Morocco: Peace, Wonder, and Understanding of Islam—By Alexis Buechel, tenth grade
A week in Morocco completely altered my perspective on how I view the Islam as a religion. The experience broke down the negative stigma around a religion that was foremost founded upon the ideas of peace and coexistence.
Not only we learned the basics of the faith, but we also had the opportunity to talk to educators and scholars who shared their interpretation of the religious texts as well as their personal opinion on how the religion should be practiced.
Our time in Morocco led us to the beautiful cities of Casablanca, Marrakech, and Sbiti Village. Each of these locations reflects the astounding beauty of Morocco through the local way of life. The idea that Islam is a religion of terrorism and extremism is a crude misconception. As we interacted with the people and had a quick glimpse into their daily lives, we understood the misguided and blatant untruth of the generalization.
The Quran—a religious text with the teachings of the Islamic god Allah—states that Islam is a religion that prohibits violence and stresses justice and peace. Furthermore, the Quran is a guide for Muslims on how to live a life as a better person and stay away from the bad aspects of human nature.
In my conversations with Moroccan Muslims, they said that terrorist groups who claim to be acting in the name of Allah, are not really practicing Islam. The horrendous crimes go against everything Islam stands for.
The claim that these religion-based terror groups only arise in Islam because of its teachings is an entirely false assumption. The truth is, this kind of extremism can arise in other religions and has throughout history. It's not the principles of the belief that leads to the formation of these groups; it's the people who take something of love, beauty, and faith and alter it to the extent that it becomes different.
I am so grateful to have had the chance to experience the wonder that is Morocco—one of the most beautiful places I have ever set eyes on. This experience has taught me to be tolerant and receptive to other cultures and be wary of making any assumptions.
Enchanting Everest—By Cindy Qin, twelfth grade
I have seen one side of the Himalayas—from China, but I have always wanted to know what they look like on the other side.
The allure of being able to see these massive mountains from a different perspective made me sign up for the trip. I was thrilled when I found that I’d even have a chance to see Mt. Everest.
When I told my friends and parents that I would be going to Nepal, I was asked “Why Nepal?”
My answer, “Because Everest.”
Namche Bazaar was where the Everest viewpoint was. We went from 2610 meters in Phakding to an elevation of 3300 meters in Namche Bazaar in one day—a majority of our hike that day uphill.
Getting to Namche Bazaar was difficult for everyone, but we cheered each other on. All of us knew if we made it, we’d have an opportunity to admire one of the greatest creations of nature.
The weather in Nepal can be unpredictable and treacherous at times. All we could hope for was Mother Nature to be kind to us.
In the end, we never got to see Everest. It was cloudy that day and Everest was covered with clouds. I would be lying if I said I was completely unaffected. Simply being in the presence of sheer beauty and majesty overwhelmed us. We took lots of photographs and made lots of memories. One distinct memory etched in my mind was when we realized that we were not going to see Everest and we decided to compromise with a photograph of Kongde Ri, a sacred mountain close to Namche Bazaar.
Despite facing a setback of not being able to view Everest in its glory, we gained many other positive experiences. The bonds formed and the memories of cold nights, long walks, and plane rides overlooking the Himalayas dulled the misfortune that we experienced due to the weather. Everest will always be there, but we will never be able to recreate this magical experience.
Lighting Paths, Building Lives: Stairway Foundation, Philippines—By Nicole Han and Hritika Singh, tenth grade
As someone said, “The most valuable asset in life is not a head full of knowledge. But a heart full of love, with an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help.”
This quote came to life with our experience at the Stairway Foundation, originally founded by Lars Jørgensen and Monica D. Ray.
Stairway, a humble sanctuary, focuses on improving the lives of boys who have suffered abuse on the notoriously violent streets of the Philippines. By providing these neglected boys with a home, education, therapy sessions, and most importantly a family like atmosphere, Stairway enriches the lives of these boys by giving them skills to try to make a life for themselves after their heart-wrenching pasts. The therapy provided helps them overcome their dark experiences by enhancing their hidden positive attitudes such as selflessness, benevolence, and faith in those who aid them.
From their divergent personalities, we were able to absorb many a vital lesson. This experience opened us up to ideas such as cherishing our lifestyles and bringing more awareness to the prevalence and inhumanity of the abuse of children and their rights. Stairway aims to create a family-like bond between the boys which is extremely successful; despite the fact that they are not related by blood, they manage to love and protect each other like a family.
This trip offered us an opportunity to create a valuable impact on the boys, furthering their therapy at the Foundation. A shout out to Lars Jørgensen and Monica D. Ray for making an immense impact on the lives of many street children and bringing awareness to an important issue. Your concern for the well-being of society has inspired many who have crossed your paths, including us, to aim to make a bigger change in our world.
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