"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

News and Multimedia Archive


  • May

    Upper School Students Mentor Middle School Debaters

    Middle School students in Model Congress have been busy polishing their debate skills and drafting their bills ahead of the virtual Model Congress, organized by Packer Collegiate on Saturday, May 15. Friends Seminary is one of the most proactive members of Model Congress. This year over 150 students from nearly a dozen schools participated in the virtual event.

    Students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 have been engaged since the fall, first as a debate group and progressing to Model Congress last January. History teacher Rachel Barany spearheaded the program this year with Sami ‘22 and Plum ‘22 who have served as long-standing leaders and mentors to them. Both Sami and Plum have been active members of Model Congress since the sixth grade and took on leadership of the club once they entered the Upper School, working hand-in-hand with teachers to coach middle schoolers on how to make persuasive and compelling arguments. 

    Each Wednesday the group met on Zoom to discuss their proposed bills in depth, why they are important, and what they intended to change. Sami and Plum also take this time to help with individual speech writing, address questions, and share and analyze their own work from middle school. This year they also held a speech writing workshop and hosted two Mock Model Congress Sessions to prepare debaters for the real session in May.

    Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Friends students pivoted to design their own Model Congress last year, which was a drastic change from the typical in-person sessions held at Packer Collegiate. This was the first year Model Congress was held virtually. Sami and Plum, who served as Chairs, have taken this opportunity to recruit four other Upper School students who assisted at Packer’s Virtual Model Congress. Three of them participated in Model Congress as middle schoolers while one participated for the first time. “It is a nice way for upper school Model Congress ‘veterans’ to connect with a program that they participated in at that age,” Samara explains.

    Rachel Barany explains, “I am so proud of the work Sami and Plum have contributed to Model Congress at Friends. I have seen the students grow so much through these sessions. And their leadership role in working with the administration at Packer ensured that the first virtual Model Congress was a success. That’s really commendable.”

    Below, Plum and Samara reflect on the program ahead of the virtual Model Congress held on Saturday, May 15.

    Plum ‘22
    What inspires you to work on this project?
    The students themselves inspire me. I love their enthusiasm and how interested they are in their bills. The students each feel so strongly about the issues their bills aim to address—everything from raising federal minimum wage in prisons to implementing mandatory Kindergarten.

    What do you find most rewarding?
    I love seeing students be able to easily write their opening speeches after spending months researching and working on their bills. The speech is a place where the students show off their mastery and enthusiasm for their topic and it is really amazing to see all their hard work come together.

    What are you looking forward to the most for the virtual Model Congress on May 15?
    I’m really excited to see all the students debating—something I love about Model Congress is that each student gets to choose a topic that they are super passionate about and it's great to see how they bring so much energy to their speech and arguments during debates. When we had Model Congress in person it was rewarding to see how the team came together during our breaks and debriefed about how everything went—congratulating students for bills that had been passed, consoling students if their bills hadn’t, and all around a lot of encouragement that everyone keep working hard and bringing their best to the next session. Although, we won’t get the same exact sense of camaraderie online, Sami and I are going to make sure that the team comes together on Zoom quickly during the breaks to debrief and celebrate all their hard work—I am so excited for the students to come together and support each other (even over Zoom)!

    Samara ‘22

    What inspires you to work on this project?
    This year has been so difficult for everyone so it has been truly incredible to watch the dedication of these students as they continue to participate eagerly and work so enthusiastically on their bills and speeches. Even though Packer’s Model Congress was cancelled last year, the Friends Seminary Model Congress Club hosted our own individual mock Model Congress to celebrate the work that was done by our students. Therefore, the true inspiration really does come from the students themselves. Despite all the difficulties of this year and last, they managed to work tirelessly, engage with the material, and learn. I enjoy collaborating with younger students because it allows me to reconnect with the middle school. Model Congress was such a prominent part of my middle school experience, so I am so grateful to have the opportunity to continue that.

    What do you find most rewarding?
    The community that we have built is very unique and special. Before the pandemic, students in Model Congress constantly collaborated and debated with one another, bounced ideas off of one another, and learned together. Through that, you get a real sense of community, everyone is always excited to see each other when they walk through the doors. Despite the current circumstances with all of us being virtual, we still have that sense of community. Whenever Plum and I have opened breakout rooms and let the kids choose their own rooms, we see large groups of students gather together to talk and work. When Packer Model Congress rolls around, Friends students always congregate together to chat about other bills and speeches they have debated. In normal days there is also a tradition of going to Shake Shack at the end which is a nice final culminating celebration. A family really is born from this year long commitment and we look forward to seeing how this will unfold over Zoom.

    What are you looking forward to the most for the virtual Model Congress on May 15?
    I am excited to see the final products of the students’ work. They all have been working tirelessly on researching, writing, and perfecting their bills and speeches. I am also excited to see how this event comes together in a virtual setting. It is really fun to see the work of other schools combined with ours. Watching the students debate is certainly entertaining because there is certainly no shortage of friendly yet fiery competition at Model Congress, but Friends students always manage to shine and succeed. At the end of the day, we will be sure to spend time together as a School and go over the day and celebrate the highlights of the year and of Model Congress itself.
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  • Visiting Scholar, Joshua Bennett, Continues To Make An Impact

    On Thursday, April 22, Visiting Scholar, Dr. Joshua Bennett introduced the community to his robust collaborative project of poetry and music which tackled race, poetics, accountability and the sound of freedom as well as possible futures of radical belonging. Following the presentation, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Jason Craige Harris, hosted a Q&A session with Dr. Bennett, who took questions from the audience on everything from finding inspiration to his family to the purpose of school.

    Dr. Bennett began the evening by taking his audience on a journey through his creative process, citing the guidance of his mother and older sister as major influences. The linguistic prowess that his family fostered in him as a young person and the “music of everyday people” that surrounded him as he grew up in the Bronx were vital tools he used to find his voice. Dr. Bennett’s passion for words, combined with the rhythms that moved him through life allowed him to share his gift in the most meaningful way, all while lovingly taking on the task of conceptualizing his place in the world as a Black man.

    When questioned on the importance of poetry to the younger generation, Dr. Bennett explains, “It’s a space to experiment. It’s a space in which we can embark upon the adventures that make us whole. You just get to dream.” Creating poetry is also a safe space to explore triumph and pain.

    Dr. Bennett ended the discussion by focusing on his relationship with school and its significance in “creating a rich inner life and confidence” and how his education helped cultivate his own imagination and led him to his success today.

    Friends Seminary students will continue to get to know and work with Dr. Bennett through May when he hosts poetry workshops in the Lower and Middle Schools, an Upper School lunch conversation, and a workshop for humanities teachers. 

    The Visiting Scholar Program at Friends Seminary was created in 2009 to bring to campus outstanding practitioners in their field to enrich the academic and artistic experiences of our students. The program augments the curriculum by exposing students to scholars and artists who would not normally be accessible to pre-collegiate students. The impact of this experience will further inspire and motivate students to go out and “bring about a world that ought to be.”
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  • April

    Announcing the Youth Philanthropy Initiative Grant Recipients

    On April 28, 2021, Friends hosted its annual Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI). Over the last decade, Friends YPI has helped provide over $50,000 in grants to nonprofits in NYC. This service-learning initiative is part of the Friends Seminary Grade 9 history curriculum and serves as a capstone experience. Students’ teams were charged with selecting and researching a nonprofit that is addressing a social issue in NYC that is of concern to students. In conjunction with the Center for Peace, Equity and Justice's year-long theme, Confronting Systemic Racism: A Nation’s Call to Action, student teams selected nonprofits working to support communities of color.

    Each team researched their nonprofit’s mission, history, programs, and impact. They learned how to use the organization’s 990s and annual reports for key information. They conducted virtual site visits and interviewed staff and clients of the nonprofits. In presentations to their peers, each team shared what they learned about the role the philanthropic sector plays in addressing social needs. Students and teachers determined out of the twenty-five teams, which ones should move forward to the final round.

    In the last phase of this multi-step service-learning project, five finalist teams advocated for their nonprofits before a judges panel and community audience. At stake was a $5,000 grant awarded to the winning team’s nonprofit from the Toskan Casale Foundation, a second place grant from the Friends Administration of $1,000, and Parent Association grants to be awarded which included a third place grant of $500 and two remaining grants of $250 each. The audience helped determine all secondary grant recipients through a live poll.

    The Center for Peace,Equity and Justice would like to give special thanks to teachers, Peter Kalajian and Stephon Richardson, who have done an incredible job of helping this annual initiative continue despite the setbacks Covid-19 posed. CPEJ would also like to thank the students for their flexibility and adaptability. Despite so much having to occur virtually, they still forged wonderful connections to nonprofits all across the city. Listed below are the grant recipients for the YPI 2021 grant competition. 

    $5,000 YPI Grant: The Children’s Health Fund
    Student Team Members: Tara, Reza, Charlotte, Hayden, and Dahlia 

    $1,000 Friends Seminary Administrative Grant: East Harlem Tutorial Program
    Student Team Members: Avery, Morgan, Van, Eli, and Spencer

    $500 Parent Association Grant: Breaking Ground
    Student Team Members: Nadey, Shayaan, Esme, and Sylvie

    $250 Parent Association Grant: Blue Engine
    Student Team Members: Alexa, Lila, Mayaa, and Scarlett 

    $250 Parent Association Grant: The Father Center of New Jersey 
    Student Team Members: Avery, Anika, and Lila
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  • Middle School Music Moves Outside

    The Play Street is alive with the sound of music! Grade 8 students have been in the Middle School choral program together since fifth grade, and it was particularly exciting for them to be able to reunite their voices recently and take advantage of the School’s Outdoor Learning Permit that closed nearby streets to traffic and opened them to students and teachers. Previously the class had been singing on Zoom and the winter "concert" was a series of pre-recorded virtual choir videos, so it was a welcome transition.
    In addition, this is Grade 5 students’ first year together as an elective ensemble. Students have done numerous recordings at home, both for full-class songs and in small-group projects, but they hadn't actually heard their ensemble sound before last week.
    Previously for all of the Middle and Upper School vocal music classes, students adapted to singing alone in their homes, with just a backing track in their ear. They've had to wait for the editing process to be complete before they could hear themselves singing "together." Last week was wonderful experience to be able to just sing and play in the same space—to be able to feed off of each other's energy and sound without needing to wait or sing alone.
    Pictured below are Grade 8 students utilizing the Play Street for the choral program. 

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  • Lower School Projects Honor Quaker Testimonies & Adapt To Safety Protocols

    Grade 1 students are currently immersed in projects that have a unique interconnectivity between classes, connect with the School’s annual theme of “Taking Care,” and honor the Quaker testimony of community. Though teachers and students have had to adapt their strategies and studies due to Covid-19, teachers have successfully pivoted and found safe in-person strategies married with digital solutions to create and distribute work.
    As part of the Post Office project, students in Jennifer’s and Emma's class are learning about the U.S. Postal Service through different activities in the classroom including a thorough stamp study. Ben Frisch, Chris Cincotta, and Linda Chu also shared their stamp collections with students. This year the class is featuring staff from behind the scenes at the School that help keep Friends running smoothly during the pandemic. Students are currently in the interview process with several individuals from Bo and Beko to Alyson and Laura. They will then design a commemorative stamp for each person and write a summary of their work. The stamps will be used in a Pen Pal Project that the first grade will be conducting in the future and will also be displayed in the school building. Although students will not be able to deliver their letters personally this year, teachers have crafted a digital solution on Seesaw, which will be shared in the coming weeks.

    The 1MS Quaker Airlines project is the culmination of their global studies work and guided by the Quaker value of community. ⁣First graders in Matt’s and Samantha’s class will soon embark on five trips to destinations around the world where they will be immersed in different foods, culture, music and languages.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣Before spring break, the students went on walking tours of their neighborhoods, studied the five boroughs of the city and learned about New York state before expanding the study to cover the United States and the rest of North America. Next, students created their own passports to prepare for their “travels” to destinations around the globe, including: Italy, Kenya, China, Brazil and Australia. During each trip, the students will learn about the country’s people, geography and language through books, videos and interactive activities. Throughout the study, they will gather all of their documents and travel materials to be compiled in their own personal atlas.

    Students in Jaja’s and Katherine’s class are learning about influential people from New York and made some cityscape art in the styles of Faith Ringgold and James Rizzi in the Neighborhoods project. Students are currently in the midst of collecting data and surveying their neighborhood. This week they will be learning about some of NYC's most famous monuments as well as continuing to take neighborhood walks and examine their unique characteristics and culture. The class is planning to begin mapping and building their own neighborhoods later this month.
    Click on the images below to enlarge:

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  • Upper School Students Lobby for Change

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    By Leitzel Schoen, Dean of Co-Curricular Programs, The Center for Peace, Equity, and Justice

    During the spring Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) Lobbying Weekend, Friends students and the Center for Peace, Equity, and Justice collaborated with more than 500 young people from across the country who came together to lobby over 140 Congressional offices to pass the reforms included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. 

    Building off the momentum from earlier this month, when the House passed H.R.1280, students met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill requesting that they take swift action against ongoing police killings and other violence against Black people across our country. This bill would ban the use of chokeholds, institute a national “necessary” use of lethal force standard, end the militarization of civilian police departments, and implement other badly needed police reforms like “qualified immunity” reform.

    During the virtual Lobby Weekend, which took place March 20-22, 2021, students were able to hear from a number of guest speakers such as Senator Cory Booker, an original sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act, and Representative Karen Bass, author of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. In addition to plenary sessions, students and CPEJ staff had the opportunity to participate in a variety of breakout workshops. All were designed to equip participants to be effective lobbyists and advocates for social justice reform. Their last three appointments on Monday, March 22, when they met with staff from the offices of Representative Maloney, Senator Schumer, and Senator Gillibrand, were a testament to just how much our students had gained from this weekend training sponsored by the largest Quaker lobbyist organization, Friends Committee on National Legislation.

    You may listen to Ananya '21 sharing her story from the conference main stage by clicking here. Her segment begins at 15:00.

    Over the last three years, Friends Seminary has worked to strengthen this aspect of our civic engagement programming. Whether it be through in-school lobbying workshops, Service Committee letter-writing campaigns, the CPEJ-sponsored trips to Albany, or the collaborations with FCNL on Capitol Hill in D.C., Friends Seminary students are finding their voice as lobbyists and using their capacity to call for changes to public policy that would help bring about a world that ought to be. 

    To this point, students are seeing the rewards of their efforts. On March 18 the HALT bill (Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act) was approved by the NY Senate—a resolution for which Friends students have been diligently advocating. The strength and leadership of the Asian Culture Club in recent months has led to multiple lobbying efforts with NY representatives concerning the provisions of H.Res.908, Condemning All Forms of Anti-Asian Sentiment As Related to COVID-19 (Now H.Res.151 in the 117th Congress). You may read a student reflection from Ananya ‘21 here on those efforts.

    Students who participated in the 2021 annual FCNL Spring Lobby Weekend Youth Conference are listed below.

    Ananya ‘21
    Benjamin '23
    Graham '24
    Joanne '21
    Julian '23
    Nylu '23
    Sanaa '21
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  • March

    The DNA Of Learning

    Grade 8 students in Dr. Greenwood's science class explored the structure and function of the molecule that builds life by extracting DNA from strawberries and bananas. Visualizing DNA in the plant model allows students to take part in a unique hands-on experience with a structural unit that is ordinarily invisible to the naked eye, yet plays such an enormous role in the making of the world as we know it. The value of this lab is certainly not lost on us this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic challenges everyone to consider how even the smallest things can have a major impact on our lives. Click here to see more photos!
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  • Ananya '21 Reflects On Lobbying Visits Condemning All Forms of Anti-Asian Sentiment

    By Ananya '21

    Deeply troubled by the ongoing incidents of Anti-Asian hate in New York and the greater United States, the Asian Culture Club collaborated with the School’s Center for Peace, Equity and Justice to organize delegations consisting of Upper School students, parents and community members from Friends, and lobbyists from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), to lobby for the provisions of H.Res.908, Condemning All Forms of Anti-Asian Sentiment As Related to COVID-19 (Now H.Res.151 in the 117th Congress). The resolution, passed in the House last September, denounces all manifestations of expressions of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, anti-Asian sentiment, scapegoating, and ethnic or religious intolerance related to COVID-19. 
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  • Rebecca '25 Recognized By 2021 NYC Scholastic Awards

    Rebecca '25 recently received regional recognition in the 2021 NYC Scholastic Awards, presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, for her piece, My Mind. Her work was recognized by a panel of creative professionals as among the most outstanding work submitted among her peers. Since 1923, the Awards have recognized some of America’s most celebrated artists and writers while they were teenagers, including: Tschabalala Self, Stephen King, Kay WalkingStick, Charles White, Joyce Carol Oates, and Andy Warhol. With this, her work has been automatically advanced to the national level of adjudication in New York City.
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  • Noah '25 Honored at Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth

    The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth recently honored two Friends, including Noah '25, for their exceptional performance on the SAT, ACT, or similar assessment. CTY is a non profit dedicated to identifying and developing the talents of academically advanced pre-college students around the world.

    Dr. Virginia Roach, CTY’s Executive Director states, “In times like these, we are reminded that the world needs leaders, educators, health care providers, artists, creators, and problem solvers, and we hope you will use your talents to find success in college and your career, serve your community, and cultivate a love of learning that will last a lifetime.”

    Click here to learn more about the Center for Talented Youth.

    Click here for the full press release.
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Friends Seminary actively promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in all its programs and operations, including admissions, financial aid, hiring, and all facets of the educational experience. To form a community which strives to reflect the world’s diversity, we do not discriminate on the basis of race or color, religion, nationality, ethnicity, economic background, physical ability, sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation. Friends Seminary is an equal opportunity employer.

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