2011 Jenkins Fellow Presentations

Posted October 24, 2011

On Wednesday morning in Garland Theater, four Garrison Forest students presented their transformative summer experiences as the 2011 Jenkins Fellows doing service around the globe. The Jenkins Fellows gave multimedia presentations and reflective remarks to an audience of Upper School students, faculty, administrators, parents, and alumnae about their experiences which ranged from teaching children to play guitar in Senegal to working with HIV/AIDS patients in the Dominican Republic.

In spring 2011, the students were selected from a competitive field of GFS sophomores and juniors to design an intense, summer immersion in community service, regionally, nationally, or abroad. Funded by the GFS Elsie Foster Jenkins ’53 Endowment Fund for Community Service, the Jenkins Fellows program embodies the late Elsie Jenkins’ lifelong commitment to service. The Fund, which was established in 1999 by Elsie’s classmates and family, also supports the GFS Service League (student-led, voluntary community service and GFS’s longest-running club since the League’s founding in 1942) and brings to campus noted speakers, including Dr. Madeleine Albright, first female U.S. Secretary of State, and renowned pediatric neurologist Dr. Ben Carson.

The overarching Jenkins Program is one of the marquee programs of GFS’s nationally distinctive James Center, which coordinates the school’s numerous experiential learning programs and public-private partnerships. Beginning with the first “class” of Jenkins Fellows in 2005, these student leaders have shared their passion for service from India and Peru to Baltimore’s own House of Ruth of Maryland.

Service League Coordinator and English Teacher Johanna Maranto welcomed guests of the presentations and gave opening remarks: “By immersing themselves in summer service projects through the generosity of the Jenkins Fund, this year’s Jenkins Fellows have honored Elsie Foster Jenkins and her life-long passion for service and have become service models for our entire community,” Ms. Maranto said. “I know that you will enjoy their presentations, and I suspect you will also be inspired by them.”

After Ms. Maranto’s introduction the four students gave often moving accounts of their experiences:

Sarah Hill, junior, served as a public health volunteer in two facilities in the Dominican Republic and traveled with Dr. Sarah Stewart de Ramirez of Johns Hopkins Hospital. First, Sarah volunteered at Casa Rosada, a facility in Santo Domingo which provides housing, food, education, and medication to orphans with HIV/AIDS. She interviewed patients about nutritional habits to gather research for her final project: creating an effective model to teach children about nutrition, food groups, and a balanced diet at El Campamento de Esperanza y Alegría (The Camp of Hope and Happiness). Her experience was deeply personal. As a toddler, Sarah was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, and at age 4, contracted an eye disease called Uveitis. “I have had the best medical care possible, excellent nutrition, and education,” she reflects. “Putting myself into a culture of people with HIV, who have limited access to a most basic necessity—food—has altered my view and way of thinking. My Jenkins Fellowship was a gift of awareness and my first step towards choosing my future career.”

Senior Naya Frazier spent a month in St. Louis, Senegal through Projects Abroad. She donated six guitars and taught guitar (in French) to disadvantaged children at L’Ecole Maternelle Sidi N’diaye. In her words: “The schedule for kindergarten featured sing-along time in the mornings, which, after my arrival, would no longer be a cappella. After I worked with about ten kindergarteners over the course of the next month, teaching some basic chords so they could play the songs, I became less obsessed with the kids ‘getting it’ than concerned with their enjoying the lessons and having fun. I realized that ‘getting it’ wasn’t really the point of my project…Maybe the point was for me to try my best to get them to learn and discover the challenges and joys of teaching. Maybe the point was to introduce kids to something that they never would have experienced otherwise, and for them to enjoy themselves. And if that was the point, then I can say that I definitely succeeded.” Check out her video below.

Sophie Marney-Dejanikus '13 volunteered with Projects Abroad at a social rehabilitation center in Moldova. This trip was particularly resonant as Sophie was adopted as a baby from a Russian orphanage in the region. Children, ages 3-15, live at the government-sponsored home because their home environment is too stressful due to economic or family issues. Sophie’s volunteer role was to play with the children to create a nurturing environment for them. Through organized games, one-on-one, and arts and crafts, she created a bond with the children. “I made a difference in those children’s lives, and they made a difference in mine,” she says. “Be it learning some Moldovan or Russian, or how to set limits and stick to them, this trip was a wonderful experience that I will never forget.”

Rachel Safferman, a senior, traveled to Williams, Arizona as a volunteer at Camp Civitan, a summer camp program for developmentally disabled adults and children sponsored by the Civitan Foundation. “My Jenkins Fellowship challenged me in ways I never thought possible,” says Rachel, who is President of Garrison Forest School. “Civitan has given me a renewed passion to pursue a career working with special needs children. The campers helped me grow as much in two weeks as I had in the last 17 years of my life. There is something so touching and so indescribable about spending time with extraordinary people who have to overcome challenges everyday just to lead ordinary lives.”

“I am in awe of your open hearts and your open minds,” said Head of Upper School Melinda Bihn in her closing remarks. “It’s clear that you each gave yourself to that experience. It’s also clear that the lives of the people you worked with were changed. I hope that every girl in this room will find a way to engage in this type of service learning, because it is transformative.”

In addition to presenting their once-in-a-lifetime experiences on October 19 and to the Middle School and Lower Division later in the fall, the 2011 Fellows act as service leaders as members of the student Service League Board for the remainder of their time at GFS.

View the powerpoints of the students' presentations attached to this article and see Naya's video of her trip below.

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