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Parish Episcopal students lead by example through AGS & Leadership Institute
Posted 05/05/2017 02:28PM

May signals the end of the school year for all Parish Episcopal students, but for some Class of ’17 members, it brings an end to years of research, planning and hard work. On April 19, students in the Academy of Global Studies (AGS) presented their Capstone projects while seniors in the Leadership Institute shared their final LEAD projects.

Parish demonstrates and instills the concept of leadership by example; that is why serving others is part of our culture and curriculum. Students in AGS and the Leadership Institute exhibited those values during their final projects. For the AGS Capstone project, students presented a 20 page, fully cited paper, a culmination of their three-year investigation into a topic of personal selection and choice. Seniors in the Leadership Institute showcased their projects which centered on social or business entrepreneurship ideas based on needs in the community.

“Students begin planning their LEAD projects during their junior year of Leadership,” said Molly Still, Director of Leadership Institute.  “The planning begins then and continues until the end of their senior year.”

“AGS students take four trimester courses to research and write their capstones,” remarked Frederick Hotz, Ph.D., Director of Academy of Global Studies. “Along the way, they identify a global issue of interest to them, generate an annotated bibliography of 40 resources and write multiple drafts to craft thesis statements and supporting arguments and paragraphs.”

The class of 2017 is the third graduating class to take part in the AGS Capstone project. Jaya Gupta ’17 worked on a project called, Sambhaav, which is Hindi for “It’s possible.” She spent three years researching how child marriage impacts education in India. (Read more in Gupta's online journal)

“I traveled to India this past summer and worked at a school in the slums for two weeks and interviewed girls 5-12 years old,” remarked Gupta. “I found that many of them had older siblings who were my age (18) and married with children. They all wished that they could stay in school rather than working and raising a family at such a young age. This really opened my eyes to what these girls had to go through and how difficult it was for them to escape this cycle of poverty. I wrote all of their stories down in an online journal and published it for my Capstone project.”

As the name indicates, the Academy of Global Studies aims to increase students’ global awareness and to help them understand the complex and interconnected nature of the world, both politically and socially.

“There are many challenges presented and each translates into ethical questions and moral concerns for everyone,” added Hotz.

“It is our intention to provide our students with the skills and experiences that will cause them to be informed and prepared enough to identify and implement solutions to these challenges through our school’s three founding tenets (Wisdom, Honor & Service).”

“I hope people learn just how big of an issue ocean pollution is,” said Caroline Haga ’17, who worked on the AGS Capstone project, Ocean Pollution: Sources, Impacts and Potential Mitigants. “Because we don’t always see it, we push it to the side, which is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing!”

“This is something that affects all of us,” she added. “The only way to fix it is if we all work together to try to find a safe and proper solution.”

(Learn more about Haga's project)

Not only did the Capstone projects teach students about global awareness, it also gave them an idea of how to tackle complex topics and organize and edit a large academic paper. It was a glimpse of what a college research paper or project might be like for them in the future.

“I learned so much about how to research such a large topic and sift through databases and articles,” noted Gupta. “This project also taught me time management because there were so many different tasks that needed to be completed throughout the three years, so I had to plan accordingly to make sure I completed it all in time.”

“Although difficult at times, I read through hundreds of articles and papers to get all the information I needed for this project,” remarked Haga. “I learned how to use different research platforms and find the best information possible.  Because of AGS, I can now tell the difference between a good website and a bad one and I feel more accomplished.”

Just like AGS, the Leadership Institute challenges students to look beyond the Parish community and identify how they can help others and create change.

“We hope the students learn more about how their passions can be useful in the community and hopefully get some insight into what they might be interested in studying in college or pursue as a career,” noted Still.

As the second class to complete LEAD Projects, the class of 2017 students who finished their projects receive the Leadership Institute endorsement on their diplomas. Leadership Institute students took on a broad range of projects and learned more about fundraising, organizing events, managing their time and fostering Parish’s relationships with local groups, including our DISD partner school Cigarroa Elementary. For example, Nathan Popper ’17 worked with Habitat for Humanity and raised $10,000 to fund two build days. Sophie Alford ’17 created a week-long STEM camp for children at Family Gateway, a Dallas non-profit group that helps homeless families.

“This project meant a lot to me because these silly experiments, such as exploding Coca-Cola with Mentos, making slime and extracting DNA from strawberries, are what got me interested in science,” said Alford.  “I wanted to give these kids the same experience I had, and hopefully encourage them to wonder and explore more. The kids and I had a blast!” (Watch STEM by Sophie)

Margot Siegel ’17 raised money to help children in India whom she met during a ParishAbroad trip. She also collected donations of children’s books for Cigarroa students. Additionally, Jack Bell ‘17 also extended his efforts to the students of Cigarroa.

“My project was to design a field day for our seniors and the Cigarroa Elementary fifth graders that would also be our senior service day,” added Bell. “I really enjoyed this project because it brought our two schools closer together.” (Watch Bell's Cigarroa LEADS Project)

“I am so grateful for my time in the Leadership Institute,” said Brittany Burnecke ’17.  “I know that lessons I have learned will serve me well as I enter the next chapter of my life.”

Burnecke worked with her Blair Fellows class (1st grade) to make lesson plans on promoting independence and teaching life-long learning skills.

“After consulting Lower School faculty and staff, I concluded that the major area of concern amongst 1st graders was a lack of independence,” noted Burnecke. “I realized that when given an assignment, the kids would raise their hand and say they couldn’t do it before reading over it. The steps were: Did you read the directions? Did you look over the activity? Did you ask a friend for help?”

The lessons are applicable to people of all ages, especially younger kids who are developing their academic work habits.

“I believe that by teaching these pivotal lessons now the students will have a more solid foundation and will be able to succeed down the road,” added Burnecke. “Even as Upper School students, it is important to remember that through teamwork we can succeed, and that failure does not define you.”

Through AGS and Leadership Institute, students have been able to pass along their wisdom to others while gaining new insights about themselves along the way. They’ve also developed skills that will help them during future academic and personal endeavors.

“I have become a stronger leader and a more well-rounded one,” said Burnecke. “I also believe that I have grown as a person.”

“The Leadership Institute helped me become a better leader in and out of the classroom,” added Bell.

“I have learned so much about myself, others and how to successfully put together a project from scratch,” noted Alford. “This project took a lot of organizing and planning. Communication was “key” and I actually learned a valuable lesson from my mentor, Sterling May, on persistence and communication.”

“For future Parish students considering this project, I want them to know that it is a commitment and a lot of work,” said Gupta. “There are so many people who help you through it along the way, so you are not alone. In the end, it is so rewarding to look back on everything that you have done and how much research and knowledge you have gained from it all.”

“This is work, and I mean it,” warned Haga. “In the end, I promise it’s all worth it! Any time I would tell a college rep or a person who was interviewing me about AGS, they were blown away and were so intrigued. There will be times when you just want to quit and give up . . .  but push through because the pay off at the end is amazing.”

The AGS Capstone projects of each graduating class are bound into a book that is presented to the class and archived in the Parish library. It is available for purchase in the PAWS bookstore.

Check out the websites for the following AGS projects:

Paris Bland  - “The Norwegian Plan to End Human Trafficking”

Caroline Haga – “Ocean Pollution” Sources, Impacts and Potential Mitigants”

Kathryn Galanis –Cross-Cultural Psychiatry” Diagnosing Mental Health in “Bottom Billion” Countries”


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