Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to:
- connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
- share ideas about learning and human development;
- spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy.
Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing.
Michael Ulku-Steiner, Head of School
For reasons that stretch back to the 1905 arrival of my immigrant grandparents in Pennsylvania to the peaceful, prosperous present in which I’ve been lucky to live and raise my children, I feel immense gratitude to be an American.
It’s easy to overlook the privilege of U.S. citizenship. However, thanks in large part to Anne McNamara, who taught AP U.S. History for many years and now serves as the Upper School’s director of community service, American citizenship will soon be squarely in front of our school.
The Upper School focuses on citizenship every November. In presidential election years, we concentrate on the privilege, responsibility and opportunity of voting. Every year, we mark Veterans Day by teaching American history through first-person accounts from those who have served in our armed forces.
This year, our students will witness and participate in a fundamental ritual of American citizenship: a naturalization ceremony.
During our planned community engagement day on Nov. 15, twenty new Americans will be sworn in as citizens in Kenan Auditorium — in front of their families, friends and our Upper School students and faculty.
Anne’s collaboration with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began when she heard about a naturalization ceremony hosted by a private school in New England. It turns out that such ceremonies occur regularly at public and private schools, churches and American Legion posts across the country.
After a scouting trip to observe a naturalization ceremony in Durham, Anne, Associate Head of School Lee Hark and Upper School Foreign Language Academic Leader Jennifer Garci were convinced such an event could prove educational and unifying for DA. Among our goals as hosts:
- To engage with the community (specifically, the U.S. government) as direct partners
- To celebrate the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship
- To offer students a direct (unmediated, unfiltered) and patriotic experience
- To create opportunities for reflection and the sharing of stories
- To integrate these goals and the ceremony itself into our curriculum
Knowing that preparation and reflection enhance learning, we will accomplish that last goal through a series of related events and conversations:
- Thursday, Nov. 2 – Organizer Anne McNamara outlined the plan for our naturalization ceremony and offered faculty a taste of the experience with a practice citizenship exam.
- Thursday, Nov. 9 – In our annual Veterans Day assembly, Jordan Adair will welcome Capt. Jonathan Kralick (Eagle Scout, West Point graduate and active-duty U.S. Army Special Forces officer) to speak about his life and career in the military. Capt. Kralick’s wife will visit with students in Jordan’s Literary and Artistic Responses to War class later this year.
- Monday, Nov. 13 – In our Upper School Morning Meeting, history teacher Thomas Phu and an Upper School parent will share their stories of becoming U.S. citizens.
- Tuesday, Nov. 14 – In advisory, students will view and discuss a video on citizenship and be briefed on their responsibilities as hosts of the naturalization ceremony.
- Wednesday, Nov. 15 – After taking a shortened version of the citizenship exam in advisory, students will move to Kenan Auditorium for the naturalization ceremony, during which:
- The Upper School band and chorus will perform a patriotic medley and later sing the national anthem and lead the auditorium in singing America the Beautiful.
- Victoria Muradi, DA’s Director of Enrollment Management, will speak of her path to citizenship as a teenager in Florida.
- After remarks from a supervisory immigrations services officer, twenty North Carolina residents will take the Oath of Allegiance and be sworn in as American citizens and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
- The new citizens will be welcomed by President Trump, via a short video address.
- After the ceremony, students will return to their advisories to reflect on the ceremony and discuss a series of questions about civics.
- DA’s Parents Association will host a reception in the Learning Commons for the new citizens and their guests.
- Writers from The Green and White and students from several history classes will interview new citizens regarding their experience.
- Monday, Nov. 20 – In Upper School Morning Meeting, I will share thoughts regarding citizenship (of our nation and of our school).
- Tuesday, Nov. 21 – Advisories will reflect on the naturalization ceremony and related events in the context of Thanksgiving.
The naturalization ceremony fits neatly beneath one of the key goals of DA’s 2015 Strategic Plan:
Goal 5: A school connected to Durham, the Triangle and the world
Durham Academy believes acting beyond self-interest (both individually and institutionally) furthers our mission of enabling students to live moral, happy, productive lives. We also believe in expanding the worldview of our students – allowing them to live, learn, lead, and collaborate with teams both near and far. To that end, Durham Academy will increase its commitment to service learning and opportunities for global exposure – propelling students and our institution to see beyond self-interest and participate actively in our communities.
The Upper School is not alone in focusing on citizenship this month. Our Middle Schoolers have collected Halloween candy for Operation Gratitude and will soon ship it to the men and women who serve our country. They’ll then turn their attention to our annual Thanksgiving food drive, benefiting Orange Congregations in Mission. During the introduction to this effort in Friday’s Middle School Community Meeting, the Rev. Sharon Freeland introduced her son, a Coast Guard officer who just returned from hurricane relief service in Puerto Rico. The warmth of the students’ standing ovation reminded me how readily our students celebrate sacrifice.
Lower Schoolers, too, will focus on civic responsibility and national unity this month. First-graders enter their Thanksgiving unit and explore the relationships between European settlers and Native Americans. Second-graders focus on Durham citizenship this month, including a downtown field trip Nov. 15-16 and a visit with Mayor Bill Bell on Nov. 27. Third-graders move toward their state projects with a study of America’s products, resources and landforms. Fourth-graders begin their study of the Civil War.
As the grandchild of immigrants and a grateful American citizen, I relish the conversations that we’ll have this month. Thanks to Anne McNamara and all those who are collaborating to create what ought to be powerful and lasting memories for our students.
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