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Junior Alex Armknecht named Aspirations in Computing Northern Utah Affiliate winner, sophomore Katy Dark and teacher Ben Smith ’89 receive honorable mentions

It helps me confirm my commitment to equity and inclusion of girls in computer science classes at Rowland Hall.—Teacher Ben Smith ’89

Computer science teacher and alumnus Ben Smith ’89 has spent the past several years encouraging his students as they apply for—and often place in—the National Center for Women and Information Technology's (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing awards. For the first time this year, NCWIT recognized the teacher alongside his students.

Ben learned in March that he’d been named a 2019 Northern Utah Affiliate Honorable Mention recipient of the NCWIT Educator Award, which goes to teachers who continually encourage young women’s aspirations in computing.

“I have been active with NCWIT for several years now, and it was good to get recognition for those efforts—it was a bit of a surprise,” Ben said. “It helps me confirm my commitment to equity and inclusion of girls in computer science classes at Rowland Hall.”

Ben was one of three teachers honored by the regional affiliate, junior Alex Armknecht was one of 16 student winners, and sophomore Katy Dark was one of 30 honorable mentions. Student winners are selected annually "based on their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing; leadership ability; academic history; and plans for post-secondary education," according to Aspirations in Computing (AiC).

Teacher with students at awards ceremony for women in computing.

From left, sophomore Katy Dark, teacher Ben Smith, and junior Alex Armknecht at the regional awards ceremony in March.

Since 2014, 11 Rowland Hall students have earned a collective 14 NCWIT awards, including two honorable mentions at the national level.

Alex’s 2019 award follows her honorable mention last year. A Middle School coding seminar first sparked Alex’s interest in the subject—from there, she worked with administrators and faculty to create a computing elective, and even recruited other girls to take the class. Last year in Ben’s AP Computer Science Principles class, Alex made a math app to help kids learn division, and fourth graders in teacher Tyler Stack's class picked her project as their favorite. She plans to keep studying computer science.

Katy also plans to pursue computing. In addition to the AiC award, she recently won a national President's Volunteer Service Award for her work tutoring students and developing a coding club at Dual Immersion Academy, a bilingual Spanish-English charter school she attended during her elementary years.

Ben, Alex, and Katy attended a March 16 ceremony in Provo where they met peer students and teachers, accepted their awards, and left with swag bags—a much-anticipated highlight for Ben. “Every year I see my students getting these killer swag bags and I go home empty handed,” the teacher joked before attending the ceremony. “I might just get one of my own this year.”

Since 2014, 10 Rowland Hall students have earned a collective 14 NCWIT awards, including two honorable mentions at the national level. The center and its AiC awards have become big names in the computer science world. Women are underrepresented in that field, but the 2004-founded organization is working hard to move the needle and empower women to pursue and succeed in computing.

Related stories

STEM

Computer Science Teacher, Students Earn Regional Recognition from Women in Tech Nonprofit

Junior Alex Armknecht named Aspirations in Computing Northern Utah Affiliate winner, sophomore Katy Dark and teacher Ben Smith ’89 receive honorable mentions

It helps me confirm my commitment to equity and inclusion of girls in computer science classes at Rowland Hall.—Teacher Ben Smith ’89

Computer science teacher and alumnus Ben Smith ’89 has spent the past several years encouraging his students as they apply for—and often place in—the National Center for Women and Information Technology's (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing awards. For the first time this year, NCWIT recognized the teacher alongside his students.

Ben learned in March that he’d been named a 2019 Northern Utah Affiliate Honorable Mention recipient of the NCWIT Educator Award, which goes to teachers who continually encourage young women’s aspirations in computing.

“I have been active with NCWIT for several years now, and it was good to get recognition for those efforts—it was a bit of a surprise,” Ben said. “It helps me confirm my commitment to equity and inclusion of girls in computer science classes at Rowland Hall.”

Ben was one of three teachers honored by the regional affiliate, junior Alex Armknecht was one of 16 student winners, and sophomore Katy Dark was one of 30 honorable mentions. Student winners are selected annually "based on their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing; leadership ability; academic history; and plans for post-secondary education," according to Aspirations in Computing (AiC).

Teacher with students at awards ceremony for women in computing.

From left, sophomore Katy Dark, teacher Ben Smith, and junior Alex Armknecht at the regional awards ceremony in March.

Since 2014, 11 Rowland Hall students have earned a collective 14 NCWIT awards, including two honorable mentions at the national level.

Alex’s 2019 award follows her honorable mention last year. A Middle School coding seminar first sparked Alex’s interest in the subject—from there, she worked with administrators and faculty to create a computing elective, and even recruited other girls to take the class. Last year in Ben’s AP Computer Science Principles class, Alex made a math app to help kids learn division, and fourth graders in teacher Tyler Stack's class picked her project as their favorite. She plans to keep studying computer science.

Katy also plans to pursue computing. In addition to the AiC award, she recently won a national President's Volunteer Service Award for her work tutoring students and developing a coding club at Dual Immersion Academy, a bilingual Spanish-English charter school she attended during her elementary years.

Ben, Alex, and Katy attended a March 16 ceremony in Provo where they met peer students and teachers, accepted their awards, and left with swag bags—a much-anticipated highlight for Ben. “Every year I see my students getting these killer swag bags and I go home empty handed,” the teacher joked before attending the ceremony. “I might just get one of my own this year.”

Since 2014, 10 Rowland Hall students have earned a collective 14 NCWIT awards, including two honorable mentions at the national level. The center and its AiC awards have become big names in the computer science world. Women are underrepresented in that field, but the 2004-founded organization is working hard to move the needle and empower women to pursue and succeed in computing.

Related stories

STEM

Explore More Ethical Education Stories

Rowland Hall community members unload donations for the Navajo Nation in the wake of COVID-19.

Since 2016, the schools and families of Utah’s Navajo Nation communities in Bluff and Montezuma Creek have graciously embraced teaching and connecting with Rowland Hall students and faculty during Upper School Interim and beyond.

They’ve invited us into their homes, shared their traditions, and even traveled to our school for race-relations workshops, strengthening our nation-to-nation ties. In the wake of COVID-19, Rowland Hall finally had a chance to give back. Our students, families, and dozens of alumni affiliated with Navajo Nation projects in past years rallied to collect three truckloads of resources for hard-hit Navajo families and schools.

Donations included 68 art kits for elementary-aged kids, enough art supplies to cover curriculum needs for all Whitehorse middle and high schoolers, 52 gift certificates, 200 homemade masks, five donation checks, and various household items—from toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, to cleaning supplies and pet food.

In mid-May, a small-but-mighty contingency of Rowland Hall folks made the trek down to Bluff: Director of Arts Sofa Gorder and her children, Jules Framme (fourth grade) and Solenne Framme (kindergarten); Director of Community Programs Allison Spehar and her daughter, Chiyoko Spehar (eighth grade); and alum Yuan Oliver Jin ’18. The group met administrators from local schools and the executive director of We Are Navajo, and they worked together to sort through every single donation and help get it to the best place. Donations included 68 art kits for elementary-aged kids, enough art supplies to cover curriculum needs for all Whitehorse middle and high schoolers, 52 gift certificates, 200 homemade masks, five donation checks, and various household items—from toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, to cleaning supplies and pet food. In addition to We Are Navajo and the White Horse students, donations went to the Rural Utah Project and to emergency medical technicians volunteering in Bluff.

Junior Elena Barker had been eager to visit the Navajo Nation for Interim this spring—she would’ve worked on art projects with kindergarteners. After the pandemic hit, she and her family sprang into action, donating art supplies for kids and gift cards to help Navajo seniors attend summer programs at a college in Price. “I wanted whatever we did to make kids smile,” Elena said, “or allow kids to explore different aspects of education that they are interested in.”

Sofia and Allison gave a sincere shoutout to the approximately 100 community members like Elena who put hard and fast work into making this happen. “Our effort does not go unnoticed,” Allison said. “There is so much gratitude from our partners on the Navajo Nation. And, in reality, it barely scratches the surface of the kind of support this community deserves as a part of our state and country.” The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and magnified institutional inequities, Sofia explained. “While there is so much more work to be done, this very moment is one that shows the true utility in authentic partnerships between communities that are vastly different, but that share boundaries.”

While there is so much more work to be done, this very moment is one that shows the true utility in authentic partnerships between communities that are vastly different, but that share boundaries.—Director of Arts Sofa Gorder

Junior Katie Kern—who visited the Navajo Nation for Interim in 2019 and would’ve gone again this year—echoed Allison and Sofia’s sentiments. “The people that I met in the Navajo Nation are simply good people who don't deserve what is going on right now,” Katie said, recalling how she loved dancing with the middle schoolers there, and meeting fellow high schoolers. “When good people go through something like this and resources become scarce, people need to come together and do what they can to provide some comfort.”

And we were able to provide some comfort, Sofia reiterated, due to our several years spent building trust and relationships. “Without these relationships, I am almost positive we would have seen less effort from our current and past students, and much less efficiency in getting the collected supplies to the right places and to the right people in a timely manner.”

Allison and Sofia gave a special thanks to the following community members who helped to make this happen through work and donations: Middle School Administrative Assistant Andrea Beckman; Brian, Karey, and Elena Barker; Martin, Krista, and Katie Kern; junior Samantha Paisley; parent Jacqueline Wittmeyer; Upper School Principal Ingrid Gustavson and family; and Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund.

Interested in helping from home? Consider donating to the Rural Utah Project or We Are Navajo.

Ethical Education

Dulce Maria Horn driving through the senior parade.

Senior social justice advocate Dulce Maria Horn feels an innate pull to help the Latinx community, and in her stirring words, to ultimately “change the policies which entrap the comunidad I love so dearly.”

This deep passion to spur change has put Dulce on a seemingly unstoppable upward trajectory—and one that’s further bolstered by an impressive series of scholarship awards this spring. 

In April, Dulce learned she’d won the Rotary Club of Salt Lake City’s $5,000 scholarship, which Rotarians give to one senior from each Salt Lake City high school. In addition to the Rotary honor, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah announced in May that Dulce (along with senior classmate Ria Agarwal) won a $3,500 Youth Activist Scholarship for 2020. The senior also won a John Greenleaf Whittier Scholarship from Whittier College, where she plans to major in global and cultural studies starting in the fall. Whittier will be a crucial step toward Dulce’s longer-term goal: becoming an immigration lawyer and working with unaccompanied, undocumented minors to provide emotional and legal support.


In the above ACLU Utah video, Dulce explains what being a civil liberties activist means to her: using the power that we have "to fight for all rights, for all humans, regardless of any barriers."

The work that I do helps me to feel that I am actualizing the justice immigrants deserve, due to the fact that we are a historically and continually marginalized community.

Dulce is Latina and bilingual, and her life story is central to her work: she was adopted and came to Salt Lake City from Guatemala at six months old. She grew up in what she called a predominantly White, upper-middle-class world, and from a young age, she’s used her advantages to help others: “Due to my relative privilege and outlook on life, I pressure myself to support my family and community,” Dulce wrote in her Rotary essay. “The work that I do helps me to feel that I am actualizing the justice immigrants deserve, due to the fact that we are a historically and continually marginalized community.”

The Rowland Hall lifer developed an activist mindset early on: she was only eight years old when she started volunteering for Safe Passage, a nonprofit that aids families who are making a living from Guatemala City’s garbage dump. In eighth grade she volunteered as a teacher’s assistant at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, helping Spanish-speaking adults learn English. And in 2018, she began volunteering for immigrant rights nonprofit Comunidades Unidas (CU), where she’s worked on Latinx community empowerment—including voter registration—and accrued several awards for her efforts. Accolades aside, Dulce finds the greatest rewards in the work itself: in the people she meets, and the progress she makes.

Through her work, Dulce met Vicky Chavez—an undocumented mother entering sanctuary with her two daughters. An unbreakable bond ensued. “Vicky’s daughters are no longer clients or friends; they are my sisters."

One anecdote is particularly emblematic of what drives Dulce. In 2018, through her work on deportation cases with the SLC Sanctuary Network, Dulce met Vicky Chavez—an undocumented mother entering sanctuary with her two daughters. Since Dulce is especially interested in helping children, she opted to work with Vicky’s kids. An unbreakable bond ensued. “Vicky’s daughters are no longer clients or friends; they are my sisters,” Dulce wrote in her Rotary essay. “Immigrants deserve fair and just laws and regulations that uplift rather than harm. No Ban. No Wall. No Remain in Mexico. No Separación.”

Rowland Hall Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund praised Dulce’s breadth of work and, in the case of the Rotary scholarship, explained what gave her an edge in an impressive applicant pool. “Dulce's engagement with the asylum-seeking community in Salt Lake expands the definition of service to include community activism. The Rotarians were so impressed by Dulce embracing an ethic of inclusion and working tirelessly on an issue from many angles,” Ryan said. The senior, he added, embodies a genuine concern for humanity and the conditions faced by the most vulnerable among us. “For those not even recognized legally to request a redress of grievance, Dulce is a powerful and compassionate voice.”

Thanks to Rowland Hall, I am one of the only people (and most certainly the youngest) to have roles in public speaking in my activist circle.

Though Rowland Hall had little to no impact on Dulce’s unique and extensive activism journey, she credits her school for giving her a solid foundation in public speaking. Through her work at CU and beyond, Dulce has made speeches galore, spoken at press conferences and on radio shows, and led workshops and classes. “I have no fear of public speaking, whether it be in front of the press or a tiny workshop. Rowland Hall helped greatly with this,” she said, adding she still remembers reciting poetry in second grade and giving a speech about a famous role model in third grade. “Thanks to Rowland Hall, I am one of the only people (and most certainly the youngest) to have roles in public speaking in my activist circle.”

For now, Dulce looks forward to continuing to fight for immigrant rights during her college years, and she’s happy that her scholarships will help her pay for Whittier. But true to her personality, Dulce is quick to shift the focus off of her as an individual, and onto the greater struggle: activists often work in silence and with little recognition, she said, trying to keep immigrants healthy and their families united. There are many others who are equally worthy: “Thousands of people deserve a scholarship for their hard work to keep immigrants safe.”

students

Sophie Dau waterfront portrait

Sophie Dau used a Federal Bar Association (FBA) civics essay contest as the springboard for her final project in Disability History, an elective taught by Dr. Nate Kogan ’00.

The junior aced Nate’s assignment with her paper advocating stronger voting rights for people with disabilities. On May 29, Sophie learned via email that she also aced the national contest—she won first place, and a $1,500 scholarship.

As part of Nate’s op-ed essay assignment, he encouraged students to submit their work for publication. This is a recurring theme across Rowland Hall curricula: teachers help students develop and share their voices, often publicly, to foster change—from fourth-grade letters about brine shrimp to op-eds written for Upper School English and published in local outlets such as The Salt Lake Tribune. Nate’s assignment—inspired in part by the work of University of Delaware Assistant Professor Jairpreet Virdi—is cut from a similar cloth:

“One feature of being a historian is to address current events for a public unfamiliar with historical scholarship. Write a 900–1,200 word essay in response to an issue that has made waves in the media, or in response to media misconceptions of historical facts. You are encouraged (but not required) to submit your piece for publication to popular blogs like Nursing Clio, Remedia, All of Us (the Disability History Association blog), etc., or to general interest newspapers, like The Salt Lake Tribune or Deseret News, or magazines like Slate, Vox, or The Atlantic. This assignment ideally provides good practice for grappling with the field of public history and engaging a wider audience in historical context, evidence, and analysis.”

According to the FBA, over 250 students submitted contest entries on this year’s topic: “The 19th Amendment turns 100: Why is the right to vote still important?” In addition to what she learned in Disability History, Sophie channeled her knowledge from another one of Nate’s classes: Advanced Topics US History. And as the editor of the Upper School newspaper, the Rowland Hall Gazette, Sophie is no stranger to crafting her writing for a wider audience. Her understanding of and passion for her chosen topic shines through in her words, and we congratulate Sophie on this well-deserved win.


“Not Disabled and Therefore Deserve the Vote”: 
Voting Rights for People With Disabilities

By Sophie Dau

The right to vote is so fundamental that a lack of voices from one particular group leads to a lack of representation for that group both politically and socially, and therefore continues the cycle of oppression.Although the U.S. was founded as a democracy, it was a long time before most citizens truly had the right to vote, and some are still denied that privilege even though it is fundamental to maintaining a representative government. Even now, certain marginalized groups struggle to have accessibility to polls. When we tell the history of gaining the right to vote, it usually focuses on two main groups: African Americans and women. Obviously, the 15th and 19th Amendments were huge steps in increasing suffrage for all citizens, but there's another group that has been historically left out of the discussion: people with disabilities. Their stories are incredibly important because they've gone untold and their disenfranchisement unquestioned or even supported by other minorities. The right to vote is so fundamental that a lack of voices from one particular group leads to a lack of representation for that group both politically and socially, and therefore continues the cycle of oppression.

Historically, people with disabilities, especially mental ones, have been denied the right to vote. During the Antebellum period, many states specifically barred either those under guardianship or those considered insane from voting.1 Many of those laws still affect people with disabilities today. The Utah Constitution, for example, states in Article IV Section 6 that “any mentally incompetent person… may not be permitted to vote at any election.”2 One major argument for preventing people with mental disabilities from voting currently is voter fraud, where someone who assists the person votes for who they want instead. Even if that happened—which isn't likely—it's completely unfair to prevent a significant number of people from voting just for a few outlying cases. As Michelle Bishop, an advocacy specialist at the National Disability Rights Network, commented, “it’s not the person with a disability committing the crime—it’s the caretaker or family member.”3 Although voter fraud is a serious issue, it is unfair to deny someone the right to vote based on their identity just because of a crime someone else could commit; that’s not protecting someone’s rights, it’s stripping them of those rights.

The mere idea of using disability as a way to argue against expanding voting rights reflects the attitude in the U.S. that either physical or mental deviation from the norm was justification to deny the right to vote.

Even a step further, both pro- and anti-suffragists used rhetoric around disability to either argue for or against suffrage for ethnic minorities or women. As historian of disability Douglas Baynton argues, this disability rhetoric appears most prominently during the women’s suffrage movement where, for the most part, the fundamental question wasn’t if everyone regardless of gender should be able to vote, but if women were able enough to vote.4 For example, opponents of women's suffrage argued "that women had disabilities that made them incapable of using the franchise responsibly," to which suffragettes responded that "women were not disabled and therefore deserved the vote."5 Rather than attack the underlying argument that people with disabilities don't deserve to vote, suffragists denied their disability or attributed it to inequality. Supporters of suffrage for black people drew on the same underlying logic. Fredrick Douglass argued that “the true basis of rights [to vote] was the capacity of individuals.”6 The fact that even suffrage activists, who clearly want everyone to vote, accepted the premise that voting should coincide with ability shows how deeply ingrained and unquestioned the ideology that disability is grounds for disenfranchisement has been. The mere idea of using disability as a way to argue against expanding voting rights reflects the attitude in the U.S. that either physical or mental deviation from the norm was justification to deny the right to vote.

Unsurprisingly, people with disabilities have struggled to get the right to vote, and even when they do, accessibility is still an issue. The first major legislation to help with voting accessibility was the Voter Registration Act in 1993. Although originally passed to stop discrimination based on race or gender, Section 208 allows for people with "blindness, disability, or the inability to read or write" to have someone help them cast a ballot. Other laws that have improved accessibility include the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act and the Help America Vote Act in 1984 and 2002, respectively. VAEHA requires that all federal polling locations be accessible. HAVA requires the polling locations and surrounding areas to be accessible as well as having at least one accessible machine. Both of these acts have been critiqued, though, because they only apply to federal elections and therefore don’t guarantee accessibility at a local level. Curtis Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, said in an interview with the Huffington Post that “accessibility can be especially difficult in smaller towns and rural areas where polling stations are often located in church basements, clubs and private homes,” which leads to many people with disabilities not voting.7 Despite making progress in voting rights, more laws are necessary to ensure full accessibility at polls as well as reducing the number of people with disabilities who are barred from voting.

The U.S. cannot claim to be a full democracy until everyone has the assistance and accessibility to participate as a citizen.

Although there have been major steps to increase voting rights for the disabled community, many states still bar those with mental issues from voting.8 There is not full enfranchisement for people with disabilities; even those who legally can vote don’t due to accessibility issues. In the 2016 election, only 55.9% of people with disabilities voted,9 compared to the national average of 61% (for women it was 63% and black voters were 59%).10 The U.S. cannot claim to be a full democracy until everyone has the assistance and accessibility to participate as a citizen. The right to vote is a fundamental way to feel like an active participant in society, so to deny many people this right denies them from feeling fully included, which only adds to their sense of marginalization, since people with disabilities are already excluded in so many other ways. Even 100 years after the 19th Amendment was passed, the fight for suffrage goes on for many minorities; it should go on until every citizen is enfranchised and has accessibility to polls.

student voices


  1. Kim E. Nielsen, A Disability History of the United States (Boston: Beacon Press, 2012), 76.

  2. Utah Const. art. IV § 6. https://le.utah.gov/xcode/ArticleIV/Article_IV,_Section_6.html?v=UC_AIV_S6_1800010118000101.

  3. Vasilogambros, Matt. "Thousands Lose Right to Vote under 'Incompetence' Laws," Pew Research Center, March 21, 2018. https://pew.org/2HMUHyo.

  4. Douglas C. Baynton, "Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History," in The New Disability History: American Perspectives, ed. Paul K. Longmore and Lauri Umansky (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 43.

  5. Baynton, "Disability and the Justification," in The New Disability, 42, 43.

  6. Baynton, "Disability and the Justification," in The New Disability, 44.

  7. Bellware, Kim. "It's 2014, but It's Still Difficult for People with Disabilities to Vote," HuffPost, November 4, 2014. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/voters-with-disabilities_n_6102132.

  8. National Disability Rights Network, and Schulte Roth & Zabel. "State Laws Affecting the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities." Table. 2016. http://www.bazelon.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2016_State-Laws-Affecting-Voting-Rights-of-PWD.pdf.

  9. Census Bureau. "Table 6: Reported Voting and Registration, by Sex, Employment Status, Class of Worker, and Disability Status: November 2016." Table. Census Bureau. May 2017. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/voting-and-registration/p20-580.html.

  10. Census Bureau. "Table 2: Reported Voting and Registration, by Race, Hispanic Origin, Sex, and Age, for the United States: November 2016." Table. Census Bureau. May 2017. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/voting-and-registration/p20-580.html.


Bibliography

Baynton, Douglas C. "Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History." In The New Disability History: American Perspectives, edited by Paul K. Longmore and Lauri Umansky, 33-57. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Bellware, Kim. "It's 2014, but It's Still Difficult for People with Disabilities to Vote." HuffPost, November 4, 2014. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/voters-with- disabilities_n_6102132.

Census Bureau. "Table 2: Reported Voting and Registration, by Race, Hispanic Origin, Sex, and Age, for the United States: November 2016." Table. Census Bureau. May 2017. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/voting-and- registration/p20-580.html.

National Disability Rights Network, and Schulte Roth & Zabel. "State Laws Affecting the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities." Table. 2016. http://www.bazelon.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2016_State-Laws- Affecting-Voting-Rights-of-PWD.pdf.

Nielsen, Kim E. A Disability History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press, 2012.

U.S. Const. art. IV § 6. https://le.utah.gov/xcode/ArticleIV/Article_IV,_Section_6.html?v=UC_AIV_S6_1800010118000101.

Vasilogambros, Matt. "Thousands Lose Right to Vote under 'Incompetence' Laws." Pew Research Center, March 21, 2018. https://pew.org/2HMUHyo.

The Rowland Hall Roots & Shoots club meets Jane Goodall.

By Samantha Paisley, Class of 2021 

In October 2019, the Rowland Hall Roots & Shoots club had an incredible opportunity when, through the connections made by biology teacher Rob Wilson, they were invited to a lecture given by Dr. Jane Goodall at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. Samantha Paisley, co-president of the club, and four other members attended this event and met Dr. Goodall. Below, Samantha reflects on the experience and shares how Dr. Goodall inspired her.

We were all so excited for the opportunity to listen to Dr. Jane Goodall. I took notes, trying to capture every bit of knowledge that was being absorbed by the room. Every time I looked around, the audience was captivated, fixated, listening. We learned about her childhood and her lifelong love for animals. We learned that as a young woman she had followed her passions and, once she had saved enough money to get on a boat in England, she went straight to Tanzania. 

Dr. Goodall’s research redefined what it means to be human.

As I write this reflection on Mother’s Day, I am looking back at Jane’s origin story and am in awe of the amount of support she got from her mother, Margaret Joseph. Her mother was the one who got her her first animal book when she was little, and her mother encouraged her to hop on a boat with very few plans. It was also her mother who saw Jane’s love for animals. Margaret knew what Jane was capable of, and she did whatever she could to help her daughter follow her dreams. Mind you, this was in the 1960s. And Margaret was onto something, as Dr. Goodall’s research redefined what it means to be human.

After the lecture, our club was led out the back entrance of the room, down a very long hallway, down some stairs, and finally ushered into a waiting room with other small groups. The Rowland Hall Roots & Shoots club was then escorted into a brightly lit conference room. At once, Dr. Goodall walked into the room. The first thing she said was, “Bahh please, you must turn these lights off. There is no need for ceiling lights when we have beautiful natural daylight!” That's all I needed to hear. After that one sentence, I was satisfied. I was standing less than 10 feet away from Dr. Goodall, and she had captivated the room by walking in and noticing that the lights didn't need to be on in the middle of that day. I have never met anyone with such influence. I guess if someone is an icon it doesn't really matter what they do. Nevertheless, I couldn't have been more humbled to meet such a well-known woman who cared more about the lights and conserving energy than she did about fame and popularity.

She sat down right next to me and asked us what we were doing with our club. I told her my co-president Elena Barker and I had designed our chapter of the Roots & Shoots club as an educational platform to teach lower schoolers the importance of the environment. I told her about the learning games we played with the kids at the Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center’s aftercare program. 

I know Dr. Goodall wouldn’t stop even if the entire world were shut down. Therefore, during this time I have not stopped being conscious of my carbon footprint and I try to minimize how much plastic I use on a daily basis. I have also continued to brainstorm ideas for next year, which will hopefully be the best year the Rowland Hall branch of the Roots & Shoots club has ever seen.

She thought this was good but something told me it wasn't good enough. To put Dr. Goodall’s influence into perspective, at the age of 86, she travels almost every day, all around the world, spreading her message. She must be exhausted, but activism and the education of the youth of the world are most important to her. It's incredible that after she gives a talk, she then takes the time to sit down with a few high schoolers to discuss how to best educate little kids on the importance of protecting the environment. The conversation didn’t feel rushed or artificial either. I sensed she genuinely cared.

Elena and I took her motivation to heart. We needed to be doing more, but it needed to be meaningful. So we decided to continue with our theme of education, with a goal to connect our community, just like Dr. Goodall had connected the world. In addition to the Lower School kids, we set our sights on influencing a tougher crowd—sixth graders. We joined the sixth grade on a snowshoe hike to learn about the watershed, the trees, and the animals in the Wasatch. We had plans to play interactive games similar to the ones we created with Sunnyvale. We were also planning a trail cleanup and maintenance day with them this spring. Unfortunately, everything was canceled due to COVID-19. But I know Dr. Goodall wouldn’t stop even if the entire world were shut down. Therefore, during this time I have not stopped being conscious of my carbon footprint and I try to minimize how much plastic I use on a daily basis. I have also continued to brainstorm ideas for next year, which will hopefully be the best year the Rowland Hall branch of the Roots & Shoots club has ever seen.


Top photo, from left: Rob Wilson, Grace Smith, Katie Kern, Dr. Goodall, Samantha Paisley, and Heidi Paisley.

Ethical Education

You Belong at Rowland Hall