Diversity and Multiculturalism

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Who Tells the Stories? Who Benefits from the Stories? Who is Missing from the Stories?

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

Ann Fyfield’s 6th grade humanities class centers on these three key questions as they explore the world from ancient civilizations through modern notions of gender. Eight of her students reflect here on their year of learning, posed with the selfies they took for their unit on gender studies.

Aarushi

I loved the unit on ancient India. You can see from the past how they made great advances and made us who we are. . . . We can change the course of history. If a woman doesn’t fit a stereotype, she’s not accepted into society and is put into a box. Men are in a box, too, but it’s bigger. When we put up this wall of selfies, we put girls under “strength” and boys under “beauty.” But if we separated it by gender, which is who you are in your mind and not your body, it would be turned around and look different.
 

Kean

I originally thought history was boring and bland. With Ann, I find it more fascinating. She lets you state your opinions, and brings in creativity and interactive activities. Our project with imaginary civilizations made me really understand that civilizations aren’t black and white and are not at all simple. Our gender groups are a great place to talk about sexism and LGBT people. We can talk a lot more when we’re with our own gender. Stereotypes do not define who we are.
 

 

Samma

I never thought before about the fact that we’ve had no woman president, although half the people in the U.S. are women. . . . . Learning about the people who lived before us and the stuff that isn’t here now interests me.
 

Eamon

We talk a lot in class about social justice and gender issues. There’s an ancient Greek ideal, arête. It combines beauty and strength. The Greeks didn’t care about gender equality, but they still thought women could be strong. I like the recitation I did from Socrates’ Apologia. The meaning was that no one knows anything until they realize they don’t know that much.
 

Emma

We watched a video about beauty and how you perceive yourself. It’s a problem that people try to look a certain way, and maybe not eat. If you change the way you think about yourself you can change everything. Ann’s class is the most creative of my Middle School classes. One of my favorite things in her class was at the beginning of the year, when we interviewed someone in class and learned something about them. It made us feel like people cared about us, and the new kids got to meet somebody. . . . Middle School is different from Lower School because everything has higher stakes. You can’t turn in something that isn’t good, and you have to put in 105 percent to do your best.
 

James and Britt

James: We studied gender stereotypes in Ann’s class to see if gender affects learning. We were separated into boys’ and girls’ groups. I learned that most legends and myths are written by men or based on ideas from men.
 
Britt: I was surprised by girls’ stereotypes about boys. . . . I also liked the ancient civilizations project. My group studied Egypt and had to write an essay and do research. I chose to research the kingdoms, and James did the dynasties.
 
James: We made a video, with a green screen and fancy lights, and wrote the scripts.
 
Britt: Right now we’re inviting people to an imaginary dinner. I researched and invited Black Elk, Cornel West, St. Marcella, and Pericles.
 
James: We wrote about why these people merited invitations, and some were famous and some we hadn’t heard of. I invited Demosthenes, Chief Seattle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, César Chávez, and Jimmy Carter.
 

Ramya

One of Ann’s projects that made me think was the creation of an imaginary culture: how would I want a civilization to be? My partner and I made it powered by women, and it intrigued me. . . . If women were treated as equally as men, what would the world be like? I hope we have a woman president soon. A parent named Jason Stevens came and talked to us about ancient Greece. We found out that their culture was similar to ours right now because men overpower women and have more rights. When I’m an adult I want to make a difference, even if a small one, to advance my community and make it better.

A Fanatic for Service

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Nkenge Harmon Johnson ’93, spokesperson for Oregon’s Governor Kitzhaber, has worked in political communications for the U.S. Congress and President Obama

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

Political nerds are service fanatics. You can’t really shake it off,” says Nkenge Harmon Johnson ’93. She should know. Three years shy of turning 40, she has already carved out a notable career in public service in U.S. and state politics. A brilliant, curious, and resilient woman, her driving force is her love for this country and an overwhelming ethic of inclusivity and giving back.
 
Since January 2014, Nkenge has served as communications director for Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and as a member of the Governor’s executive team. “I deal with the media, elected officials, and the public about really important issues that affect lives today and affect the future of the state. It’s no small matter,” she says. It’s her voice you hear discussing state issues and policies, her words that you will read in the media about the Governor’s stance on crucial matters.
 
Nkenge does much more than talk about policy, though: she is an instrumental player in shaping the work of the Governor’s office. “Not only do I help define how to discuss the work at hand, I also identify ways to focus the work to the greatest effect,” she says. “It’s about identifying commonalities and differences where that is most important. The job is not just talking to people but helping us to listen.”
 
Nkenge began her work in political public service 11 years ago. After Catlin Gabel she attended Florida A&M University as a business and engineering major, and then attended Howard University Law School, which had recognized her potential and vigorously recruited her. Nkenge’s law school class was the first to graduate after 9-11, and the job situation was brutal for her and her peers because of the economic downturn. Her family has a strong military tradition, and she recounts the day when she was in D.C., trying to figure out how to serve her country in a time when the employment outlook for budding lawyers looked bleak. She looked up and noticed the Capitol, and realized: that’s what she could do to serve.
 
But Oregon was calling her back, so Nkenge returned home to take the Oregon Bar exam. She passed the Bar, and went as far as accepting a job at Legal Aid in Portland. She grabbed a chance to take a road trip before she began working—and was in a terrible car accident in Texas. “Every now and again I feel as though the universe puts its hand on my shoulder and says, ‘Slow down,’” Nkenge says. “I was lying on a hospital bed looking up and saying, Oh! Was I not paying attention to something?” That’s when she decided to act on her moment of inspiration and seek work on Capitol Hill.
 
When Nkenge finished her rehab and recovery from the accident, she began working as legislative counsel for U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, of Texas. Nkenge’s first experience with the duties of a press secretary came when she realized the haphazard nature of the communications coming from Lee’s office, and decided to be the gatekeeper for all public material. Although she yearned to practice law, she says, “The job was a natural fit for me to be talking to reporters and talking to the public and helping to shape messages, because I understood the underlying policy and motivations behind what I was saying. There’s nothing better than that.”
 
Growing weary of the politics of being in the minority party in the House, Nkenge worked for two years supporting national political campaigns as deputy press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Her focus was outreach to stakeholders and media such as the African American, Spanish language, and faith press, a great learning experience. When the election cycle concluded, she earned an MBA and worked as a lawyer in New York and D.C.—and found a way to fulfill her intense entrepreneurial drive.
 
Before she turned 30 Nkenge bought a mixed-use housing development in D.C., one she owns to this day. She started this business in 2005 partially to see if she could put into practice principles of highest and best use. “I had some theories and ideas about housing issues, homelessness, and finance. I wanted to see if I could walk the talk,” she said. She lived in the building and maintains close relationships with her tenants, some of whom have been living there longer than she has been alive.
 
After her business was up and running, Nkenge’s thoughts turned to working on the Hill, stirred again by her love of public service. She took a job as director of outreach communications for Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Shortly after, she became communications director in 2009 for Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a state that resonated for Nkenge because of its economic similarities to Oregon. Nkenge admired Sen. Stabenow’s strength of character, and enjoyed the work of helping her build a strong national presence.
 
And then the President called: the Obama administration tapped her to help move forward the country’s trade agenda. When that happens, you act. She joined the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, a position she held for three years, working to help solidify trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama. “Our schedule was unrelenting,” she says. “But it’s a great honor to work in service of my country and this President. I have to start and stop with these points.”
 
When the three trade agreements were signed, Nkenge saw that as an opportunity for change. Once again, Nkenge left D.C. to return to Oregon, this time for a very personal and important reason. In September 2012 she married Erious Johnson, a classmate of hers from Howard University Law School. She had been based in D.C., and he was successful attorney in New York. Moving to Oregon was their chance to make a life together. Nkenge and Erious moved to a house in south Salem above a Christmas tree farm, with sunsets, great views, deer, and space to grow. They established a law firm of their own, where she worked until she was called upon to serve Governor Kitzhaber.
 
“Success for me means finding people from whom I can learn and who are supportive of my decision to work hard to build my dreams,” says Nkenge. At Catlin Gabel, headmaster Jim Scott, science teacher Paul Dickinson, and most of all Spanish teacher Roberto Villa were those people for her. Nkenge had been part of a cohort of students who came from Harriet Tubman Middle School, which brought what she saw as interesting challenges. Jim Scott was someone she went to for help with finding solutions to those challenges, and was a hugely supportive presence. Nkenge loved science and says that Paul Dickinson allowed her to “play with ideas and participate in events outside of school, like the Bickleton bluebird trip, which I did every year at Catlin Gabel.” Roberto Villa is most memorable for her because he challenged her when she didn’t want to do what she saw as a tedious and boring part of her classwork. He urged her to do work that was more complex and interesting, and earned her trust by supporting her to do the work her own way and in turn learn more deeply. She still credits him with her love of and facility with the Spanish language, which she used daily as a lawyer in New York and D.C.
 
Nkenge says that one of her biggest challenges is helping others see the greatness of her community and state the way she does. “I reject conventional theories about diversity in Oregon. I figure I have a reason to know,” she says. “What’s important is not census numbers or language or heritage, but opportunities that need to be available for all of us. I reject the idea that one has to look a certain way or be from a certain place to succeed. It’s a challenge to make it true that everyone can do what he or she makes up their mind to do—in education, employment, arts and culture, sports, or health care. As long as we think about the state as homogenous it lets us off the hook. Oregon is not so. What the state looks like calls us into account to make our organizations resemble the state,” she says.
 
“And the same is true nationally. In the Senate I was one of two African American communication directors out of one hundred. There were two Asians and no Latinos. The numbers of persons of color were far underrepresented, and this was true of every level of senators and their staffs, and it is still true,” she says.
 
Another great challenge for Nkenge has been her equal desires to be both a public servant and an entrepreneur while working in jobs that are difficult and consuming. She was always interested in business, had thought in college that she would work in finance, and always had the sense that she would work for herself at some point in her life. “Being a public servant means being focused on issues of others. It’s very external. Being an entrepreneur means being mostly focused on oneself and the business, and the mission to build a going concern. Both are different and important to me! I’ve spent most of my time, though, in public service. It’s a challenge to find a way to embrace the entrepreneur in me. It’s probably also a success in that I continue to believe I am able to do more than one big thing at the same time,” she says.
 
When she looks back on the years since she began working on Capitol Hill, Nkenge feels fortunate to have had an exciting and fulfilling career, and to have been nimble enough to take advantage of opportunities that came to her, even at inopportune times. “I’m not a written-in-cement planner,” she says. “I’m lucky to get to do interesting work. I’m committed to making choices that allow me to do what I want most of the time. I’ve been through pay cuts, moves, leaves of absences, starting businesses on a wing and a prayer. I’m willing to allow myself the chance to do what’s satisfying personally and of most use to the society in which I live. I’m trying to learn from experience.”
 
Nadine Fiedler is Catlin Gabel’s director of publications and public relations, and the editor of the Caller.

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Zimbabwean volunteer at CG featured on KATU news

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KATU Channel 2 News came to campus to film a story on Blessing Makwera, a young man from Zimbabwe who is volunteering in our Middle School. Blessing was severely injured five years ago, when a land mine exploded near his mouth, and he has been in the U.S. for reconstructive surgery. MS counselor Kristin Ogard and her daughter Hayden have been involved in helping Blessing since 2009, when Kristin visited Zimbabwe with the nonprofit Operation of Hope and met Blessing, and Hayden's class (now juniors) raised money for one of Blessing's operations. Blessing is volunteering at Catlin Gabel as a way of acknowledging the kindness he has received from our community

Video: Diversity Conference a cappella performance, "Shosholoza"

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"Priority Male," the male section of the Catlin Gabel a cappella choir, performed the South African freedom song "Shosholoza" at the Upper School Diversity Conference on February 27, 2013. The choir is directed by Charles Walsh.

How to Match Reality & Idealism

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A trustee & parent on why she supports financial aid

From the Fall 2011 Caller

By Elizabeth Steiner Hayward

Knowing that I’m violating a cardinal rule of writing, I’ll start this piece with several rhetorical questions. Why did our family choose Catlin Gabel as the right school for our children? What has inspired us to volunteer our time, energy, and financial resources for the school? What are the values that Catlin Gabel holds dear that we believe should resonate throughout our community and the broader Portland community? A straightforward answer suffices; Catlin Gabel inspires all of us to show our best selves, to reach deep inside and ask tough questions, to accept and rejoice in our commitment to the world around us, to “make the world a better place” (to quote the Girl Scout law).
 
Ideally, this inspiration must be accessible to as many children and families who would benefit from it as possible. Yet economic reality compromises idealism; running a high-quality, progressive, independent school is an expensive proposition, and thus tuition remains beyond the reach of many. To match reality and idealism, Catlin Gabel must have a robust endowment for financial aid, to open our doors to every deserving, qualified student regardless of her family’s means. Without this, our school’s expressed commitment to our ideals and our community becomes hollow and less meaningful.
 
Catlin Gabel without generous financial aid would not be the Catlin Gabel we chose as the right school for our children. It would become a more homogeneous community, less interesting and vibrant. It would ignore the reality of economic diversity that all of our children must understand and appreciate. It would shield our children from the “real world” in which they will all live and work as adults. It would deny the value and contribution of children from all walks of life, from a wide range of circumstances.
 
For the Catlin Gabel community to thrive, we must walk the walk. It is for this reason that our family is so committed to supporting the endowment for financial aid, and that I volunteer on the major gifts committee for our Campaign for Arts & Minds. I love telling others about why we believe so strongly in financial aid, to make Catlin Gabel accessible to the diversity of children and families around the Portland metro area.
 
The Campaign for Arts & Minds is ambitious. We aim to raise funds to build a desperately needed Creative Arts Center, and to fund a thriving, sustainable endowment with special emphasis on financial aid. This endowment will open our doors to many more children who would benefit from attending Catlin Gabel, and would benefit our school from their contributions to our community. However, tuition support alone is not enough. The endowment would also support global education, the teaching and learning center, robotics, outdoor education, and so many other special programs that all our students should benefit from, regardless of their family’s economic reality.
 
We ask a lot of our families at Catlin Gabel. We ask them to engage closely with the school as partners in educating our children, to volunteer time in the classroom or chaperoning dances, to contribute to the Annual Fund. All of those are critical to our children’s success, yet without also contributing to our campaign, without helping open our doors to students who otherwise would be shut out of the Catlin Gabel experience, we are in fact short-changing all our children. Please join me in supporting Catlin Gabel’s future by contributing to our financial aid endowment. The rewards are infinite, and you will make the world a better place.  

 

Learning About Education Through Travel: Botswana 2011--An Education About Education

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From the Fall 2011 Caller

Botswana 2011: An Education About Education

By Fiona Noonan '12

Africa. When presented with this word, a litany of adjectives may swirl through one’s mind. One may stand above the rest, though: uneducated. While it is true that many people in Africa—as in all parts of the world—lack access to schools, supplies, and teachers, “uneducated” by no means describes this entire continent of extremely diverse people. A brilliant counterexample to the label “uneducated” is Botswana, a southern African republic whose national focus on schooling deserves attention, and certainly changed my perspective on what getting an education truly means.
 
This summer, a group of 13 Upper School students accompanied by our chaperones, science teacher Aline Garcia-Rubio ’93 and Richard Kassissieh, director of technology and learning innovation, traveled to Botswana for a trip that primarily revolved around interacting with people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Since Botswana is the country with the second-highest HIV infection rate in the world, we aimed to educate ourselves about the virus and its ramifications—and to help those affected by it—to the extent possible. To achieve that end we tutored and played with HIV-positive children, painted a mural at a pediatric HIV clinic called the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence, and engaged in dialogues with teens and adults about the effects of HIV and AIDS on Botswana’s culture and society. However, the unifying theme of all these activities extended beyond connections to HIV/AIDS. Each of our discussions, interactions, and services exposed us to something even greater: education.
 
Our trip took us all over Botswana, starting in the capital city of Gaborone, where we boarded at our sister school, Maru-a-Pula. MAP was our first encounter with any type of educational institution. Interestingly, as we discovered by living on campus, befriending the students, and attending classes, the term “sister school” extends beyond the mere relationship between CGS and MAP. In many ways, MAP perfectly mirrored Catlin Gabel in its large outdoor campus, commitment to service learning, and relatively small class sizes. Catering to wealthier families and very intelligent students, and widely considered one of the best high schools in Botswana, the parallels between the two schools were unmistakable.
 
While in Gaborone we also did various works of service through which we came across a completely different type of education. One of our main projects was a week-long project implementing a tutoring program for children at the Botswana Baylor Centre. Though an overwhelming 90% of children in Botswana go to school, one study has found that most are not doing well. In helping these children with basic math skills, we were able to provide essential practice in a one-onone format likely unavailable at their schools. Not every child expressed an interest in math, but to see even a few of them succeed was exciting. Despite any language barriers, I came to see math as a truly universal language, and I felt proud that our teaching had positively impacted the kids’ lives.
 
Our group departed from Gaborone and visited towns and villages farther north in the country. One of the villages we went to was Thabala, the tiny home town of alumna Mmaserame Gaefele ’11. We spent time with her family, who gave us a tour of everything, including the school. The fact that such a small town had a school surprised us, and as students rushed out of the schoolyard to follow us, we found out that it was not uncommon for such a school to exist. In fact, we discovered that almost every village in Botswana has some type of school, giving an incredible number of students the opportunity to learn and succeed in hopes of eventually going to a university.
 
This widespread access to teaching and learning is made possible by Botswana’s federal government, which allocates an overwhelming 21% of its total budget to education. As a result, every child can attend school, and can then, if accepted, attend the University of Botswana for free. The government will even pay for medical school anywhere in the world in hopes that students will return to Botswana and join the highly understaffed medical workforce. Based on these facts, the access to education in Botswana appears to be solid. However, as we travelled farther north to the village of Gumare, we experienced a slightly darker side of schooling in Botswana.
 
In Gumare we met pen pals with whom we had been corresponding. Our arrival marked the first day of their high school winter break. Though their real vacation had just begun, we learned that they had recently finished a five-week break of a very different kind. We came to Botswana in the wake of an eight-week long strike that had shut down schools all over the country as teachers refused to work. Our pen pals’ school suffered greatly as a result. With exams approaching, they were unable to learn necessary material for the test, and the older students had collectively resorted to teaching younger ones what they would need to know. On top of that, we were informed that many of the teachers in Gumare lack interest in their students as a result of involuntary placement in such a rural location.
 
Hearing all of this astonished me. To go teacherless for over a month after normally having indifferent teachers, and to still have the motivation to succeed and help others succeed, was admirable, and necessary.
 
My own pen pal, Pearl, told me all about high school, and about her desire to attend the University of Botswana upon graduation. Coming from a family of four girls and a single mother, Pearl told me it would be difficult, so she needed to pass and continue to pass her exams in order to make it. Unlike the students at Maru-a-Pula, most of whom are accepted to and can afford to attend universities all over the world, the students in Gumare have relatively limited opportunities to further their education and go to college. For Pearl and the rest of our pen pals, an education clearly meant more than homework and tests: it meant the chance at a better life.
 
Fortunately, I have never had to consider not being able to attend college. Seeing the passion for learning from such a broad range of scholars in Botswana forced me to consider the importance of my own education, to reflect on what an education means to me, and to subsequently feel ashamed of consistently taking it for granted. After viewing the exposure and access that Batswana have to education, though, I feel less guilty. The sheer number of kids enrolled in school is admirable, and though Botswana’s school system may be imperfect, it is on the right track.
 
Pearl will soon have to decide what to do after graduation, and if she wants to attend the University of Botswana, I believe she can.
 

Catlin Gabel now makes it possible, through financial aid funds, for every Middle and Upper School student to participate in at least one global education trip abroad during their years at Catlin Gabel.

 

Meet Our Gatekeepers

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From the Fall 2011 Caller

Admission and financial aid director Sara Nordhoff and Knight Family Scholars director Chad Faber chat about admissions, financial aid, and what brought them to their careers. Chad came to CGS from admissions work at Harvard, and Sara’s work in admissions included the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Mt. Holyoke, and Bennington. 

Q: Tell us about your backgrounds, and how that led to your commitment to admissions and the realization of the importance of financial aid.
 
SARA: I grew up in a small fishing village, Damariscotta, Maine, where about half my class went to four-year colleges, mostly to state schools. When I went to Middlebury College in Vermont I received financial aid, and I never would have been able to go without it. I was hoping to spend my junior year at an exchange program at Edinburgh University in Scotland. There wasn’t financial aid available, and I remember conversations with my parents about whether it was really going to be doable for us. We asked Middlebury for assistance, knowing that if they didn’t help it wouldn’t be possible for me to go. And they did help. That was the moment when I realized that my school was really committed to my making the absolute most of my experience there. And that’s what I see as the power of financial aid. There were not a lot of students at Middlebury at that time receiving financial assistance, and I felt at times like the poster child for diversity. I was sensitive because I felt like you could kind of tell who was on financial aid and who wasn’t. If you have a financial aid policy because you’re trying to create the best and most diverse student community possible, you need to make sure your school community is ready to embrace people coming from all perspectives. And it feels to me like Catlin Gabel does a great job of celebrating the individual students for who they are and where they’re coming from—and for what they have to say when they’re sitting around the classroom table. I chose to work in admissions because I love the art and science of it, and I love cultivating a community. The moment when I call families in the spring and say, “You’ve been admitted, and we’re going to make it financially possible for you to come,” is like no other. I think that’s a lot of why I’ve stayed in this field— helping to make those possibilities happen for people.
 
CHAD: I lived in a metropolis of 250 in western Pennsylvania called Turkeytown. All that I knew growing up was from helping out on a farm. And I was caretaker of a cemetery, and I stocked shelves in a grocery store. I saw how hard my dad had worked in the steel mill, and I knew I didn’t want to do any of those things. And I knew I had to get out of there in order to do something different. My dad was underemployed after most of the steel mills closed, and my mom was at home. So my plan was to enlist in the Marine Corps to get money for college—though college wasn’t an expectation there. The month before I graduated from high school I got an ROTC scholarship, which basically provided full financial aid for me to go to college. I went to Georgetown, which was the one college I had been to other than Pitt. I didn’t know how to write when I got to Georgetown. One of my professors there said, “We need a five-to-seven page paper next Monday,” and I said, “On one topic? All about one thing?” I was really shocked in a way. How I struggled! I think that’s where I realized the power of education. I graduated from Georgetown on a Saturday and was in the Navy on Monday morning. I owed the military four years, but ended up staying almost nine years. A book called The Gatekeepers by New York Times writer Jacques Steinberg, who followed an admissions officer around Wesleyan for a year, was transformative for me. I read it while I was doing alumni admissions interviews for Georgetown, teaching high school, and talking to kids about the choices they were going to make. I knew then that I wanted to be an admissions officer. When I got an admissions job at Harvard I realized, “Wow. Now I’m the gatekeeper—from a mobile home in Turkeytown, Pennsylvania. How the heck did I ever end up doing this?” I saw a lot of kids a lot smarter than I who had even less opportunity than I had, and what kind of difference we could make in their lives.
 
Q: Have you had experiences with families where giving aid became crucial?
 
SARA: Yes, we’ve had Catlin Gabel families whose situations changed due to illness or a change in income. We get behind the kids and the families that we decide to take, whatever it takes, whether that’s supporting them academically when they’re struggling in their coursework, or supporting them financially when they’re struggling with their finances. It takes a lot to come forth and say, “We can’t do it any more. Can you help us?” There’s a certain amount of pride there. I know in my family, my dad especially, it hits pretty hard when you have to ask for help.
 
Q: What are your roles here and your admissions strategy? Admission is a huge responsibility. Somebody like you said yes to every person in every classroom here.
 
SARA: What I like about the addition of the Knight Family Scholars program to admission at Catlin Gabel is that it amplifies the overall strategy of what we’re trying to do in admissions— which is to bring in the brightest, most engaging, community-minded kids we can. To me that means kids from all over the metro area, from private and public schools, from households that speak English, Spanish, and other languages. And that gets at our financial assistance for these families. Our outreach strategy is about going out to schools all over the Portland metro area, about leveraging all our parents to get the word out about Catlin Gabel to their networks. When we get to the point of making hard decisions on who can come here and who can’t, we have a budget in mind that we can use for financial assistance, but that’s not what’s driving our overall efforts.
 
CHAD: The big thing is that we’re trying to find families that don’t know about Catlin Gabel. We can do a better job of going into communities and educating kids and families about what independent education is, what the value is, and how that’s going to help their child. It’s harder now for any state, not just Oregon, to do what it’s done before because of the economic times we’re in. I want the Knight Family Scholar program and the school to look like Portland. I want to see more kids from Hillsboro and the east side. As the income gap widens in this country, so does the education gap, and you’ve got to try and reduce that. A variety of independent schools can really differentiate what kids learn and make for an economically and intellectually stronger country.
 
SARA: The gift from the Knight family for the scholars program is invaluable, but reaching out to these communities and expanding this funnel of students applying to the school will put pressure on our financial aid dollars. This is why the school has launched its arts and endowment campaign. What’s important is that we both feel completely supported by the school’s leadership to say, “We want more great kids thinking about Catlin Gabel.”  
 

FINANCIAL AID FACTS

Amount CGS awards for financial assistance
2011–12
$2.9 million
 
Percentage of students receiving financial assistance
2011–12 26%
2010–11 28%
2009–10 26%
2008–09 21%
2007–08 21%
 
Budget allocated to financial assistance
2011–12 15%
2010–11 16%
2009–10 16%
2008–09 13%
2007–08 13%

 

 

Spanish teacher Lauren Reggero-Toledano named "Teacher of the Future"

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Lauren Reggero-Toledano, a teacher of Spanish at Catlin Gabel’s Upper School, was selected by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) as part of the 2011-12 Teachers of the Future program. The NAIS Teachers of the Future were selected from a large pool of nominees who inspire academic excellence in students and who serve as opinion leaders among their colleagues and peers. The Teachers of the Future were also chosen for their expertise in particular areas—environmentalism, globalism, technology, and equity, and justice—that NAIS believes are hallmarks of a high-quality education for the 21st century. As one of only 25 teachers nationwide chosen for the program,Lauren will lead an online discussion forum designed to share innovative ideas and teaching techniques, and she will create a demonstration video to inspire others.

ABOUT LAUREN REGGERO-TOLEDANO

Lauren Reggero-Toledano received a bachelor's in education (elementary education and Spanish) from the University of Miami, followed by a master's in Spanish language and cultures from the University of Salamanca, Spain. In August 2009 she was awarded a Teacher Fellowship Grant by the American ImmigrationCouncil for a Spanish V class project, “The Hispanic Presence in Oregon: During the Great Depression and Today.” For the last five years she has made a concerted effort to make service learning in the local Hispanic community an integral part of the Spanish V curriculum. Visit her Spanish V class page for more on the service component in Lauren’s class.

ABOUT NAIS AND THE TEACHERS OF THE FUTURE PROGRAM

The Klingenstein Foundation offered NAIS a generous grant for the Teachers of the Future program through which each teacher will receive a $1,000 stipend for participating in the program.

 The National Association of Independent Schools, based in Washington, DC, is a voluntary membership organization for over 1,400 independent schools and associations in the United States and abroad. Independent schools are distinct from other private schools in that they are independently governed by boards of trustees and are funded primarily through tuition, charitable contribution, and endowment income. To be eligible for membership in NAIS, schools must be accredited, nondiscriminatory, 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations.

 

Comments

Wonderful news, Lauren. You are most deserving of this award. Thanks for your years of service to the school and our wonderful children.

Great job, Lauren! We are very proud of you!

The Preserver of Traditions

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Mariah Stoll-Smith Reese '93 has kept alive her family legacy of performing Northwest Coast dances and stories

From the Winter 2010-11 Caller

As a baby, Mariah Stoll-Smith Reese ’93 was carried around the fire in the ceremonial longhouse of her famed Lelooska family in the foothills of Mt. St. Helens. She grew up dancing and watching her relatives perform living history in fantastically carved masks, seeing people she knew in everyday life transformed into characters such as Raven and Grandmother Loon as they shared and celebrated the cultural legacy of the Northwest Coast Kwakwaka’wakw Nation.

 
Mariah grew up surrounded by art. Her mother was a contemporary visual artist, and her father carved the traditional masks used in the family’s living history programs; she remembers cedar chips flying into her playpen in her father’s workshop. Her grandmother was famous for her carved wooden dolls depicting Native Americans, and she taught the art to Mariah. Art was in the air she breathed, and the family’s love of their traditions—and their commitment to educate others about those traditions—permeated everything.
 
She came to Catlin Gabel for high school, a long commute made easier by the many nights Mariah spent with her Portland grandparents. Their priority was working to make the world a better place. Their model, combined with her father’s family legacy of making, sharing, and educating, helped create the woman she is today—competent, intelligent, strong, and compassionate.
 
At Catlin Gabel Mariah became involved in multicultural issues and helped found SPEED (Students Promoting Ethnic Equality & Diversity). In her classes she learned to read deeply and have something to say—and be able to back it up. As a junior she first experienced the thrill and satisfaction of doing solid, complicated research. Mariah brought those skills to Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, where she designed her own major in Native American cultural preservation.
 
Her research training came into play when the family patriarch and storyteller, her uncle Chief Lelooska, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Mariah began a tireless campaign of recording everything she could to preserve the legacy he carried with him, combining this urgent work with her independent studies for college. Mariah was chosen as executive director of the Lelooska Foundation, buttressed by her family and her talents in communication and organization. When Chief Lelooska died, the family regrouped and carried on the foundation’s living history programs.
 
Her legacy of community service has played out in many ways, with Mariah leading fights to save her children’s school (she has a girl and a boy, aged 8 and 6, and a wonderfully supportive husband), and to maintain free access for locals to rivers and lakes when that was threatened. “All the skills I learned at Catlin Gabel came into play,” she says of these struggles, where she had to make her case to the public and the press. She has also pitched in to her tight-knit community by leading Girl Scouts and starting, with her husband, a children’s soccer program.
 
Mariah’s advice to current CGS students: “Don’t take it for granted! When I look back at my life, I see how many things I was able to do because of what I learned at Catlin Gabel,” she says. “And having an opportunity to learn skills means having an opportunity to give back and make life better for people around you.”
 
 
Performance photo courtesy of the Lelooska Foundation

 

Catlin Gabel launches the Knight Family Scholars Program

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A new program for the Upper School will bring talented students and an emphasis on experiential learning

From the Winter 2010-11 Caller

This past fall, Phil and Penny Knight honored Catlin Gabel with the largest gift in the school’s history—a multimillion- dollar contribution for the new endowed Knight Family Scholars Program. The Knight’s unprecedented generosity is a tremendous vote of confidence in our school from world leaders in philanthropy.
 
“My goal is to honor the progressive ideals articulated by school founders Ruth Catlin and Priscilla Gabel—not by resting on our laurels, but by continuing to progress,” said head of school Lark Palma. “Phil and Penny Knight have given us the financial ability to try a new teaching and learning paradigm, see how it works, evaluate the program, and refine it over time. We have been given the opportunity to research, experiment, and stretch our wings in pursuit of improving education. We can be bold, like our students.
 
“The Knight Family Scholars Program will benefit all students through the innovations we pilot,” continued Lark. “The program also catapults Catlin Gabel’s visibility as one of the leading independent schools in the country, adds to our financial aid corpus, and will undoubtedly have a positive overall effect on admissions and on our ability to attract phenomenal student applicants. I could not be more delighted.”
 
“The Knight Family Scholars Program quite simply opens doors,” says Michael Heath, head of the Upper School. “It is a chance for us to grow as a school, to stretch our preconceptions of education and our assumptions about those we are educating. The scholars who attend Catlin Gabel every year will gain much from their opportunity, but I think we will learn as much from them, if not more.”
 
This Q&A by communications director Karen Katz ’74 with head of school Lark Palma explains more about this new program.
 
What is the Knight Family Scholars Program?
It is a pilot program for the Upper School faculty to explore a new model for high school education and attract outstanding new high school students. The gift funds an endowed faculty member to direct the program and teach in the Upper School. In the anticipated inaugural year, 2012–13, we hope to enroll about four Knight Family Scholars as fully integrated members of the Upper School student body who benefit from our exceptional curriculum. The Knight Family Scholars Program is similar in concept to the Rhodes Scholar program in terms of the caliber of students who will qualify.
 
What is your vision for how this program will affect Catlin Gabel?
The current generation of students is far more sophisticated than previous generations. Their educational needs are evolving quickly. Educators must ask, what more can we do to prepare them? How can we ensure that they have a great liberal arts and sciences foundation for success in college, plus the experience and skills to thrive in a workforce and world that will change in ways we cannot imagine? Catlin Gabel teachers have envisioned a high school that is more real world, project based, experiential, and interdisciplinary—but limited resources have stymied our progress toward this goal. Now we can take some big steps in building on our curricular innovations and evolve more quickly. As a new Catlin Gabel faculty member, the Knight Family Scholars Program director will collaborate with our high school teachers and students to develop methods of teaching and learning that respond to the changing educational environment.
 
Where did the idea for the program originate?
The genesis for the program stems from the Imagine 2020 conference held in the spring of 2006. A lasting idea that emerged from the conference was to enrich Catlin Gabel’s educational offerings by taking advantage of what our great city and region have to offer— using Portland as a learning laboratory. Bringing students together with creative, analytical, medical, political, entrepreneurial, and science leaders would further our experiential and progressive education goals. The intent is to get our students “off the hill,” as one alumnus put it in 2006. Our global education and PLACE programs, and the urban studies class in the Upper School, also stem from the Imagine 2020 conference.
 
How did this gift come about?
As I got to know Phil, our shared interest in improving education emerged as a vitally important theme. Phil and Penny Knight are long-range visionaries and Oregon’s most generous individual education philanthropists, which is humbling and exciting. We talked about Ruth Catlin’s vision of modeling for others and how, because of our relatively small size, our success, and our focus on progressive education, we are the ideal school for innovation. I described some of the seminal ideas that emerged from the Imagine 2020 conference and how hard our teachers work to implement those ideas.
 
Can you give us an example of a program feature from Imagine 2020 that this gift allows us to implement?
The faculty and the program director will have the opportunity to advance the exchange of ideas in seminars taught by a network of community experts, including some of our talented and notable parents, alumni, and grandparents. The seminars, both on and off campus, will examine topics that emerge from the shared interests of the students and the director as they move through the program together. The seminars will also respond to the availability of influential mentors, speakers, and guest instructors. Upper School students, not just Knight Family Scholars, will be able to attend seminars. It is vitally important that this is open and inclusive, and that we prevent any kind of “us and them” dynamic. We also expect that as the program grows, it will include opportunities for the Knight Scholars to travel nationally and abroad for summer learning.
 
How else does the program benefit current students?
The research is clear: high caliber students raise the level of learning for everyone. The positive peer effect is evident throughout our school. Students in our supportive, noncompetitive environment engage more deeply when their classmates are excited about the lab, discussion, problem solving, or literary analysis at hand. And, naturally, teachers are at their best when their students are highly engaged.
 
What are the student qualifications for the program?
Prospective Knight Family Scholars Program participants will stand out in four key areas: academics, community service, athletics, and leadership. As Knight Scholars they will receive tuition assistance funded by the program’s endowment. The amount of assistance will depend on their families’ need. The program will attract well-rounded students who will inspire their peers, take advantage of everything Catlin Gabel has to offer, and go on to serve their communities.
 
Can current Catlin Gabel students apply for Knight scholarships?
Current and former Catlin Gabel students are ineligible to become Knight Scholars because one objective of the program is to attract new students and deepen our pool of admitted students. The Knight Scholars Program will raise the profile of our excellent Upper School and entice students who will be wonderful additions to our community.
 
Who determines who qualifies for the program?
The faculty, admission office, and a new program director will decide whom we accept.
 
Who is the Knight Family Scholars Program director and how is the position funded?
Typically, when donors make large gifts to institutions they fund a position to oversee the program. We will launch a national search for a Knight Family Scholars Program director to fully realize the vision of this program. The director will be Catlin Gabel’s first endowed faculty member. This turning point for Catlin Gabel could very well lead to additional endowed faculty positions.
 
What are the director’s responsibilities?
First and foremost, the director will find the right students for the program. A big part of the job is outreach and making a wide range of communities aware of the program and our school. As the program spokesperson, the director will bolster the Knight Family Scholars Program and our overall admission program. The director will also lead the scholars’ seminar and teach other Upper School classes so he or she is fully integrated into our faculty. We will hire a dynamic educator who becomes a vital member of our school community.
 
How will this historic gift change the school?
When we laid out strategic directions in 2003, one of our top three goals was to strengthen our identity and visibility in the community. We set out to identify and attract qualified, informed, and diverse applicants and to increase our applicant pool, particularly in the Upper School. The Knight Family Scholars Program will move us quickly and decisively towards these goals.
 
Has Catlin Gabel ever received a gift of this magnitude?
In 1987, the school received a $3.6 million bequest from the estate of Howard Vollum that allowed Catlin Gabel to establish an endowment fund. His foresight and generosity moved the school beyond a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle.
 
What other benefits does the Knights’ gift offer?
The Knight Family Scholars Program raises our visibility as one of the leading independent schools in the country. On a purely financial and pragmatic level, the program releases financial aid dollars for students in all divisions. On a more philosophical and curricular level, the Knight Family Scholars Program will stretch us to take some risks about how we teach. All Catlin Gabel students will benefit from the innovations we pilot through the program. On a grander scale, my dream is to model innovations that can benefit students nationwide. We cannot underestimate the value of raising our profile, too. What’s good for Catlin Gabel’s reputation is good for Catlin Gabel’s students and teachers. As far as fundraising goes, this is the tip of the iceberg for all programs and needs of the school. I know Phil and Penny Knight’s generosity and confidence in Catlin Gabel will inspire others to give. In fact, two other donors are planning to contribute to this program. We anticipate a positive overall effect on admissions and on our ability to attract phenomenal student applicants. Some great young people, who perhaps don’t qualify as Knight Family Scholars, will still apply to our Upper School when they learn about Catlin Gabel’s curriculum, meet our faculty and students, and hear about our generous financial assistance program.
 
Is this Phil and Penny Knight’s first gift to Catlin Gabel?
In the past three years, the Knights have quietly and generously funded other immediate needs that I identified. They were instrumental in our ability to provide financial aid for families who have struggled through the recession. I am so honored that they have put their trust in me and in Catlin Gabel.  

 

Martin Luther King Jr. community meeting photo gallery

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Lower School students, teachers, and families honor a great man through music and poetry