On Syrian Refugee Children: The Story of Rambo Hadi

Myself with three month-old Syrian refugee Rambo Hadi, at La Fundación Escuela de Solidaridad, in Granada, Spain. Photo credit to Karen Washington.
Myself with three month-old Syrian refugee Rambo Hadi, at La Fundación Escuela de Solidaridad, in Granada, Spain. Photo credit to Rachael Whitley.

It is the job of a news reporter, in most aspects of his or her work, to try as strenuously as possible to remain both impartial and dispassionate; as an ideal, we strive to report the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Though news events may be influenced by human passions, we offer those partisan perspectives through the lens of the people involved, doing our best to keep the reader’s perception of events untainted by our individual biases. It is true that the editorial style of article allows the writer to express his or her own views free of most constraint; yet even in the most opinionated of editorials, journalists tend to bring a clinical, rhetorical approach to their arguments. Common sense seems to dictate that carefully reasoned logic will win more minds and even more hearts than personal pronouncements of sentiment.

But today WordsWorth proudly defies the common sense of journalistic law, and chooses to embrace hyperbole as necessary in communicating what is otherwise incommunicable. Today I speak of Rambo, a three month-old Syrian refugee who is objectively the cutest, cleverest, loveliest, and most handsome baby boy in the history of the universe. There is no exaggeration in that sentence; only truth, as I have found it, and how am I thus obligated to report it.

I met Rambo while at the Fundación Escuela de Solidaridad, or FES, in Granada, Spain, which I had the opportunity to visit with fellow MFS students and teachers as part of a Service/Language Trip. FES, whose name translates into English as the Solidarity School Foundation, is a charitable organization dedicated to providing not just a home, but also a spirit of family, for those individuals whose circumstances are less than ideal. Founded by Ignacio Pereda Pérez, there are FES communities serving Spaniards in Granada, Málaga, and Madrid.

The Foundation’s website proudly proclaims that FES “offers a home to those who have been uprooted, excluded, socially disadvantaged and those living with violence: mothers with children, young immigrants, adolescents at risk and adults,” and I can assure you, they take that pronouncement seriously. We talk a lot about ‘diversity’ at MFS, to the point where sometimes it can seem to become a strange and nebulous concept—my visit to FES helped to clarify that concept for me, and I believe for every other student who went with me. Diversity of color and ethnicity and religion is important, yes—but just as important is diversity of background and opinion and life experience. FES manages to survive and thrive, not just in spite of, but to a large degree because of the sheer diversity of the people who work together there, in both senses of the term.

At FES I met undoubtedly the most diverse group of individuals I have ever encountered—a perpetually smiling Nigerian immigrant seeking a better life, three elderly Argentinean women whose cooking and crafts support the community, a Spanish family with half a dozen rambunctious children, and even an English teenager who aspires to become a famous, bilingual rapper. And while I laughed and learned alongside nearly every person at FES, learning their stories in halting English as I tried to communicate mine in twice-as-halting Spanish, none affected me half so much as their youngest member.

Among all the varied types of diversity at FES, perhaps the most striking was the diversity of age. Since one of FES’s founding tenets is the belief that children should come first, many, many small children live in the community, including Ignacio Pereda’s one year-old daughter Elvira, named for the mountain range whose shadow FES lies under. But youngest of all was little Rambo.

Rambo and I, the first day I ever met him. Photo credit to Noah Borromeo.
Rambo and I, the first day I ever met him. We are both squinting, in desperate need of sunglasses for the sunny afternoon, but neither of us own a pair. An instant match. Photo credit to Noah Borromeo.

When I first met Rambo, I was ignorant of everything about him but what I saw on the surface; when I saw my friend and classmate Noah Borromeo holding a little baby just outside FES’s cafeteria, I did not consider the baby’s background or circumstances— why should I have? He was a baby, after all. And while I knew subconsciously that by virtue of being at FES, his family must be under some type of duress, I did not see that duress anywhere apparent in his big brown eyes.

All I saw, when I first saw Rambo, was exactly what he was; a beautiful baby boy, not yet four months, smiling a weak and toothless smile in the Spanish sunlight. He looked soft and warm, and both befuddled and pleased at the large amount of attention he was receiving; in short, Rambo was a baby. When I saw Rambo, I saw my two year-old cousins Eleanor and Addison, and my one year-old friend Jack; when I saw Rambo, I saw the children I hope to be a father to one day. He was not just like them; in a very real sense, he was them. An adorable human child, full-to-bursting with unrealized potential, happy enough with half a mind on milk and the other half on sleep. Rambo was familiar to me, as someone who loves babies, and I felt as if I had met him before. As if I knew where he was coming from and where he was going to. I was wrong.

Rambo and I, during FES's midmorning snack break, or 'almuerzo'. While everyone else enjoys tea, coffee, and cookies, Rambo finds more interest in his sleeve. Photo credit Josefina Paolello.
Rambo and I, during FES’s midmorning snack break, or ‘almuerzo’. While everyone else enjoys tea, coffee, and cookies, Rambo finds more interest in his sleeve. Photo credit to Josefina Paolello.

Later that same day, I learned exactly who Rambo is. But first, I had to accept who he is not. Rambo is not a safe American baby like the kind I am familiar with, whose only worries are diaper rash and icky green food. Rambo is not even like the other Spanish children at FES, all of whom came from impoverished families yet most of whom have never experienced real danger. Rambo stands—or rather, naps—alone: Rambo is a survivor. Rambo and his mother escaped a civil war in their native land that has killed hundreds of thousands and left millions more without a home. Rambo, sucking quite contentedly on his fist, seemed blissfully unaware of all this. I, sadly, could not remain so.

Rambo is the son of a young Syrian woman whose name I was never sure of; the language barrier, difficult enough with the Spanish-speaking members of the community, was compounded by the fact that she only fluently spoke her native Arabic. As such, I was never able to fully work out how exactly Rambo’s mother had managed to escape Syria with such a young child in tow; all I know is that somehow, she did it. I can only hope that despite the language barrier, she understood how grateful I am for that.

Rambo’s actual name, the name his mother croons at his kitchen-side crib while she helps cook for the foundation, is Hadi— a traditional Syrian name that translates to ‘leader’ or ‘guide’. Rambo is an affectionate nickname given to him by an unrelated member of the community.

I cannot say that Rambo the baby and Rambo the Sylvester Stallone character are of close resemblance, but knowing what I know about his background, I find the name oddly fitting. Rambo the leader, Rambo the guide, Rambo the action hero. Rambo, who has had to cope with more in his three months than I have in my eighteen years. Rambo, whose real name is Hadi, but whose name will always be Rambo to me, because it is the name under which I grew to love him.

Rambo, styling his favorite comfy blue outfit. Photo credit Alex Horn.
Rambo, styling his favorite comfy blue outfit. Photo credit to Alex Horn.

For all he means to me, Rambo is in many ways your typical three month-old baby. He spends some time awake, and rather more time asleep. He has long and delicate eyelashes, chubby cheeks, and liquid brown eyes as large as he himself is small. He loves sucking on other people’s fingers almost as much as he loves sucking on his own; his clenched fist is so tiny he can fit the whole thing in his mouth with room to spare.. He is never far from his mother; even when I stole him away for an hour or so as she worked in the kitchen, I knew that her thoughts never left him, nor his her, and that is how it should be. He never spits up, which by infant-standards makes him extraordinarily well-mannered. He smiles far more than he cries.

Yes, Rambo is your typical baby—by that I mean he is a miracle and a blessing to everyone who meets him. If that sounds sentimental, it is because it is genuine; if that sounds trite, it is because it is true. Over the course of my time at FES, I was not able to spend as much time with Rambo as I would have wanted to, and it hurt to leave him. But still, I am thankful for every minute I was able to spend with him.

Rambo, on the last morning before we left FES. The finger he is clutching belongs to Kirindeep Momi. Photo credit Alex Horn.
Rambo, on the last morning before we left FES. The finger he is clutching belongs to Kirindeep Momi. Photo credit to Alex Horn.

I am thankful, yes, but I am also worried. Rambo may now be in a much safer place than he was when he was born, but even so, his future is far from clear; his only family is a young mother who can barely speak the language of the country she has fled to. And even if Rambo and his mother manage to survive and thrive in Spain, what if the hardships they have endured will negatively impact him in the future? And even if—miracle upon miracles— Rambo Hadi’s future is full of nothing but sunny days, what of the millions of other Syrian refugee children, most of whom remain living in an active warzone? What of them? These are not questions that are fun to answer, but they are questions that need answering. So I found an expert to do so.

Kevin Bath is an Associate Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences at Brown University; on April 9, Professor Bath spoke at the “Brains in Crisis: Stress and Resilience in Syrian Refugee Children” conference at Brown, which I was fortunate enough to attend less than a month after meeting Rambo. There were many brilliant speakers at the conference, experts in fields from mathematics to social work, who all collaborated to speak about the mental health issues facing Syrian children and how to help ensure that those children grow up into well-adjusted adults. I found Bath’s psychological research particularly fascinating—one memorable experiment uses mother mice and their litters as models of human brain development during childhood).

After his presentation, Bath sat down for an exclusive interview with WordsWorth in which he made one thing very clear: no child, no matter how traumatized by the cruelty of circumstance, deserves to be given up on. “This issue can’t be solved all in one piece,” said Bath, “but it can be solved. By working with social workers in the area, and teaching them about new scientific research done in the field of cognitive development, we can achieve very real, positive change in these children’s lives. Even simple things like the importance of getting regular outdoor exercise, to being on a regular sleep schedule, to the sense of having control over one’s environment, can alleviate stress.”

Bath was further adamant about the need to do more for these children than is currently being done; “We need to go above and beyond here. By implementing programs that lead to positive brain development for these children, we can ensure a more stable future for everyone in the region.”

Clearly the Syrian refugee crisis is not going to be solved easily—soiled by violence and entangled in thorny political issues, it remains one of the most egregious examples of human rights abuses in our times. And perhaps it is naive to assume that we can solve the problem just by recognizing how adorable Rambo Hadi is.

Noah Borromeo holding Rambo, the first day we met him. While Rambo looks slightly fearful in this picture, a few moments later Noah will manage to coax out a smile to match his own. Photo credit to Alex Horn.
Noah Borromeo holding Rambo, the first day we met him. While Rambo looks slightly fearful in this picture, a few moments later Noah will manage to coax out a smile to match his own. Photo credit to Alex Horn.

But when I look back on the first day I met Rambo, I realize that my initial reaction was right all along—Rambo is a baby, a human baby, nothing more, nothing less. “Syrian”, “refugee”, “immigrant”, “Middle Eastern”—these terms are of great importance in categorizing the modern world in all its complexities. But I challenge anyone to look into the eyes of a young man like Rambo, and tell him that he is anything but what he is—a human, just like the rest of us. A human who deserves the best. A human who needs our help.

Throughout the writing of this article, it was a constant effort to keep referring to Rambo in the present tense—to talk about what he ‘is’ and ‘does’, instead of what he ‘was’ or ‘did’. It makes me sad to think that, in all likelihood, I will never see him again; that even as I carry memories of infant Rambo into the future, frozen in time, child Hadi and then adult Hadi will have no recollection whatsoever of me. But hidden within that bitter reality is a sweet, sweet truth: Rambo Hadi will have a future to make for himself. And with the help of people like Ignacio Pereda Pérez of FES, Kevin Bath of Brown University, and anyone on Earth who cares enough to think and donate and help, many other children will also have that chance. So while I miss Rambo dearly, and always will, I thank fate every day for having met him, and for having learned that even apart, we all have a future together.

To those wishing to learn more about or donate to the Fundación Escuela de Solidaridad in Spain, where Rambo resides, you can do so here. Those wishing to donate to the Syrian Refugee Fund, which supports millions of other Syrian children, can do so here.

Rambo looking as confused as I do pleased. I am unshaven; Rambo, also unshaven, seems to wear the look better. Photo credit Jose Leo Rivera.
Rambo, looking as confused as I do pleased. I am unshaven; Rambo, also unshaven, seems to wear the look better. Photo credit to Jose Leo Rivera.

A True Education: The Importance of the Humanities


Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” In today’s America, one would be hard-pressed to find a man more admired than Dr. King, inarguably one of the greatest leaders and thinkers in American history.

Yet King’s words of wisdom have nonetheless gone unheeded. Today’s students have been brainwashed into accepting a system that costs them their time, their money, and their strenuous effort, but offers little to nothing of what Dr. King would have termed a “true education.”

According to a New York Times article by Joseph B. Treaster, since 1990, the number of true liberal arts schools in America has fallen from 600 to 130. This unhealthy imbalance ill prepares our society for a future where well-rounded problem solvers will be needed.

Even Moorestown Friends School is not immune to this problem. Students of science and math are given an option to take accelerated honors courses as early as freshman year; while the same is true for foreign language, avid students of history and English classes must wait until their junior year to truly shine.

While some arguments have been advanced for why this system is actually a good thing — such as stopping de facto segregation of students based on their scholastic abilities — such an argument still tacitly admits that STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] fields are the priority. For students more interested in reading a poem or debating the merits of Federalist theory than solving an equation or doing a chemistry problem, such a system both holds them back and implies that their interests are less important.

In fact, the lack of respect for the humanities extends far beyond high schools and even colleges, all the way up to the political discourse of people who should know better. Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio provoked controversy for a comment that suggested that, “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

Rubio’s comments, shown to be factually questionable in of themselves, are also indicative of a broader societal tendency to dismiss the humanities as an impractical luxury. While Rubio’s comments may have been intended as simply a vote in favor of providing “practical” trade education for those who seek it, it did not come off that way; instead, his comments seem to imply that a liberal arts education is a senseless, impractical luxury. Yet such a view flies in the face of evidence that students of the humanities are a valuable part of the workforce; as columnist Nicholas Kristof notes, “liberal arts equip students with communications and interpersonal skills that are valuable and genuinely rewarded in the labor force, especially when accompanied by technical abilities.”

In the past decade, amid panicked reports of falling U.S. test scores internationally, the response on the part of the American education system has always been the same — demand for more standardized testing and more emphasis on science and math skills. But could this approach, which has been tried and tried again without producing any real change, be absolutely backwards?

Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City is commonly regarded as one of the best medical schools in the world. While most pre-med students major in hard sciences while undergraduates, Mount Sinai has been leading the charge to attract students of other majors, especially English, to a career in medicine. As Dean David Muller explains, “You [can’t] be a good doctor and a well-rounded doctor — relate to patients and communicate with them — unless you really [have] a good grounding in the liberal arts.”

High schools and colleges alike do their students a great disservice by emphasizing STEM subjects over the humanities; indeed, the distinction between the two itself is counterproductive. There are no “STEM students,” no “humanities students” — just students. And as students of the grand scope of human knowledge, we need to learn it all.


A Fresh Start to Springtime: Third Graders Learn In Hartman Hall Garden

MFS Science Teacher Andrea Robinson decided to take the Hartman Hall garden, a school staple for a few years now, in a new direction by getting Lower School students involved. With the help of these new volunteers, Robinson plans to harvest enough tomatoes next fall to supply the Dining Hall enough to feed the entire school a meal.

Mrs. Robinson teaches the students about how vegetables grow from seeds.
Mrs. Robinson teaches the students about how vegetables grow from seeds.

Currently, the garden is already producing spinach and three types of lettuce; Robinson recently brought a third grade class outside to learn about sustainability and how to grow vegetables.

Mr. Quinn’s third grade class tasted spinach leaves from the garden and then planted tomato seeds. For many of the young students, it was their first time tasting anything fresh from a garden. Ms Robinson noted that “the Lower Schoolers were excited to have responsibility for the garden and enjoyed planting the seeds.”

Third grade students sample vegetables fresh from the garden.
Third grade students sample vegetables fresh from the garden.

Robinson said she is confident that the interest in the garden from students of all ages will continue to grow— pun intended. She hopes to start up a club or elective block so Upper School students can help maintain the garden. Currently, Robinson does most of the gardening herself, with help from a few volunteers.

With more hands on deck next year, her idea to provide enough fresh vegetables to supply the Dining Hall seems to be on the right track.

Still, even though she is optimistic, she said that “right now it is just a hope for the future, but not yet an actual plan.” With the help of the Mr. Quinn’s third grade class, her distant hope could soon become reality.


Fresh New Faces For MFS Summer Scholars Program

School may end in June, but MFS is never quiet; to handle all the happenings at school over summer vacation, Moorestown Friends School has welcomed two new faculty members, Angela Wertner and Martha Cameron, to be co-directors of the summer program this year.

Mrs. Wertner, new this year to MFS as Theatre Director, will expand her role into the summer program as well; in addition to managing Middle School and Upper School productions and teaching theater classes, she will manage the Summer Scholars and Academic Transitions courses.

While Wertner did make some immediate changes to the curriculum, including adding new courses and adjusting the age level for some classes, Mrs. Wertner did not make changes to the basic format of the summer program. She explained, “It is a part of the administration’s goal to keep it very similar and to maintain what has already been produced.”

Wertner further added, “MFS’s camp is unique because it emphasizes academics and a range of educational topics for students to study. MFS’s camp focuses on advancing technology, sciences and mathematics along with some art classes. Students can get more specialized training from great MFS teachers and some insights into one of the top private high schools in New Jersey.”

She also adds that fun summer classes have a unique chance to connect with the youngest students and get them enthusiastic about learning: “Kids can have a lot of excitement when learning academic topics, for example, in ‘cookienomics’, kids can have fun baking breads as well as learning how to earn profits for their own cookie company.”

The other new director, Mrs. Cameron, had previously worked for sixteen years in a private school in central New York. There too, she ran the summer programs, as well as all of the community programs. According to Cameron, her choice to leave that school and come to MFS was motivated by a desire to explore a new environment and nurture a different educational program.

Although Cameron agrees with Mrs. Wertner that it is their job to maintain the program, she also sees a possibility of gradual changes in the future, eventually adding up to large ones. Cameron explained, “It’s one of my goals to see how it’s run this year and to make an assessment of what’s working well, what to keep, what to change and what to offer.”

She said she might make the registration system more user-friendly next year because “a lot of parents are frustrated over the complication of the registration process.” According to her experience, a user-friendly way to register will create better reports and will be easier for parents and administrators.

Cameron would also like to add some classes, filling more time so the children at the camp are always engaged. However, she said “I won’t know that until I see what works and maybe that’s really productive down time and kids need that.”

In addition to managing the MFS summer camp, Cameron is in charge of all other summer programs at MFS, including high classes offered to students for credit. In the past few years, many students have enrolled in the summer chemistry class, offered to rising sophomores, which allows them to get a head start on taking more advanced science courses.

However, since enrollment fluctuates from year-to-year and grade-to-grade, the chemistry class might not always be offered. For now, it seems to be here to stay: “As long as there are more than four people enrolled, I think it’s worth it,” said Cameron.


Junior Citizens: The Hallways of MFS Without the Class of 2016

Moorestown Friends School seems to get awfully quiet this time of year.

“Quiet” is one word few people would use to describe the bustling high school, which thrums with focused, often chaotic, energy every day, from before the first bell rings in the morning to hours after the same bell brings the ‘official’ school day to a close. Even during the fourth quarter, when the scent of summer can distract even the most dedicated students, this energy does not abate — people are working hard, playing hard, and getting things done until the very end.

But very suddenly, one day, all of that energy reaches a loud, raucous crescendo, and then stops entirely. At first it is muted, and even when it comes back, it is mellowed. For the rest of the year, after that one joy-filled day, the hallways of MFS seem empty even when they are three-grades full. This year, that day was May 6: the day the senior class of 2016 left their classes behind and headed off on their Senior Projects.

While the senior class is doubtlessly off having their own adventures outside the MFS bubble — stay tuned for WordsWorth coverage of some of their coolest experiences — for those of us still here, their presence is still deeply felt. In many ways, the tone and feeling of every school year is set at the top; by the teachers for academics, maybe, but by the senior class for nearly everything else. As the 2016 school year sputters to the end, these halls are left with a gaping hole, empty of the graduating class that made this year their own.

The absence of the senior class is felt on every level of the high school. Mixed-grade classes have lost their senior classmates, making the rooms feel a lot larger with their absence. Junior Tyler Radack commented, “I miss the seniors [in Mr. Omilian’s AP Calculus class] because at one moment we can be talking about derivatives and the next moment, we’ll be talking about the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse.”

And outside the classroom, seniors had perhaps an even larger presence. The Class of 2016-2017 were leaders across a wide range of activities, from Jacob Schoifet as the President of Model U.N., to Skylar McClane as Clerk of Meeting For Worship For Business, to our very own Edward Gelernt as WordsWorth Editor-In-Chief.

While these vital roles are quickly being filled by rising seniors and juniors ready to step into leadership positions, there is no replacing the people who previously held them. Still, new student leaders are doing their best to live up to the example set by the departing seniors.

Sophomore Anna Goula, a newly chosen officer for the MFS Model U.N. delegation, explained, “[Model U.N. President Jacob] Schoifet is irreplaceable. He was a great officer, and I would definitely not be in the same place I am today in the club without him.”

While the senior class is sorely missed, their absence has also allowed a new grade to step into their place in the limelight. The class of 2017, currently juniors, are now the big kids on the block.

Although the juniors miss their senior friends, the grade seems thrilled to take over the senior hallway, senior benches, and other senior privileges; the sense of excitement among the class of 2017 is palpable.

“Going uptown is nice,” said Junior Alyssa Klier. “I like the freedom in general, and Passariello’s salads don’t hurt.”

Still, even for the rising seniors already looking forward to the 2016-2017 school year, the Class of 2016 will never be forgotten. “Sitting on the senior benches still feels weird, and probably will for a while,” said Klier. “It makes me miss the seniors, and half-expect one to come around the corner yelling at me for sitting on their bench.”


A Flash of Dance: Flash Mob Roars Into DHC

MFS Dancers take their fellow students by surprise with sudden Flash Mob.
MFS Dancers take their fellow students by surprise with sudden Flash Mob.

Last week an energetic, dance-fueled Flash Mob in the Dining Hall Commons took everyone by surprise. The flash mob, put on by Angela Wertner’s Dance students, consisted of a variety of group dance routines with accompanying music.

Dance teacher Mrs. Wertner explained that a lot of effort went into preparing for the even the few short minutes of entertainment, to make sure that everything went on without a hitch.

“Well it took half of the semester for the Intro to Dance class,” said Wertner. “We picked songs, and then made a mix. Then we had to chart the music, then choreograph, and then we figured out the formations. Then we worked on placement. It was a neat way for inexperienced dancers to try out dance. It was a fun class project.”

The dancers, all clad in black with white masks, made for quite an unusual sight in what was otherwise a normal lunch period.

“It was unexpected, I’ll give them that,” said junior Connor Cronk. “I had no clue what was going on. I guess that was the point.”

“I thought they did a great job,” continued Wertner. “I think they really did an awesome job, and they pulled through. It’s not an easy thing to do, to dance in front of all your peers.”


A New Piece O’Pizza: Dining Hall to Keep Passariello’s Through End of School Year


Passariello’s pizza is here to stay in the MFS Dining Hall. Healthy Foods by Choice, the company in charge of the school’s food, plans to keep Passariello’s as the supplier for every Friday ‘Pizza Day’ throughout the rest of the school year, after a resounding success on Friday, April 22, the first day the new pizza was served.
“The response was overwhelming. We usually serve fifty pizzas, but on Friday [April 22] we served seventy,” said Dining Hall Manager Kimberly Watson. The week of the 22nd was the first full week Watson had in her new position.

The restaurant Healthy Garden was previously the provider for MFS’s pizza.

“I don’t eat it because it’s bad, and the cheese is like Laffy Taffy,” commented Andrea Kinzler (‘16) for a previous story regarding the Healthy Garden pizza.

When asked about why Passariello’s was selected Watson commented with a laugh, “They were local, and weren’t too expensive, to be honest.” She added that she received emails from both teachers and students with nothing but high praise for the quality of the new pizza.

“The only reason I bought the pizza was to support the cause [of the Passariello’s change],” said WordsWorth staffer David Borne. He went on to say that he will continue to buy the pizza in future.   

There was a bit of a wait for the pizza, due in large part to the increased demand for the novelty. Upper School Students waited for upwards of forty-five minutes for a new delivery of pizza.

“Once we got to the Upper School … [the students] were getting three pieces [per person]. We had allotted for one slice each for the Lower School and two slices for the Middle and Upper Schools,” said Watson.

While the new pizza choice has been a resounding success and will continue for the rest of the 2015-2016 school year, the decision of whether or not to continue serving Passariello’s next year has not yet been made.

According to Watson, the Dining Hall will be prepared for the bigger demand this Friday.


Going to Town on College School Considering Removing College Announcements From Final Awards Ceremony


Editor’s note 5/3/16: A previously published version of this article contained insufficient information from the Upper School team regarding its rationale for the decision. We apologize for any bias this may have imparted.

Editor’s note 5/4/16: A previously published version of this article falsely implied that Meredith Hanamirian had commented on Andrew Karolodis’s plan for the final Meeting for Worship. We apologize for this error.

Editor’s note 5/4/16: This article previously appeared under a different headline. The headline and the content of the article now reflect recent developments.

Full disclosure: Both co-authors are themselves members of the Class of 2016 and recused themselves from the survey described in the article.

The decision to not individually announce the seniors by name and their college destination at the final award ceremony is now being reconsidered.

Administration told seniors they would not be announced individually by name and college at the conclusion of the end-of-year awards ceremony, a decision that sparked widespread discontent within the Class of 2016 and a subsequent decision by the administration to revisit the topic at an upcoming faculty meeting.

The original decision represents a departure from a long-standing MFS tradition. In past years, at the conclusion of the awards assembly, seniors stood up individually while a member of the school administration announced their name and the college that they would be attending the next year.

The change was originally proposed by the Upper School team — Upper School Director Justin Brandon, Dean of Students Mike Brunswick, Upper School Counselor Katie LuBrant, and School Psychologist Susan Batastini. It was then brought to a faculty meeting, where the consensus was that nixing the announcements was in the best interest of the students.

“It’s been a topic of discomfort for years,” said LuBrant. “We followed the Quaker process — came up with the idea in the Upper School team, then brought it to the faculty, and they made the decision.”

In his meeting with seniors to announce the original decision, Brandon mentioned “dirty looks” and other negative reactions that some seniors have received when their colleges are announced. “It adds some negativity to what should be a very positive last experience for the seniors.”

Director of College Counseling Meredith Hanamirian stated that the Class of 2015 was surveyed as to whether or not they were in favor of the individual announcements.

“The majority liked having the colleges announced, but there were some who didn’t like it,” said Hanamirian.

Though the change was intended to remain in place for future years, those most acutely affected by it are the current seniors. The decision was formally announced to them immediately following Meeting for Worship this past Wednesday and quickly became a hot topic of conversation within the grade.

In an informal survey of the entire senior class, 45 of 75 respondents said that they were opposed to the decision, while just 6 reported being in favor of it. The remaining 24 who responded were indifferent or unsure.

“Everyone should be proud of where they’re going [to college],” said Amanda Karlsson, who was vehemently against the decision. “We deserve to be recognized for our achievements.”

Rylee Fennell was also a vocal opponent of the move. “The final assembly is a time to recognize the achievements of the entire senior class, not just the few that get awards.”

“It is an honors/awards assembly, and we get that presenting the whole class individually would include them in that,” said Brandon. “Our main point in looking at … this topic was to support any of the students who may not feel comfortable during that time.”

Brandon disagreed with some students’ comments that the school is “coddling” its students in shielding 17- and 18-year-olds from “a few dirty looks.”

“It’s not necessarily coddling; it’s just we wanted to make sure [the seniors’] last big event that’s all-school is a positive one,” Brandon explained.

Those students who supported the decision all commented that they understood both sides of the situation.

“I’m lucky to have gotten into my first choice school,” said Jacob Schoifet, who was in favor of the decision. “But I know that some people applied to colleges that other people got into, and getting rejected from those colleges and then hearing that again in the assembly could possibly be hurtful to some people.”

The administration originally proposed an alternative to the individual announcements: a variant on the “Great Kids, Going Places” campaign open to all seniors. A display featuring pictures, favorite memories, and colleges of attendances of all seniors who choose to participate would be on display in Stokes Hall during senior week, the school week leading up to graduation.

“I am really excited about it,” said Hanamirian of the campaign. “I think we really do want to celebrate every student in the senior class and their accomplishments here and where they are going.”

Nonetheless, many people remained unconvinced. “By announcing each one of our names and college, it gives everyone that opportunity to feel not only the support of the community, but also an incredible pride in ourselves that can’t be replicated through posters on a board,” said Fennell.

After the announcement, several students met individually with Brandon to voice their opposition to the decision, prompting an email Wednesday morning to the senior class.

“Your response has warranted further dialogue,” Brandon wrote in the email. “The faculty will revisit the topic at our next Upper School Faculty meeting later this month.”

We reached out to Brandon about his email regarding the “further dialogue.”

“When we revisit it … everything is on the table. … I’m sure we will now think about the decision and see if it is the right decision, or [maybe we will decide to] go back to what we’ve done in the past and announce the names.”

Short of a reversal of the decision, senior Andrew Karolidis has an idea regarding how to implement the announcements anyway. “At the last Meeting for Worship, I’m just going to stand up and say, ‘Andrew Karolidis, University of Delaware,’ and sit back down. And then everyone else can follow.”


Promposals 2016

Ever wonder how the great couples and pairs you see dancing at prom first got together? Well, it all started with a ‘promposal’. Whether the two want to celebrate a long standing relationship, initiate a first date, or purely just want to have a great time as friends, one of them must take the creative leap and come up with the perfect promposal for the other. And at MFS, the Senior Class of 2016 have taken the uniqueness and creativity of their promposals to a new level this year.

A Puntastic Promposal, Plus Sushi


Andrew Karolidis asked his girlfriend to prom in a way that encapsulates his personality perfectly: high class and high wit. Besides, who could possibly say no to sushi?

Baby It’s Cold Outside


Jake Rosvold asked his girlfriend to prom after a chilly stroll, warming both her and her heart with this hot chocolate promposal made in a homemade, personalized mug.

Eggs Before English

Andrew Cates created this ornate setup in the middle of the Senior hallway to ask Rose Graziul to prom over homemade Eggs Benedict and fresh orange juice.

Thinking Outside the Bun


Brad Klier got Skylar McClane’s quirky and fun personality spot on with this simple yet humorous Taco Bell promposal.

I Planned to Ask you for the Longest Time


Edward Gelernt, along with a few friends, serenaded Margaux Vellucci with his own arrangement of “For the Longest Time” by Billy Joel.


Triple Digits: Star Lacrosse Player Katy Repholz Soars Past 100 Goals

MFS Girls Lacrosse junior midfielder Katy Repholz scored her 100th career varsity goal Tuesday, April 12th. The goal was Repholz’s third for the game, as the Foxes cruised to a 12-3 victory over Academy New Church, led by her outstanding hat-trick performance.

“I was open in the middle of the eight, and Alexis Watson had the ball behind the cage. She passed to me and it was a real quick one-cradle goal. Having my team be a huge part of the 100th goal was great,” said Repholz.

A lacrosse player since 5th grade, Katy has put in plenty of time and hard work to get to the level where she is today. In the summer and fall she plays for South Jersey Select, a club team that is filled with top players from the area, but in-season she remains focused on leading the MFS varsity squad.

Katy may be a rare talent, but she is also a team player, prioritizing MFS’s success as one of her top priorities.

“Making it to the Friends League Finals would be amazing. But I really think games like Collingswood where we battled back from a deficit and won a close game are the most rewarding,” explained Repholz. “You can just see the team improving around you, and that’s what I think high school sports is all about.”

Repholz went on to add that she would like to play lacrosse in college, but it would have to be for the right school and the right program. Regardless, the achievement of reaching one hundred varsity goals in just her junior year undoubtedly secured her high school legacy.