Friday, July 15, 2016

SPS 2016: Final Banquet and Goodbyes in Gregory Court

On the last full day of the St. Albans School of Public Service program, after the "Presidential Debates," it was time for some of the final events of the program: (1) the taking of the formal class photograph; (2) the Final Banquet and Toasts; and (3) the gathering in Gregory Court.

The only disadvantage to taking the final photograph on the final night was that we were missing three students who had to leave before the last Friday -- Will, Maeve, and Spencer.  We missed you!
The official SPS 2016 Class Photograph
After the photograph, we gathered for one last time as a full group in the St. Albans Refectory (dining hall) for the Final Banquet.  Delicious as the meal was, the best part was the toasts that followed, as the St. Albans School of Public Service Class of 2016 toasted each other and SPS; thanked peers and teachers; and spoke about what the experience had meant to them.  We thank them for their candid, warm, funny and kind words.  As one SPS '16 student said "I've never had so many important conversations in such a short time."  (It also emerged that many of the best conversations took place in the dorm after formal lights out . . . )

Later, after a chance to change out of the formal Banquet attire, the SPS Class of 2016 gathered in Gregory Court for s'mores, selfies, and many, many hugs.
George talks to the class

Will K. toasts, complete with water bottle!

Tommy S. was eloquent, as always!

Jalen thanked his classmates for an unforgettable experience

Alexa thanked her peers

Emily against the backdrop of the stained glass windows of the Refectory

Session ending group selfie time!

From left: Nina, Jack W., Emily S., Madeline

From left: Daniel, Morgan, and Tommy

From left: Dillon, Anvesh, Jalen (in front), Mariah (in back), K'Dreunna, and GareAna

Now that's a good hug

Group hug!

Working on a kick line

SPS 2016 Week Four: Culminating "Presidential Debate"

Throughout the session, in their Public Speaking classes the St. Albans School of Public Service Class of 2016 students took part in a "Presidential Election" exercise in which they learned more about the policy positions of the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominees and sharpened their advocacy skills at the same time.  After highlighting their policy positions at dueling "press conferences" earlier in the session, finally the culminating event of the project arrived: the "Presidential Debates."  Each of the three class sections had their own debate, with one of the other class sections serving as judges.  The students were assigned by lot to either the "Trump Campaign" or "Clinton Campaign," and after the judges ruled, it appears that the "Trump Campaign" was victorious in two debates the "Clinton Campaign" was victorious in the third.  Hard to tell what the future will bring for the talented students of the St. Albans School of Public Service Class of 2016, but they certainly could make it in politics, judging by the quality of the debating!
"Trump staffer" Emily Y. responds to a critique from the Clinton Campaign

"Clinton spokesman" Anvesh J. makes the opening statement for "his" candidate

Listening carefully to an opponent's argument

"Trump spokeswoman" Zoe S. excoriates the opponent

"Clinton foreign policy expert" Zach I. discusses Secretary Clinton's foreign policy priorities

"Trump campaigner" Alex (supported by Tommy S., in his "Make America Great Again" ballcap) fights off an attack from the "Clinton" debaters

"Clinton Campaign Gun Control Expert" GareAna explains the candidate's gun control views

"Clinton debater" Bradford making a point

SPS 2016: Talent Show and Karaoke Dance Party

As we wind down Week Four of the St. Albans School of Public Service 2016 program, it was great to get to see some of the talents that the SPS '16 students possess that go beyond the classroom or debate floor.  In the Thursday night Talent Show and Karaoke Dance Party, the talents on display included impressions (Anvesh's impression of Bernie Sanders brought down the house), a capella singing by Mariah, a group dance to "All the Single Ladies," Madeline's singing of "Hallelujah" self-accompanied by the guitar, and a duet by Jalen with K'Dreunna.  And once the Karaoke machine unspooled its magic, there was dancing and lip syncing galore!
Small group vocal performance

Madeline's solo rendition of Hallelujah

Our MCs for the evening, Mariah and K'Dreunna

Mariah and K'Dreunna belt it out!

Karaoke stylings (from left: Bradford, Tommy S., Jack B., Zach)

SPS Faculty Member Ms. Sam (left) dances with Emily S.

Dillon and K'Dreunna on the dance floor 

A group Karaoke number!

Delia and Anvesh cutting a rug

Who needs "Dancing with the Stars" with SPS '16 in the house?

Madeline, Ms. Sam, and Gabby

George and Jack W. rocking out

Thursday, July 14, 2016

SPS 2016: Fantastic Final Field Trip to the Pentagon to Attend the Daily Press Briefing

St. Albans school of Public Service Class of 2016 with Pentagon Press Secretary Mr. George Cook
As the four weeks of the 2016 St. Albans School of Public Service draw to a close, we took our last field trip of the session -- and it was a great one.  During our visit to the Pentagon today, we began with a tour of the building.  The different art collections celebrating Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines were of great interest, and then we were able to spend a contemplative few minutes at the 9/11 Memorial honoring the victims of the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon.

Even with the fantastic tour, the highlight of the day was still to come.  We were fortunate enough to be able to attend Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook's briefing of reporters.  (CLICK HERE for a link to his briefing -- at the very beginning he welcomes SPS!)  After the briefing, Mr. Cook, Colonel Steven Warren (Director of Defense Press Operations), and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Ms. Kelly Magsamen met with SPS 2016 and answered questions from our group on issues ranging from the future of the F-35 jet to the recent ruling of the Hague about territorial claims of China in the South China Sea.

Throw in a few great photo ops (see below -- from the top: Nina, Bradford, and Zoe), and there couldn't have been a better trip for our last SPS 2016 field trip.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

SPS 2016: An Evening with Students from the Ukraine

After being in Washington, D.C. since June 19, our St. Albans School of Public Service students put aside the role of visitors tonight to play host to visiting students from the Ukraine.  The students, who attend the Transnational Education Group's Washington Business and Diplomacy Leadership Academy, are in D.C. for three weeks.  Tonight they joined our SPS 2016 crew for dinner and music from the "Silver Strings" (featuring St. Albans School's own Mr. Carroll).

Mr. Carroll on the guitar with the awesome Silver Strings!

SPS 2016: An "Only in Washington, D.C. Kind of Day" at the St. Albans School of Public Service

Yesterday was one of those "only in D.C." kind of days at the St. Albans School of Public Service.  We started off the day with a private tour of the Library of Congress -- one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington, D.C. -- and were able to see the Library's exhibit on Jacob Riis, 19th century reformer and author of How the Other Half Lives, as well as get a hands-on explanation of the technology of photography in Riis's time.  Technological innovations were crucial to his ability to expose the dreadful condition in New York's tenements, as the invention of flash photography allowed for the first time the documentation of dark interior spaces.  (See below a brief video clip of some of our group leaving the observation hall for the Main Reading Room.)
Upon our return to St. Albans, after a quick lunch, it was on to another iconic Washington, D.C. edifice: the Washington National Cathedral, which our SPS 2016 students have viewed from the outside for three-and-a-half weeks.  Yesterday, we were able to see the Cathedral more closely from the inside, with an amazing tour of the Cathedral Bell Tower.  (Below: a brief video clip of the group climbing the stairs to the Bell Tower, and photos from the adventure.)

From left: Emily S., Quincy, and Nina on the stairs to the Tower
George, Dillon, and Daniel pause for a photo opportunity
Mr. Wright talks to our group about the amazing Cathedral bells
Jalen and K'Dreunna enjoying the "best in the city" view!

Hey, Spencer and Daniel, what's that behind you?

Morgan, Tommy S., and Madeline in the Bell Tower

Zoe and Madeline enjoying a summer day at the Cathedral

Some of our brave band who climbed to the Tower!  From left: Dillon, Georgia, Jalen, Mariah, K'Dreunna, Medhanit, Emily Y., Zach
Finally -- and even for SPS, this was an exceptional day -- it was off to the German Ambassador's Residence, for a private Q&A with the German Ambassador to the United States and then a wonderful dinner at the Residence.
Mariah, Jocelyn, and K'Dreunna at the Residence

Zaki, Will, and George enjoying the view from the Terrace of the Ambassador's Residence

Three distinguished gentlemen! (Sevrin, Veljko, and Nico)

Jalen, Jesus, and Dillon chat with SPS Board member Ms. Nazareth

A great night for an outdoor dinner (from left: Nina, Alexa, and Zach)

SPS 2016 on the grounds of the Ambassador's Residence
From left: Will, Delia, GareAna, Emily S.