Friday, April 10, 2009

Michael Scognamiglio wins national award for Niswarth poem

Michael Scognamiglio '10 has won a national award for his poem, Young Girl at Temple, which he wrote during the Niswarth program. He will be recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers at a ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City on June 4th, 2009. There were over 140,000 works of art and writing submitted in this competition and Michael won a silver medal in the poetry category.

The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers was founded to recognize the important contributions teen artists and writers make to the cultural landscape of the United States and beyond. The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are the nation's longest-running, largest, most prestigious recognition program for creative teenagers in grades 7-12.

Congratulations, Michael!

To read the poem, scroll down and read the blog entry from September 29, 2008.

Niswarth documentary - press release by Phillips Academy

Tessa Pompa ’08 may now be a freshman at Stanford, but her memories of the slums of Mumbai, which she visited while still a Phillips Academy student, are never far behind. It was just last summer she found herself in India’s largest city, scrubbing filthy concrete floors with monsoon water as gleeful toddlers skidded on their bellies through the muck. Pompa not only cleaned the hallways, she managed to film that moment—and many others just like it—for her 20-minute documentary, titled “Niswarth 2008.”

Click here to the entire story and documentary:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Does Community Service Really Change Anything?

Raj Mundra, Director of the Niswarth program, has recently written an op-ed piece, "Does Community Service Really Change Anything?" that was published in the Christian Science Monitor.  The link:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Young Girl at Temple
by Michael Scognamiglio

Seven years, blade thin, big clothes, not a sin
Outside the Bombay temple, the markets pulse races
Hindi yelps in the air, quick gasps, blurred faces.
The auspicious day so the temple was spilling
Line winds serpentine, frantically and willing.
But even amidst the throngs of devotees
There was really only one girl I could see
Whispering Hindi to me.

Her hands on her lips, forming a bowl
“Please” she breathes, an arrow to my soul.
The pavement around her, piles of filth
She begged on her tiptoes, up like stilts

Her fragile fingers recite Mozart on my arm
Pressing and tapping and gripping, my alarms
Are blaring in my head, nerves on fire
Cause what I know I should do and what I know I should do are not the same

“Don’t even look at them” that’s what they say
“Shake your head, do not pay, shake your head, walk away”

But the Hindi plea she breathed, was like a sacred prayer
Her wet black eyes framed by untamed hair
As tall as my buckle but her gaze in the skies
Looking straight at me, straight into my eyes

Oh the crowd was a cage
They locked us inside
There was no avoiding this tragic collide
Like a minor note in a major key
She was all that I could see.

We pushed through the crowd, she kept right beside me
Small steps, quick paces, eyes fixed in a hurry
I slipped through the gate, she was stopped by security

But when I looked back through the wire
She was still there, watching me, forlorn eyes on fire.
Cause what I knew I should do and what I knew I should do
I still don’t know
Which one was right

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Niswarth Summer Photos Slideshow

Check out some of the images that we captured while we were in India this summer:

Niswarth Summer Slideshow

Niswarth In the News

The work that students and faculty have done in India as part of Niswarth has been featured in a number of publications. Check out Niswarth in the news:

Daily News and Analysis, "Mumbai - Students Join Hands for Sustainable Change" (August 2008)

India New England "Phillips Academy students learn, serve in Mumbai" (August 2008)

Lokvani “In Conversation with Raj Mundra” (September 2008)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thank you

As the Director of the Niswarth program, I am grateful for the tremendous support of people in various organizations who helped to make our three weeks in Mumbai a transforming experience.  

Alana Rush, faculty in the Community Service Office at Phillips Academy, has helped to conceptualize this program and understands how service-learning can empower young people to become involved in their communities and learn more about themselves.  

Many sincere thanks to the parents of all of the students involved.  Thank you for sharing your wonderful sons and daughters with our program.  Each of them has learned to combine goodness, knowledge and action in meaningful ways.  As you have read in their blog entries, each student leaves Mumbai with a deeper resolve to become positive changemakers in society. With your guidance, they will create their own paths with passion and courage.    

At Phillips Academy, this program was launched from the Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) and Community Service offices, and this year we partnered with the Global Perspectives Group inviting four PA faculty (Dr. Christopher Shaw - econ and history/social science, Andy Housiaux - philosophy and religious studies, Peg Harrigan - art, and Stephanie Curci - English) to participate in portions of the student program.  

The Head of School's Office helped us to coordinate Barbara and David Chase's schedule so that we could host them in Mumbai for a few days towards the end of our program.  The Dean of Studies and the Global Initiatives offices have been instrumental in helping the Niswarth program consider links to the academic program.  The Communications office have written fantastic press releases and have done a great job to share the central elements of the program with the greater PA community.  The Office of Academic Resources reached out to PA parents and alums to help raise necessary funds for Niswarth and coordinate different presentations in the US and India.  Our Financial Aid office also provided necessary funding for any student on campus to access this incredible opportunity.  The Abbot Academy Association awarded a grant so that Tessa Pompa ('08) could purchase the necessary equipment to make a video documentary and she also received help from the Audio Visual Center.  Finally, the Business Office and Isham Health Center made sure that we covered all bases in terms of safety and health precautions. 

This is the fourth year that PA faculty and students have been involved in a service-learning program in Mumbai.  The first two years were funded by the International Academic Partnership and our gracious hosts have always been the Godrej family (Navroze '01 and parents Pheroza and Jamshyd).

This summer we partnered with different organizations and heard from individuals representing the following groups:
Udayachal School
Save the Children India
Mann Deshi Mahila Bank
American School of Bombay
US Consulate - Mumbai
Government of Maharashtra
Mumbai Police
Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.
Haath Mein Sahat, Mumbai
Ashoka Youth Venture Program - Mumbai
Tata Consultancy Services

It has been a privilege and an honor work with such smart, creative and determined people from all of these organizations.  Their varied perspectives encouraged us to think about development issues from the government, citizen sector, and corporate points of view.  

Through our service, readings, reflections and discussions our group engaged in difficult topics and had genuine encounters with different communities.  The program was unsettling and challenged many of our preconceived notions about India, ways in which communities function, access to resources, and the role of young people in becoming changemakers.  Out of these experiences emerged a sophisticated empathy, a sincere desire to become involved, and a deep commitment to leave a lasting change for good.

It was an incredible three weeks!  We now look ahead to sharing our work with others, thinking critically about social issues, and becoming changemakers.

We have been invited by the Phillips Academy Summer Session to speak as a part of the annual W.E.B. DuBois Colloquia series.  Our program, "Niswarth:  Empowering Global Citizenship through Youth Empowerment" will take place on July 31st at 6:15pm in Kemper Auditorium on Chapel Avenue on the Phillips Academy campus.  The program is free and open to the public, and we hope to see many of you there.

Best wishes,
Raj Mundra