Groton Students Win Grants for Summer Projects

Seven Groton students will be extending the classroom beyond the Circle this summer with enthusiastic support from the School.

They will study glacial deterioration on Mount Everest, work on health education in rural China, and help the mentally ill in India. They will tell the life stories of New York City’s elderly, volunteer with an AIDS program in South Africa, and build coral nurseries in Bali.

The students have received grants from Groton School through the John Endicott Lawrence 1927 Global Issues Scholars Fund, the George H.P. Dwight 1945 Internship Fund, and the Groton Opportunity for Leadership Development (G.O.L.D.) Fund. An eighth student, who has received a grant from the Parents’ Independent School Network (PIN), will be repairing mobile homes in Appalachia.

Chenyu “Michael” Ma ’15 explains why he chose to apply what he has learned in environmental science classes at Groton to the study of glacial deterioration and climate change on Mount Everest. “I have been climbing mountains since my Second Form summer,” he says. “From the beginning, the sheer beauty of the Himalayas and its vast, surrounding glaciers captivated me completely. I cannot bear to imagine the disappearance of glaciers, not only because it would destroy the mountain’s sacred beauty, but more importantly, because it would pose a grave threat to the people of Asia, as the Himalayas is the source for almost all of the major rivers in Asia.”

Michael applied for a grant through the John Endicott Lawrence 1927 Global Issues Scholars Fund, which supports students who spend time outside of the U.S. in a different culture and who focus on service or a specific educational goal. Michael will spend part of his time at the Everest Base Camp in Tibet, documenting change of the glacial lakes in cooperation with GlacierWorks. He will also spend time studying the impact of economic development and tourism at the base camp on the environment.

Yuqing “Nancy” Xue ’16 also received Lawrence funds in support of her ongoing work with the Sino-U.S. Health Education Program, which she established last year at Xiangyu High School in rural China, with support from UNICEF. The program provides health information to teenagers in this remote area, and promotes cultural exchange and dialogue.

Layla Varkey ’15 will use Lawrence funds to partner with The Banyan Tree, a shelter for women who suffer from mental illness in Chennai, India. “I have seen firsthand how people can lose themselves in their illness, often shutting out anyone who is willing to help,” Layla says. “I am eager to better understand the problem of mental illness, especially tied to homelessness in India.” She will be working with The Banyan Tree to enhance their fundraising and strengthen the organization. 

When Nala Bodden ’15 and Kasumi Quinlan ’15 thought about how to spend their summer, they knew they wanted to stay closer to home. “In today’s society, despite being increasingly connected by technology, many groups of people are still overlooked and excluded,” they wrote. “Senior citizens often feel alone once they have moved to a long-term care facility. We hope to offer these individuals support, acceptance, and respect; in return, we seek nothing but a deeper understanding of the human condition.” 

Nala and Kasumi will work with Cobble Hill Life Center in New York City, getting to know residents and hearing their stories. They hope to publish stories of willing residents on a blog for broader appreciation. They will be working with support from the George H.P. Dwight 1945 Internship Fund, which supports students’ internships at service organizations in the New York area. 

The Groton Opportunity for Leadership Development (G.O.L.D.) Fund was created to inspire Groton students to take initiative in their service work by either designing service opportunities that address pressing needs within a given community or by committing vigorously to an already established service organization or project. Molly Prockop ’15 will be partnering with the Sinovuyo Caring Families Project in Cape Town, South Africa to implement a 12-week intervention program aimed at stemming the tide of child abuse, particularly among children affected by HIV/AIDS. 

Also supported by the G.O.L.D. Fund, Hanna Kim ’17 will be going underwater in Permuteran Bay, Bali, to build coral nurseries with the Biorock Center. Coral communities are restored by installing metal structures and using electrolytic mineral accretion technology to nurture growth. Hanna's passion grows out of her own experience as a scuba diver and her research into coral reef devastation. 

Michael Gates ’15 turned to the broader community to support his work with the West Virginia Work Camp rebuilding and repairing mobile homes in the Appalachian Mountains. Michael applied for funds from the Parents’ Independent School Network (PIN), a regional group formed to help parents share ideas and promote worthy programs at independent schools. Michael said he was inspired by some of the other service opportunities he saw going on in the community, and thought that this would be a good way to give back and get Groton students engaged. 

Each of these students will present a report on their work upon returning to Groton in the fall. The School is proud to support their worthwhile endeavors here and abroad.—Jonathan D. Freeman-Coppadge, English faculty, Director of Community Engagement