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Chris Skrapits selected assistant coach of the year

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Congratulations, Chris! You make us proud.

The Oregon Athletic Coaches Association has selected eighth grade science teacher and ace cross-country coach Chris Skrapits as the assistant coach of the year in Oregon for all sports categories in the 3A classification.

PE teacher and coach John Hamilton submitted this nomination:

Chris came to Catlin Gabel in 1996. He had been a cross-country runner during high school and college. Not long after starting to work on our campus he connected with me to see if he could participate in our team workouts. He became a frequent participant in many of our on campus sessions, and eventually began to join us for trail runs.

In 2004 we lost our assistant coach, and invited Chris to become an official part of our program. He was more than ready, and eagerly accepted the offer. Having him become a permanent member of our [coaching] staff has proved to be a huge boost to the program on many levels. He helps me organize the overview of the full season training schedule. He in charge of all our team warm-up drills prior to all training and racing sessions. This means his voice is the only one that the racers hear as they enter the chute on race day. He has continued to be an active participant in most of our training sessions and leads all the abdominal work at the end of each training session. I will ask him to step out of a session when I need his help with timing, or watching for form and tactical adjustments we might want to make. The entire team loves the energy, enthusiasm, knowledge, experience, and the joy he brings to the team.

During the eight years Chris has been with the team we have grown from 24 participants to 38, a 55% increase. More than 14% of Upper School students are on the cross-country team. During Chris’ tenure as assistant coach, the program has achieved a level of success that we had never before experienced. The team won seven out of eight district titles. Racing in Eugene at LCC, the Catlin Gabel team has finished in the top two for consecutive years, runners-up four times, and state champions four times.

 

Collins Foundation awards $200,000 for Creative Arts Center

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A big step closer to goal!

We are proud to announce that the Collins Foundation grant of $200,000 brings the total raised for the Middle and Upper School arts building to $4.27 million, or 62 percent of our total $6.9 million goal.

“The community support for this project is exhilarating,” said Lark Palma. “As one of the premier foundations in Oregon, the Collins Foundation’s endorsement of our quest to provide an innovative hub for creativity is most gratifying.”

The school must raise $1.25 million more to reach the magic 80 percent mark when we can break ground.

Stay tuned!

Read the article in the Oregonian.
 

Dan Griffiths selected to lead Upper School

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Letter from Lark Palma, head of school

I am thrilled to announce that Daniel Griffiths, PhD, is our next head of the Upper School. Dan, who is currently the US assistant head and dean of students, was selected with my full support and the unanimous support of the search committee.
 
Since joining the Catlin Gabel faculty as a science teacher in 2007, Dan has emerged as a skilled and visionary leader, energetic advocate for students, persuasive public speaker, innovative teacher, and superb colleague.
 
Dan stood out among a stellar pool of candidates from across the nation for the position of Upper School head. His Cambridge and Oxford training in behavioral science and education align with his natural leadership skills to make him a first-rate observer and evidence-based decision-maker. He is the right person to lead the Upper School.
 
 “I am overwhelmed by the support I’ve received from this community of great families, students, and colleagues,” said Dan. “I am excited by the challenge of implementing the new US schedule, nurturing the Knight Family Scholars Program and other innovations, and demonstrating the excellence of the Upper School. I look forward to working with faculty, students, parents, and alumni in my new role.”
 
Please join me in congratulating Dan and thanking the search committee members: Kate Grant, Barbara Ostos, Lauren Reggero-Toledano, Bob Sauer, Peter Shulman, Tony Stocks, and Miranda Wellman.
 
Best,
Lark

Tuition on the Track photo gallery

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The inaugural Tuition on the Track walkathon for financial aid was a huge success by every measure. Students of all ages, faculty-staff, alumni, and parents came together to walk, run, skip, talk, laugh, boogie, and pledge donations in support of our school. We surpassed the $25,000 goal with donations still coming in. Once calculations are complete, we'll share the final total.  

Thank you, sponsors: Twist Frozen Yogurt Lounge, the Portland Knee Clinic, Lamer Edwards Interiors, James E. John Construction, Sports Medicine Oregon, Frito Lay, and Hotlips Pizza.

Thank you, organizing committee and all seniors, for giving us the gift of your can-do spirit, sense of fun, and deep commitment to Catlin Gabel. We have no doubt you started a tradition!

If you were inspired by this incredible community event, please make a direct gift to Tuition on the Track. All gifts made to the walkathon support the Annual Fund designated to financial aid.

Tuition on the Track triumphs

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BRAVO!

The inaugural Tuition on the Track walkathon for financial aid was a huge success by every measure. Students of all ages, faculty-staff, alumni, and parents came together to walk, run, skip, talk, laugh, boogie, and pledge donations in support of our school. We surpassed the $25,000 goal with donations still coming in. Once calculations are complete, we'll share the final total.  

Thank you, sponsors: Twist Frozen Yogurt Lounge, the Portland Knee Clinic, Lamer Edwards Interiors, James E. John Construction, Sports Medicine Oregon, Frito Lay, and Hotlips Pizza.

Thank you, organizing committee and all seniors, for giving us the gift of your can-do spirit, sense of fun, and deep commitment to Catlin Gabel. We have no doubt you started a tradition!

If you were inspired by this incredible community event, please make a direct gift to Tuition on the Track. All gifts made to the walkathon support the Annual Fund designated to financial aid.

This letter from the event organizers reflects the enthusiasm everyone felt.

Dearest Class of 2012,

Wow. Tuition on the Track was absolutely amazing. And we couldn¹t have done it without you. Before adding in food profits, sponsors, per-lap pledges, and Twist's donations, and we will keep you posted with the numbers as they come, we are already above our goal of $25,000!!! So, the biggest THANK YOU goes out to all of you. Thank you thank you thank you. Everyone participated, everyone did their jobs perfectly, and we had FABULOUS SPIRIT. We could not be more pleased with how this event was run and how everything came to be.

It does need to be said, though, that many of you stood out for your extraordinary work during this process. For some, it was jumping off the stairs and running laps with firsties, punching holes or serving food for hours, or creating age-appropriate music options during your busy lives. But Tuition on the Track simply could not have taken place without the diligence and dedication of the core committee. Together, Lauren, Logan, Jared, Cydney, Taylor, Qiddist, Lizzie, Grant, Sarah, and Julianne have worked since last spring on logo designs, logistical organization, middle and lower school communications, food, activities, sponsors, setup, and incredible moral support, among other jobs. This crew is absolutely phenomenal.

Thank you hole punchers, thank you food team, thank you attendance, thank you music, thank you jazz band, thank you dance club, thank you captains, thank you committee members, thank you set up and clean up crew, thank you track and field trip participants, thank you ALL!!!!! It was a fantastic day (with SUNNNNN) and we hope all of you had some fun out there.... Especially with our firstees. Pretty special and memorable day!!

Also, thank you to all who have pledged!

Again, we are so so sooo impressed and we wanted to say that we have a pretty darn special class.

If you have any additional comments or questions, let us know.

Oh my goodness, we cannot say thank you enough!

Love
Kate and Brooke

 

Freshman Violeta Alvarez chairing citywide youth summit against violence

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Freshman Violeta Alvarez is chairing the 2012 citywide youth summit against violence on April 21. She and her sister, junior Perla Alvarez, are active members of the Multnomah Youth Commission, which advises the county and city of Portland on issues that impact the lives of young people.

The first part of the summit is for youth only to caucus, build community, and consider youth driven policy recommendations. Invited elected officials and community leaders are welcome between 2:15 and 3:45 p.m. to listen to youth’s stories of violence and engage young people in dialogue about how youth and adults can take steps to reduce violence in the community.

The goals of the summit are to:

Provide resources for youth to deal with violence they experienced and/ or currently experience in their lives

Inform policy makers with the experiences youth face regarding violence and provide potential policy recommendations to be considered

Educate youth and adults about Our Bill of Rights: Children and Youth and the importance of its implementation into all decision making arenas in the community

Bring diverse youth from across the region together to share ideas and experiences regarding violence and build a youth movement for social change

» Link to more information about the summit

» Link to Oregonian article
 

CatlinSpeak named best online high school newspaper

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The Upper School newspaper, CatlinSpeak, finished in first place in the best website category for the 2012 Edward R. Murrow High School Journalism Awards Competition. Junior Fiona Noonan won 3rd place in the best column category.

Each year, the competition recognizes the best student journalists at high schools in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Alaska. This year the committee received dozens of entries from high schools across the region. Washington State University sponsors the competition.

» Check out the current issue of CatlinSpeak

» Read Fiona's award-winning article

Gambol auction in Oregonian "Scene and Heard" column

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Oregonian article, March 2012

Robotics team qualifies for world championship

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Congratulations, Flaming Chickens!

The Flaming Chickens robotics team won both the field competition and the top honor, the Chairman's Award, at regionals in Oklahoma City. They will compete for the international title in St. Louis April 26–28.  The video below is part of that Chairman's submission.

Two CG students selected to compete in Intel International Science & Engineering Fair

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Oregonian article, March 2012

Two Catlin Gabel students have earned spots to attend the prestigious Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in May in Pittsburgh.

Freshman Valerie Ding won one of five spots as an individual high school finalist at the Intel NW Science Expo on March 23 with her project, "Shining Like the Sun: A Quantum Mechanical Study of White-Light LEDs."

Junior Terrance Sun earned a spot on 28-member Team Oregon, consisting of students who had won in six regional fairs in the Northwest Science Expo System.

Both middle school and high school students competed in the Intel NW Science Expo at Portland State University with 583 projects, and they were from from 87 schools and organizations statewide. Congratulations, Valerie and Terrance!

Read the Oregonian article.

Experiential week photo gallery

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Winterim, Breakaway, and Experiential Week

First through 12th graders spent one rainy, snowy, sunny week in March exploring a range of subjects and places. Catlin Gabel was on the go from learning to knit, sail, and sew to sailing, hiking, urban adventuring, and solving mysteries!

Photos provided by trip leaders and chaperones. Thanks!

Click on any photo to enlarge image and start the slide show.

Campaign for Arts & Minds: Progress Update

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From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

The effort to raise funds for the Creative Arts Center and our endowment carries on with great success! The Creative Arts Center has raised more than $4 million (or 59%) toward the $6.9 million goal. We will break ground when we reach 80%. We are getting close!
 
Overall, the Catlin Gabel community has contributed $13.7 million to the Campaign for Arts and Minds, most of it coming in just the last 19 months. This level of support demonstrates the high value our community places on both innovation and access.

As Lark Palma has reminded us throughout this campaign, “executing on these two fronts will allow Catlin Gabel to thrive as a national leader in education, creating generations of Portland’s brightest and most inspired learners who will make their mark.”  

 

Giving Back

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A new fund honors and remembers a beloved alumnus, RIck Fordyce '86

From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

Rick was a man who lived with intention. He went with the twists and turns like the rest of us, but he was always different. From the time we met in middle school, we all saw that. Catlin Gabel gave him the freedom to be himself, and he went for it. After school here he lived his life fully and literally inhaled the world . . . he took as much knowledge and music and art and as many people as he could into his life. He did not waste a minute.” – Friend and classmate Stephanie Sherwood ’86
 
Richard Anthony Fordyce ’86 was born May 23, 1968, in Portland. He entered Catlin Gabel in 7th grade and joined the Portland Youth Philharmonic Symphony as a first violinist. At Catlin Gabel he excelled in theater, arts, music, and science, graduating in 1986 as a National Merit Scholar. In 1990 he graduated from Brown University, magna cum laude, as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, with departmental honors. Rick received his JD in 1998 from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin, where he was a member of the Texas International Law Journal and a recipient of the Robert S. Strauss Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law. Rick served as intern in 1996 for the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio, Texas. He began his practice as an attorney with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, where he specialized in commercial litigation and appeals. He participated in trials and performed extensive research and writing, including numerous legal articles. His friends and family admired his amazing brilliance, great courage, strength, and infectious enthusiasm for life. A gifted musician who loved all kinds of music, Rick played many instruments and performed and composed in diverse styles. His passion for music and encyclopedic knowledge led to a huge vinyl library and CD collection. (Photo at right: Rick Fordyce '86 & Adam Furchner '86)
 
“Of all the education he received, his experience at Catlin Gabel was the most important and profound. This place meant the world to him.” – Rick’s father, Donald Fordyce
 
On Boxing Day, December 26, 2011, Rick died after a two-year battle with cancer. His wife, Emily Stewart Fordyce, and his parents, Nancy Ann and Donald Fordyce, survive him. In mid December Rick asked to have his memorial service at Catlin Gabel, with four classmates chosen by him to plan his service. On January 7, classmates, friends, former teachers, and family filled the Cabell Center Theater, remembering him as a gentle man with a brilliant mind. His delightfully whimsical humor and the sense of joy and wonder with which he greeted each moment were gifts he shared with all. His generosity of spirit surrounded all with warmth and kindness—he would point out what was so wonderful about any given moment and hold it up for all to see.
 
To honor Rick’s life, his parents have established an endowed fund named the Richard Anthony Fordyce ’86 Memorial Scholarship Fund. They want to ensure that Rick’s name remains connected to Catlin Gabel in perpetuity, and that students like Rick have the opportunity to thrive just as he did here.  

 

 

Giving Back: Why I Support Catlin Gabel

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From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

Maril Davis ’90
Alumni board member and Los Angeles alumni chapter representative 

“Catlin Gabel holds a special place in my heart. I loved my time there and will gladly wax poetic about my experience to anyone willing to listen and often do! From trips to Arago to St. George and the Dragon to Chaucer Day, I have so many wonderful memories. Catlin Gabel is more than a school, it is a community. As a student, I felt like the teachers truly cared about the students and in turn, the students cared about the teachers. It was common to see a good portion of the Upper School faculty at our soccer games or track meets after school. And their attendance was not a requirement: it was a choice. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized that not everyone has this experience. Not everyone comes out of high school prepared for the challenges ahead, both academically and in life. Catlin Gabel is hard work, but that hard work pays off. For me, being a member of the Catlin Gabel family is part of who I am as a person. And that’s the reason I support the school every year. I want Catlin Gabel to remain the special school that it is, and I want to give other people the chance to have the amazing experience I did.”
(Photo: Heather O'Leary McStay '90 and Maril Davis '90)
 

Ingrid Van Valkenburg ’10
Alumni relations intern and class liaison

“It was not until my freshman year of college, when I started working for the Scripps College Annual Fund as a phonathon caller, that I began to fully appreciate why it is important to support my alma mater. Of the many good reasons to support or donate to Catlin Gabel, three in particular have persuaded me to give. First, and foremost, I give to Catlin Gabel because I am proud to have attended the school. Second, I give to Catlin Gabel because I know that tuition does not cover the full cost of educating every student. And, last, and most treasured, I give to Catlin Gabel to pay forward the exceptional educational and personal growth opportunities Catlin Gabel provided me, so that Catlin Gabel will continue to thrive and nurture many generations to come.”
(Photo: Ingrid Van Valkenburg '10 [center] with classmates)
 

Alec Bromka ’05 and Rose McClendon ’02
Alumni volunteers and NYC alumni chapter members 

“We are enormously grateful for our educational experience at Catlin Gabel. Catlin fostered our curiosity and commitment to serving others, truly giving us the skills to engage and succeed in our lives as alumni. We support the school in order that future students from all communities will continue to benefit from all that Catlin Gabel offers.” (Photo, right: Alec Bromka '05 and Rose McClendon '02)

 

Every gift makes a difference—including yours. Make your gift online.

 

Alumni News, Winter 2011-12

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From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

A Resiliency Builder: Peter Chaille ’98 and his Tatoosh School

This issue of the Caller highlights resiliency, and we explore how it manifests in our alumni. Peter Chaille ’98 is lighting up the world with purpose as a Catlin Gabel “alumniary” (luminary alumnus!). Peter has drawn upon his experience as a student in outdoor education at Catlin Gabel to establish the Tatoosh School, which creates transformative learning experiences through field-based instruction and exploration. The school is part of a growing network of people and institutions committed to education and community in southeast Alaska. Tatoosh students earn college credits in ecology and policy during their six weeks taking part in an expedition, sea kayaking, camping in the backcountry, and exploring Alaska. They learn about the landscape of the Inside Passage, from why totem poles are carved to how a mountainside of timber was cut, and what the mountain looks like now. Peter says that participants forge lasting friendships, gain leadership skills to build on, and leave charting new adventures. We are proud of Peter!

Your School. Your History. Your Lifelong Community.

The results from the alumni services survey are in! We are pleased to announce that 30% of our alumni participated in the survey, with representation from each decade starting with the class of 1936!
• 58% stay in touch with faculty
• 75% feel the emphasis on grades was just right when they were students
• Class trips, Rummage Sale, and St. George and the Dragon were the three most-loved traditions
• The Caller and alumni emails are preferred communications from the school
• 96% listed financial aid as an area they would support if they had unlimited funds
• 35% live less than 25 miles from the school; 34% live over 1,000 miles away
• 84% selected as very important to them Catlin Gabel’s highly capable faculty, a tradition of knowing and understanding the individual student, and sense of community
 
Thank you for this feedback. This information helps us better understand our alumni, so we can continue to adjust our program and make it better. We look forward to continuing our connection with you.
 

LET CREATIVITY BLOOM!

A panel discussion in February explored creativity in education and in the lives of our alumni and families. Panelists in this Esther Dayman Strong lecture were alumni Peter Bromka ’00, product and marketing strategy, Orchestra.com, Riley Gibson ’04, co-founder and CEO of crowdsourcing platform Napkin Labs, Michael Mandiberg ’96, interdisciplinary artist, College of Staten Island/ CUNY; parents of alumni Dr. William Long, who fundamentally reorganized trauma care at Legacy Emanuel Hospital, and Sherrie Wolf, noted Pacific Northwest painter and printmaker; current parent Dr. Brian Druker, developer of a revolutionary anticancer drug, Knight Cancer Center, OHSU; and moderator Denise Mullen, new president of the Oregon College of Art and Craft. The panel honored parent of alumni and former CGS staff member Joan Shipley.
 
Lauren Dully '91, alumni and community relations program director
Susie Greenebaum '05, alumni board president

 

Catlin Gabel News, Winter 2011-12

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From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

FAREWELL TO MICHAEL HEATH

Michael Heath, head of the Upper School and assistant head for co-curriculars, is leaving Catlin Gabel in June to become head of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, South Carolina. Among Michael’s accomplishments since arriving in 2007 are realigning the grading structure, examining and adjusting the homework load to better serve students, encouraging cross-disciplinary teaching and collaboration, insisting that the ethical and moral lives of students are central to the school’s mission, and providing leadership in bringing the Knight Family Scholars Program, PLACE, and the Global Online Academy into prominence. A search process is in place for his position. Look for the next Caller for more about Michael and this year’s retiring teachers.
 

FACULTY RETIREMENTS

Catlin Gabel will miss the three teachers who are retiring this year, and wish them well in this new stage of their lives: Laurie Carlyon-Ward, Upper School art; Véronique de la Poterie, Upper School French; and Wally Wilson, Middle School Spanish. Said Wally, “Life at Catlin Gabel is a lot like St. George. There’s good, positive energy at the start, some star will always unexpectedly shine, and you leave feeling great at the end.”
 

NEWS FROM HONEY HOLLOW

Joan Gardner joined the development team as major giving officer. Her 15 years experience as a fundraiser and wealth manager includes work with Smith Barney, the Berry Botanic Garden, and the University of Oregon School of Music. . . . Eric Adjetey Anang, a Ga fantasy coffin sculptor from Ghana, was artist in residence in November. He and students from all grades worked together on the Barn deck to built a coffin shaped like a woodworker’s hand plane. . . . Heidi Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, visited CGS this fall as a Jean Vollum Distinguished Writer. . . . Poets Carl Adamschick, Jae Choi, Matthew Dickman, Emily Frey, Endi Hartigan, Michael McGriff, and Oregon poet laureate Paulann Petersen visited Upper School for two days, reading their work at assembly and teaching workshops and classes. . . The Diack Ecology Education Program awarded 7th grade science teacher Pete Ritson and his students a grant to study Balch Creek and measure, record, and identify macro-invertebrates, then analyze their data.
 

CATLINSPEAK PUTS ON A GREAT DEBATE

In January the student staff of CatlinSpeak, the Upper School student newspaper, conceived of, planned, and executed one of Portland’s finest mayoral debates. The three front runners who debated praised the students for their organizational skills and perceptive questions.
 

OUR AMAZING STUDENTS

The Catlin Gabel Roboticons—Robin Attey ’17, Jasper Gordon ’17, Matt Maynard ’17, Grace Wong ’17, and Sage Yamamoto ’17—won the first place inspiration award at the state FIRST Lego league robotics competition in January. . . . Hannah Rotwein ’13, Zoe Schlanger ’13, and Kenny Woods ’13 are Gold Key art winners, the highest regional award given in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program, sponsored by New York’s Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. . . . Julien Leitner ’16 and Allie Rosenfeld ’17 were featured in the Oregonian for their philanthropy projects. For more student achievements, read the All-School news, compiled by Karen Katz ’74.
 

ATHLETICS AND SPORTS

Both the girls cross country team and the girls soccer team placed second in state. Ella Turkot ’14 was named league MVP for soccer. Senior Zoë Frank was accepted into the Guinness Book of World records for breaking the world record for balance board. Zoë took on the challenge as a fundraiser for a women’s clinic in Zambia. . . . 6th grader Isabel Larson won 1st place on vault in the 2011 women’s compulsory gymnastics state championships.   

 

Travel Makes You Stronger

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Middle Schoolers prepare well for travel to Martinique--and come back changed
 
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”—Marcel Proust
 
“Traveling outside the country has made me so brave. If I didn’t travel to Martinique, I don’t think I would have grown so much with my French skills. Also, now I will be able to travel to more places and be more confident.” —Student traveler
 
March 2012 will mark the third trip for Catlin Gabel’s 7th and 8th grade French students to Sainte-Marie, a town on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Similarly, middle schoolers from Le Collège Emmanuel Saldès of Sainte-Marie have come to Portland twice. What our young travelers learn as guests in the home of their famille d’accueil (host family) serves them well when it is their turn to host the following year. The experience gives more meaning to the word “empathy” and fosters serious reflection on being on both the receiving and giving end of an exchange.
 
“In the beginning a lot of the things that I feared would happen did happen, although in the long run none of those things mattered: Not liking a meal, or not falling asleep at night. None compares to the things I gained and the great memories.” —Student traveler
 
Our students are asked to think about the differences between experiencing a place abroad as a traveler, as opposed to as a tourist. They quickly become aware that, unlike a vacation where one seeks to satisfy one’s yearning for pleasure and relaxation, the guiding principles of our exchange are openness, collaboration, and a readiness to have one’s comfort zones stretched.
 
“Going to Martinique with the idea of pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone really made the trip so much better than if we had just made it a vacation for relaxation.” —Student traveler
 

A brief historical perspective

 Martinique was a French colony until 1946. In 2003, it was named a French Région d’outre-mer (overseas region). Slavery was abolished in Martinique in 1846, but discriminatory practices lingered until 1946. The scars, though fading, are still part of the collective memory of the majority, the Martiniquans of color. French is the official language, but créole, the language spoken by all Martiniquans of color, is given the proper consideration as a legitimate language. The small white minority continues to control nearly all of the island’s economy. When visiting Martinique, my students become aware of how this Caribbean culture was shaped, that the grandparents of their host brother or sister grew up in a very different Martinique, and that this past has had an effect on the family they are visiting.
 

Pre-trip, on-site, and post-trip work

Before we leave, we hold several meetings where we not only discuss logistics, but also touch on the history and some of the cultural traits and experiences the students might encounter during their two-week stay there. I ask the students to consider certain questions in writing before their departure, including: What are your goals during this time away, what are you nervous or excited about, what impressions or expectations do you have of the host country, and what does it mean to you to be a citizen from your native country or culture? During the trip, reflections continue: what similarities do you see, what differences, what has surprised you the most, what do you miss the most from home, how is your language-learning going, how does the host culture seem to view American culture? Finally, at the end of the year, the students evaluate the trip and write about the challenges and successes they experienced.
 
“No matter where I went in Martinique, there was something different from the life I live. It was about discovering past the vanishing point of my experience.” —Student traveler
 
We also address the bigger question of what the term citizen of the world means to these students. We go through a list of resiliency tools that each one of us can find within ourselves at various times. For example, everyone can relate to the meaning of patience, assertiveness, honesty, kindness, respect, humor, courage, detachment, consideration, flexibility, and gentleness. We may not be able to practice each one all the time, nor all at once, but if we can remind ourselves that we do have the option (or the opportunity!) to use one of these tools at various times of need, we will most likely end up feeling empowered, less stuck, and able to move on. We talk about possible testy situations that might come up during the stay and then consider which tools would be most helpful to get through these.
 
“The things that went wrong turned out to be moments of laughter and memories.” —Student traveler
 
Values can manifest themselves differently within a culture, but there most likely will be an even sharper distinction between cultures. At home, we have the benefit of knowing what it takes to makes us feel secure, satisfied, fulfilled. There are handy “feel-good” points of reference to resort to and, as we grow within a culture, we learn which points of reference to turn to in times of need. Abroad, the more the culture is different from ours, the more we need to turn to our sense of resourcefulness and observation for a sense of stability and orientation. We need not feel like we’re lost, or fragile, or vulnerable.
 
“Everything I experienced, good and bad, was helpful to my understanding and learning.” —Student traveler
 
As we observe people doing things differently from us, we can remember that we need not feel threatened or destabilized, but can simply let others be who they are. Being gentle with ourselves allows us to be gentle with others and not be afraid. We can simply observe the differences and allow enough space to connect, get closer, and navigate our way with greater ease.
 
“I understand so much more now about my culture, other cultures, my classmates, and myself. . . . I saw what everything really was instead of what everything was supposed to be.” —Student traveler
 
We recently visited Mercy Corps to prepare for our trip with various activities. When we had to relate an important event in our life without using words, it led us to brainstorm about the meaning of communication. To our big surprise, the one word that was not mentioned until the very end was “language.” Then when we looked at what we understood culture to be, we recognized the strong interconnection between culture and language. It was encouraging for those who would like to be a little more fluent in French as they are heading to Martinique to see that a great deal of communication can still occur without the use of language. We considered behaviors and beliefs that we as a group have in common, and realized that we were actually talking about culture. This led us to see how culture shapes how we see the world, and how we see ourselves and others. We become much more in tune with how much we are shaped by our culture when we go abroad.
 
“You don’t really know what life is like in a new place until you live it, and staying with a family teaches you a lot.” —Student traveler
 
Another pre-trip activity had to do decision-making styles: Am I a compromiser, avoider, joint problem-solver, accommodator, or controller? Once we had analyzed our style, we read about its advantages and drawbacks in different situations. Then we thought about how we might use a different decision-making style in different scenarios. Some of us switched our styles to match the situation, while others tended to stay the same for most situations.
 
“The trip teaches us skills that will be very helpful to know later on, such as speaking up for ourselves, trying new things, and being completely open to new experiences.” —Student traveler
 
Finally, we talked about how easy it is for us to assume what is coming next in a situation and to guess at meaning before we know enough about it. But withholding judgment and taking in details of a situation before we interpret it must occur before we can evaluate it. This important practice will prepare the traveler to work towards win-win interactions.
 
“There were times that I knew I was supposed to be there . . . and there were also times when I felt left out, bored, or angry. But there wasn’t a single time that I wished I wasn’t there.” —Student traveler
 
It would be unfair to expect resiliency from our traveling students if we did not prepare them well for their adventure abroad. We would be remiss to let them think that the only challenges they will face abroad might be a language barrier and being far from home and their familiar lifestyle. The journey of getting in touch with ourselves individually and as a group has started. It has sensitized us to the necessity of an open mind as we prepare for Martiniquan families to welcome us into their homes.
 
“While I was there, I thought the best times were just hanging out with my American friends doing something fun, or watching something beautiful. But now that I look back on it, I think that the best times really were just being dorky with my home stay and really connecting with her family. When we were able to connect, we could really understand each other despite the language barrier.” —Student traveler
 
Monique Bessette was raised in Québec City. She came to Catlin Gabel in 1997 after having taught at Valley Catholic High School. She has taught in Upper School and is now the Middle School French teacher. Aside from the Martinique trip, she has led six other international trips with students to France and Québec.

 

Congressman Earl Blumenauer writes about his visit to Catlin Gabel

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Earl Blumenauer's official website, article, March 2012