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Alumni and Faculty Profiles

Bringing about a World that Ought to Be

At Friends Seminary, our mission is to "prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be." Each month, Friends will profile an alum or faculty member (current and former) who lets their life speak. Together these profiles tell the story of Friends Seminary's mission in action through the individuals who have spent time here.

List of 3 news stories.

  • Laura Fruitman '02 | The Right To Shower

    “The more we can sell, the more we can give away.” Laura Fruitman ‘02 is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Unilever and Founder and General Manager of The Right To Shower, a social enterprise brand founded on the belief that cleanliness is a fundamental human right. “When we think about people who are experiencing homelessness, we think of food and shelter as immediate needs—and they are—but, hygiene and health are important for a sense of dignity, a sense of self.”

    The Right To Shower sells thoughtfully crafted body wash and bar soap nationwide through major retailers like Whole Foods and Amazon. Its business model is designed to provide a sustainable revenue stream to their non-profit partners; 30% of the profits are directed toward NGOs providing mobile shower services. Its main partnership is with Lava Mae a nonprofit that began by converting decommissioned buses into mobile shower units in San Francisco, CA where only 16 public restrooms exist to serve more than 7,000 people experiencing homelessness. Today Lava Mae advises others on how to set up mobile showers and how to create a culture of radical hospitality. “Everyone who comes to a mobile shower is called a guest. Each person is given a clean, safe place to take a shower, a fresh towel and The Right To Shower soap.” Through partnership with Lava Mae, The Right To Shower has supported the establishment of mobile showering units across 18 cities in the United States. 

    The Quaker testimony of Community pervades Laura’s work and leadership. “That’s what we do with The Right To Shower. We believe in community and everyone is a member.” This deep commitment to community inspired Laura’s participation in The World’s Big Sleepout in December 2019. In 56 cities across the globe, people joined together to sleep out in public spaces, raising awareness and funding for the homeless community. In New York, participants slept out in Times Square. “It was very intense. I spend a lot of time thinking about homelessness, but I’d never spent a night on the streets. You are so very vulnerable. It gave me a new perspective and an increased sense of empathy.”Laura traces the roots of her activism back to Friends. “All my service credits at Friends were working in shelters. The idea of invisibility, that people are not seen, was and is really upsetting to me.” 

    Laura is using her talent and experience as a professional to build a new kind of business model that honors the dignity in every person. “We all have an ability and responsibility to take care of our community; you have a choice and you can vote with your dollars.” Through her work with The Right To Shower, Laura is helping to bring about a world where the right to cleanliness and communities of care are accessible to everyone. “We have a responsibility to the people we live among: we are all people, we all share rights, we all have an inner Light.”
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  • Hudson Mclane '16 | Working Alongside Refugees

    “It’s very easy to forget you have kids in cages in Greece and they’re not called detention centers, they’re called refugee camps.” Hudson McLane ’16 is currently an undergraduate at SOAS University in London; during each summer and holiday break from school, he works as a grassroots activist for refugees in Greece. “Even when run by the better organizations, you are still putting people in tents or containers. What kind of life is someone going to live if they are living out of a box?” 

    Originally bound for Occidental College, Hudson took a gap year after graduating from Friends Seminary that changed his life path. After taking an internship at the International Rescue Committee in Elizabeth, NJ, Hudson was referred by a family friend to the Khora Community Centre in Athens, Greece. In its original form, Khora was a seven-story building, providing different services to a community of refugees on each floor. “At least 30% of the volunteers were from refugee and migrant communities. It’s not like I am the giver and you are the receiver of my aid or relief. It’s something more in solidarity, more in building relationships.” At Khora, more than 600 hot meals were served each day; educational classes were provided in English, Greek, French, Spanish and German; there was a fully licensed and functioning dentistry floor, as well as a floor with lawyers and recent law school graduates to support those seeking asylum. Hudson spent most of his time in the family space, where children could come and play. “There were lots of programs—cooking classes, arts and crafts, yoga, even a skateboarding group every Thursday called Free Movement.” Simultaneously, Hudson began working in informal settlements. Following the economic crisis in Greece, Hudson estimates approximately one in five buildings in Athens were abandoned; these spaces became occupied by refugees and activists, and self-determined communities arose within them. “It’s not an entirely viable solution to homelessness, but definitely a pathway that hadn’t been properly explored. In the end this occupation was criminalized and they were evicted. They’ve soldered the gates where I’d been working and no one can go through. It was quite traumatic, the evictions.” 

    Inspired by the Quaker testimony of Peace, Friends Seminary was the first independent school in New York City to offer an Arabic language program which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Many of the refugees who Hudson worked alongside were from Syria, and he was able to put his four years of Arabic language education from Friends to good use. “By the time I got to Greece, I was speaking Arabic everyday for many hours. I adopted a Syrian dialect.” 

    Looking to the future, Hudson imagines a world where self-determined communities and grassroots activism will be supported by policy. “Supporting those small solutions creates a somewhat better world, closer to what ought to be. It’s not perfect, but I think it is, in a lot of ways, better.” The Quaker practices of unity and a belief in the Light in every person infuse both his personal ethos and his work. “I’ve worked in places that operate in a way that is quite different from the mainstream. I’ve really come to believe in and appreciate the kind of activism that involves listening and building networks of solidarity.”
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  • Nelson Shin | World Languages Teacher

    What do you recall about your first day at FS? 
     
    My first impressions of Friends were during my interview in 1994.  I was attending the Middle School Meeting for Worship on a warm spring day.  Upon entering the Meeting House, I can remember the sweet smell of wood emanating from the benches and floor.  Back then, we did not have any cushions and the students were expected to sit in silence for 10-15 minutes.  I recall being impressed by how still the middle school students were during worship and looked around to see if anyone was as fidgety as I was.  I was sitting directly across from Pam Wood, the Head of the Middle School at that time.  She was the one in charge of my interview.  I felt more antsy than any of the students. Dressed in a suit on a warm day in the Meeting House did not help calm my nerves as my forehand began to bead up with sweat. I did not have anything to wipe off my perspiration, and I kept wondering if Pam was taking note of this.  Fortunately, I did get the job and have been at Friends ever since. 
     
     
    Who is your favorite teacher of all time? 
     
    This is a difficult question for me to answer.  I have had many wonderful teachers throughout my education, but I would say that the one teacher who truly ignited my interest in learning and teaching Spanish was my middle school Spanish teacher, Señora Amdur.  She was an interesting mix of dramatic, demanding, and quirky, but commanded tremendous respect from her students.  She often spoke to us about the importance of knowing another language and traveling to other cultures outside the United States in order to develop a better understanding of one another.  Later in life, I came across a quote by Mark Twain about how traveling can combat intolerance and racism,* and I often wondered if she was inspired by his quote or if it was her personal experience of traveling that lead her to a similar conclusion.   
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