"Going to Disney World and Not Going On the Rides" by Director of EXCEL Ben Snyder
As I walked into Copley Place on a bright and cold Friday afternoon in January, the sight was overwhelming. Thousands (yes, thousands) of professionally-dressed teenagers of all sizes, shapes, hair colors and 42 nationalities were huddled in hotel lobby corners and conference rooms doing their best to positively represent their assigned country at the Harvard Model United Nations (stick with me...we’ll get to Disney World).
Over the last decade, French teacher Amadou Seck and chemistry teacher Sheila McElwee have built the Model United Nations and Debate clubs into thriving student organizations. Each year more students join, engage in the complex Model UN and Debate events, win more awards, and seem to enjoy and value the experience more and more each time.
What struck me the most in my visit was how earnest and thoughtful our students were. I saw students advocate for positions in front of the Organization of American States, negotiate trade agreements, settle on political arrangements, advocate for human rights and more. All Nobles students represented their countries (at this event, Mexico and Vietnam) as articulate, perceptive participants, asking probing questions and listening carefully. (I did note that some school representatives seemed to forget that we all have two ears and only one mouth for a reason.) I was so impressed. I also walked away realizing that none of our students had (or even really could have) “specialized” in this powerful learning experience prior to Nobles—yet each will clearly walk away having grown a great deal intellectually and personally.
So what does this have to do with Disney World?
Recently I was speaking with a college admissions representative about all that Nobles offers (from afternoon programs to EXCEL experiences to the arts to different clubs and organizations like Model UN) and the positive impact those offerings have on our students. During our conversation he was clearly impressed—but then after a long pause he remarked “...what always amazes me is when there are students at places like Nobles who don’t take advantage of what you offer. It would be like going to Disney World but not getting on any of the rides."
Believe it or not, we have students at Nobles who don’t start engaging with the richness of our program early enough to get all they can out of it. Perhaps students are afraid of trying something new. Or maybe they would rather just hang out with friends during the club and organizations block each week. I know it can feel awkward to walk into the room the first time to join a club that sounds interesting (or just to check it out). Trying a new sport or auditioning for a play or musical group could bring unwanted disappointment.
But the point is to encourage your children try the "rides" that Nobles offers because you’ll never know (like those students who ended up at Model UN in January) where they might lead, or what thrills and growth may come from taking those risks.