Custom Class: post-landing-hero

After honing her letter-to-the-editor skills in Kody Partridge’s English 11 class, junior Laura Summerfield took that lesson to the next level: she entered and won Westminster College's annual Honors College Statewide Essay Contest. Read her winning essay in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Laura—an aspiring journalist herself—penned the persuasive piece in response to the following prompt: “Write an essay (600 words or less) that explores the role played by media in promoting or impeding civility in our political and civic discourse. In an age of Twitter and ‘fake news,’ what responsibility does the media have to encourage civility?”

My generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.—Laura Summerfield, Class of 2020

The contest drew 85 entrants from 22 high schools across Utah, according to Westminster Honors College Dean Richard Badenhausen. A distinguished, bipartisan panel of five judges (a former Salt Lake City mayor, an acclaimed author, a lobbyist, a professor, and a Trib reporter) evaluated 13 finalists. Although it was an extremely close contest—Laura won by one point—her essay was the only one that appeared on every judge’s ballot.

Westminster held the contest in conjunction with a March 19 lecture by New York Times Op-Ed Editor James Dao. Laura received her prize, a $2,000 check, that evening, and the Trib published her piece not long after.

“When I received the email telling me I had won, I literally didn't believe it,” Laura said. “Even when my essay was in the Trib, I didn't believe it. I still don't believe it.”

I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others.—Upper School English Teacher Kody Partridge

Incredulous as she may be, there’s no denying that Laura—thanks in part to family discussions and Kody’s class—was well prepared to respond to this year’s prompt. “The topic resonated with me because my family's go-to pre-dinner, dinner, and post-dinner programming is the news and political talk shows, so I knew the state of our political climate,” Laura said. “This topic is important because my generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.”

Kody attended the March event to support Laura and hear the lecture. Though Laura didn’t write the award-winning essay specifically for Kody’s class, the beloved Upper School teacher of over 16 years has a unit that covers writing letters to the editor, and respectfully and compellingly voicing opinions outside of the classroom. “I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others,” Kody said. The lesson certainly got through to Laura, and Kody is a proud teacher. “Laura is a talented writer and a thoughtful young woman,” she said. “It was a fantastic letter.”


Top photo: Laura and Kody at the March 16 event.

Writing

Junior Wins Statewide Essay Contest on the Media’s Role in Promoting Civil Discourse

After honing her letter-to-the-editor skills in Kody Partridge’s English 11 class, junior Laura Summerfield took that lesson to the next level: she entered and won Westminster College's annual Honors College Statewide Essay Contest. Read her winning essay in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Laura—an aspiring journalist herself—penned the persuasive piece in response to the following prompt: “Write an essay (600 words or less) that explores the role played by media in promoting or impeding civility in our political and civic discourse. In an age of Twitter and ‘fake news,’ what responsibility does the media have to encourage civility?”

My generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.—Laura Summerfield, Class of 2020

The contest drew 85 entrants from 22 high schools across Utah, according to Westminster Honors College Dean Richard Badenhausen. A distinguished, bipartisan panel of five judges (a former Salt Lake City mayor, an acclaimed author, a lobbyist, a professor, and a Trib reporter) evaluated 13 finalists. Although it was an extremely close contest—Laura won by one point—her essay was the only one that appeared on every judge’s ballot.

Westminster held the contest in conjunction with a March 19 lecture by New York Times Op-Ed Editor James Dao. Laura received her prize, a $2,000 check, that evening, and the Trib published her piece not long after.

“When I received the email telling me I had won, I literally didn't believe it,” Laura said. “Even when my essay was in the Trib, I didn't believe it. I still don't believe it.”

I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others.—Upper School English Teacher Kody Partridge

Incredulous as she may be, there’s no denying that Laura—thanks in part to family discussions and Kody’s class—was well prepared to respond to this year’s prompt. “The topic resonated with me because my family's go-to pre-dinner, dinner, and post-dinner programming is the news and political talk shows, so I knew the state of our political climate,” Laura said. “This topic is important because my generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.”

Kody attended the March event to support Laura and hear the lecture. Though Laura didn’t write the award-winning essay specifically for Kody’s class, the beloved Upper School teacher of over 16 years has a unit that covers writing letters to the editor, and respectfully and compellingly voicing opinions outside of the classroom. “I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others,” Kody said. The lesson certainly got through to Laura, and Kody is a proud teacher. “Laura is a talented writer and a thoughtful young woman,” she said. “It was a fantastic letter.”


Top photo: Laura and Kody at the March 16 event.

Writing

Explore More Stories By Students

Class of 2020 valedictorian Adrian Gushin delivers his commencement speech.

I think what we have learned about ourselves and each other throughout our years at Rowland Hall is that we do not give up. When the going gets tough, we get tougher. When life gives us a pandemic, we turn it into an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to connect with each other in spite of the challenges around us.—Adrian Gushin, valedictorian

At this year's fifth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade graduation ceremonies, student speakers shared funny, reflective, and inspiring stories.

Leo Smart, student body president, delivering his commencement speech.

Leo Smart, student body president.

Senior Adrian Gushin spoke of the resiliency of the class of 2020, while Leo Smart reflected on the many memories that he and his peers made during their time at Rowland Hall.

Eighth-grade students Marina Peng, Paige Connery, and Lauren Bates shared the many events that shaped their collective Middle School memories.

Several fifth-grade students thanked their teachers, family, and friends for helping to create a supportive and engaging learning environment in the Lower School.

We have posted their stories here for you to enjoy.


Top photo: Valedictorian Adrian Gushin recording his speech, which was shared with graduates and their families during the May 30 online commencement.

Student Voices

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.

Katerina Gianoulis celebrates her brother's graduation, with social distancing.

By Katerina Gianoulis, Class of 2023

Editor’s note: Katerina completed this assignment regarding her experience during the COVID-19 global pandemic in early May 2020. Readers should be aware that some observations in this piece are a reflection of what was happening at that moment in history.

The spread of COVID-19 has had a wide range of effects. From how we are performing everyday activities to what we are seeing through the media, the consequences of coronavirus have had a toll on everybody in unique ways. Below, I highlight four values that coronavirus is changing and how they have affected my generation.

Material Values Are Shifting

The values we put on physical things have changed. Utah, home to the world’s biggest Costco, has run out of many supplies, including tissues, paper towels, and, yes, toilet paper. One thing I’ve noticed about these supplies and the general public is the immediate panic and overwhelming feelings—almost a mentality that we are all going to die. It’s scary and it really does rub off on people. I started to actually get scared because of the shortages of supplies covered by the news. Commercials are now telling the public not to worry about toilet paper, and that there is, in fact, according to Cottonelle toilet paper brand, “enough to go around,” and if you are generous, to “please #ShareASquare.” I wonder what the cartoon bears in the old toilet paper commercials are thinking. What’s happening to their one and only prized possession? How do they feel about it running out of stock all over? It is very important to stay safe, but neighbors of mine, at the beginning of the pandemic, left for one last huge trip before quarantine. They returned after picking up a very interesting device: a straw purifier. Yes, one of those gadgets that helps someone survive when stranded, allowing them to take in safe drinking water from lakes or rivers. If I’m not at home, you can find me at the Great Salt Lake, floating with my straw purifiers. The reason I bring up supplies is because I want to show how this panic has manifested in the purchase of supplies you would need to survive in the wild. Our material obsessions have shifted onto such unexpected objects.

But real-world effects can also have positive outcomes. Some effects due to coronavirus have been pretty good for the earth, like reduced pollution. Fei Liu, who is an air quality researcher for NASA, observed the levels of nitrogen dioxide that produce pollution in Wuhan, China. She stated, "This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event.” Another researcher on energy and clean air, Lauri Myllyvirta, talked about the pollution levels in China, saying, "It is an unprecedentedly dramatic drop in emission." This massive decrease in pollution is amazing for the environment, and we are starting to see some real-world effects of the virus. People have been outside more in their physical environments, which has also increased the value we place on our green spaces.

Communication Is Changing

Face-to-face communication is something this virus has changed, and I believe that it will make people more thankful for it in the future.

One strong and direct value that has been modified during this time is communication. It’s very weird not being in school. All social and physical interaction has changed, and up until now, I honestly hadn’t realized how much I took for granted actually being around people. Face-to-face communication is something this virus has changed, and I believe that it will make people more thankful for it in the future. I personally feel bad for my dog, for example, who can’t go up to other dogs during walks and can’t be petted by other people.

I did some research on the dos and don'ts of society while the COVID-19 pandemic exists, and according to heart.org, “In lockdown, or with a ‘shelter in place’ order, venturing out for other than government-allowed reasons could carry a penalty such as a fine or arrest.” I know for sure Europe has cracked down on the public harder than they have here. I have family in Greece, and they cannot leave the house for anything. People who leave their houses require specific documents containing a valid reason why they should be out, and police officers will ask to see those papers. Although strict rules like these are strange for everyone, governments all over the world have been acting quite responsibly and taking these matters very seriously.

Aside from social interaction, larger relationships, like the coming together of people, have been a big deal. Rowland Hall biology teacher Rob Wilson said he “hasn’t experienced anything like this since 9/11.” Wow. By this, Mr. Wilson meant the immensely strong world response and coming together of people. To think of times like these being compared to an incident as big as 9/11 completely astonishes me. In a way, this coronavirus pandemic unites people; we all want to get better and increase our global overall well-being. Nowadays, with social media and easier and increased communication, it is super easy to be opinionated and influenced about almost everything. On the other hand, everyone has the same interest with COVID-19, which is to get better. The world hasn’t stuck together and shared the same opinion on something in a long time, up until now.

Compassion Is Spreading

A result of people coming together has included putting the needs of the community before your own. For example, many of us now wear masks to look out for others, especially the elderly who are more susceptible to catching diseases like COVID-19. It’s difficult for me and many others who can’t visit their loved ones. It is a choice you make, and it is a hard one, but it’s for the greater good. One of my friends has a grandfather who had a birthday recently, and standing in front of the doorway six feet out saying “happy birthday” put tears in everyone's eyes, literally. This sad story made me realize the cost and sacrifices you have to make when actively putting the needs of others before your own.

Compassion for many people has grown due to the pandemic. Now that times are very uncertain, many people have and should be considering what they can do to help, and have been more aware. It’s difficult, but like the story I shared above, standing six feet apart is actually very considerate. Other activities include not hanging out with your friends (which proves to be pretty difficult, as I have seen it happen on social media with many teenagers), and not leaving the house unless it is absolutely necessary. On idealist.org, Alexis Perrotta talked about other activities, such as exploring ways to connect and volunteer virtually and to check on neighbors, especially the elderly, which is a small yet effective action. Perrotta makes another great point that I wanted to emphasize: suggesting to actually use up the supplies we have before panicking and going to get more. She stressed, “It’s very important that we use (cook it, eat it, share it, store it) what we have.” This action is the perfect example of selflessness and helping others with whatever needs they might have. Using supplies before getting more helps open up the stores for others who may need it, and gives them a chance to do whatever they need. In addition, many businesses have been amazing by helping out doctors, nurses, paramedics, and anyone on the front line who is risking their life for the sake of others who are sick. According to Mercury News, businesses went viral providing goods to health care professionals—for example, Starbucks gave away coffee and Krispy Kreme gave away doughnuts. Being aware of others’ needs, and doing whatever actions you can, broadens your perspective and helps you become a lot more empathetic.

Patience Is Becoming a Priority

Patience is what allows us to have motivation, and without it we truly couldn't make much of the situation that we are in.

The final value I wanted to talk about is patience. Now is not a time to be selfish. This is not a time to worry about insignificant things, like clothes, going-out plans, and shopping for fun. I’ve heard many kids complaining about quarantine and how bored they are on social media. Patience is difficult to have anytime, but now with all the rules and regulations it is very important. Deseret News published the story of an American pilot named James Stockdale who was captured during the Vietnam War and endured “repeated episodes of torture.” In an interview with Stockdale, he stated the importance of routine and how it got him through his tough times. His routine helped him gain patience that would help him to “prevail in the end.” Now, although his story is a lot more severe, I thought it was very inspiring and a story to compare with what is going on right now. Like I said, patience is never easy, and just like Stockdale, you truly face a battle within yourself and something that you have to work towards and change. It is way too easy for Generation Z to complain about how bored they are, how they haven’t seen any of their friends, and how they feel like they might explode with nothing to do every single day. Perspective, which many people can easily lose sight of, and patience seem to be hard to comprehend. But many of my friends, including me, have established our own mini routines every day, like exercising and going outside for a walk with our dogs. Patience is what allows us to have motivation, and without it we truly couldn't make much of the situation that we are in.


Top photo: Katerina recently helped celebrate brother Giorgio Gianoulis' graduation—while practicing social distancing.

Student Voices

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