.
In general, the two schools foster different community styles. STA fosters a community built upon brotherhood that turns a mix of many different individuals into a homogenous group that cheers each other on as they power through close sports games, work hard in the classroom, and perform on the stage. The result tends to be a small loss of individuality. On the other hand, NCS is far more open in its support of individuality. In terms of diversity, this means that, according to Bota Saudabayeva ‘18, “NCS is more prepared than STA to take on the question of diversity and how it affects conversation in and beyond the classroom due to our celebration of affinity group clubs and diversity forum.” At St. Albans, we do not have affinity groups and diversity is not as openly a part of our curriculum like at NCS. We have diversity forum, too, and CAO, but I think CAO falls short of the affinity groups at NCS. Although we have the same numbers on paper, I think that NCS actively tries harder at fostering racial/cultural/religious/sexual diversity through its curriculum, whereas at St. Albans, we are focused less on individual differences in general and instead try to build St. Albans men. So, does that mean that NCS is more diverse than St. Albans? Like Bota, I agree that the average NCS student is probably more prepared to discuss diversity than a St. Albans student, yet the St. Albans community still brings a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds to the table.
A debate over which school is “more diverse” can also be harmful: as John Klingler ‘18 puts it, “arguing over which school is ‘more diverse’ just distracts us from the very real issues that both schools face when it comes to increasing diversity in all areas.” I think that both schools are pretty equally diverse, as the numbers show, but that they approach diversity from different angles. This equal diversity does not mean that both schools are finished in their quest for a complete student body. Although both schools are a part of the “elite ring of DC private schools historically catered towards rich white students” as Bota Saudabayeva ‘18 describes it, they both can still strive to shed that label.
By NM '20
This year, Diversity Forum explored the theme of “Am I My Brother’s Keeper,” which, in one of the organizer’s words, “pertain[ed] to the variety of ways that we can serve our ‘brothers’ across the community.” Service was the day’s central activity, as groups went out to a variety of DMV organizations, including A Wider Circle, the Spanish Education Development Center, DC Central Kitchen, Levelling the Playing Field, and the Rock Creek Conservancy. Seniors remained around the Close.
All in all, the day appears to have been a success; attendance seemed good, and many students seemed to appreciate the hands-on and engaging experience as compared to last year’s Diversity Day. Additionally, many students especially enjoyed hearing Jared Makheja (‘19) speak about his own experience with service through his organization, The Elevator Project. Furthermore, the break time in between events and the relaxed lunch were much appreciated.
Though this year’s Diversity Forum marks significant progress, the general consensus seems to be that room for improvement remains. For one, the overall theme; while community outreach is certainly an admirable pursuit, many students were confused at how the day addressed diversity in our school life, seeing this year’s project as more of a “Service Day” than a “Diversity Forum.” Furthermore, at least for my service group, which went to the Rock Creek Conservancy, the “diversity” component of the day was further masked by the nature of the service, which constituted going into some nearby forested area and picking up trash. Again, while meaningful in itself (I personally think environmental service is especially crucial in our society), it was difficult for many to see how activities fit into a theme of “diversity.”
It’s possible that some of these experiences were unique to my group, which was distinct in that our destination had to be rearranged at the last minute following a late cancellation.
Overall, however, most students (myself included) seem to view this year’s Diversity Forum as a step in the right direction, and hope that improvements and refinements in future years will make the day even more meaningful and work to further explore diversity in our community.
By Bridgett Scott '20
While visiting their fifth city on a jam-packed American tour, the choir from the Roedean School in Johannesburg, South Africa spent part of a weekend in D.C. performing alongside the combined NCS/STA chorale at the schools’ annual Spring concert. Forty girls and their choir director, Mr. Schmidt, flew from Johannesburg, or “Joberg” as the locals call it, on a sixteen-hour flight to Atlanta, then connected to Boston—the first stop on their tour. In Boston, the girls enjoyed visiting Harvard University, where where many of them purchased “jerseys” or pullovers from the Harvard Bookstore. Next, they travelled to New York City, where they sang at the top of the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 memorial. The next stop was Princeton, where the choir stayed with hosts from Princeton High School, sang, visited the university, and loved the quaint college town experience on Nassau Street. The choir then visited Lancaster, PA where they sang at the Lancaster Mennonite School and spotted Amish buggies! A bus then took them from Lancaster to Washington on Friday for the Spring concert dress rehearsal.
On Friday, the group went on a tour of D.C. featuring visits to the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and a choral performance at the Kennedy Center! Later that evening, the girls joined the NCS/STA Chorale for dinner and rehearsal. They immediately stole the hearts of everyone they met. They were in awe of the Cathedral, albeit disappointment that NCS does not regularly conduct classes there. Their director Mr. Schmidt clearly had so much passion for his conducting and he taught the entire NCS/STA Chorale the Roedean choreography to Ke Nna Yo Morena in a matter of minutes. The whole group was together, making introductions, singing, dancing, and laughing in a truly memorable frenzy of excitement.
After the dress rehearsal, I hurried to Hearst to meet the two Roedeans that I would be hosting for the next two days. Nicole and Towela were warm and interesting. We chatted for hours, making fast friends. On Saturday, at least a third of the Roedean choir met up impromptu in the Georgetown Urban Outfitters for a shopping expedition before getting ready for the concert.
The Roedean choir blew everyone away at the concert. Their musical talent shone from soloists to the ensemble. Their engaging choreography and beautiful, traditional South African concert attire made their performance so entertaining, memorable, and impressive. They sang “The Rainmaker” to raise awareness about the ongoing drought in Capetown, and mentioned that their other tour favorites were “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King, and “Baba Yetu” (although they mocked my American pronunciation of “yay-too” ). I can honestly say that singing and dancing with the Roedean girls is the most fun I have ever had during a chorale concert, and I hope that the relationship between our programs in nurtured and developed in the future!