Celebrating Black Lives and Voices

Mae Jemison. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Misty Copeland. Kamala Harris. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett.

These are just a handful of the African American scientists, artists, and leaders our Dragons have been learning about this month as we have sought to recognize the contributions of Black voices and lives as part of Black History Month. At WES, we are actively working to ensure that our curriculum offers multiple perspectives and voices throughout the year. However, our society has set aside this month to pay special honor to African Americans, and we wish to join that celebration. In recognition of the fact that history is created every day, our faculty were also encouraged by our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team to pay special attention to the contributions of African Americans who are still alive, as well as create opportunities for students to contribute their ideas, experiences, and learning to classroom discussions. 

Our faculty integrated these learning opportunities throughout the curriculum in various subject areas. Several classes highlighted Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate who spoke at President Biden’s recent inauguration. We discovered that many of our Kindergarten Dragons had watched the inauguration when they recognized Ms. Gorman’s picture. They learned that she began writing when she was not much older than them, and together, the students created an acrostic poem about WES in her honor.  

Grade 5 was inspired by a Ted Talk by Ms. Gorman where she said she “stands on the shoulders of the ancestors who came before” her. The students discussed the difference between familial ancestors and non-familial ancestors whose lives have paved the way for us to live our lives today, and they reflected on both types of ancestors in their own lives. This became the focus of their Black History Month celebration, where they explored modern-day history makers and the ancestors who came before them in fields such as education, politics, STEM, and the arts. 

While I have chosen to highlight two projects, there has been great learning going on throughout the building. Astronaut Mae C. Jemison was discussed in Kindergarten, Grade 5, and Pre-K, where Ms. Jemison and her accomplishments were used to kick off a space-themed unit. Grade 1 has been learning about African American inventors, including George Crum, Dr. Patricia Bath, and Marie Van Brittain Brown. Grade 2 focused on Black authors and Black lives during read-alouds, as well as learning about Lebron James’ I Promise School as part of their study of the virtue of the month, generosity.  Grade 3 has been thinking about how they can “be a king” like MLK and an upstander through their daily choices and actions, as well as celebrating African American inventors and authors. Middle School has been diving deep into the Civil Rights Movement, and students in our Kaleidoscope Clubs (Grades 4-8) researched current Black figures who inspire them and created a slideshow to share their research with the community. This project has been so successful that Middle School advisories have followed their lead. Many of our specials teachers have also sought to integrate these themes into their lessons these months.  

While we will continue to teach and celebrate Black history and contributions throughout the school year, we are glad to embrace the opportunities Black History Month provides to highlight Black historical figures and lift up current Black voices as well. 

Head of School

Danny Vogelman

Our Kind, Confident, and Prepared Alumni

At WES, one of our goals is to provide our students with the skills that enable them to stride confidently into the world, delight in it, and contribute to it. And I am proud to say WES alumni do just that! Many of our graduates stay in frequent touch with our faculty, enabling us to have a front row view to cheer their accomplishments and contributions with pride.

And just as we had to reimagine what school would look like this year, our alumni responded to the pandemic with all of the resilience and creativity that one would expect from a WES Dragon. While you can read more alumni stories in winter issue of The WES Magazine, which you should have received last week, here are a few highlights from all of their great adventures:

Ali Ahmed ’11 graduated from University of California, Berkeley in 2019. He studied computer science and economics, and earned departmental honors in both. He was admitted to Harvard Business School, but he deferred admission to create his own start-up that got funded by Y Combinator. His sister Alya ’13 is in her final year at Yale, majoring in math and economics. She just won the Tobin Scholar Prize and she will join Citibank’s investment banking team this summer in New York.

Nora Dahlberg ’10 was building her career as a costume designer for Broadway and DC theaters prior to COVID. She relocated to Salt Lake City, and is about to return to school to study coding and web design at the University of Utah. She also still teaches stage makeup for Imagination Stage via Zoom and makes costumes on the side for historical re-enactors.

Katie DeVries ’11 is an entrepreneur, using her culinary skills to open the Hearthwood Hull Bakery in the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head, SC.

Andreas Gizaw ’10 was accepted to the University of Maryland’s medical school. His classes don’t start until August, so he has been helping to keep our community safe by working as a contact tracer for Montgomery County.

Byron Jones ’10 started NuWave Construction, a general contracting company, last May. His vision is built on “changing the stigma and negative experiences that customers typically have when dealing with contractors. My goal is to focus on customer satisfaction, buy providing quality workmanship and great communication throughout the entire process.” His company provides remodeling and new construction. This fall he designed and renovated a bathroom for his former teacher Bill Isola.

Leia Karam ’10 graduated with a Master of Arts in Digital Media and Information Studies from the University of Glasgow in 2018, then got a job in London working for BT Group, the UK’s largest provider of fixed line, mobile, and broadband services. She was promoted during the pandemic and now she is a transformation and technology PR manager at BT Group living full time in London and working from home.

Bethany Mark ’09 recently had a baby and has also been working as a Pre-K teacher, adapting just like our own faculty, and discerning how to continue teaching young ones with excellence.

Jack Metelski ’07 lives in New York City, working for Bessemer Trust in their investments department. He also recently got engaged, and we wish him and his wife-to-be all the best!

Sofia Selowsky ’04 had to pause her opera career due to COVID-19, so she has been busy working on a tech start-up with a close friend.

These are just a handful of some of the interesting career paths our graduates have been pursuing. I would encourage you to read more of these great stories in The WES Magazine.

Danny Vogelman

Head of School