Let Your Life Speak, Founder’s Day, and a push for financial aid came together for one powerful day of sharing, giving, and fun.
“This life would have been inconceivable to me when I was at Sidwell,” said Micah Hendler ’07, the founder and artistic director of the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, during his Let Your Life Speak keynote address to Upper Schoolers. As a student at Sidwell Friends, Hendler had a difficult time socially, but says that “singing was a lifeline.” Now he leads one of the most talked-about choral groups in the world, The Jerusalem Youth Chorus, which has been featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, in The New York Times, and on PBS for its unique mission to create a safe space for Arab and Israeli youth in East and West Jerusalem to come together in dialogue and song.
Each Founder’s Day at Sidwell Friends kicks off with alumni returning to campus to talk about their career paths and to offer advice to Upper Schoolers. This year, Let Your Life Speak alumni included Asha-Kai Grant ’12, a producer at Saturday Night Live; actor Chris Stevens ’13, who is currently performing on Broadway in Leopoldstadt; Amanda Castel ’91, a professor of epidemiology at the George Washington University Milken School of Public Health; Benjamin Charo ’14, the program coordinator for the Coral Reef Alliance; and Hannah Bristol, a senior advisor in the Office of Public Engagement at the White House, among many others.
There was also a keynote speaker just for the Middle School. Naabia Ofosu-Amaah ’03, the senior corporate engagement advisor on water and resilience at The Nature Conservancy, started off by asking the students to imagine where their water comes from. The answers were both organic (oceans, lakes, rain) and synthetic (pipes, faucets, stores), which also happen to be the two ends of the water cycle that Ofosu-Amaah works on around the world. She told the students she wants to create a world where a “diversity of life thrives and where people participate in conservation for the sake of nature” alone. Then she reminded the kids to take shorter showers and to turn off the faucet when brushing their teeth.
The Let Your Life Speak programming was followed by a Founder’s Day celebration led by Head of School Bryan Garman in full Thomas Sidwell regalia (knickers, faux moustache, newsboy cap, and all). After a sunny, outdoor Meeting for Worship, choruses from each division sang, and then it was off to a picnic and festival, complete with hotdogs and hamburgers and games and prizes. What’s more, behind the scenes, the School was fundraising for financial aid with its Founder’s Day for Scholars campaign. The team raised more than $585,000, exceeding all goals and helping to ensure that income is not an obstacle to a Sidwell Friends education.
It’s an easy case to make when such dynamic alumni are on campus to inspire the next generation. “Be more local and more vocal,” Hendler told Upper Schoolers. He also asked them to take their senior projects seriously. Hendler’s senior project was an apprenticeship with DC’s own Sweet Honey and the Rock, the activist a cappella group—it was also the first time he saw the power of song combined with a cause. “We need our collective voices,” he said, “to move the needle.”
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