The Williston Northampton School will hold its ninth annual Diversity Conference on Thursday, January 27, 2011. The theme of this year’s event is “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.” All students will participate in their choice of over 90 workshops led by fellow students, staff, faculty, parents, alumni, and community members on many aspects of diversity including age, ability, race, gender, political affiliation, language, religion, socio-economic status, family composition, ethnicity, sexual orientation, adoption, and more.
Workshop presenters include former Smith College professor Sheri Lyn Schmidt of The Ethel Walker School; Bessie Jones, founder of Mothers of Color Awareness Initiative; Mark C Franczyk ’00, a financial analyst at J.P. Morgan; Lissa Pierce Bonifaz of the Massachusetts Latino political organization ¿Oíste?; Veterans Education Project; and Easthampton Police Department.
The opening keynote speaker for the event is comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie ’68. Kawie’s solo show, “Brain Freeze,” about his journey through the aftermath of a stroke, has been performed off Broadway and at theaters and hospitals throughout the country, and won Best Solo Show in the 2003 InternationalFringe Festival in New York City. Kawie writes a column called “Life At The Curb” for the American Heart Association’s magazine Stroke Connection and has numerous credits as a writer and comedian.
The conference will culminate with an afternoon performance by Jeremy Cohen of ThisWorldMusic and Nani Kwashi Agbeli of Woezo, who will offer what is sure to be a high-energy performance of west African drumming and dance that will also feature students who have spent the day in drumming and dance workshops.
At its core, the Williston+ Program is about the power of collaboration; great things can happen with a fine independent school collaborates with its outstanding higher education neighbors. By working closely with the Five Colleges, Williston finds the right resources to give students multiple perspectives on the subjects that interest them the most. And with Williston’s close relationships with the Five Colleges, the topics for our students to explore are limitless.
In other words, collaborative learning works, collaborative learning is fun, and collaborative learning at Williston provides students with awesome opportunities to work with some of the most creative minds in the country. It also gives our faculty some cool opportunities as well.
In advance of a visit to campus by world-famous author and humanitarian Greg Mortenson, students taking World Civilizations and Advanced Placement Comparative Government traveled to UMass to see a performance of the stage version of Mortenson’s book, Three Cups of Tea. Later that week, these students had the opportunity to meet the actors when they came to Williston and led dicsussion groups.
Becca McDonald ’11 spent the last semester studying Arabic at Hampshire College. Cross-registration for classes at the Five Colleges is available to Williston seniors through the Williston+Program.
Music Teacher Ben Demerath visited Ghana over the summer as part of the UMass/This World Music program. His trip was sponsored in part by the Williston Plus Program. You can read about Mr. Demerath’s adventures on his blog.
U.S. History students from The Williston Northampton School who are preparing for this year’s We the People academic competition will collaborate with students from Easthampton High School. The two schools will present a showcase of their research on the Williston campus on Wednesday, January 19. The showcase will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Dodge Room of the Reed Campus Center, and individual hearings will occur in Reed 202 and 204 from 7–9 p.m.
On Saturday, January 29, students from both schools will travel to Boston and participate in the state-wide We the People competition involving 12 different public and private schools, sponsored by the Center for Civic Education.
To prepare for the competition, students investigate the history, philosophy, and contemporary development of US Government. Working in small groups, they prepare presentations on three different questions. During the event, the groups give one presentation each. Following their prepared remarks, students respond to a series of questions from judges and defend their ideas without benefit of notes.
Williston students have participated in this event since 1998 and finished in the top three places four times, including winning the honor of representing Massachusetts in the national finals in 2000. This year will mark the first time that Easthampton High School has participated.
At a faculty meeting on December 9, 2010, The Williston Northampton School’s Head of School Robert W. Hill announced that Peter Valine will be Williston’s dean of faculty and Jen Fulcher will be director of the Middle School, positions which they currently hold as interims.
Peter Valine majored in history at the University of Vermont and earned a master’s in liberal studies at Dartmouth College. He taught previously at Tilton School, Mercersburg Academy, and Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School. A history teacher at Williston since 1998, he has taught in both the Middle School and the Upper School. He has also been a dorm head, has coached lacrosse, field hockey, and ice hockey, and has led student trips to Ireland and Central Europe. Peter was head of the History Department from 1999 to 2004, and coordinated the school’s NEASC self-study for re-accreditation in 2005-06. He is also an adjunct professor at the College of Saint Joseph, where he has taught interdisciplinary courses for undergraduate and graduate students since 2002.
Jen Fulcher studied psychology at Connecticut College, where she captained the varsity soccer and lacrosse teams, and earned a master’s in education from Springfield College. She came to Williston in 1989 as a physical education teacher, dorm parent, and coach. She has taught psychology in the Upper School and history in the Middle School, as well as working as director of summer programs and director of facility marketing. The girls’ varsity lacrosse program has enjoyed tremendous success under her guidance, achieving a record of 41-3-1 over the last four seasons. Jen was the Middle School’s coordinator of student affairs from 2007 to 2010.
About these appointments, Bob Hill said, “With both Peter and Jen, we not only have veteran members of the school community occupying essential leadership positions, but, most importantly, we have tremendously hard working, thoughtful, and creative thinkers ready to help the school move forward.”
Thanks to Williston faculty members Kim Evelti and Peter Gunn, and a large group of student volunteers, The Williston Northampton School hosted its annual Red Cross Blood drive just before Thanksgiving recess. Head of School (and blood donor) Bob Hill observed in his blog, “I learned that Williston students answer the call to give in unusual numbers, and they do so with a cheerfulness that I’ve not seen before. First time givers always had one or two friends standing by them while veteran teenage donors (I did not realize that such a group exists) thought nothing of strolling in to their appointment alone.”