Wednesday, January 4, 2017

We get to carry each other: Reflections on a sabbatical

Dean of Students Marty Mooney was on sabbatical last spring, and used the time to do some solo hiking on the Appalachian Trail and in Yosemite National Park. While he expected - and appreciated - the time to quietly contemplate nature, the greatest gift of the trail for him was a deepened "real and true" appreciation for people.

This is my 20th year at Peddie. Harry was born here, my daughters graduated from here, and my wife worked here for many years. I have a deep affection for this place. It is my home, and my profession, and my life. I was here on 9/11, through the death of students, through the death of faculty, through hurricanes, through student dismissals, and every other kind of problem or issue you can imagine. I’ve also bagpiped in the last 15 graduations and have wonderful friendships with more colleagues than I can name. I’ve worked for three awesome heads of school, seen multiple Potter-Kelly cups, athletic dominance, artistic excellence, and I also enjoy the highest of academic honors, teaching PG English. In times of tragedy and in times of joy, and most of all, during times of uncertainty, Peddie is my rock. You are always there.

Last spring, when the school graciously allowed me a sabbatical, I took a trip I never thought I would or could do. I walked 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and I summited two awesome peaks in Yosemite National Park: Clouds Rest and Half Dome. 

The first day out was wonderful. The sun was shining, it was a fairly flat section, so the miles were easy, and I was filled with energy and great optimism about this adventure. At 6:00 that night I made it to camp, got my water, cooked my dinner, and chatted briefly with a couple of thru-hikers. Then it started raining. And it did not stop raining for five days. This was not the trip I signed up for. Like, where were the scenic vistas I saw in the REI catalogue? Not only was I cold and wet and lonely, I was also off the grid. I could get some phone signals for some portion of the day, but for the most part I was cut off. Then the trail got steep, probably not too steep if you’ve been hiking for 1000 miles, like some of the thru-hikers I met. But for my large sized self, I struggled. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The first trip home

Morikeoluwa and Marilise entered Peddie this year as freshmen and live together in Masters dormitory. This winter break marked their first trip to their respective homes since the start of the school year. Excited to be home again, both girls reflect on both the comforts of home and the benefits of now having a "home away from home" at Peddie.

Hometown: Yorktown, Virginia

Peddie has been an unforgettable experience so far, but there is nothing like the special feeling of being at home. It was a six hour drive to my home of Yorktown, Virginia, and I was  really anxious about arriving. I was most excited about living with and seeing my family again. Living with close friends at Peddie is so much fun, but I yearned for the warmth of family. My older brother also attends a boarding school, so this was his first time home this school year, which made the occasion that more significant. When my family was all together for the first time, we came together and had a short prayer. Afterwards, we all shared our experiences from this year thus far. Other than reconnecting with my family, I would have to say the best aspect of being home was being able to sleep in my own bed! 

Not a lot has changed at home, but it definitely was different. My house physically looked different due to new items around. Around my town, everything was the same for the most part, other than a few new buildings here and there. Yorktown may not be the most exciting place, but it is definitely a very special place to me. In fact, what surprised me the most was the lack of extreme change. I'm so glad to be home, but I already miss my Peddie family. Though my home and town may have physically changed, the feeling I get while being here is the exact same.

Hometown: The Hague, Netherlands

I was excited to go home for a few weeks, eager to see my family, friends and cats. Not being home for a long time was hard, but also exciting to have such a new experience. Coming closer to the day of my departure, I became more and more excited. I was thinking of a list of things to do once I arrived home. So, when I finally arrived at Schiphol, Amsterdam airport, I drove back to the city I live in and hopped on my bike to my best friend’s house. Her sister and her mother were waiting for me to go and surprise her. She didn’t know I was arriving that day, so she was so excited and confused when she saw me.

Seeing all my friends made me nervous, they expected me to tell everything, but I wasn’t sure where to start. There was too much to say. Peddie has given me so many opportunities, too many to tell in just a couple of minutes.

Now that I’m home, I can see how much I’ve changed and the changes that have occurred here in Holland. I haven’t set a single step here since August, so I expected things to be different. People have been moving or are going to move, my house has gotten some decorations, houses around me have been renovated or are renovating, etc. As for my friends, it is funny to see that it doesn’t matter how long I was gone, they are still my friends and acted like nothing has changed. That was the most surprising thing to me.

Being home is fun and exciting, but Peddie will forever be my home away from home.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

One in three women. One in four men.

Last month, several Peddie students and faculty traveled to the New York Jets Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, N.J. to attend the One Love Escalation Workshop. The One Love Foundation works with young people across the country to raise awareness about relationship violence. The group met hosts Mike Maccagnan ’85, general manager of the New York Jets, and his wife, Betty. Here, Elle Grant ’18 shares her experience.

Going into this experience I had few expectations and truthfully no idea what was really going to happen. I figured visiting the New York Jets business and practice facility for this One Love event would be an interesting story to tell my football fan brother (the football part) and give myself a little more awareness (the foundation part). I in no way expected to be presented with the incredible opportunity I received that evening.

I was part of a group of several Peddie students who were invited to view the film “Escalation” created by the One Love Foundation and then partake in discussions with other student athletes. The One Love Foundation was founded in memory of Yeardley Love, a victim of domestic violence who was beaten to death by her boyfriend just three weeks shy of her graduation. The foundation helps students recognize the warning signs of abuse.

The One Love Foundation was founded in memory of Yeardley Love. Photo:
I’ll be honest, viewing the 38-minute film was hard at times, and there are moments that were undoubtedly difficult to watch, perhaps because of their undeniable realness. Ms. Maccagnan informed us before we started watching that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 4-7 boys are faced with symptoms of an abusive relationship in their lifetimes. The age group of 16-24 is the most at risk for an abusive relationship. We wondered: could anyone we know be affected?

At the incredible workshop after the film, students and a college-aged moderator got to go through the film and asked the harder questions about consent, the impact of alcohol and other relationship gray areas. Lots of different people asked questions and contributed to the discussion, and the participation of boys and girls was equal. There is such a stigma about boys and relationship violence and I felt it was really great to see how seriously they took the workshop, giving insight and asking questions.

The program was excellent with a message that truly has life or death implications. As someone who has witnessed relationship violence in friends and family, I can testify firsthand what this kind of manipulation and violence can do to a person. One Love Foundation also emphasizes healthy relationships and their message left us all feeling positive and hopeful about the change we can impact. Not sad about the lives we’ve lost, but empowered by the ones we know we can help, which is really powerful.

I know that the other five students and I who attended the workshop are incredibly motivated and moved to help raise awareness about why this program is so important. All of us will be touched by violence in some way and helping students to know ways and strategies to deal with it when they do is vital.

I am so grateful for this opportunity, to the One Love Foundation and to Mr. and Mrs. Maccagnan for giving all of us the chance to see their facility and be exposed to a great cause. Six of our students have been changed; I feel that the rest of the student body deserves that chance as well.

For more information on how Mike '85 and Betty Maccagnan became involved with the One Love Foundation, read here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"I just ran."

Elizabeth "Scout" Zabinski '16 placed first in the 18-19 year-old age category in the New York City Marathon. Her training began at Peddie over a year ago, she said, and the result was "pure ecstasy." She shared her motivation, her strategy and her emotions with us.

I went into the marathon without any goal time in mind. Instead of attempting to run the race in under four hours, I truly just had my heart set on finishing. This would be my first marathon and my father's last.

I had been running constantly since the spring of 2015 without rest, including cross country and both winter and spring track. However, my official marathon training began in June of 2016. Each week I ran one long run, which began at about 9 or 10 miles. Then, I would run the remaining 5 days and cross train one day. I was not one to take a day off. In August the long runs began to grow. By the end of my summer, my longest run was 12 miles. My mom would often ride her bike along side me to entertain me and keep me company as I ran throughout my beach town.

When I got to NYU, I was on my own with training. I continued to run one long run per week. This took up a lot of my time. I ran two 13 miles runs, then 14, 15, and so on until I finally made it to 20 miles. After my 20 mile run, I began to taper because the race was only two and a half weeks away. The training was, without a doubt, the hardest part. I had no one to push me and make me run faster, so I often ran 10 minute mile splits.

Somehow, the day came and I did something I didn't think possible. I pushed myself the entire race but did not keep track of my time or wear a watch. I just ran. For the last 3 miles I put everything into it and just wanted to finish as fast as possible. It was the best day of my life. The crowd gave me more adrenaline than I could ever put into words. In Brooklyn, people gave me candies and fruit and the volunteers supplied us with sugary gatorade at every mile. I never stopped, not once.

I broke into tears once I finished, from pure ecstasy. It was an unimaginable accomplishment for me and I had exceeded any expectations I could have dreamt of for myself. I really love running, not for the competition, but for the joy that it brings when you complete a feat you never think your body is capable of. 

I truly can not comprehend how I won my age group. I am blessed to have trained with Mr. Bright and Mr. Gartner who taught me grit and determination. Remembering their words and lessons, I reminded myself the entire race not to slow down but to just deal with the pain and exhaustion when it comes. I knew that at that moment I would have the spectators and my endurance to help me finish.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Choose your costume well - always be a Falcon

Mike Cummins ’04 has devoted his professional life to supporting children in underserved communities. Following graduation from Brown University in 2008, Cummins spent five years in the Mississippi Delta with Teach For America and the KIPP Foundation. Most recently, he served as principal at Coney Island Prep High School in Brooklyn. At present, Cummins is a teacher at Brownsville Collegiate, an urban public charter school in New York City managed by Uncommon Schools.

At Peddie, Cummins was a standout on the lacrosse team. He was a rising freshman star on the undefeated 2001 team, which was inducted into the Peddie Sports Hall of Fame in June. Cummins continued his lacrosse career at Brown, where he was recognized for his passion and commitment on the practice field and on game day.

He returned to Peddie to deliver this Chapel talk and to pose three challenges to students.

Implicit….is the understanding that we are not masters of our fate, and the seasons and movements of life are often beyond us. Those close to nature, like that fast disappearing breed – the farmer – have always known that winds and storms, droughts and plagues, visit us – but also depart. It is for the farmers to cope with nature by understanding it as best they can, by cooperating with its seasons and forces. They do not make their crops grow; they understand and cooperate with the natural life that enables them to grow.
Problems with ourselves and with our children that appear unsolvable will not be solved by us alone – if, indeed they are solved. Rather they must be seen as being a part of a rhythm, a movement, and inscrutable order of life. Some problems we can help to solve, but only if we have the love, wisdom, and humility to cooperate with nature and its seasons, if we do not try to play God. Let us lay aside our frenetic worries and anxieties; let us relax and seek to cooperate with forces beyond our understanding.
This reading was originally delivered to a school community in the year 1970 by a man named Charles Martin. Charles Martin replaced Peter Quinn’s father as Headmaster of St. Albans.

Like Peddie, St. Albans is a community near to my heart. During my lacrosse-playing days at Brown University, I had five teammates who hailed from the all-boys school in Washington DC. If we are to judge schools by the quality of their alumni, St. Albans shines as a paragon of integrity, effort and accomplishment. I am sure your future classmates, teammates and colleagues will be left with an equally favorable impression of Peddie based on their time working alongside you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

TEDx Tuesday: Baher Azmy

In the spring of 2016, Peddie launched its inaugural TEDx Peddie event. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading. In this spirit, TED has created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Organized by students, and with the help of the Alumni & Development office, TEDx Peddie brought to campus six industry leaders, some of whom are Peddie alumni, to speak on the theme "The future as we know it."

Baher Azmy was the third civilian lawyer to enter the inner sanctum of Guantanamo Bay's Camp Echo to meet with a client. His story of that meeting explains both the principles that led Azmy to Guantanamo, and the profound humanity that inspires those principles.

Speaker biography: Baher Azmy is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he directs all litigation and advocacy around issues related to the promotion of civil and human rights. At CCR, he has litigated landmark cases related to discriminatory policing practices (stop and frisk), unlawful government surveillance, the rights of Guantanamo detainees, and accountability for victims of torture. Baher is currently on leave from his faculty position at Seton Hall University School of Law, where he taught Constitutional Law.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

TEDx Tuesday: Aarti Kapoor '03

In the spring of 2016, Peddie launched its inaugural TEDx Peddie event. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading. In this spirit, TED has createdTEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Organized by students, and with the help of the Alumni & Development office, TEDx Peddie brought to campus six industry leaders, some of whom are Peddie alumni, to speak on the theme "The future as we know it."

Aarti Kapoor '03 speaks about the evolution of the consumer. In recent years, Kapoor says, "Consumers have shifted away from big box, generic concepts where brand doesn't really matter, to premium, boutique concepts, where brand and experience are everything." Opportunities abound for high-end specialty brands across the consumer landscape like never before, and many of them are health and wellness focused. 

Speaker biography: Aarti Kapoor '03 founded and currently leads the Health and Wellness industry platform at Moelis & Company, a New York based investment bank, covering companies and financial sponsors across fitness services, active wear, VMS, healthy food and beverage and various other categories in healthy and active living. Aarti was named to Forbes "30 Under 30" for Finance in 2015. Prior to joining Moelis, Aarti worked in the investment banking division at Citigroup in New York. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Harvard University.