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I often look at the touted promises of the 'next' technology with a jaundiced eye. This is technology put to great, direct, effective use.

The Washington, DC area chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has provided  Georgetown University Hospital's pediatric oncology program with six laptops and webcams that hospitalized students use to follow lessons and stay connected to their classrooms and lessons.

Becky Wilson, a leukemia patient, follows along with her classmates at Jamestown Elementary School.  She told the Washington Post (Webcams Allow Students to Stay Connected: Thanks to Donated Gear, Even Serious Illnesses Aren't Keeping Some Children Out of the Classroom) that "she has been able to join her first-grade class almost every morning in solving math problems, listening to poetry and working on group projects."

Lisa Wilson, Becky's mom, also told the Washington Post: "She's a very bright child...The webcam really just adds that extra dimension that she misses."

Aziza Shad, Georgetown's pediatric oncology director added:

"Having this technology available is really a turning point for children with cancer and other serious illnesses...They miss their teachers. They miss their friends. These laptops with webcams provide a perfect way for them to participate in a lesson and stay connected with their school." (Washington Post)
Photo credit: mshades
From today's Washington Post (Aid Is Increased to Help Keep Struggling Families From Removing Students)- with experience working through difficult situations over the past decade- declining enrollment, increasing costs and families electing non-catholic education options, the Catholic schools of the DC area are moving quickly and decisively to help families seeking financial aid.

As Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association told the Post "Any kind of issues that we had before have just been intensified by the concern over the economy."

To their credit, the administrators of DC are Catholic schools are committed to finding and making increased financial aid available to families who might need tuition assistance for the first time.

"To retain students whose parents have hit rocky financial times, dioceses are increasing financial aid for next year, extending financial aid deadlines and offering emergency aid for this year for families facing sudden setbacks who are unable to pay tuition, which runs between $4,000 and $18,000 a year.

The Arlington Diocese, which has about 18,000 students, has increased its financial aid from $1.7 million to $2 million for next year. It is also offering $250,000 this year for people in immediate need, said Sister Bernadette McManigal, interim schools superintendent.

She expects the money to run out quickly. "I probably could use a half-million just for immediate need," she said." (Washington Post)
While doing great work, I find the-story-behind-the-story the most interesting aspect of this piece. Increasing financial aid is something that every tuition driven school would love today.  Most can't. But some schools- like the DC area Catholic schools- find more aid. And, I think the reasons are simple. Start with Lower overhead.  But, beyond that, I see commitment and communal bonds.

Most everyone, clergy, teachers, parents, students, charities and families share a common bond of service and shared sacrifice. "Working together, we can find a way to make this work." And, unlike stand-alone independent schools, catholic schools seem to be able to draw on revenues from other parts of their diocese.

"Barbara McGraw Edmondson, principal of the School of the Incarnation in Gambrills, said her school's leadership has decided that it will waive tuition, if need be, to keep children in school. Several families have come to the school seeking assistance because of unemployment or decreased income.

"If a family is in that situation, we certainly would have the child remain in school even if they can't pay the tuition," Edmondson said. "That is the reality now." (Washington Post)
One can't help but be impressed by the commitment and levels of shared sacrifice and wonder, "are there ways for independent schools to build, practice, and benefit from these intense levels of commitment and sacrifice?"
Hannah McConnaughay, an Outreach Education and Training Associate at the Interfaith Youth Core of Chicago contributed today's installment of the Newsweek/Washington Post's "On Faith" blog (Finding Citizen Change-Makers at Boarding School).

A Chicago native she found herself wistful, sad, irritated, and a little jealous that she would miss President Obama's inauguration.

On inauguration day she found herself on St. Timothy School's campus, working with St. Timothy's students. And, in the end, she understood that there's no place that she would have rather- or should- have been.

Here's an excerpt:

"As I heard about these young women's activities repairing local animal shelters, painting elementary schools, and providing food for the struggling, I saw how they walked their talk, acknowledging their strong differences but working together to provide needed services.

Pretty soon, I realized that I was spending my Inauguration weekend with the people that President Obama was talking about in his Inaugural address, the citizen change-makers who are waking up with a "spirit of service," working with their neighbors, and taking pride in their nation. In the weeks since visiting St. Timothy's, I've only become more convinced that that's right where I need to be." (Washington Post)
Having taught Toni Morrison's Beloved a few times, I found this new take on bringing it to classroom very thoughtful, but in the end, reflective of the challenges of bringing any great work to students.

Ian Shapira writes about teaching Tony Morrison to an AP class at Cardozo High School in DC in an article titled, "Tackling Toni Morrison: Obama-Generation Readers See Civil Rights Era With Different Eyes:"  

Of course the students grumble about the time and narration shifts: who's talking now; where are we? But, what's most interesting is the notion that students' reading lenses and perspective are becoming post-racial:

"Young students tend to read Morrison from a less overtly racial perspective and might not be drawn instinctively to literature about historical subjects such as slavery or segregation, said Eleanor Traylor, a Howard University professor and friend of Morrison's who is teaching "A Mercy" to graduate students.

"I grew up in the civil rights generation, the Black Arts Movement, but these kids have another driving force: They have Barack Obama, for God's sake," Traylor said. "Young people today have been delivered from exclusive paradigms and read with a broader vision of the world and a less restrictive lens."
If we really have grown into a post racial world and our relationships and connections have become more fluid, then building webs of meaning and understanding when we read Morrison or call our neighbors down the street may become less historical and more focused on our acts and the question 'what does this (my action, my relationships, you name it) mean now, today and how does fit or work with everything connected to it?'

The world may have just gained several layers of complexity.

Photo credit: wpwend42

The Washington Post ran a piece highlighting the rise of online interviews in the admission process.

The online interview isn't well-established and still faces some technology hurtles. Not all families have the technology readily available and admission office staffs need some convincing and prodding to learn new ways of communicating with applicants.

The web interview certainly offers the prospect of saving families travel dollars.

One of the largest hurdles to more online interviews seems to be admission office reluctance and unfamiliarity with the technology.

I'm guessing efficiency will win out in the end.

With respect to boarding schools, anyone participate in an online interview (either as an interviewer or interviewee)? I'd love to read your impressions- chime in below.

Milton Hershey School: A Boarding School with a Distinct Mission

Milton Hershey School's Founder's HallThe Washington Post published a super piece on the Milton Hershey School Sunday. Milton Hershey is one of the boarding school world's great places. Endowed by chocolate, the school dedicates itself to providing first class opportunities to students whose background and family finances would normally keep boarding school beyond their educational opportunities.

Milton Hershey's fortune allows it to serve one of the great roles that I often explain when talking about the "whys" of boarding school. Milton Hershey serves as the consistent environment for students. M-H supports its students and students know what to expect of the school.

Dedicated to its role, Milton Hershey knows and goes the extra mile in providing the basic family functions that we often take for granted. Like a traditional boarding school for its students, Milton Hershey serves as a safe, consistent environment for its students. Milton Hershey becomes home- providing health, mental health and dental care along with daily safety and structure of a routine that makes sure you know and have time to take care of your responsibilities.

As Milton Hershey communications director told the Washington Post, "Basically, we're looking for good kids in really difficult situations who deserve a shot at a normal life."

With the support of and structures of a family Milton Hershey students frees its students to explore and excel.

The Washington Post piece is long, but more than worth the read; the personal stories are great. To learn more about the school, visit their site.

Photo: Milton Hershey School's Founder's Hall
Photo Credit: Eric F. Savage

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