How Keystone students are already changing the world
“If you have an opportunity to use your voice you should use it.”
-Samuel L. Jackson
Our students continually amaze and inspire me. Guided by outstanding teachers, they combine their excellent academic background with a passion for a variety of local, regional, national, and international concerns. Children and young adults research topics, write compelling papers, present their ideas, and propose solutions in speeches. They also take their activism and advocacy to the greater community. Watching these young people find their voice and speak out on those topics they feel passionate about is a true joy.
Just this past Sunday evening at the San Antonio Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Student Visionaries Dinner, sophomores Aarav and Rashmi and junior Nandini were recognized for their advocacy on behalf of patients and families who suffer from blood-borne cancers. Aarav and Nandini, and a friend from another school, won the Mission Pillar Award for Research and were runners-up for Student Visionaries of the Year, having raised $73,687 in seven weeks. Rashmi won the Mission Award for Advocacy Service and raised over $50,000. As you can imagine, there was quite a buzz in the room regarding Keystone students and their success in helping cancer research and advocacy.
The following day, Middle School teacher Rachel Sadosky and Middle School Head Dr. Jennifer Wivagg accompanied six 7th and 8th grade students to Austin where they competed in the State Speak Up/Speak Out (SUSO) competition. Earlier this year, the 8th grade team of Nidhi and Kunling took first place in the San Antonio contest with a proposal addressing the need for easily available feminine products in schools. The 7th grade team of Aditi, Amanda, Alexandra, and Caroline came in 2nd place in San Antonio for their plan to bring toiletry items to the homeless in the Alamo City. The 8th grade team came in 2nd place in the State contest and received the award for Community Engagement.
Ms. Sadowsky introduced the SUSO project this year, and it has been a rousing success as students have researched subjects and proposed solutions to complex problems.
Also this past week, 6th grade students in Ms. Luckie’s English class presented persuasive speeches on topics they had chosen. After learning how to research a topic, and the different elements of rhetoric, they created and presented their arguments on a variety of topics. I was able to hear speeches on subjects particular to Keystone; for example, Marc-Anthony argued for lockers for 5th and 6th graders, Dev spoke on the need for a Home Economics class, Sofia called for a redesign of North Hall, and Sajal proposed more healthy food options. Other students presented on greater societal topics: Cybella described the impacts of child abuse and neglect, Amara opposed mass incarceration, and Birdie pointed out what she saw as the apparent sexism and misogyny of many school dress codes. These were just some of the subjects on which students spoke in Ms. Luckie’s class.
Equipped with a similar curious mindset and research skills, students in 3rd-6th grade presented their Science Fair projects this past Wednesday.
For decades, Science Fair has been a big deal at Keystone, and this year continued the tradition. Once again guided by excellent teachers, students researched topics, analyzed data, tested their hypotheses, and shared their findings with a broad audience. It was a pleasure to see and hear what they had learned along the way. Good work to teachers Ms. Steward, Dr. Wittwer, Ms. Holden, Ms. Holliday, and Ms. Sobieszczyk.
As you may recall from last week’s Communique, Keystone middle and upper school students excelled at the regional science fair, and four students are now headed to the International Science and Engineering Fair in a few weeks. Congratulations to all of the students, and Ms. Holden and Mr. Nydegger for coaching the students so successfully.
Later this spring, juniors in Dr. Lawrence’s AP English class will present their Stonecatcher Projects. In these projects, students choose a topic on which they are passionate, analyze the issue, study what’s already being done, and suggest a solution. As part of the AP English curriculum, Dr. Lawrence emphasizes argumentation and rhetoric and combines it with reading “Just Mercy,” by Brian Stephenson. The final chapter of the book, “The Stonecatcher’s Song of Sorrow,” lends its name to the Keystone project. Students write an essay and then present their argument in the gym in a format similar to the Science Fair. The various topics reflect the wide array of student interests.
Past students’ compelling arguments have led to changes at Keystone ranging from changing the surface of the sports court to redesigning the Senior Lounge to creating a fitness room to altering the school’s dress code to making feminine products more easily available. Student proposals have made our school a better place, and we welcome their speaking up and speaking out, even if we sometimes cannot make a change as quickly as they might like.
It is a beautiful thing to observe students discover their passions and develop the skills to analyze problems and create solutions. They learn that most problems, whether they are here at school or in the greater world, are complex and defy easy and quick solutions. In the process, though, they also discover that they have a voice and they can use it to make their school and their world a better place for themselves and others.