US Blazer Buzz 15 Dec

This week's highlight: Capstone Projects

Last Friday, Woodlawn seniors lead their first collaborative team meetings to begin planning their Capstone service projects. Each year, the seniors complete the Capstone course, a yearlong independent pursuit of an area of interest.  Seniors conduct research, compose a substantial research paper, secure an internship, and execute a service project. This year, the Capstone course also includes the study and practice of leadership and entrepreneurship. These skills and concepts will be tested in the service project portion, during which each senior will lead a team of students in grades 8-11 to complete an entrepreneurial service effort. The teams will meet regularly over the next few months to plan, promote, and execute these ambitious projects. Examples of projects this year include rebuilding and coding a website for a local non-profit, hosting a music festival for Make-A-Wish Foundation, designing and building a wildflower garden on Woodlawn’s campus, and writing an original children’s book about the value of good sleep. Stay tuned for details about the final products, due in late April.

US Blazer Buzz 24 Nov

This week's highlight: US Humanities Night

The Upper School Humanities Showcase on Friday night was the culmination of integrated project work in English, history, art, music, and service over the course of the first trimester. Freshmen and sophomores used their English and Modern World History courses to investigate the theme of diaspora, and through research, reading, and discussion, took the option of creating either an original musical composition or writing a dramatic scene that was centered on the theme of the dispersion of people from their original homeland. In service, the 9th graders investigated the non-profit organization International Rescue Committee, while 10th grade learned about Doctors Without Borders. Each class used the Showcase as an opportunity to highlight these organizations and the work they do is helping groups that have been pushed from their homes into different corners of the globe.

Juniors and seniors worked in visual art, zeroing in on single works of literature that dealt with what the American Dream looks like from different points of view, and from the perspective of different communities. The literary pieces served as inspiration for sculpture, paintings, photography, and mixed media collages that students created over the course of several weeks, with assistance from Ms. Royce. The juniors used this project as an opportunity to learn more about and highlight the Davidson Housing Coalition, a local organization that seeks to assist families in obtaining that crucial component of the American Dream: a home one's own.

Students went to great lengths creating just the right atmosphere in the Lodge and in Woods Hall for the event, planning the organization of the exhibition spaces, prepping their works for display, and cooking up finger foods and beverages for guests. It was a pretty fantastic way to spend a frigid Friday night, so be on the lookout for the upcoming winter trimester showcase on February 27, 2015.

US Blazer Buzz 10 Nov

This week's highlight: Intermezzo

Improved access to freshwater resources for all was the issue at hand when the upper school United Nations convened over two days during fall intermezzo. Negotiations were off to a rocky start on day one as war broke out between several member nations, but bitter feelings were put aside and a resolution was passed by the end of Friday's summit. There were also chocolate chip pancakes, so the event was a win on all levels.

As is tradition, Intermezzo 2014 started off with breakfast on Thursday morning before students entered into a discussion on the goals, structure, and effectiveness of the United Nations. After all upper schoolers were divided into groups representing one of ten countries, all got to work researching their respective country's history, culture, economy, and politics and dividing up individual duties. Students barely had a chance to slip into their roles when war broke out, with countries splitting into two alliances and taking to the soccer field to settle their grievances in a game of Human Stratego.

On day two, countries were forced to put aside bitter feelings from the war as they sat down at the table together to address the challenge of providing all citizens of the world with access to uncontaminated freshwater. Negotiations were tense as countries sought alliances and lobbied on behalf of their own resolutions and for the benefit of friends and neighbors. Over the course of the day, ten resolutions became five, five became three, and after some fierce debate the resolution put forth by Pakistan and The People's Republic of Bangladesh won a majority of votes. Once again, in this our seventh intermezzo, our students showed themselves to be champions of collaboration and compromise.

US Blazer Buzz 27 Oct

This week's highlight: Princeton's Footnotes Perform at Woodlawn

A capella is everywhere, it seems -- and this past weekend, some of the best a capella singers in the country gave a private concert at Woodlawn School. The all-male Princeton Footnotes, founded in 1959 at Princeton University, have performed for U.S. presidents and fashion designers, at baseball stadiums, and for millions on NBC television's "The Sing Off." Some of the young men just happen to be friends with Woodlawn alumna Tori Rinker '12, who's now a junior at Princeton -- and whose father, Mark, himself was a Footnote back in the early 1980's. Fast forward to last Saturday: Tori introduced her Footnote friends, who then performed about a dozen songs, including crowd favorites "Royals," "Bang Bang," and "I Want You Back." Between the Footnotes' two sets, Woodlawn's own Trebleblazers performed "Problem" -- and received a standing ovation from the Footnotes. Another highlight: when the Footnotes invited Mark to sing with them, and then serenaded Tori with the Footnotes' original ""All I Ask For." Woodlawn was the first stop for the Footnotes' fall tour, said singer Teddy Chow, a sophomore tenor from Hong Kong. He says that the friendships the Footnotes have formed have been simply incredible. "The level of commitment that we all have toward making good music -- that just keeps us going." As for Tori, she was thrilled to be back to visit Woodlawn. "It was so nice to drive back and see the campus. There's definitely a little bit of me that's still here." Huge thanks to the Rinkers for providing refreshments after the concert -- and for bringing the Footnotes to Woodlawn!

Written by Amelia Woodall.

US Blazer Buzz 20 Oct

This week's highlight: Woodall Participates in Teen Council

This past weekend, I was able to be a part of an experience that changed my life and that will change the future of a local foundation’s Teen Council. A Giving Spirit Foundation (AGSF) is a nonprofit organization that gives money to mothers in the greater Lake Norman area who have been diagnosed with a debilitating disease (i.e. ALS or cancer); the money goes to help pay for their medical and utility bills, as well as rent, so these mothers can focus on their own families. The AGSF Teen Council was formed in November 2013, and since has raised over $12,000 to give as grants to these women. Being a member of the Teen Council has not only further taught me how to be a leader, and how to have successful fundraisers that better someone’s life, but has also offered me amazing opportunities like the one I attended last weekend.

In addition to supporting local women, AGSF also is partnered with Project A.L.S. and the ALSA (ALS Association) and donates money to them to fund for ALS research. ALS is disease that weakens the motor neurons in muscles, which causes the communication from the brain to the muscles to stop over time. Project A.L.S. was started in 1998 when Jenifer Estess was diagnosed with ALS. She and two of her sisters, Valerie and Meredith, sat down and created Project A.L.S., now a multimillion dollar organization which funds stem cell research at its own lab at Columbia University in NYC. The sisters enticed scientists to work together to find a cure and more information rather than doing their own independent studies on the unknown disease. The Estess sisters have been involved with the New York lifestyle, and theatre, their whole lives, and they grew up with and became friends with many celebrities that are well known today, like Ben Stiller and Katie Couric.

This fall, the AGSF Teen Council was invited by Larry Tarica, a board member of Project A.L.S, to attend this year’s gala. Being asked to attend meant the possible involvement of Project A.L.S, Valerie and Meredith Estess, and many other determined philanthropists in what our foundation has to offer. And, that is just what it gave us. I, along with the rest of the Teen Council, was able to meet these amazing people and talk with them about what we have done and are planning on doing with the Teen Council. I learned much information about what is going on with ALS research and saw philanthropy at its finest. I was able to practice speaking to influential and powerful people, and even managed to get Ben Stiller to tweet about AGSF and the Teen Council! After the event, we toured the Columbia University stem cell research lab, learned about what is being done there, and met up with Valerie and Meredith. They told us how they were “getting older, and need the younger generation to learn more about what ALS is” and how they were "placing their hope in us." The Teen Council was given representation by Project A.L.S. to educate and spread awareness throughout the teenage community by collaborating with Project A.L.S., and by helping them come up with event ideas that would interest “the younger generation." This was an unforgettable experience. Meeting these people and learning about what has been discovered has truly altered my perspective on service, and on fundraising, for the better.