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Interview with Ana Maria Archila

On September 28, 2018, Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher waited outside Senator Jeff Flake’s office to speak with him about his support Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Instead of engaging with the women Senator Flake rushed from his office to the elevator without stopping, so Archila blocked the elevator doors to confront him about his announcement. After having shared her own deeply personal account of childhood sexual assault a few days earlier among a crowd of activists in a Senate office building, Archila questioned Flake’s decision to allow a man accused of multiple counts of sexual assault to sit on the Supreme Court. Evidently, Archila and Gallagher caused Flake to call for an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh prior to the Senate confirmation hearing. Kavanaugh was confirmed as an Associate Supreme Court Justice on October 6 2018. Earthquake spoke to Archila about her work as Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy, her vision of the #metoo movement, and her future activism.

What originally propelled you to work in social activism?

I moved to the U.S. when I was seventeen from Colombia, and that experience of migration was one of the most challenging and powerful experiences in my life, because I felt uprooted, sad and unwelcomed. At the same time, I felt a sense a freedom in being in a new place. When I finished college, I decided I wanted to work with young immigrants. That’s what I wanted to do at that time, so I started working in the storefront of a very small community organization that had just opened an office in a part of New York City that’s quite isolated in Staten Island. The reason why I started there was because my aunt, who was the director of the organization at the time, said “there’s lots of young immigrants there, if you want to work with immigrants, you should go there.” In my mind, I imagined 15 or 16 year-olds who were in school, but the reality was very different. There weren’t that many young immigrants, but they were working as day laborers and in the backs of restaurant kitchens, and they just did not have a life of a young person.

I met two young people through that organization who just really moved me, when they had crossed through Mexico they were 14 or 15 and they had crossed the border by themselves in order to work and to send money back home. They were working at the deli across the street from my office, cutting meats and stocking the shelves. They worked 12 hours days and at the end of those days they would come to my office to take English classes. They were making $3.00 an hour and working really exploitative jobs. When they came to classes, they came because they had dreams, even though they were living a very soul-crushing life. Their souls were not crushed, quite the opposite, they were filled with strength. One of them was fifteen and my brother at the time was fifteen and I remember thinking, ‘We share so much, so much cultural experiences, and the experience of migration and at the same time we’re very different.’

How does your work in the Center for Popular Democracy intersect with your #metoo activism and work toward gender equality?

I started protesting the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court after a year and a half of fighting the Trump regime. We were fighting to save our healthcare, fighting against the tax bills, fighting to protect immigrant families, fighting to denounce the separation of children at the border. There were many fights, and those those fights evolved as people in the movement began to collaborate more deeply. By the time we started protesting Kavanaugh, which was in the middle of the summer, my organizations was working with women’s rights organizations and social justices organizations and democracy organizations and healthcare warriors. We understood that Kavanaugh represented a threat to everything because with him on the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court would stop protecting the Bill of Rights and women’s equality. I have spent most of my life fighting for immigrant families’ right live without fear, and I understood that he represented a threat to immigrants because many of his positions were very anti-immigrant. The protest attracted people who were losing their healthcare– immigrant families, and workers. When Dr. Blasey Ford’s story came to light, people wondered why it took her 30 years to share this. They think it doesn’t sound credible, it seems so opportunistic. Now when women, but not only women, began to reveal their stories in an effort to educate the country about why people don’t report and why sexual violence is so widespread in Washington, the healthcare warriors and the immigrants who were already protesting began to share their stories for the first time in an effort to stand in solidarity with Dr. Ford, and to really allow the country to look at itself and to see the culture that enables sexual violence.

It was in that context that I also shared my story for the first time, I never ever considered myself a #metoo activist, in fact I had a really hard time when the #metoo hashtag broke out last year. I wrote the facebook post and erased it and wrote it and erased it – I just couldn’t bring myself to say it, and it was just in the context of these very powerful displays of courage that I was seeing around me that I too felt invited to walk past my fear and share my story.

How do you think the #metoo movement itself, which involved validating and hearing women’s truths about what happened to them in the past, evolved with Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation?

Well, I think Kavanaugh’s nomination showed the extent to which the patriarchy reasserts itself, men will rally around each other, conservative men will just dismiss the voices of women, it is consistent with their politics and consistent with their behavior, and I think the nomination really put that in display, like how much women’s voices and experiences are just ignored in our culture in service of keeping men in power. Kavanaugh is in the Supreme Court, he has been accused of attempted rape, and he I don’t think we’ll ever be able to shake that association, this will be who he is to the country for as long as he is there. I think the reckoning, that like make it you know abuse of power in some ways and the courage of women and that is also very much displayed and it really clarified… sometimes we don’t see patriarchy, sometimes we’re so used it that we don’t actually see it and we don’t see it being reinforced, because it’s invisible but all of us swim in it and all of us socialize to accept it, so I think it was eye-opening and very politically powerful, especially for young people and young women and girls, who watched it happening, and I think it really changed the level of consciousness and clarity that people have about how much the patriarchy will resist change and how much we have to push.

I understand that it was a coincidence that you encountered Senator Flake in the elevator. How has that experience impacted the activism you want to pursue? Do you think it could be an effective tactic going forward?

So the way that the tactics that we were using for the protests was the tactic of disruption and it’s basically three things: disrupt through interrupting the hearings when the hearings were happening, or disrupt through civil disobedience in the hallways of congress, like people blocking the hallways, and disrupting the regular flow of the congressional staff basically. And then, what we were doing was trying to find members of the Senate in the building, look for them in the hallways, look for them as they were walking into their offices out of their offices, and look for them and try to tell them our stories– that was a tactic, we would sometimes go like hundreds of people would go to one Senator’s office, and stand in front of the office and begin to tell stories, stories of healthcare and stories of abortion and stories of whatever, many different types of stories. And then, the police would eventually come and they would arrest people, so that was where the civil disobedience would happen, and it was a way to kind of insert our voices in to the debate. The week that Dr. Ford testified, on the Monday of that week, I joined a protest, I went to Senator Flake’s office actually with hundreds of people, and that was the first time that I told my story, in that Senate protest. It was very difficult very scary for me, and Dr. Ford testified on Thursday of that week in excruciating detail about what happened. And at the end of Thursday right after her testimony, many thousands of people went to march, and blocked the street in front of the Supreme Court, and so I was among them, and I spent the afternoon in jail, after Dr. Ford’s testimony. And then, when I came out of jail, that’s when we heard the news that the Republicans were basically ready to vote for Kavanaugh, they had heard enough and they didn’t think there was a need for any further investigation, they were fine. And so the next day was the day that they scheduled the vote, and I went back to the Senate building, where everyone was gathered every morning, basically because a friend of mine was visiting and joining the protest for the first time, I only had one hour and I was supposed to take the train back to New York City, I went with my suitcase to the building to say hi to him [my friend] and he had met that same day Maria Gallagher the other woman from the elevator, they had just met. So I went, I met her, everyone was tired and disorganized, like one organizer told her You should go to Sen. Flake’s office and try to find him and talk to him, basically , so the three of us went to Senator Flake’s office, and I was like “We’re not going to find him we never find them you know I never expect to really see them, and when you see them they are always in a hurry and can’t stop. So I kept telling her “oh we won’t see him” if you do see him just speak from your heart that’s all you have to do, and we stood outside his office for half and hour, it was just us and reporters, which made us think that maybe he was in fact in his office, and then a few minutes before 9:30 which was when the meeting was about to start, the reporters huddled around a phone and that’s how we found out that he had just released a statement saying that he was ready to vote for Brett Kavanaugh, that’s how found out. If we hadn’t been standing close to the reporters we wouldn’t have known. And then I said to my friend “well bye, it was nice to meet you Maria, bye” and I started to walk away, and that’s when Flake came out of his office, and that’s when the reporters basically ran behind him, and my friends ran behind them, and my friend called me, and so I came running back.

Because everyone was running behind him, I think that created a lot of adrenaline, and the fact that we had just found out that he was going to support Kavanaugh, our emotions were very high. And I just did not think that we would see him but once we saw him, because I had told my story in front of his office for the first time, I felt (at the expense of) the experience of outrage and pain, and it wasn’t like I was being like “oh we’re going to trap him in the elevator,” I never thought that we would be able to get him for that long, and that it would be televised, none of these things could have been planned. But I was ready, Maria was there for the first time, that was day 1 of the protest for her, she had never talked to an elected official, had never said “i was sexually assaulted” ever, and she had never out loud herself said those words. She just went and she did it, and the lesson for me, I was inspired by the courage around me to share my story, and she was inspired by the moment of bravery in the elevator, to tell her story, so courage is contagious, protest is necessary in order to allow people to find their power.

#Metoo came largely out of social media. How does sharing your story online compare to confronting someone in person? What does it say about technology’s role in activism?

I think that in order to make democracy work for us we have to force direct human contact with our elected officials. They live in bubbles that are fortified by their staff and their donors and their closed doors and their busy schedules but they don’t make time, they do not govern by listening, and they’re used to being able to walk away from people, and I think that we have to demand connection and forcibly get in their faces and ask very pointed questions, and really center the debate around lived experiences they have, because otherwise they don’t actually debate the merit, they just do dealmaking, so in their minds, their politics are reduced to the party, and whoever is powerful inside their party or whatever short-term political consummation they make, and they’re not making decisions that are informed by the experiences of the people they impact. And so, I think social media is super important, it has been essential for organizing the resistance, but we can’t just be clicking and expect that democracy is going to work for us. We have to show up, and we have to take space.

You’ve talked about the impact being a mother of two has had on your work, and how you yourself embody many identities that need to be fought for. How do we unify the struggle of many oppressed groups instead of fracturing into different identities like sexual orientation, national origin, and race?

For me it was very clear that the fight about the Supreme Court was a fight about everything and everyone. About employment, about workers rights, about women’s rights, about immigrants’ rights, about criminal justice, everything. But, that’s too abstract. We are in a moment where there’s a real conflict for what kind of country we’ll become or what kind of country we are. There is on the one hand, Trump’s vision for the country which is a vision that excludes many people, when he says make America great again he means America without immigrants, he means without black people there to act powerful, he means a vision of America that is exclusive, and I think we have to fight for a vision that includes all of us, and that doesn’t mean erasing our identity, it actually means accepting that we each carry experiences that are different from each other, and that that’s does not then equal having then the hierarchy of whose life is more important and actually trying to understand that our differences are essential. That they cannot be made invisible, like I don’t think that it serves us well for us for example not to invite men to try to look at the world through the eyes of women, it’s actually helpful for them to try to do that, it’s important for white people to try to imagine well not really imagine but really learn by listening what the lives of black people are like in this country, or the lives of immigrants, so we need to tell each other’s stories, to be able to really see each others’ humanity clearly and build a practice of appreciating difference and engaging ina and recognizing each others’ humanity. But the way that I understood the question between immigrant rights and the fight for women’s rights, it really clicked for me recently, as I was listening to Trump talk about the caravan of migrants at the border, you know saying like, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, there are like thousands of people who are facing this long journey through central america to the border, people who are basically in the most desperate moments of their life and doing something incredibly courageous, to just find safety and maybe a job. The way that he [Trump] talks about the caravan, is he says, “these are groups, this is a mob of men, dangerous, violent men, who are rapists and criminals” and what he’s doing by using that language is evoking the reasons that were used to justify lynchings in America, lynchings of black men, which is ‘men of color are dangerous to our women,’ and when he says our women he means white women, and embedded in that is the idea that women are ____ impassible?  , women need protection, because women are weak. So it’s the connection between patriarchal thinking and racist ideology, he uses it as two mutually supportive ideas, and so I think a lot of people talk about Trump’s racism, it’s very overt, it’s very obvious, not enough of us talk about Trump and his political program, this white nationalist program, we don’t talk enough about the patriarchy, and the discourse that essentially says “women are inferior, they need our protection, they are ours, first of all, they belong to us, they need our protection because they are inferior humans, we men white men must be in power, because the other men are really dangerous, they’re rapists and criminals.” And it’s a very powerful thing because anyone that believes themselves to be white might be attracted to it, any man might who’s feeling purposeless or threatened might feel attracted to that, and so people are like yeah I want to feel like I am a protector, it’s a powerful way of being in the world, instead of like ‘i want to walk alongside you and respect you’ and assume your power your powerful review and self-determination, and so that’s where the two strands of work connect, and more recently I’m really fighting back against the patriarchy, that’s where they connect, and we have to see that. And so, I think that in order to not end up in the country that Trump is building, we have to insist on more clarifying conversations that allow ourselves to understand each other, and we have to say that no one can be equal unless we fight back against racism AND against patriarchy, they are mutually supportive systems and we have to fight back against them at the same time. We can’t be doing women’s rights work and turn a blind eye to racism because if you know the ideology that women are inferior, that people of color are inferior, it builds on each other.

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Eastern State Penitentiary

The Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) has been a national historic landmark since 1965, but in recent years, the institution has been making a concerted effort to include issues in contemporary prisons as a part of their tours and guided programming. Their updated mission reflects this, stating, “Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.”

“ESP has always been built on educating; now we’re just doing it in different outreach ways,” says Eastern State education specialist Samantha Hunter. In addition to outreach, ESP has instituted numerous exhibits that discuss the current state of mass incarceration. In 2012, the historic site began displaying signs with current statistics. In 2014, the museum created “The Big Graph,” a 16-foot metal structure with three sides detailing information about mass incarceration rates. The purpose of this installation is to illustrate the staggering differences between the American prison system and other countries. In 2016, ESP opened its “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration” exhibit. According to Hunter, “the display puts a more human face on having roughly 2.2 million incarcerated people in the U.S. today.”

While ESP has long desired to focus on current criminal justice issues, the noteority and funding have only recently been available to explore these topics. ESP will soon be debuting a new project entitled “Hidden Lives,” in which two teaching artists will instruct inmates on how to make 30-second movies. The videos will then be displayed on ESP’s outer wall. The museum haalso continued its returning citizen tour guide project for the past three years. This program makes it possible for those with a criminal record to work at ESP. Hunter hopes that this encourages visitors to empathize with people who have been incarcerated.

Thus far, the reactions to these recently added programs have been overwhelmingly positive. When ESP first began talking about contemporary issues, “people were a little nervous” said Hunter, “but our attendance keeps growing and growing, so it seems to be that talking about the evolution of the criminal justice system is the right way forward for our historic site.”

Eastern State is striving to be part of the national conversation on the efficacy of the prison system, and whether its reform is necessary.

“Mass incarceration is real, and it’s not working,” Hunter said. The institution feels responsible for “interpret[ing] the legacy of American criminal justice reform,” because the issues the system currently struggle with are akin to the struggles when the penitentiary opened in 1829. The age-old questions of what to do with a person who commits a crime, and what to do when they reenter society, are still questions being debated today. Republicans and Democrats alike acknowledge that our current criminal justice system isn’t working. Hunter wants people to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. “We must think hard about how we heal from the damage that’s been done, and how we move forward.”

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SAT takes new shape for 2016

The College Board recently redesigned the SAT, and the redesigned test will first be proctored in March of 2016. The new test will align with the Common Core Standards — the controversial, nation-wide public school math and reading curriculum which David Coleman, the new President of the College Board, designed and implemented before taking over the nonprofit College Board organization. In recent years, the SAT has been losing potential test-takers to the ACT, which those in the standardized testing industry speculate played a role in prompting the revamping of the test.

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The Class of 2017 is the first graduating class affected by this change, because they will be sitting the new SAT this spring. While this change, happening the middle of their junior year, may mean that the Class of 2017 has to take more tests, it also gives students more options. Information on all of these options has been going out to both students and parents, and additional resources are available in the college counseling office.

Though GFS may not have the SAT prep courses that some schools have, “We’ll give all students appropriate counseling,” Suzi Nam, Head of College Counseling, assures students. Students at schools like GFS often have a harder time with tests like the SAT, because while other high schools prepare their students for standardized testing and filling in bubbles, GFS prepares its students for collegiate level testing. That being said, there are many resources for students looking to study for any standardized test.

The new SAT has received a mixed reception and the change has caused colleges to alter their acceptance policy, which can be confusing.

“We have to learn a whole new set of requirements,” says Suzi Nam. Some students are choosing to take the ACT, so as not to risk an unknown.

However, deciding which test to take is personal and is about what is best for the individual. “If a college or university asks for standardized test scores it means it’s important to them,” says Nam.

As  almost every college requires test scores, support for students is crucial . However, it is important to note that these tests are deeply flawed. Statistics show that standardized test scores are directly related to a student’s socioeconomic status, with the wealthy scoring the highest, and ethnicity playing an important factor. Time and time again, research confirms these statistics, and now that the SAT has finally been updated we have yet to see whether any of these problems have been remedied.

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GFS Boys Soccer reaches first-ever state quarterfinal

2015 was not supposed to be a record-breaking season for Varsity Boys’ Soccer. As starting midfielder Andrea Berghella ‘16 says, “This year we weren’t expecting much; we didn’t even aim at making the playoffs at the beginning.” A few months prior to the start of preseason, GFS graduated six varsity players. The Tigers “thought this year would be a real down year or at least a rebuilding year,” says captain Ray Hill-Cristol ‘17, and a chance to get underclassman talent a chance to start and improve. Little did the team know before the start of the year, but both goals would prove to be attainable.

The adjustment from JV to Varsity had to be made quickly for some, as the team suddenly needed to fill the vacancies left by the class of 2015, including All-League twins Anand and Satya Butler ‘15. Steven Hamel ‘16 had been on JV the year prior and suddenly was thrust into a starting defenseman role. Isaac Myran ‘18 was on swing as a freshman, yet became an all-league forward and one of the team’s best offensive threats. Sam Webber ‘19 became the only freshman to hold a starting role this year, skipping JV entirely. These surprises were only one piece to the puzzle, however, for the team. The Tigers also had confidence.

Isaac Myran '18 heads the ball past an opponent.
Isaac Myran ’18 heads the ball past an opponent. Photo Credit: David Barr ’16

On a typically hot Philadelphia morning in late summer, the team played their first opponent, Chestnut Hill Academy. Going into the game, GFS did not expect the game to be close. CHA was coming off a 15-7-3 season in which they were ranked 30th in the state of Pennsylvania. But this year was different. The GFS boys came away with a 0-0 tie, a testament to the hard nosed defense that carried GFS throughout the season. “After that we had to see how we showed up in the league, and this year we were able to come together and finish games off which was what we were lacking last year,” says Berghella. “Last year, we could never hold our 1-0 or 0-0, getting scored on usually towards the end. This year, our defense was top class and did a great job of holding on to those important points.” While the surprising tie must have been a boost of confidence to some of the young players on the team, senior leaders like Berghella knew that the team’s performance could only be tested against its toughest division rivals later in the year.

They weren’t quite sure their season was on the verge of success yet, though. They lost three of their first five league games, including a disappointing 1-0 overtime heartbreaker against Moorestown Friends.

Then came their big test against Friends Central. “It was an amazing game. We all played well. Pietro with the shut out and Isaac scoring off Andrea’s assist,” said Hill-Cristol. “To be honest, it was probably my goal,” lamented Berghella with a smile. “Definitely crossed the line. But Isaac stole it.” Regardless, it meant the Tigers knew they would move on to the league playoffs, as long as they could take care of Friends Select and the Academy of the New Church. They did, with blowout scores of 6-0 and 5-0, respectively. Their next task was the Shipley.

The game was at Shipley’s Farm Fields, far away from both their main campus and GFS. But the GFS fans didn’t care, showing up with Tiger spirit, ready to cheer on their classmates and eat free food courtesy of Shipley. The atmosphere was raucous; highlights included David Barr ‘16 attending the game with an unbelievably large cutout of Captain Silas Shah’s face and Spanish teacher Rosario Manion yelling, “¡Vamos Tigres!”

The game was just as exciting as the snacks and the fans. Goalie Pietro Berghella ‘18 was steady, making a couple of clutch saves. There were chances, including Felipe Sanz ‘16 receiving a pass, stopping on a dime at the top of the box, looking around for options for a few seconds, and letting one rip without any momentum. Despite this, it was a good strike. The Shipley goalie reached and missed… but the ball hit the crossbar and bounced out. The Tigers eventually lost another heartbreaker, 1-0.

They were disappointed, but they weren’t done yet. They had the state playoffs, facing feared opponent Episcopal Academy.

Earlier in the season, the Tigers had lost to EA to the tune of 4-2. That type of game was a rarity this season. In their 15 games this year, they gave up more than 2 goals in just that one. This time was different. With goals from Myran and Hill-Cristol in the early, they went into halftime up 2-0. But EA responded, tying the game and sending it to overtime. And then into penalty kicks. Then, one by one, Silas Shah, Ray Hill-Cristol, Andrea Berghella, Felipe Sanz, and junior AJ Mowafi all scored. The Tigers pulled off the upset. Next up was a trip to Malvern Prep, ranked 16th in the State.

The Tigers lost a hard fought game, 2-0. But their season was a success. “We shattered expectations,” said Hill-Cristol. The Tigers will look to build on this success next year.

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The NFL: Do Suspensions Fit the Crime?

Since the turn of the century, 805 players have been arrested in the National Football League. But in September, for the first time since July of 2009, the NFL went one full month without any players getting arrested. This is not indicative of some upward trend; rather, it is a testament to how poorly informed NFL players are about crime.

A possible explanation for the outrageously high number of arrests is the lenience of both law enforcement and the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell. NFL players often have an undeserving sense of invincibility, due to years of light punishments. The cases of Josh Gordon and Greg Hardy are prime examples of this invincibility.

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon,
Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon,

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns is no model citizen. He was involved in multiple drug-related incidents as a star receiver at Baylor University, and therefore was selected in the NFL Supplemental Draft. Once in the league, he failed a multitude of drug tests for marijuana.

After the first violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, Gordon was suspended for two games. He went on to lead the league in receiving, despite only playing in 14 of the 16 games that season. The next year, Gordon again violated the same policy. Originally suspended for the whole 2013-14 season, his suspension was reduced to just 10 games.

Gordon has certainly made poor choices in his career by engaging in risky behaviors that come with drug abuse. But is he deserving of combined suspension equaling 28 games, while Greg Hardy, charged with assault, was given only a four-game suspension?

Hardy, the former Pro Bowl Panther, now a Cowboy, was found guilty in July 2014 of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. The 24-year-old cocktail waitress says, “[Hardy] looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me. I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Do it. Kill me.’”

Hardy is a repugnant human being. He abused his ex-girlfriend and caused her to fear for her life. Under no circumstances is smoking weed three times worse than assault, and the suspensions should reflect that. It is understandable that the NFL deems Gordon to be a harmful representative of its brand, but it is unjustifiable that it considers Hardy worthy of suiting up on Sundays for the foreseeable future.

The NFL must remain consistent. The point of suspensions is not to make the NFL into a law enforcement agency, but to discourage illegal behavior and protect its reputation. Allowing Hardy to continue to play football not only sends the wrong message to players, but also to fans.

The solution to this problem is largely unclear. The NFL has to entirely reevaluate its personal-conduct policy so that it reflects the values it wants to emphasize; it cannot continue as the “bad guy” league. For Josh Gordon to receive a 28-game suspension for failing three drug tests for marijuana while Greg Hardy received only a 20-game suspension for assaulting a woman and endangering her life is ridiculous. There is no excuse. The NFL needs to shape up.

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Athletics Department Kicks Off Leadership Training Series

GFS sports captains gathered at the Germantown Cricket Club for a leadership luncheon with Dr. Mario Moussa, for the first of 10 scheduled leadership meetings throughout the school year. The initiative was headed by Katie Bergstrom Mark, Director of Athletics.

During this first session on September 3rd, students spoke with Dr. Moussa, parent of Ella and Bix Komita-Moussa ’16, a renowned consultant for some of the world’s top leaders, and a fellow at the Wharton School, and discussed various aspects of leadership, including the difference between simply being a good athlete and being a good leader.

Students listen to Dr. Mario Moussa
Students listen to Dr. Mario Moussa

Ray Hill-Cristol ‘15, who attended the leadership luncheon as a captain of the boys’ soccer team, says, “something that stuck with me from the meeting was this difference between being talented and being a leader. I n the meeting, we talked about a tragic journey up Mount Everest, in which a group of people guided by two really good mountaineers failed because they were not good leaders.”

Bergstrom Mark echoed this sentiment, saying, “I think that there’s a misperception about leadership as someone who is the loudest, someone who has this stature, someone who’s the best player. And that is definitely not the case. There’s people who are really good leaders because they are great organizers. And then there are some people who are just inspiring.”

Each of the meetings throughout the year will feature a specific facilitator, ranging from GFS alumni and coaches to professionals who work in the field of leadership, possibly leaving room for one or two sessions where students will have the opportunity to pose their own queries for discussion. Bergstrom Mark hopes that this initiative will allow students to use athletics as a way to learn new ways to lead.

“We have always thought of our Captains’ Council as our connectors between our coaches and our athletes, but we wanted to really make this like a curriculum for these kids to get out into the wider world with some ideas of leadership philosophies,” she says.

Down the road, Bergstrom Mark has hopes of expanding this leadership initiative even further. Right now, the meetings are only for captains of sports teams; however, Bergstrom Mark hopes that in the future, these sessions can become open to all Upper Schoolers and extend beyond sports into other areas of leadership as well.

Bergstrom Mark sees the true value of sports not just on the practice field, but as a way to learn valuable life lessons. “One of the things I love about sports is that I think of it as this last safe space to fail. My hope is that sports is this place where you can miss a pass or have a bad race and pick yourself back up,” she says. Through these leadership meetings and the work of the team captains, Bergstrom Mark hopes that everyone at GFS can become a better leader.

“I really do feel like athletics is a vehicle, for not just the named captains of the team, but for pretty much anyone who does sports to learn leadership.”