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The greenery is striking. Walk up to the second floor of the SG Academic Center, enter what has been known to teachers and students as the “plant room” and you’re in a space that is remarkably different than the mostly earth-toned classrooms and atrium. Sunlight beams through floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights in the south-facing room, which contains a thriving plethora of plants, among them orchids, begonias and other succulents, a bonsai that had been growing in a student’s dorm room, and a citronella plant from Lebanon donated by Elie Karam, father of Naji Karam ’20. An indoor koi tank bubbles with fresh water near the entrance.
Construction of the 325-square-foot greenhouse, which has quickly become a beloved places on campus, was made possible by the generous donation of Victoria and Julio Rios, parents of Catherine Rios ’16 and Caroline Rios ’19 (right). The conservatory was formally dedicated Friday, Feb. 17, as part of the Parents Committee’s annual Fifth-Form Parents Weekend gathering. The Rioses, Head of School Eric Peterson, Associate Head of School for External Affairs Bob Weston, Chair of the Science Department Dr. Bob Wein and Caroline Billyard ’17, who made extensive use of the conservatory for an independent study in plant DNA last spring, offered remarks at the ceremony.
“For our family the conservatory represents growth and growth brings life,” said Mrs. Rios, an artist. “Science was never my forte, however … the natural sciences are my inspiration in every piece of work I produce. I don’t have a green thumb unless paint is on it, but what I have is the ability to create and reflect the beauty of nature in my art. What I find fascinating about this is the connection of it all — nature, science, art and imagination.”
Since its inception, the conservatory has offered a host of teaching and learning opportunities, according to Wein. “Students are in the conservatory all the time,” added science teacher Holly Williams. “Some come to do homework in the peaceful atmosphere, others to rest, others to chat. Some come to work with plants.”
Following her independent study, Caroline (on left in picture at right), with Mrs. Williams’ help, is now creating a “living wall” in the conservatory as part of an independent SGx project. Art teacher Ted Sturtevant manufactured the metal frame, which now hangs on the room’s west side and is expected to be filled with five rows of plants, including lettuces that could be used in the dining hall.
And it won’t be the first time Sage, the school’s dining service, has taken advantage of the room’s foliage. Chef Rob Couto said the conservatory regularly provides herbs for several flavorful dishes. “I have used the oregano in most of the Latin dishes we prepare. The lavender has been used in the biscuits. And the rosemary in all the other dishes that require it,” he said.
The Rioses, of Dallas, Texas, said they donated the conservatory to inspire others to give to St. George’s, as well as to serve as a source of inspiration. “Our hope is that the St. George’s community will take advantage of this great space and it will inspire knowledge, creativity and growth,” Mrs. Rios said.
Margaret Todd ’17 said she was fortunate to have the opportunity to help Mrs. Williams set up the conservatory. “I feel at home in the plant room,” she said. “Since last fall, it has become a place I know I can always go, whether to study for a test or to take a study break.”
The space, she said, has become a sanctuary – and a place for imagining possibilities. “I have become attached to the plants that I have seen grow from nothing, and the fish that I got to help pick out,” she said. “I am very grateful, along with many others, that we now have a place like this easily accessible. I have always loved nature and the environment, and this room has provided me with the opportunity to explore what I want to do in the future.”
Angel Yang ’18 was at the Elms enjoying some time off with her father recently when she got some great news: She’d been admitted to a prestigious program at Stanford University to study Japanese history and culture. One of just 27 students across the globe to be admitted to The Reischauer Scholars Program, Angel began the online course for high school students last week. A native of Hangzhou, China, outside Shanghai, Angel said she first became interested in Japanese culture when she was in elementary school and watched anime and played Pokémon. “I was the only girl who brought a Game Boy on a school trip in first grade,” she said. “Later I read books about Japan and visited multiple museums as I traveled there.”
The Stanford program says it provides “a broad overview of Japanese history, literature, religion, art, politics, economics and contemporary society, with a special focus on the U.S.–Japan relationship.
“Ambassadors, top scholars and experts throughout the United States and Japan provide online lectures and engage students in live discussion sessions.”
Angel, who hopes to study industrial design in college, said her fellow students are already sharing information and stories about themselves through group chats — and she’s excited to get to know people who share similar interests. She counts Watanabe Junichi and Higashino Keigo among her favorite Japanese authors and L’Arc-en-Ciel is one of her favorite bands. “I'm also a fan of several Japanese artists and fashion designers, and I love the smart design of a lot of Japanese products,” she said. “That's why I have a lot of them!”
The Stanford course runs through June.
Alden Grimes ’17 is one of just five students across the state to be selected as an American Visions nominee in this year’s Rhode Island Scholastic Art Competition.
In addition, nine other students received gold keys in the contest, five were awarded silver keys and 11 received honorable mentions. (View the complete list below.) All students whose work received gold keys are considered for the next round of national awards and honors in New York, presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.
View a gallery of the artwork here.
Alden’s sculpture, “Flight,” was produced in response to an assignment to create a texture sculpture in Mike Hansel’s Advanced 3-D art class. The piece clearly impressed the judges, Hansel said, because they select just five works from among all entries from throughout the state to become American Visions Award winners. Of Rhode Island’s five honorees, just one will be chosen by the national judges to represent the state at an exhibition at Carnegie Hall in June.
“Flight” is made of feathers (about 350, according to Alden), screen and steel. “Mr. Hansel had an old ripped screen that … was just big enough to hot glue to the frame,” he said. “I then went about the tedious task of sticking the feathers through.”
Alden came up with the final design when he was on a college visit "and had to burn some time in the library,” he said. “I was doodling on a napkin and came up with idea.”
Noting St. George’s overall excellent performance in the competition, Alden says he’s proud to be part of the whole group of student artists who received awards this year.
“Mr. Hansel has been so helpful — and I think one of the reasons that we did so well was the facilities and materials that we had available,” he said.
2017 R.I. Scholastic Art Award Winners
Gold Key and American Visions Nominee
Alden Grimes ’17
Sonia Bolshakova ’18.... Drawing
Angel Yang ’18................ Drawing
Tiambie Kone ’20........... Drawing
Simon Li ’20..................... Drawing
Brooke Naylor ’17........... Photography
Eric Durudogan ’17......... Sculpture
Max Gilbert ’20............... Drawing
William Chen ’17............ Drawing
Cheka Orr ’18................... Sculpture
Brooke Naylor ’17........... Photography
Jeffery Guo ’17................ Sculpture
William Chen ’17............ Sculpture
Hanna Younghans ’18... Drawing
Jack Werner ’19............... Drawing
Catherine Harrison ’18.. Drawing
Nick Scully ’19................. Drawing
Celeste Humphrey ’20... Drawing
Natalie Hansel ’20......... Drawing
Alex Dano ’19.................. Drawing
Nelle Johnson ’18.......... Photography
Isabel Knott ’17................ Photography
Christia Simanski ’17..... Sculpture
Abra Issa ’18................... Drawing
Maeve Corridan ’18........ Drawing
Logan Amaral ’17............ Drawing
St. George’s has not just one but two alumni on Forbes magazine’s prestigious “30 Under 30” list. Both Will Mason ’08 and Caroline Guenther ’10 earned coveted spots on the 2017 list, which recognizes outstanding innovators in a number of industries.
Will, who co-founded UploadVR Inc., made the list in the media category. Forbes editors praised Will and his business partner for their cutting-edge work in helping to grow and support the virtual- and alternate-reality industries. "VR is no longer just for the tech savvy," the editors noted. "[UploadVR is] focused on media, coworking and education. Along with its online publication, UploadVR also runs an incubation space at its headquarters in San Francisco, where more than 40 companies operate and collaborate. Editors also noted, "Thousands of people take part in its online education program — partnered with Google, HTC and Udacity."
Will joins another Dragon on the Forbes list: Caroline Guenther '10, who made the list in the manufacturing and industry category.
The Forbes editors credited Caroline with helping to save her company millions when they named her to their “30 Under 30” list. Caroline, now a resident of San Francisco, is an integrated business planning manager at Cisco Systems Inc., where she manages Cisco product families that amount to a total of about $2 billion in value. “She's also worked to improve forecast accuracy, which has enabled the company to save millions in supply-chain costs,” the magazine noted.
The list, which Forbes claims is harder to get on than the admission acceptance list at Stanford or Harvard, highlights the accomplishments of those who even early in their career “have found a way to stand out above the rest, whether by designing new processes, developing new materials or inventing new technologies that help America make things and get stuff done,” writes Forbes editor Joann Muller.
Caroline has a particularly global perspective on manufacturing. In 2008, she served as a summer intern at the China Desk of the U.S. Department of State and she has spent time working in Pakistan with the Central Asia Institute, which helps establish schools in rural areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. During her tenure at St. George’s Caroline distinguished herself by becoming the first student to participate in a full-year study abroad program when she spent her fifth-form year with the SYA program in China (pictured above in 2004). A Read more of Forbes’ feature here.
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