Abbot Academy Association Funds 27 Campus Projects

The Abbot Academy Association awarded 27 monetary grants for projects on campus out of the 35 submitted proposals last week. The granted projects, which received partial or full funding, ranged from upgrading the fitness center to inviting a mental health speaker to campus. Jair Kornegay ’15, AJ Augustin ’15 and Hanover Vale ’15 were awarded $4,588 to install gender inclusive bathroom signs in 51 single-stalled bathrooms all over campus. According to Vale, the project began as a “brainchild of the [Gender and Sexuality Alliance]” starting with discussions of accommodating open-gender, non-binary students. “[On current single-stalled bathroom signs] you have a clear representation of male and then a clear representation of female, with one figure in a dress and the other [not in a dress]. That sort of reinforces a binary that we don’t want to have here,” said Vale. Vale said that had the group not been awarded the grant money, their project would still have been completely funded by the Dean of Students Office who supports the initiative. The new bathroom signs are to be installed around campus by next year. One of the larger grants awarded was to establish a Social Justice Leadership Institute, led by Linda Carter Griffith, Dean of Community and Multicultural Development, Susanne Torabi, International Student Coordinator, and Thea Rossman ’15. The group will be working with Boston Mobilization to coordinate a group of Andover students and selected students from other schools who will participate in social justice and leadership education one weekend in the spring, according to Abbey Siegfried, the Andover liaison for the Abbot Academy Association and Instructor in Music. This coordination will become an annual event. Rebecca Somer ’15, Claire Jacobson ’15 and Nathaniel Redding ’16 were awarded $4,930 to invite a specialist from “Active Minds,” a group of ten professional mental health speakers, to present on campus. “We wanted to continue the [mental health] discussion and bring a professional speaker to come talk about what mental health means, what it means to have good well-being and a healthy mind,” said Somer. “Also, [we want to] start the conversation on campus because [mental health is] a slightly ‘taboo’ topic because kids are afraid of showing any signs of weakness,” she continued. The group has yet to determine who the actual speaker will be; however, they hope to invite the speaker around late February, according to Somer. Similarly, Whit Findlay ’16, the head and founder of Explorer’s Club, which was created this year, received $800 to bring Jon Turk ’63, environmental scientist and adventurer. Turk will come to campus in early April to speak about some of his adventures, including kayaking across the Pacific Ocean and around Cape Horn, living with Siberian reindeer herders and skiing some of the first slopes in Kyrgyzstan. “In an age of digital technology we can look back into discovering in essence. [Turk] is all about finding unseen and unknown cultures. We are so about diversity, but we forget about our exploratory nature just because we think that everything is on campus,” said Findlay. Sina Golkari ’15 and EJ Kim ’15 received a fund of $1,800 for the genetic testing of the skeleton of a Prussian mercenary in the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archeology. In the fall, the pair’s independent project identified the sex, age, pathologies and stature of the Prussian mercenary using traditional forensic anthropological methods. The genetic test will be used to confirm their own data and possibly geographic origin. The board of the Abbot Academy Association, comprised of 11 Abbot and Phillips Academy alumni, gathers twice a year to review and vote on grant submissions. According to Siegfried, every application is thoroughly read by the board, followed by a two minute presentation given by applicants describing their proposal at the Abbot Academy Association Dinner. “Awarded grants truly permeate every aspect of life at Andover, and grants that are very well thought-out, well-written and proposed are always seriously considered,” said Siegfried.