A group of 25 Upper School students and four adults had the rare chance to see history in the making when they traveled to Cuba for 11 days during spring break, at a time when Cuba began to see great changes. No high school group had visited Cuba since U.S. travel restrictions were tightened in 2004. Trip leader Roberto Villa, an Upper School Spanish teacher, was able to secure a humanitarian visa for the group, and they brought 1,200 pounds of medicine and other supplies. Their non-political aim was to connect with the Cuban people. They came back with many stories, a few of which follow.
|29 students and teachers visited Cuba in March and April. Here are some of their stories.|
RIFVKA SHENOY ’09
When anyone asks me what my favorite part about Cuba is, I can give them a one-word answer, people. You never get into a taxi there or sit down at a restaurant and not engage with your taxi driver or your waiter. The most memorable time for me in Cuba was our last night in Havana. A group of us were sitting on the Malecón, the city’s long sea wall. Throughout the course of the three or four hours we sat there, people would mill past and begin speaking to us. A boy our age who had difficulty speaking memorized each of our names and birthdays. A group of musicians came up to us and serenaded us. But the part that made me cry was when I talked to an old woman.
I gave her a bar of soap instead of buying the goods she was trying to sell me. She inhaled the scent of the soap deeply and thanked me. She told me that in Cuba they couldn’t find things like that. When she found out I was from the U.S. she told me about her daughter who lived there, an artist who had injured her hand working in a factory. The old woman told me that she used to be an art teacher, and pointing to her goods added, “Circumstances have led to me selling this.” As she was talking, my eyes started welling up and I realized how much I didn’t want to leave these people here. Everyone always said the problem is between the governments, not between the people. They have dealt with so much and yet they never hated us for being from the United States.
|On Havana's sea wall|
MADELEINE MORAWSKI ’09
On our visit to Cuba, the value of seeing firsthand the way the government affects the daily life of every person was immeasurable. While we saw no advertisements for products, the side of the highway is sprinkled with billboards and communist slogans both encouraging people to be like Che, their “example,” and denouncing the U.S. government. I was unprepared for the complete devotion many Cuban people have to both Fidel and the Revolution. However, we also met many Cubans who greatly desire change and are desperate for an improved economy. It was incredibly interesting to visit during a time when many changes are in fact being made, such as the lifting of restrictions on buying cell phones and computers.
The people we met were some of the friendliest I have ever encountered. The Cuban students were as curious about the United States as we were about Cuba. After speaking with all the kids who seem so similar to us, it was strange to consider how different our lives actually are. We also had many conversations with people we met on the streets or along the Malecón that revealed the struggles they face with the economy.
I realized that while Fidel Castro should not be supported, the United States should do its best to aid the people of Cuba and promote understanding. I believe this understanding can be gained through trips such as ours that rely on interaction between individuals, regardless of political beliefs. One of the hardest things about leaving was the knowledge that I might never have the chance to return to a country that is so beautiful and welcoming.
|A quiet moment on the trip to Cuba|
RACHEL JUNE-GRABER ’09
One of the highlights of the Cuba trip for me was attending Shabbat services at the synagogue in Havana. We had visited Beth Shalom earlier that day to drop off donations, and the Jewish students had been invited to return for services that evening. I was amazed at the beauty of the synagogue and the obvious love and care that had gone into its well-being. When I first arrived, I was nervous being on my own, but as soon as I got inside I was greeted warmly by the young man who had given us a tour earlier that day.
Many people crowded around inside and out, all dressed up and talking happily. The people were warm and inviting, and many times I was greeted with “Shabbat shalom.” Soon, the service started, and a young cantor with a stunning voice began to lead us in prayer. During the service I was able to follow along easily because the prayers were in Hebrew, the same ones that we sing at my own synagogue in Portland. I felt a strong connection to the people around me, and completely comfortable in the elegant sanctuary. It might seem that going to a Shabbat service just like one I might encounter in the United States would not be a uniquely Cuban experience, but I had never had the opportunity to attend services outside of Portland, and it was amazing to feel at home 3,000 miles from Oregon.
|Becoming friends with Cuban history|
BHAKTHI SAHGAL ’09
The bus rolled gracefully on the one-lane highway as we played cards, talked, and looked out the window at the beautiful scenery. Fields of tall green grass were filled with cows grazing lazily in the sun. Headed towards the outskirts of Havana, we were on our way to visit the Che Guevara Institute. Finally, we turned onto a small, windy, red dirt road, and pulled up to the front of the high school. It was a large red building with a larger-than-life mural of Che Guevara himself on the front steps. As we filed off the bus and entered the school, a large crowd of kids had gathered, clad in their baby blue and navy uniforms. As we were led to the small one-room library, we looked as curiously at the kids as they looked at us.
As we moved down the hall, kids stopped what they were doing and turned to look at us. Students shyly came in and out to peer at us and whisper to their friends. Yet these looks were not ones of contempt. When introduced, we were greeted with smiles and hugs by people we had never seen before in our lives. After standing awkwardly together and trying to carry on conversations, we decided to play a game of soccer outside.
Some ambitious classmates went directly onto the field, while I, along with some other friends, stood on the side of the field talking and looking around. Almost instantly a boy came up to us with a soccer ball and asked us if we wanted to pass it around. We played timidly in an awkward silence, but within a few moments we were laughing and running around. Soon, other students had also come over to join the circle. A few of us pulled out our cameras, and we all began taking pictures with one another.
“Como te llamas?” I asked him. What’s your name?
“Reñan” he said. “Y tú?” And you?
“Bhakthi” I said.
He smiled. “Aha, tuanis. Quieres venir conmigo?” Oh cool, you want me to show you around?”
And just like that, we became friends.
|Playing soccer with students from the Che Guevara Institute|
|Experiencing the warmth of the Cuban people|
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER ’09
I initially set out on our Cuba trip with the belief that the United States should simply drop the embargo, as it would bring economic benefits to both us and the working-class Cuban. However, I now strongly question whether I truly want that to occur. A former government official told us he suspected the Cuban government would limit the role of capitalism if the embargo falls, allowing only certain businesses and deciding where and how things such as hotels would be built.
I look at Pinar Del Río in all its jungle splendor and Trinidad, the quaint colonial hub on the ocean, I look at Old Havana in all its antiquated grandeur, and I wonder how they would seem with hotels blocking their shores and marring their landscapes, disturbing the natural tapestry. I look at the strong, well-built young men, and the thin, attractive young women at the school and I think, how would they be with McDonalds, Burger King, and Starbucks on every corner? How would the people react to the polarization of wealth that could occur from capitalist investment? Would that great culture, that great natural pride fade, along with all those smiles on faces? I do not know. No one knows.
For all those great things I worry may be destroyed, I realize that Cuba suffers from tainted education, universal yet low quality healthcare, and most of all, severe, painful poverty. Capitalism coming to Cuba, in many ways, is inevitable. I simply hope it does not wash away the culture of an incredible place, and the vitality of an incredible people within which any of us could find friendship and love.
|Roberto Villa with students from the Che Guevara Institute|
ROBERTO VILLA, SPANISH TEACHER
Many incredible and meaningful moments characterized our visit to Cuba: a visit with noted film producer Humberto Solás, a visit to the central hospital in Old Havana, a meeting with the Young Communist League, and all our interaction and conversations with the Cuban people. The one experience that stands out in my mind is when we visited the Che Guevara Institute, an agrarian and sustainable high school one hour east of La Havana.
We learned that the Che Guevara students are pretty much the same as Catlin Gabel students. They wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, and share the same dreams and hopes for the future. The Cuban students are faced with many of the same issues that our youngsters deal with in our society (peer pressure, parental expectations, and boy-girl relationships). They are resilient, happy, patriotic, and very much involved in their education.
Leaving the school was very difficult and emotional for everyone. In just five hours, Catlin Gabel students managed to establish what we hope will be long-lasting friendships with their host peers, and there were many teary eyes when we finally had to say goodbye. As we boarded our bus we rolled down the windows and waved to all the students, who were standing in the hallways waving back, a heartfelt goodbye. ¡Hasta la próxima!
|Dance, the universal language|
|The group brought 17 duffle bags of humanitarian supplies|
LOWER SCHOOL EXPERIENTIAL DAYS
FOSSIL HUNTING AT CAMP HANCOCK AND BEYOND
|A 5th grader loving her time at Camp Hancock|
At OMSI’s Camp Hancock, near the John Day River in eastern Oregon, we hiked and explored a gorgeous high desert landscape underlain with myriad fossils. Students discovered, touched, and dug up such things as fossil katsura tree trunks, oreodont skeletons, calcite crystalfilled equisetum stems, nimravid skulls, dawn redwood twigs, leaves from an ancient rainforest floor, and the shoulder bone of a great raptor with wings as much as 30 feet across. The children smeared their faces with red, brown, and green mud made from paleo-soils millions of years old during hikes, while the skies filled with snow flurries, rain showers, and sun.
We followed hikes the next day with a trip to the John Day Fossil Beds visitor center, where we could see fossils and reconstructed habitats, and comments like these abounded: “Hey! Look! We were just there—right there!” “We saw that yesterday in the Nut Beds!” Other highlights included learning to make string from native plants; a visit to a rock shelter with walls containing pictographs made from blood, fat, rock powders, and charcoal; and learning to use an atlatl to throw spears. Evenings were filled with after-dinner dish washing for 100 people, sing-along campfires, story telling, meeting Mariah the great horned owl, astronomy discoveries, playing the Hancock Trivia game, and a fabulous night hike.
Things kids learned: how to wash dishes fast and efficiently, make a bed, pack a bag, and sweep up a cabin; how natives moved seasonally through the landscape; that smilodonts preyed upon oredonts; that early horses, the size of cats or terrier dogs, lived in rainforests and had four toes; that central Oregon was once tropical ocean front, with avocados, bananas, and palms; how juniper trees preserve water in the dry climate; how to identify mule deer versus elk scat; how and why scientists collect, protect, and preserve fossils; and that not all really amazing fossils are from dinosaurs. So, how cool is that?
—Scott Bowler, Lower School’s “Mr. Science”
|A 1st grader prepares to decorate a chair autobiographically in "My Life as a Chair"|
ADVENTURES WITH FAIRIES AND GNOMES
|A cupcake left for the fairies|
Our children brought and shared books, gowns, experiences, wands, stories, enthusiasm, and hopes of finding a gnome or fairy. Our expectations were simple: to build relationships among peers of different ages, while exploring and identifying native habitat. After stories from around the world of gnomes and fairies, we headed off into various woods where we “walked like foxes,” not disturbing native life, participating in and deeply observing our surroundings.
Students learned about “manners” in the woods and streams, leaving no trace, something that the fairies would appreciate and the gnomes would respect. We baked cupcakes to give to the fairies, “because they are greedy and have a taste for sweets.” Some students created a fairy language, with translation keys, to write messages to the fairy folk. Others documented their days in drawings and detailed writing, finally publishing their findings and research in a shared newspaper full of beguiling class quotes and musings. We constructed colorful, jingly wands and pointy red hats. As we ventured out, students counted, collected, and pressed native plants to include in scrapbooks. They made copies of photographs, poems, and recipes to include.
The last day we practiced the life skill of quickly changing from muddy hiking gear to luncheon attire on a bus, to make a special date at the Heathman Restaurant. As we reviewed the different manners appropriate to fine dining, the students shared what they knew to be necessary: do not pound on the table when you want your food, remember to say please and thank you, don’t kick the table or your friends, try a bite before you say no thank you.
During Experiential Days students jump in, take healthy risks, and bond with one another. Maybe it is because there is magic in the woods, but more likely, I believe, with full, uninterrupted days given to exploration and creation, real magic happens.
—Mariam Higgins, 4th grade teacher
|A student gets slimed, a badge of honor|
"I was slimed three times!”
This was the magical moment I was waiting for. By our fourth day, one 7-year-old who had been a bit insecure about getting dirty could not get enough of the cows. We had talked all week about “getting slimed”— cows have wet noses and are incredibly curious, and “sliming” is their way of interacting with you. We wore it like a badge of honor.
These 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders learned about every step of the cheese-making process, watched the making of queso fresco, and ate cheese. We blind-tasted tiny cups of milk to identify which was whole milk, 2%, 1%, skim milk, half and half, and goat’s milk. A veterinarian told us how a calf is born, how and why cows are dehorned, how their four stomachs work, and how newborn calves have virtually no immune system and would die without drinking their mother’s rich colostrum milk.
One of the greatest lessons was about systems—we literally followed the process of milk from udder to grocery shelf. John, our organic dairyman, brought the children into the pasture and dug up the earth so the children could explore the soil, earthworms and all. He helped them see the connection between our earth and the food we eat, and why his cows are pasture fed. We talked about how his farm was different from the big, commercial farm we had seen. We learned about the concept of interdependency—and the consequences of choices we make—at its very basic level.
When we helped empty last year’s swallow houses, a student announced that she found what might be a dead baby bird inside one. A dead baby bird?! Everyone gathered around, wide-eyed, while Farmer John casually explained why many of the baby birds don’t survive. After a few minutes of furrowed brows, the children went back to their tasks. I learned about life and death on a dairy farm growing up, something I realize our youngsters don’t “get” as readily in the confines of city living. Life and death are all over farms. It’s simply the cycle of life
Our learning was deep and rich—and every bit of it experiential. Ask any one of our “cows” kids about it and they will go on and on. I was astounded at the connections they made in their learning. How could it be that children could learn major life lessons in just four days?
—Vicki Swartz Roscoe, head of the Lower School
MIDDLE SCHOOL BREAKAWAY
COSTA RICA TRAVEL
|Middle School students and teacher David Ellenberg work hard in Costa Rica|
Dropping off brave students at homestays scattered throughout Monteverde, climbing a high tower dwarfed by tropical jungle to begin a zip-line tour, thrilling to an encounter with Capuchin monkeys checking us out from perches in trees, pausing with journals to sit and reflect on all the Spanish phrases washing over them: these are some of the many images I conjure from two weeks in Costa Rica, over Breakaway time and more, with eighteen 8th graders.
Global travel is a challenge to provide, yet the payoffs are immediate and extensive. Students quickly transition from unsteady newbies filled with trepidation to comfortable travelers who know their way around a town with no street signs or numbered addresses. Seeing them process so many unknowns and work through unfamiliar situations, I find their personal growth truly inspiring.
—David Ellenberg, MS world history teacher
|These students were part of the FooDelicious group, which explored commercial food through visits to a bakery, wheat lab, donut shop, cheese company, pasta restaurant, and beachside candy shop. They came to understand where the typical foods they eat come from and how each component of the process is linked.|
|Learning about Shakespeare through an acting workshop in Ashland|
Live theater in Ashland, Oregon, opened the bill of this trip, exposing Middle Schoolers to a worldclass ensemble with first-rate music, costumes, staging, and venues. Diversity was key to the works they saw: Fences, a contemporary American play, The Clay Cart, a traditional East Indian play, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream— set in a 1970s disco, which the students really connected with. To further immerse them in the Shakespeare play, an Ashland actor and teacher led a workshop explaining Shakespeare as a person, discussing the play’s plot and historical context, then involving the students physically through movement and acting.
Hands-on fun continued at the science museum in Ashland, which is totally experiential in its nature. “You have to touch and move everything, and the students loved it,” said trip co-leader Mark Pritchard, Middle School music teacher.
One important lesson of Shakespearience for students was learning to stay within financial limits. They stayed in a dorm at Southern Oregon University to save money. They had a strict group budget for eating out, so everyone was responsible to the group and had to make good decisions, both monetarily and in terms of healthful eating. “The other fundamental lessons were learning to act responsibly in public, support each other, and do the right thing so the group represents the school well, and we stay welcome,” says Mark.
HOOP DAYS, a joint project with the Middle School and the 5th grade
|Visiting the Rose Garden, home of the Portland Trailblazers|
Hoop Days was the most wonderful four days EVER! I got to meet Jerome Kersey and wear his NBA championship ring! I got to go to the Blazers locker room and see Brandon Roy’s locker and touch his shoe! I learned all about the Rose Garden arena—did you know that Paul Allen built a secret apartment in it so he could spend the night after the games? I learned how radio and TV broadcast sports and I got to design my own shoe at Nike and meet with a designer who talked to me about it. It was also great to learn basketball tips and tricks from Pee Wee Harrison, of the Harlem All-Stars. This is just some of what I got to do.
The places we went all said they loved having the Catlin Gabel students, and even though they never did this kind of thing before they would love to do it again next year!
—Matthew Bernstein ’15, who had the original idea for the Hoop Days experience
UPPER SCHOOL WINTERIM
BECOMING A WORLD-CLASS NEGOTIATOR
|Online meeting with students from Gaza|
Upper School history teacher Peter Shulman and IT director Richard Kassissieh first gave us a quick overview of the history of Israel and Palestine, focusing on land ownership and the conflict over thousands of years. We took in a lot of information that day, and we gained a lot of understanding for both sides of the conflict. Our teachers also had us go around the room and explain who we are here and now, what we stand for, and where we come from. As people spoke around the room, every person had something special and unique about their origin and what brought them to where they are. Despite our different backgrounds, we all wanted to learn more about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The next day we met at 7 a.m. to speak with a group of students from Gaza through Skype, an online audio and visual connection. Remembering the experience continues to remind me how I want to change policy and injustice in the world as I continue to grow up. We were told that the group that we’d be speaking with was made up of Palestinian students my age living in the Gaza Strip, where attacks on both sides of the conflict continue to cripple the two fighting powers and prevent them from reaching an agreement.
As I walked into the room that morning, our mentor Richard, who is of Palestinian descent, explained the guidelines to my peers and me. “Withhold any questions you might have in regard to internal fighting between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza. As you know, Gaza is very small and very isolated. Words fly fast to the ears of harm-doers and direct, honest answers about these questions might have serious consequences for these students,” Richard told us.
The question that one of the Palestinian girls asked that will remain in my memory was, “Does the conflict here in Gaza, where we live, affect the daily lives for you guys?”
At that moment I felt embarrassed because it didn’t really enter into my mind daily. I attend school with the freedom to learn what the teachers have the autonomy to choose to teach us, and as citizens of the United States we have the freedom to travel. When it was my turn to speak, I stood up, and sat in front of the screen. I played with my hands, rearranging my scarf, and began to bite my lip, nervous and full of anxiety, thinking that the girl on the screen must hate us, the Americans, who get to be free.
I was wrong. She looked at me as a peer, a teenager, just like her. I found the words tumbling from my mouth easily as I addressed her.
“I go to school, and I never have to worry for my safety. My family and I don’t live in fear. The conflict doesn’t really cross our minds at all; in fact, many of us, in this room, never knew how profound and wrong the world still is in your part of the world. I know about it now, though, from taking this seminar, and I will do what I can to make your voice heard,” I said, wanting to speak more, but I didn’t.
Next, another one of my peers spoke from his heart, “I am sorry. I’m sorry that you can’t go to the movies and play with your friends in safety. I just want to say that our leaders’ actions do not reflect how the people in this classroom feel, because I know I’ll follow this conflict and have your life conditions in my mind from now on.”
The girl on the screen, a citizen of the world just like us, replied, “What you just said is enough. The fact that you understand what we are going through every day here in Gaza makes me have a smile on my face.” As she made this statement, the dimple in her cheek was visible. As she sat, wearing a headscarf that covered her hair, her body language shifted, her arms opened, and she sat forward in her chair; she was happy.
I noticed that the teacher coordinator beside her began to cry. She told us, “You see, the Palestinian youth never travel or meet anyone who isn’t Palestinian. I was lucky. I was able to travel, and I have friends who are Israeli and from other places around the world. These students do not even have that; they are isolated from the world.” I have an opportunity to make her problems and concerns heard.
I have the opportunity to learn and get an education that fits my characteristics and interests. Now I can look at the conflict from both sides, understanding that the conflict is not based on religion, but on land and power. Dialogue with these students made this conflict more real in my mind than I had ever previously imagined.
I know that my role in the lives of others will continue to strengthen and grow through my education. I hope to help the students who are not being given the chance, like my peers in Gaza.
—Aurielle Thomas ’08
MEXICO CLIMBING AND CULTURE TRIP
|Upper Schoolers reaching the summit of Iztaccihuatl|
Nine intrepid students and three adult leaders traveled in central Mexico for 10 days during Winterim to combine cultural exploration with a mountaineering adventure. The group gained an appreciation for the rich and deep culture of the country during their stays in Mexico City and the small town of Tepotzlan. The trip culminated with an ascent of Iztaccihuatl, a 17,373-foot peak.
The Mexico expedition achieved some deeper goals, too: students learned to live and work together; they were challenged physically, socially, and culturally; and finally, they came to understand more than they could before about the communities and people in a far less developed country.
—Peter Green, outdoor program director
|Community service is an important Winterim option. Gwen Survant-Kaplin ’08 and a group of students helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity and worked at a building materials recycling center.|
PORTLAND: THE CITY BY DAY, THE CITY BY NIGHT
|Students learn how the fire department works|
This year for Winterim, I had the rewarding (and somewhat taxing) opportunity to take on the responsibility of a student organizer. It all started when student activities director Mark Lawton asked me if I’d like to investigate “what makes Portland tick.” His idea was nebulous: travel around the city by foot, by bus, and by sheer ingenuity in order to get a feel for the kinds of minds behind our social and civil services, entertainment, and media organizations, and to see what really goes on behind the scenes. After recruiting my friend Rohan Jhunjhunwala ’11, we joined Mark and librarian Sue Phillips to begin the daunting task of scheduling trips to such places as fire departments, bowling alleys, fine dining establishments, Portland Impact, the Portland Planning Bureau, and the newspaper headquarters of Street Roots and the Oregonian, in addition to the Oregon Department of Transportation control room and the newsroom of television station KATU. Even before we set out, I became adept at navigating the information superhighway in order to locate interesting people to speak with, getting in touch with and speaking to important city officials, and juggling the agenda as it evolved out of the minds of the four of us.
Imagine how rewarding it was when it all finally came together, when I realized that our grand scheme no longer looked good simply on paper, but had taken on a life of its own. What really struck me was that wherever we went, there were people who enjoyed what they did, who took great pride in telling us all about it. Their excitement transferred onto us, and we found ourselves filled with questions such as, Whose responsibility is it that individuals who have been arrested maintain their human rights? How does a homeless newspaper operate? How are you making the Pearl District more environmentally friendly? And the most important question, How can I get involved and make a difference? By taking a bit of a risk in order to answer a deceptively simple question, our small group came away with a deeper understanding of the community at large, and thereby armed ourselves to make a positive difference in it.
—Josh Langfus ’11
|Counselor George Thompson ’64 and arts teacher Tom Tucker ’66 led “Guitars, Guitars, Guitars!” Students of all levels improved their guitar skills through workshops with visiting musicians and hours of playing music together.|
By Nadine Fiedler, Caller editor
Every spring, through the senior project program, several Catlin Gabel seniors take advantage of a rare and productive opportunity to get out in the world and gain some real-life experience. They spend time interning for either an entire semester, foregoing two of their classes and working part time, or the whole month of May, working full time and not attending any classes. The senior project gives students a glimpse of life after school before they go to college, allows them to investigate possible careers, builds contacts, and ends their high school years on a positive and confident note. Projects also allow all kinds of learners to take part in a meaningful experience of their own choosing and accept responsibility and accountability for their work. This year, senior projects have taken students to places such as Willamette Aviation, Oregon Trout, shoe and clothing design studios, and OHSU neuroscience and heart research labs. The following are the stories of the four students who spent the past semester on their senior projects.
|Marie Perrone ’08|
MARIE PERRONE ’08: Legacy Health Systems
Marie Perrone ’08 was inspired to take real-world action by her studies in the environmental science and policy class, and her participation in the school’s Natural Step sustainability exercise. She interned at Legacy Health Systems, where she had served as a volunteer, to help make their hospitals more sustainable and to understand how to organize a large business around eco-friendly practices.
Her work was varied, with real and lasting consequences. Here’s just part of what she accomplished over the semester: she organized a green energy contest, she posted environmental tips on Legacy’s website, she organized a communitysupported agriculture drop-off for Legacy employees, she studied the possibilities for alternative transportation, and she wrote a food policy for the entire system.
“Switching to reusable dishes at Catlin Gabel was difficult; it’s fifty billion times harder at Legacy. I enjoy the challenge. If I can make positive changes at Legacy, Catlin Gabel and other such institutions should be a cinch,” says Marie. “I think I may want to combine environmental work with a medical career path and specialize in the effects of pollution and such on human health. This senior project has helped me to develop a different set of skills, ones that couldn’t have been taught in environmental science class or even within the Catlin Gabel community.”
JOSH HALLADAY ’08: Mayoral campaign of Sam Adams
|Josh Halladay ’08|
As a way of exploring a possible career in politics or lobbying, Josh Halladay ’08 chose to get inside a campaign effort and see what makes it operate. He thought that the Sam Adams Portland mayoral campaign would be a good fit because of its small size and reliance on volunteers.
Josh soon found out about the grinding work of a campaign, the importance of strategy, how the managers devote their lives to the cause, and the astounding amount of minutiae needed to run a good campaign. His internship involved working with a database, preparing lists of possible supporters to call, making calls to potential donors or participants in events, researching and analyzing voter-supported elections, researching sign regulations, and making recommendations for campaign signs.
“The majority of the work I do is simpler than anything I would be doing at Catlin Gabel, but being in a business environment with people who rely on the accuracy of your work is a completely different experience than what you can learn in the classroom,” he says. The campaign was a success, and Josh says he will be proud of all he contributed to it, especially as a high school student.
ANNA OSERAN ’08: PDX magazine
|Anna Oseran ’08|
If you pick up a copy of PDX magazine’s spring issue, you’ll see Anna Oseran’s name all over it. As an editorial intern with no experience in magazine work, Anna wrote pieces for the magazine that ranged from music reviews, to a food and drink event calendar, to a full feature article on five distinctly different places to buy furniture. This senior project is an auspicious start for what Anna hopes will be her college major and her life’s work in journalism.
Anna was eager to take her well-honed writing skills into the real world after learning for years in class what it means to be a good writer. She thrived on her immersion into the world of journalism. “I went into the magazine with my own writing style but learned that I had to adjust it for the readers and the magazine’s style, which is short, to the point, and quick-witted,” says Anna. She also learned about time management and working under a deadline
Anna is happy with her project and encourages other students to take on projects of their own. “I get to talk to people I would not have met before,” she says. “And I get to actually write and not just get people coffee.”
NICHOLAS KRISHNAMURTHY ’08: Wells Fargo investment banking division
|Nicholas Krishnamurthy ’08|
Nicholas Krishnamurthy hoped to learn about investment banking in his senior project and see if it might interest him as a career. Maybe the most valuable discovery of his semester working at Wells Fargo is that investment banking is not the right career for him. He found out that a job that focuses solely on money just doesn’t appeal to him.
Nicholas took the internship seriously and felt like he was going to a real job every day. He conducted a great deal of research, investigating markets, companies, and industries in which Wells Fargo was interested. After his first week on the job he produced a 250-page research report that the head of Wells Fargo Securities took to a high-level meeting. When a new analyst came on the job, Nicholas received the same training as this full-time employee.
Nicholas realized that his position as an intern differentiated him from his co-workers in that he had no financial incentive (or the rush of victory) as they do—but he continued to work hard to impress them. He says about his senior project experience, “Some parts of the job can be boring and tiresome, but others can be incredibly interesting. I’ve been able to learn things about economics that I cannot learn at Catlin Gabel. Basically, I’ve learned more than I could imagine at this job, and I think that it is a very valuable experience, even though I feel a lot like an intern. It’s been great to get out of the classroom, and I would do it again if I had the chance.”
Many thanks to Joan Piper, the faculty mentor of the senior project program, for her help with background for this article. Caller editor Nadine Fiedler is Catlin Gabel’s director of publications and public relations.
Which colleges did our students select?
Boston Univ. (3)
Claremont McKenna (2)
Colorado College (1)
Evergreen State (2)
Lewis & Clark (2)
Mt. Holyoke (1)
Oregon State (1)
Portland State (1)
Sarah Lawrence (2)
Seattle C.C. (1)
Soka University (1)
Trinity (Texas) (2)
Univ. of Brit. Columbia (1)
Univ. of Edinburgh (1)
Univ. of Oregon (1)
Univ. of Oregon Honors (1)
Univ. of Pennsylvania (1)
Univ. of Puget Sound (3)
Univ. of Vermont (1)
U.S. Air Force Academy (1)
U.S. Military Academy (1)
Washington Univ. (1)
Where were our students accepted?
Which colleges did our students select?
The end of the school year is a time for transitions and milestones – retirements, relocations, good-byes to old friends, and hellos to new students, parents, and teachers.
The most poignant transition of the year is bidding farewell to our seniors as they embark on the next phase of their life experience. A Catlin Gabel education is not an end in itself; earning that diploma is a milestone. College and other post–high school experiences are continuations — other venues in which to grow, test limits, try new things, and solidify talents.
Catlin Gabel celebrates each student’s achievement — the benchmark for success is hers or his alone. Given the current frantic culture in regard to college admission, it is difficult to maintain the ethos around personal best, good college fit, and the notion that the next stage after Catlin Gabel is just a step on the journey.
I admire the Class of 2008 for their many gifts: their intellects, work ethic, athleticism, aesthetic sensibility and artistic talent, their enthusiasm for service to people close by and to people who suffer far away, their fervor to know and understand the world, and their involvement in politics and policy.
College acceptance is not what really matters
We have advised and counseled our seniors as they dealt with what may well be their first real-life contest. People who don’t know them made decisions about their futures in a tremendously competitive arena. Happily, the decisions turned out favorably for our kids. (More on specific college acceptance information later.)
Could every one of our students achieve at every school he or she applies to? Absolutely. In recent years, we find ourselves saying things like, “They were crazy not to take her.” “Who are they accepting if they didn’t accept him?” The fact is that college admission is an unfathomable, illogical process to which we attempt to ascribe logic. Why do most students apply to the same 25 colleges when there are hundreds of great colleges in the country? Many lesser-known colleges seek high-achieving students and offer substantial financial aid, yet their applicant numbers are low. Just as we accept the inestimable value of a $500 stroller and a $4 coffee, we are convinced that 25 well-marketed colleges deliver superior programs because so many people want to go to them. Sometimes that is simply not the case. A good college match depends on the temperament and personal and intellectual needs, of a particular student. The amount of time and energy spent on this enterprise suggests that college admission is more important than picking a life mate or finding happiness in a vocation and an avocation.
What really matters for our students is what they do when they arrive at college. Our seniors have learned to learn while engaged in reading and writing, examining molecules, testing hypotheses, painting portraits, building community, and playing soccer. College and life beyond Catlin Gabel will provide our seniors with many opportunities to continue learning and they will grab those opportunities with zeal.
This may be a shocking admission, but when I was the college counselor at my son’s school, I did nothing to help him decide where to apply. I left that to him. It all worked out just fine. The decisions he made have resulted in a satisfying, fulfilling life with a great partner and two children. He is a wonderful husband, father, and son. Where he went to college has nothing to do with any of that.
Class of 2008 by the numbers
As headlines in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and other media blast the news that this is the most competitive year for college admission, our senior class defied the odds. Sixty percent of our seniors are attending their first-choice schools. Ten percent more will attend their second choice. Students from the class of 2008 (including those who have deferred enrollment) plan to attend 45 different colleges or universities, 53 will attend private colleges, and 11 will attend public colleges. The biggest group of seniors, 45 percent, will move to the East Coast for their next adventure, 25 percent will stay in the Pacific Northwest, 11 percent will travel to California, and the remaining 19 percent will venture to the Midwest, Rocky Mountains, the South, or abroad. Link to list of colleges the class of 2008 plans to attend.
Thank you, parents
Many thanks to the parents of the Class of 2008 for supporting the joyous and busy lives of Catlin Gabel students. I sincerely appreciate you for years of feeding and driving kids, watching performances and athletic events, hosting and attending get-togethers, volunteering, and turning out for numerous meetings. Your children progress in this world with habits of heart and mind learned from you, and from their teachers and classmates during the Catlin Gabel part of their journey.
Just before break I had the pleasure of getting together with alumni who live in the Bay Area. Catlin Gabel’s former students are always interested in what is new at the school and how we adapt to technology, globalism, and current trends in education. They also love to hear about traditions that they remember from their school days. Lower School Experiential Days, Middle School Breakaway, and Upper School Winterim are among our alumni’s favorite memories, and they are delighted to know that their alma mater continues to offer breaks from classroom learning for cross-graded extended blocks of time devoted to experiential learning.
I am impressed every year with the imaginative, educational, fun, and new offerings our students, teachers, and parents design for Winterim, Breakaway, and Experiential Days. This year for the first time we ran Breakaway and Experiential Days concurrently, so there were several groups that were not only cross-graded, but cross divisional, as well.
Learning by doing
The benefits of experiential learning are numerous. Most people learn best by doing. The hands-on activities offered through these multi-day immersions in an activity are truly hands-on. Lower School students in the “From Sheep to Shawl” project learned to knit and further immersed themselves in the topic by visiting a sheep farm to learn about turning wool into yarn. Middle Schoolers in the EnertiaKarts class designed and built both conventional and electric racing go-carts and learned about batteries, brakes, chassis design, and steering along the way. Upper School students interested in computer games didn’t just play computer games; they developed a computer game using design, programming, music, and creative skills.
Learning by traveling
Helping students take risks is a major component of experiential learning. One of our favorite ways to stretch students is through travel. Fourteen fifth grade students traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where they stayed with host families from the Summit School. This exchange is a longtime tradition for our two schools. Middle School students who study French traveled to Martinique, which gave them a language and cultural experience they will never forget. A group of Upper School students traveled to San Francisco to explore the city’s cultural and ethnic history through museum visits, talks with history professors, and tours.
Learning by going outdoors
We like to encourage students who are not experienced outdoor adventurers to take advantage of Experiential Days, Breakaway, and Winterim to try something new. Both the Lower and Middle Schools offer snow adventures for novice skiers or snowboarders. Hiking and rock climbing are also popular options. This year, 12 Upper Schoolers had the good fortune of traveling to the Grand Canyon to raft the Diamond Down stretch of the Colorado River and hike its many side canyons.
Learning by playing
Many of our students take part in sports experiences during our four-day learning periods. One of the combined Lower and Middle School offerings gave students a chance to learn about basketball from all angles. They played the game, went to a Trail Blazer game, visited the Nike campus to design shoes, and met with former Trail Blazer Jerome Kersey. Another group learned all they could about fly-fishing. Upper School students explored the world of sports in a Winterim dedicated to sports played around the globe. We’re not sure cricket will catch on at Catlin Gabel, but at least one group of students tried their best to learn the rules and ropes of the game.
Learning by helping others
One popular Winterim class is volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. Catlin Gabel Upper Schoolers and faculty leaders work hard to improve housing in our community. Learning construction skills while benefiting our community epitomizes our commitment to experiential learning and service.
This is just a sample of the exciting, creative, and focused learning that happens during Experiential Days, Breakaway, and Winterim. Students gain enormously from the chance to engage in activities in depth, take risks, form new relationships, and make choices about what they want to learn. Catlin Gabel’s commitment to experiential learning is steeped in our progressive tradition. When our current students are alumni, they will ask if we still have experiential days programs at Catlin Gabel. We will most certainly answer in the affirmative.
I take this opportunity to share with you my enormous respect and appreciation for Emily Jones, departing Upper School head, who came to Catlin Gabel in fall 1999.
Emily’s leadership has had a profound effect on the entire school. She is utterly honest, highly ethical, deeply intel-ligent, truly caring, and incredibly engaged in her work as an educator.
Each year Emily tells students to take risks within the safety of their Upper School experience. She has encouraged teachers, staff members, and trustees to do the same.
She has been a vital voice in articulating the need for enhancing the Upper School area of the campus. The benefits for students and learning were always at the forefront of her conversations, which led to constructing the new library and modern languages building, and renovating the Dant House, humanities, and science buildings. Emily imagined a distinct Upper School campus where adolescents and their teachers would study and hang out together. Isn’t it ironic that Emily finishes her tenure at Catlin Gabel in an unattractive office in a double-wide trailer while her vision for the Upper School reaches completion?
Emily promoted the Upper School laptop program in spring 2002. Skeptics questioned the wisdom of this plan, but Emily had done exhaustive research and defended the notion with great care and sensitivity. Just five years later, our high school students and teachers cannot imagine academic life without laptops.
We have made great strides in globalizing Catlin Gabel through student exchanges, trips abroad, and curriculum im-provements. Emily, who is a world traveler, has championed the cause. She has encouraged an increasing number of juniors to spend a year abroad (four this year and last). Likewise, she has welcomed students from across the globe to come study at Catlin Gabel. Her experience teaching in Botswana and Thailand has benefited us all. She was an early voice in support of adding Chinese to our modern languages program.
Emily is a font of knowledge about teenagers and how to help them mature into responsible adults. Her sensible views on child-rearing have benefited countless teachers, parents, and children. So often after parent meetings with Emily, I hear from families who credit Emily with giving them advice that changed their family dynamics for the better.
Emily’s focus is on students. At the same time she supports the faculty and recognizes the strengths of each teacher. She is masterful at identifying people’s talents and positioning them for everyone’s benefit. She has developed a “kid team,” a group of adults charged with thinking about the whole child. Emily has hired excellent new teachers, while honoring and learning from the teachers who have long histories with Catlin Gabel.
A strong advocate for keeping pace with new research, Emily has supported the faculty in attending brain research conferences and passing along their new understanding to colleagues school wide. Teaching in classrooms across the divisions now reflects the latest information about how people learn.
The Upper School is in great shape. Emily has made sure of that. Her successor, Michael Heath, has an excellent foundation upon which to build. Thank you, Emily. The Catlin Gabel community will miss you.
After 39 years in the Upper School, it is hard to imagine Susan Sowles not teaching art at Catlin Gabel. Generations of students have benefited from her quiet grace, constant support, and wealth of knowledge. Alumni in the arts point to Susan and her influence when they remember their journeys to becoming artists. Susan has led the art department as longtime department chair, taught art history, weaving, ceramics, painting, watercolor, and calligraphy, and served as yearbook advisor. Her elegant calligraphy has bejeweled diplomas for as long as anyone can remember. Susan’s contributions to Catlin Gabel go far beyond the arts department. She chaired the faculty professional development committee, giving voice to the concept of furthering everyone’s educations at Catlin Gabel. She has worked tire-lessly on behalf of independent schools by planning two major PNAIS conferences on our campus. And she has made certain Catlin Gabel is evaluated in the best light, leading us through two self-studies for accreditation. Thank you, Susan, for your lifetime of dedication to Catlin Gabel. I wish you all the best in your well-deserved retirement.
Congratulations to the Class of 2007. You will be missed! Read a summary of the senior panel discussion with the PFA in the Campus Life section of the website.
This is the bittersweet time of year when we prepare for our seniors to graduate. As their final weeks of high school wane, the class of 2007 is engaged in the life of the school and year-end traditions. At the same time, they are clearly ready to begin their next adventures. Most seniors have decided where they will attend college next year, some are deferring for one year but have determined which college they will attend the following year, and several are postponing their final decisions until they receive wait-list news or financial aid offers.
How did our seniors fare in this year’s instensely competitive college admission environment? Beautifully! I congratulate the class of 2007 on their admission to a variety of outstanding colleges. The list is impressive (and will be published in the fall Caller). Further, I am proud of the support the students have shown each other during the anxiety-producing process, which, unfortunately, includes rejection as well as acceptance letters. The students have remained positive and focused on the goal: being well educated.
As you have probably read in publications including the New York Times, LA Times, and Business Week, this has been a record-setting year for college applications for four reasons: the Echo Boomers (children born between 1982 and 1995) represent a population bulge. More high school graduates are attending college than previous generations. The number of international students applying to American colleges has increased. Students apply to more colleges due to amplified competition and the ease of filing online with common applications.
What are some of the numbers the class of 2007 confronted? According to the LA Times “Acceptance rates for Stanford, Yale, and Columbia were 10.3 percent, 9.6 percent, and 8.9 percent respectively. That means thousands of valedictorians and people with grade-point averages of 4.0 or higher were passed over in favor of whatever form of superhuman DNA now constitutes a worthy Ivy Leaguer. Of course, as admissions officers are quick to point out, you can be an infinitely worthy candidate and still get a no.”
The pressure on our students is enormous, and the stress is compounded when parents have unreasonable expectations. Suppose you had a nine percent chance of getting a job. Would you apply for it? An optimist might, but certainly would not put all her eggs in one basket. The idea of setting your heart on one or two first-choice colleges is an obsolete notion.
We must broaden our minds when we think of good colleges. The big-name colleges represent a small fraction of the excellent schools scattered throughout the country. Great academics and first-rate faculties are characteristics of many colleges and universities with which you may not be familiar. Illustrating this point, Newsweek dubbed 25 lesser-known schools the New Ivies. Their list includes Bowdoin, Emory, Kenyon, Pomona, Reed, Rice, Skidmore, Tufts, and Vanderbilt. Hundreds of colleges and universities that are not household names offer excellent opportunities for our graduates.
Our college counselors, Kate Grant and John Keyes, are knowledgeable about institutions of higher learning nationwide, and make it their business to enlighten colleges about Catlin Gabel. They visit campuses, correspond with college admissions offices, attend conferences, and compare notes with counselors at other high schools. They also communicate with our alumni to gain the inside scoop on colleges from California to Maine. Kate and John are dedicated to building relationships with the students they counsel. They work with juniors to identify the students’ interests and strengths. Early in the senior year, each student meets regularly with either Kate or John to establish a list of good-fit colleges, prepare essays, and line up teacher recommendations. Parents often participate in the process, but we encourage students to take the lead. The personalized attention our students receive from the entire faculty throughout the college application process is extraordinary.
Talking about grades makes us uncomfortable because we deemphasize grades in favor of non-competitive learning for the sake of gaining knowledge and skills. However, we understand the best way to dispel myths is to address misperceptions directly.
The prevailing rumor that the Upper School’s uninflated grades prevent our students from competing does not bear out. While some high schools hand out 4.0 GPAs like candy on Halloween, Catlin Gabel reserves the highest grades for exceptional students. Currently—and we don’t expect this to change at the end of the year—the majority of this year’s seniors have between 3.0 and 3.5 GPAs. Twelve students have GPAs of 3.5 or more. The average GPA for 2005, 2006, and 2007 has been 3.113, 3.175, and 3.157 respectively.
When colleges see our grade distribution, they understand our grading patterns. They know from experience and from word of mouth that Catlin Gabel students succeed in college. College admissions officers are skilled at matching students to their programs and consider factors beyond grades and test scores. During the last three years our students with grade point averages between 2.8 and 3.3 have been accepted to Colorado College, George Washington University, Macalester, Middlebury, Reed, Skidmore, St. Andrews, Smith, University of California- Davis, University of Chicago, University of Puget Sound, Washington University, and Whitman, to name a few. Carnegie-Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Oberlin, and University of Pennsylvania have accepted Catlin Gabel students with 3.3 to 3.5 GPAs. And Amherst, Brown, Harvey Mudd, Harvard, Haveford, MIT, Pomona, Princeton, Stanford, Swarthmore, and Yale have accepted our students with 3.5 to 4.0 GPAs.
The numbers and rankings are distractions from our most important goals of creating meaningful and relevant curriculum and educational experiences, and cultivating close student-teacher relationships. We prepare students for advanced learning, wherever their paths may lead, by offering seminar-style courses, engaging labs, myriad extracurricular clubs and activities, and personal attention. Our students know how to work cooperatively and creatively, and communicate effectively. Catlin Gabel’s college counselors and teachers know our students well, advocate for them, and help them select and pursue the best college matches. Our alumni report that they are academic achievers in college because they know how to approach professors, ask for help, manage their time, work with others, and direct their own learning. Members of the class of 2007, like their predecessors, are ready to fully engage in the next chapters in their lives. I wish them all the best.
In late March we will resume campus construction and continue work on the Upper School facilities. The campus will be enhanced in many ways by the planned remodel of the Dant House, the humanities building, and the science building. The need for renovating these three buildings was identified when the concept of an Upper School village with a central quad was articulated.
The number of Upper School students has increased from approximately 240 in 1994 to 285 today. The increase provides an infusion of new students, allows for greater diversity, and expands our course offerings. We have boosted the number of teaching positions so that class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios have remained constant. Now it is time to complete the building expansions to better serve the curriculum and learners.
The Dant House is Catlin Gabel’s original defining building. Renovating this beloved and historic building will restore the house to its earlier beauty and make the spaces more accessible, useful, and environmentally responsible. Plans include retaining the original woodwork, fireplaces, and other historic features. The office area will be opened up to make it visible from the entrance, and new faculty offices will be created. Some of the walls, fire doors, and open sprinkler pipes that were required by old fire codes will be removed. The original plumbing, which is 60 years old and no longer functions properly, will be replaced. The oil-fired boiler will be retired and the building will be connected to the library’s efficient and environmentally friendly heating system. In fact, underground pipes were laid between the library and the Dant House, as well as the humanities building, in 2002 in preparation for this project. New weatherproof windows will further decrease energy usage.
Legendary Portland architect John Storrs designed the humanities building, which served as the Upper School library for over 30 years. John Storrs’ work, which includes the Oregon College of Art and Craft campus and Salishan resort, is historically significant. The architects and builders involved in previous remodeling projects all agree that the humanities building is a Portland treasure. The remodel will retain the architectural character of the building, while completing the structural transformation it needs to go from a library building to a classroom building. The classrooms will have improved sound insulation, and the learning center will be expanded. The addition of an outdoor deck provides a new outdoor space for the community. Like the Dant House project, the humanities building project includes new windows and a heating system linked by underground pipes to the library’s heating system. This project benefits the Middle School as well as the Upper School because the humanities building houses two Middle School classrooms and the Middle and Upper School learning center.
We are adding a new teaching lab to the west side of the science building. The addition of a new faculty office will create a courtyard linking the math and science buildings. Planned upgrades to the science building include removal of the unattractive and unsuccessful grey accordion partitions. Glass walls that allow for natural light from the central clerestory windows to shine in all the classrooms will replace the partitions. A new exit from the center of the science building will lead to the new math and science courtyard.
Funding for the Dant House, humanities, and science-math remodels comes from the school’s working capital funds and contributions made to the projects.
Making the move
Students and teachers need not move from the math and science buildings this spring. However, the Dant House and humanities building must be vacated before renovations begin. Students, teachers, lockers, and furniture will relocate to one of the indoor tennis courts and temporary trailer classrooms. We elected to start the renovations in spring so they will be complete by the time school opens in the fall. As the spring weather takes hold, the problem of temporarily losing student hang-out space will diminish when kids gravitate to the outdoors.
In order to make time for moving out of the affected buildings and into temporary digs, we are extending spring break only for Upper School students to include Friday, March 23, and Monday, April 2. The teachers will use those two days to move out of their current classrooms and offices and into temporary classrooms and offices. The students did not complain about this schedule alteration when we announced the plan in early January.
We recognize that the temporary disruptions cause some hardship, but our students and teachers have proven themselves resilient time and time again. This year’s seniors will no doubt complain that their final months at Catlin Gabel are disrupted, but I can imagine them at their 10-year reunion remembering the glory of ending their high school careers in temporary classrooms. Surely the class of 2007 understands that others before them withstood campus construction projects so that today’s seniors could benefit from a new Middle School building, a glorious track and field, a remodeled gymnasium, and vastly improved Upper School facilities. By next fall students and teachers will undoubtedly overlook this temporary inconvenience when they move into beautifully remodeled and expanded facilities.
We take every precaution to ensure student safety during construction. Most of the work scheduled for April and May will occur indoors. Exterior work will take place during summer vacation. Construction sites will be tightly fenced. We are working once again with Walsh Construction, which has a proven safety record on our campus. Their crews are particularly respectful of our students and teachers.
Facilities are an important factor in learning. Ambience, relationship with outdoor spaces, and quality of classrooms enhance learning. When we plan for facilities improvements we always look to school founder Ruth Catlin for guidance. In her philosophy statement Miss Catlin included the learning environment as an essential ingredient: “To maintain a school with the most enlightened ideals of education...in healthful, comfortable, cultural, simple and beautiful surroundings.” Our goal is to respect the inspiration of the architects who have come before and the historical memories of alumni while renewing and adapting to meet the needs of emerging generations of students.