Spring 2018 is taking flight! 24 young people eager to change our world began their journey at our Capitol Hill residence (which thanks to a successful Capital Campaign our school now owns!) with an enthusiastic move-in.
At our opening meeting they heard a welcome from SEGL board Vice Chair Dr. Gene Batiste, our students met their first leadership challenge of the semester: to decide as a group between three separate DC expeditions without any guidance from our faculty. The choice was the historic U Street neighborhood and a face-lifted mural outside the classic DC restaurant Ben’s Chili Bowl.
On the way back they made a quick trip for missing essentials, then returned for our first dinner of the semester (empanadas of all sorts!) and our opening caucus–a chance to break the interpersonal ice and review guidelines that will help each student maximize the semester’s potential. Then it was back to our new home, in the shadow of the Capitol, for dorm meeting and a good night’s sleep.
Sunday morning brought brunch (co-cooked by students: omelettes, home fries, bacon, oatmeal with fresh berries, french toast, and tofu for the vegetarians), optional church services, a run on the National Mall, and a return Metro trip to our Dupont Circle Academic Building.
Students first discussed the four keys to success in SEGL’s academic program (we will let you speak with a current student to hear more!):
- Being smart doesn’t make you smart. Practice makes you smart.
- The best learning happens in an atmosphere of shared vulnerability. If you are afraid of sounding dumb, you won’t learn.
- Narrow your gap.
- “It is no use trying to be clever. We are all clever here. Just try to be kind; a little kind.”
We then embarked on a series of SEGL’s classic low ropes course-style activities: trust falls (fully supervised, of course!), the Minefield, the Dream Reach, and the treacherous Spiderweb. In addition to accelerating our positive group dynamic, these activities are designed to help each student reflect on her/his leadership and collaboration skills: to provide a starting point from which to grow.
After a short reflective discussion, the students had “choreientation” (an introduction to the Academic building chore program) and their first advisor meetings. (Each student meets with an advisor for one period a week to reflect on social dynamics, academic, and the inevitable transition home.)
After dinner from District Taco (a local DC favorite), it was time to start our first academic session. Like many things in our first few days together, our first academic session is an SEGL tradition. Together we watched live CNN coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks–a difficult thing even for these students, who have no memory of the day–this is the first SEGL year that has included some students born after 9/11–and then we reflected on the aftermath and meaning of those events.
Our conversation afterwards was compelling, with gentle tears, passionate arguments, and collegial deference; nearly every student participated at least once. The discussion was also filled with many connections–personal and intellectual–to the attacks. The conversation was an extraordinary start for an already-memorable group of young people who are clearly ready for an extraordinary semester.
Tomorrow we chase after Skittles (more on that later this week) and classes began!
(A reminder to click on each photo below for a larger image.)