Embracing diversity is often viewed in terms of openness to people of various ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds and religious, political, and gender perspectives. However, truly creating an environment in which all individuals feel comfortable representing themselves openly and honestly means valuing many kinds of self-expression. At Dwight-Englewood School, we see this self-expression in students’ passionate involvement in the arts, athletics, service, STEM, and more.
That students are able to find their voices, demonstrate their creativity, and exert a sense of agency through these vehicles is no accident. Upper School Principal Joe Algrant explains, “The School is committed to helping create an environment that allows children to thrive and have confidence.” Various courses and electives, clubs, and activities provide the opportunities for students to find and to share their passions with the community, to the benefit of both. He says, “The act of self-expression is an important way to connect with others and to grow. In the act of expression kids receive validation. The more one volunteers to express oneself, the more the belonging and confidence grows as that expression is valued, and there is less of a feeling of being judged.”
Recently a number of Upper School students were asked about how they believe they are able to best express themselves and how Dwight-Englewood School supports self-expression. Their many voices and talents contribute to the enrichment of the entire community.
Isabel Algrant ’17 expresses herself through creative collaboration in theater. “I stumbled onto theater in the seventh grade,” she says. “I was ‘recruited’ from my drama class to get involved on the stage. I did not want to perform, so I figured out a job that worked better for me. I realized the stage was not for me, but that organizing and putting things together is my thing. After my first show, Fiddler on the Roof, I was hooked. Nothing feels better than watching people enjoy a show you helped put together. Now, I am always doing something involving theater around here. There is just something very special about being part of a creative team, all working together. One of the best experiences I had was writing Little 2 Middle in the eighth grade and then helping to direct it. Another experience that I am incredibly proud of was working on Sound of Music. It was my first high school production and I was in the eighth grade. The fact that I could be helpful and people listened to me felt amazing, especially so early in my work in theater.” Isabel went on to serve as the assistant director for the D-E Performing Arts Department’s production of Les Misérables was then tapped to direct the Spring Theatre production of High School Musical.
Girls. You are soldiers. You are warriors. Whether you fight with Fists or Lips Or words Or numbers Or fire Or love You are fighters You rise every morning in a world that tries to crush you under its boot. Girls You are empowered. You have always been powerful. every shard of glass we tear with our bare hands from that ceiling We are empowered. Boys, You are empowered too. Anyone who falls somewhere else on the spectrum, hell yeah, You’re included, too. I am a feminist. I am here to talk about girls And boys Trans and cis Queer and fluid I am talking about all of us. We are all the issue here. Feminism is not about upending the hierarchy of the sexes It’s about ending the hierarchy of the sexes, The hierarchy that excludes so many people who wouldn’t fit under blue or pink That elevates one sex in one place And another sex in another place The hierarchy that cripples us all, Affects us all, I’m here for all of us. Are you? By Amina Sadural ’18
You are soldiers.
You are warriors.
Whether you fight with
You are fighters
You rise every morning in a world that tries to crush you under its boot.
You are empowered.
You have always been powerful.
every shard of glass we tear with our bare hands from that ceiling
We are empowered.
You are empowered too.
Anyone who falls somewhere else on the spectrum, hell yeah,
You’re included, too.
I am a feminist.
I am here to talk about girls
Trans and cis
Queer and fluid
I am talking about all of us.
We are all the issue here.
Feminism is not about upending the hierarchy of the sexes
It’s about ending the hierarchy of the sexes,
The hierarchy that excludes so many people who wouldn’t fit under blue or pink
That elevates one sex in one place
And another sex in another place
The hierarchy that cripples us all,
Affects us all,
I’m here for all of us.
By Amina Sadural ’18
Joel Lee ’17 says his love of ceramics and spoken word as his preferred modes of self-expression began thanks to his coursework in D-E’s Middle School. As a senior, he spends time in the Swartley Art Gallery’s ceramics room daily, noting that he values “the class dynamic, the process, the finished product, and the microcosm of a community I have found in ceramics.” During one of his scheduled ‘free’ periods, he helps out with the seventh grade ceramic class. He says, “I’ve become the unofficial teacher’s assistant. I love being an engaging presence in the room, and I always look forward to seeing the 7’s. During other ‘frees’, I am still in the ceramics room either working on my own projects or just hanging out with my friends.”
As for spoken word performance, Joel says it began with a performance in eighth grade drama class. “I wrote about subways and the number of stories in any given subway car,” he says. “From that point, I’ve watched countless spoken word poetry and have continued to make poems about my experience. Spoken word gives me the performative access to tell a story and to share a moment with the audience. I express vulnerable parts of myself and in doing so I make a brief connection to the audience. I’ve been a leader of the spoken word club, Dwight Mic, and I’ve been able to craft and refine my pieces. I’m humbled when I receive feedback about my spoken word performances. The fact that I can connect with someone and empathize with their own struggle is uplifting for me, especially if I can connect to others who are also struggling. Vulnerability is beautiful. Allowing yourself to be open and express your mind is a gift. There’s nothing more moving than powerful stories and messages through art.”
Elliot Roman ’17 shares his unique voice as a composer and performer. He notes, “Music is something that has been inside of me and has been spilling out ever since I was a young child. I guess one could say it chose me. [A] great thing about D-E is that the School [has given] me freedom to fulfill assignments with ‘slants’ that interested me. For example, my essays and projects were concentrated on the music of whichever time period we were studying (Music of Ancient Greece in ninth grade, The Evolution of the Piano in tenth grade, and Jazz/Speakeasies/Rent Parties in the Harlem Renaissance in eleventh grade).” He says, “Working as a senior this year on my Honors Senior Focus project was a culmination of all of the academic work I have done and music I have produced while being a student at Dwight-Englewood. For the first semester, I researched the phenomenon of musical earworms and how composers could leverage the concept in their compositions. I decided to try implementing this concept into my music during the second semester by composing a 13-minute orchestral composition. This large-scale project was a way in which I could mix my academic background with my musical knowledge, a goal that D-E helped me achieve.”
Musician Dara Panter ’17 believes that finding one’s voice means stepping out of one’s comfort zone. “I began playing the piano in second grade, but it felt like an involuntary, onerous task,” she says. “In fifth grade, I started studying with a new teacher, with whom I still study, and she opened my eyes to a whole new world of music. I learned to play my first piece by Frederic Chopin, and since then, my passion for listening and playing music has grown exponentially. Music has built my self-confidence, it has made me more eloquent and commanding in conveying my beliefs, it has taken away my stress, and it has been a language for when words cannot convey how I am feeling. Now, I not only feel the urge to make my music and voice heard, but I also feel most myself with an instrument in hand.”
She credits Stage Band with helping her step out of her comfort. She says, “Mr. DeBellis, the director, asked if anyone could move from alto to baritone saxophone. I said, ‘I’ve never played baritone saxophone, nor do I own one, but I am willing to play.’ Over the course of the year I was able to master an instrument in which I had no previous instruction, and I realized that had I not been challenged, I would feel nowhere as comfortable with my music capability today.”
Julietta Thron ’18 needs no words to best express herself. She prefers action on the soccer field. She started playing around the age of 4. “I never really took it all that seriously until around the age of 11 when one of my coaches told my mom he really thought I could go somewhere,” she says. “Since then I’ve never taken anything more seriously in my life. Soccer is the thing that brings me the most happiness and also brings me the most success. I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I spend almost every day after school either practicing with my soccer team or on my own doing some kind of physical or technically training. My life is consumed by soccer and all that the sport entails for my life but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The best accomplishment I have earned through soccer was being able to play for the Women’s U16 National Team. Even just to be offered the chance once was a lifetime of work paid off but then to continuously be asked to return is a blessing. It makes everything I would for and everything I do worth it.”
Judah McIntyre ’18 says, “My mode of self-expression is, in a word, basketball. Ever since I was 5 years old, I’ve just been attracted to that ball. I never really understood what prompted me to want to play basketball, but I know ever since I started playing I fell in love with it. At times it’s hard to balance both being a good student and trying to also be a high-level athlete. [However], in the end, I definitely have no regrets, because I truly enjoy playing. Making 1st Team All-League, Honorable Mention for the county this year, and helping lead my team to a 24-5 record this year, was significant. If I had to give advice to anyone interested in taking parts in athletics, it would definitely be to take whatever sport you’re doing very seriously, and just to always work hard and never quit. I feel that if you are relentless when working on your craft and you’re never willing to quit, even the sky isn’t the limit for you.”
Ben Zhu ’17 shares his creative spirit through dance. “I practice every day after school, before school, and even during school. Even walking to class, I practice moves with my arms. One time, I even moonwalked to class. Dance has given me a purpose through the school day and life in general. I’m most proud of my pursuit of K-pop. I have auditioned for many [major] Korean entertainment companies and I am currently waiting anxiously to hear back from them. Considering three years ago I was a new student at D-E with no real passion and now I’m doing this, [this is] a massive change. My advice? Practice. Practice. Practice. Getting better doesn’t happen overnight and definitely takes a lot of patience. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, take that frustration to motivate you even more. Most importantly, be yourself. People can tell you that you’re not good or try to shape your style, but it’s you who is dancing. If you dance your own, unique style, people will enjoy that.”
Dancer Jahod Silver ’18 reflects, “I have always liked dancing since I was little, but I didn’t start loving dancing until about three years ago when I discovered the Criminalz, a hip-hop dance crew from France. Every member has his own distinct style, and you can feel the passion put into every movement. I stared with amazement at them. And I thought to myself that I wanted to do the same: for people to feel powerful energy and love from my form of dance.” He noted his dancing is not confined to Dance Club’s practices and performances. “I don’t just dance when a mirror is in front of me, I dance while I’m walking to class or when I’m just strolling around campus,” he says. “Music is always playing on repeat in my mind, and I can’t help but to move to it. In class I imagine difficult or new signature moves, of course, while paying attention. Even in the lunchroom I dance as I’m moving around people. I love it. If I wish to become the wonderful dancer I dream of, dance can’t be put aside no matter where I am or what I have to do. Intention is powerful. If you want to be a great dancer, you need to find your why. You need an idea or dream that you can hold onto forever. Repeat it every day as soon as you wake up and go to sleep. Imagine how it would look. Think about it until you get there.”
Ethan Hunter ’18 has made service and advocacy his vehicle for self-expression. “My parents and grandparents have taught me by example that each of us has an obligation to be an active member of our community,” he says. A student co-leader in the annual Project Cicero book drive initiative, he also feels fulfilled advocating for peace and justice. He says, “I applied for and was accepted to a Write On For Israel program, which trains a small cohort of high school juniors and seniors about how to combat anti-semitism on college campuses and how to be an effective advocate for Israel through journalism, broadcasting, and public speaking. I also volunteer weekly in the religious school at my synagogue shadowing a child with special needs. My advice to others looking to get involved in advocacy and community service is to choose causes and activities to involve yourself in those things that you are personally invested. Through my work, I have learned that I have a chance to shape the world, and that I can make a difference.”
Christine Chow ’17 lets her fingers do the talking. Her intricate and whimsical origami creations, including the large 3-D bulldog displayed in the Upper School Office, have enhanced our campus and benefited worthy causes. She says her passion for folding began in seventh grade, when Middle School faculty member Mrs. Carson lent her $10 for a ticket to Fiddler on the Roof. When she returned the money, she wanted to do something special to express her gratitude. At a friend’s suggestion, she made a 3-D origami chicken. “There was a little hole at the top, so I rolled the $10 and stuck it in the chicken when I returned the money,” she says. “Now I fold almost every single day. Also, almost everyone around me knows how to fold. I’ve started a little army of folders: from the fifth graders in the Lower School to my friends and teachers, everyone I know gets involved in my craft. They all love folding and seeing their hundreds of little pieces come together to build something beautiful and make a difference.”
Christine is most proud of the 60 or more 3-D origami “Valentine” swans that she and Allison Taylor ’17 created and sold last year to raise money for the Maria Fareri Hospital in honor of Charlie Levine ’22, a fellow D-E student who was diagnosed with leukemia. “Technically speaking, the swan wasn’t a very difficult model. However, the effect that my origami had on the people around me was far-reaching and completely unexpected. The fundraiser brought all three schools—Lower, Middle, and Upper—all together, and we really defined Dwight-Englewood as a connected community.”
Linda Chen ’18, shown above doing a rocketry demonstration on Graham Field during the STEM Festival earlier this spring (with help from faculty member Dr. Marco Pagnotta), notes that her passion for STEM was emboldened by reading The Martian by Andy Weir for summer reading—about an astronaut surviving on Mars through problem solving. She says a pivotal moment came her freshman year, when she attended a lecture hosted by Science Department Chair Ms. Leiken called “Making Physics Fun for Everyone.” Says Linda, “While I was fascinated by the physics topics introduced in the lecture, Ms. Leiken also made me realize how there were a noticeably fewer number of girls in our school pursuing STEM than boys. It can be seen in some of the seemingly intimidating math classes and many of D-E’s STEM clubs. I realized that was because girls lack the confidence that boys have when it comes to solving math problems on the spot or joining a robotics team with guys who seem to have far more experience than girls do.”
In order to create an inclusive and safe environment in which girls can pursue their interest in STEM without the fear of failure, she and some friends worked with Math Department faculty member Mrs. Barrett to start a club called WISE (Women in STEM Education). She says, “I want to be someone who other girls can seek for help and advice. I am very proud of WISE and the amount of dedication and passion shown by each of its members. When I first introduced the idea to my club advisor and ninth grade math teacher, Mrs. Barrett, she was really excited about the idea. I can’t thank her enough for all the times she’s got us funding and all the times she helped schedule the events we wanted to do. Also, I am really proud of all the efforts of Marwah Kiani ’18, Roxanne Colquitt ’19, Ashley Chang ’19, and Polina Shvetsov ’19 during the STEM festival, too. I think that because of each of the member’s hard work, the club has integrated itself well into the Dwight-Englewood community in its first year. I take pride in my own dedication towards STEM. Since I changed my schedule to be more STEM-oriented, I am rarely in the same classes with my friends. I am the only sophomore girl in my calculus class and the only sophomore girl taking computer science. While it has been intimidating and sometimes difficult to go out of my comfort zone like this, I am proud that I have stayed on this path.”
Fellow WISE member Marwah Kiani ’18 says, “I come from a Pakistani family, and although my immediate family is very supportive of what I do, we have many family friends who aren’t. I just know that there are so many girls who may not feel comfortable [in STEM fields] whether it is because of society, their culture, etc. I know that they have passion and drive but are scared, and I want to be someone to encourage them.” Marwah proclaims, “I love science and I just don’t think that anyone should criticize anyone for pursuing what one loves. This is what it really means to ‘embrace diversity’ and this is the reason why we created WISE. I encourage others who are similarly inclined to just take a stand for what you believe in.”
Riley Levine ’20 says that an out-of-school writing program called Writopia and a chance to meet and share a poem with Maya Angelou were important inspirations. Riley says, “At D-E, I try to seek out the different opportunities that there are for students to express themselves through creative writing. When there is a creative writing assignment given in English, I devote a lot time and thought to it. I have written and performed various spoken word pieces in Middle School Drama and Voice and the Spoken Word. I have also participated in Write Night, and in Middle School I was one of the Open Roads magazine editors. Now in Upper School, I am a member of Calliope.” In the past three years, Riley has won many awards in the Scholastic Art and Writing competition, including one four Regional Gold Keys and in seventh grade a National Gold for poetry.
He notes, “One of the main reasons that I write is to share my ideas and my perspectives with others, in the hope that I will have a positive influence on the world. The most meaningful reading that I have ever done was reciting a poem that I had written about the Holocaust. It was at a memorial event with an audience of more than 500 people, including many Holocaust survivors. Several people came up to me afterwards to express their appreciation to me for giving voice to the traumatic experience that they lived through. The feedback that I received from audience members has helped me to see how art can impact people in direct and powerful ways.” (Editor’s Note: See below for Riley’s poem “Wind Song.”)
Kenneth Yan ’18, president of D-E’s Robotics Team 0207 Critical Mass, says, “I was that kid who took things apart, unscrewing and prying things open. I found whole worlds intertwined within the guts of a camera, a mechanical pencil, or an old and broken printer. It was in these moments that I fell in love with figuring out how things work, and I sought to create using my discoveries. In my freshman year, I joined the Upper School’s robotics program and helped launch the freshman robotics team. That season, I spent Thursday and Friday nights with the team, building, de-bugging, and innovating. We all made discoveries, we tried and sometimes failed, but we all came out a little more curious, a little more passionate.” This year he initiated efforts for community outreach, including doing workshops at the Lower School, organizing a school-wide STEM Festival during the Spring Carnival, and working with other robotics teams all around the world. He says, “I believe robotics goes beyond the robot; instead, it is part of a movement that engages people, inspires people to find their passions. I encourage you to join this movement, for we are shaping a culture, a culture that supports doing and innovating. This is a culture in which curiosity overrules knowledge, and passion overrules accomplishment. This is a culture in which we love exploration. This is a culture in which we crave discovery, dare to create, and dare to make an impact!”
I am a note in a timeless song, playing since the beginning.
Formed by a force beyond what I can understand.
Each shape, a note in an unfolding verse, each tree, an infinite tune,
each branch, each leaf, tones which never sound alike.
When I climb a tree, mouth open wide,
together we create an ephemeral lyric,
conceived by the way our humble structures interlock.
Wind (noun): the perceptible natural movement of the air, especially in the form of
a current of air blowing from a particular direction.
These words are not yours, you are voiceless. These sounds are not yours, you are silent.
Sound (noun): vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard
when they reach an animal’s ear.
Your music fills my ears, still, my ears are your music.
When I curl my finger, the note bends, in mystical cadence
your psalm plays on.
I am your zealous audience,
moved by the breadth of your breath.
Soft trills through dune grass on a tranquil summer afternoon. Trebles howling through evergreens on a frosted winter night.
Wind instrument (noun): a musical instrument in which sound is produced by the vibration of air,
typically by the player blowing into the instrument.
You are voiceless, aphonic boundless gusts, an animation of air,
you are silent.
by Riley Levine ’20