Rosslyn Academy’s Spiritual Emphasis Week (by David R.)

| New Internationalist | by David Rausch |

Every year, Rosslyn Academy dedicates a week to furthering its students spiritual lives, and while the majority of the student body have cited Spiritual Emphasis Week to be a positive force, there are some who believe that changes are in order.

A typical day in Spiritual Emphasis week entails four classes in the morning, followed by activities, a chapel service and a small group discussion between members of the same grade. The speaker in charge of the week-long daily chapel services this year was Jacob Jester, with whom I sat down with to understand the purpose of Spiritual Emphasis week.

What he told me was simple; Spiritual Emphasis Week existed to foster students’ spiritual lives from the perspective of Christianity (as Rosslyn Academy is a Christian school) and aimed to encourage pupils to have intensely spiritual experiences even after Spiritual Emphasis Week had ended. However, when I asked Jacob about…

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Four Finger Rule (by Lule K.)


There are noticeable asymmetries when it comes to dress code implemented among males and females. To many of the male students attending Rosslyn Academy, dress code isn’t even something that crosses their mind. As for the girls that do get called out, are there certain aspects to personality, relationships, or even appearance that may determine whether or not they were forced to cover their clothing with Kangas?

“I started noticing that my white friends weren’t complaining about dress code as much as my black friends were. I’m not sure if the two are related, but I did notice it,” said Angel Thairo, a 16 year old girl that attends Rosslyn Academy. For many women, dress code is, and will continue to be a factor of everyday life. Especially if you spend the majority of your time in a professional setting. The dress code at Rosslyn is seemingly simple. Most of the…

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A Trip of Expectations (by Angel T.)

A Culture of Us

Every year at Rosslyn Academy, the senior class goes on a trip to the beach for a week in March. The trip is meant to be a time of relaxation and debriefing from a busy year. However, it is often the case that feelings of excitement for the trip are overshadowed by great anxiety in having to meet social expectations and pressures that are present throughout the trip.

“I hear students talk about getting ready for senior trip all the time, saying things like, “I’m going on a diet because I want to look good for Senior Trip”and other comments like that,” remarks English teacher John Leonard, who has accompanied students on previous trips.

In talking with students, it is obvious that the expectations are clear to many. “There’s definitely expectations of how your body should look and what you’re going to wear,” says Njeri Thuo, a current senior. Junior students Jackie Lee and Kafura Thairo state that they are aware of…

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Freshman Fifteen

High school graduation is approaching for many people around the world. Students are ecstatic about their soon to arrive “freedom”. Thoughts of relief, joy, and sadness reside inside of them, and they cannot wait for the next thing life will throw at them. Summer break quickly comes to an end as they settle into their new lives as university students. Some of them are away from home, and all on their own. The semester begins and as the year progresses, and so do their stress levels. Suddenly, the famous “freshman fifteen” – gaining 15 or more pounds in the first year of college – is no longer a myth, but instead an unwanted reality. It is obvious that university is taking a toll on you and all you want to do is eat your stress away. You look around and realize that there are many people like you, as well as people who manage to deal with the effects of stress in an entirely different way.

When asked about why he got into bodybuilding, Michael Mukolwe said that, “There are many ways to stay fit; running, yoga, Pilates, lifting weights, CrossFit, etc. I chose lifting weights. The act of lifting weights is rather simple; pick it up and put it down. The difficult part is the consistency. It’s not just mindlessly going into the gym and doing the same thing at the same weight. That’s stagnating. The constant challenge to lift heavier and to get stronger and inevitably get bigger is thrilling”. This is what Mukolwe used to deal with the stress of the changes and challenges of college.

Relating his choice to the dreaded Freshman 15, he said that “Balancing that with proper nutrition is the catch. One can lift heavy weights as much as possible and stay the same weight because of the lack of proper nutrition. One can work out their core hard and hope for the abs of their dreams, but not eat properly to carve them out. Abs are made in the kitchen.  Many people understand the concept; it’s the execution that evades them. Although cliché, Rome truly was not built in a day.”

However, weights are not for everybody. As Mukolwe mentions, staying fit can be accomplished in many ways. Therefore, there should not be excuses when it comes to fitness. If going to the gym is daunting, then sign up for a yoga class instead. In university, you cannot afford to eat your stress away, because that’s an unhealthy habit to develop. Overeating can increase one’s chances of getting high blood pressure and a cholesterol imbalance. Exercise is always a good idea to handle stress, but without eating healthy meals one will find themselves trying to form good exercising habits while getting accustomed to bad eating ones.

As a senior about to graduate, I am interested to see if my classmates will continue to take care of their health when their parents are no longer making them eat a balanced diet. The university cafeteria is a student’s sweetest dream and worst nightmare. With proper self-control, you can reap the benefits of a range of food types and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Right now, your main concern is finishing off the year and moving away from your parents, but perhaps you should also focus your energy on how you are going to stay healthy throughout university.

Will you say, YOLO and eat without a care? Or will you make deliberate choices that will benefit you in the future? Everything in moderation – keep that in mind as you get into the next part of your life.

A Time to Work, A Time to Rest

Stress is a way of life. As a high school student, whether you are taking an AP, higher level classes, “A” levels, or normal classes, you will be stressed. The World Health Organization suggests that we split up our day so that we have eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work, and eight hours of play. However, for most high school students, this balanced schedule is impossible. We go to school for eight hours in a day, and work for about 7 of them because of lunch and breaks. That fits within a healthy day; but when we get home, we have hours of homework, and then we have to sacrifice both our sleep and leisure time. Homework is important, as it allows for extra practice and maximum understanding. However, sleep and leisure time are just as important. What to do?

Sleep is very important for a student’s education. Human beings need sleep in order to function well. By giving students hours of homework without a time set apart within the school day to finish a good amount of it, our education systems are making us vulnerable to the risks of sleep deprivation, which is detrimental to our education. The risks of sleep deprivation include symptoms such as decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress, poor quality of life, occupational injury, and for students who drive, a higher risk of accidents.

Leisure time is also part of healthy living. It is often thought that leisure time is useless, and not beneficial; it can be viewed as a waste of time. However, our brains need to rest, and not just when sleeping. Leisure time is also important for developing social skills, gained when you go out with your friends. Leisure time also provides us with an opportunity to bond with our families. It allows time for stress relief and boredom relief, and gives a feeling of control of our lives. During free time, we can meet new people and broaden our perspectives; it gives us time for group activities which increase communication skills and self-esteem; it gives us time for exercise. Generally, time “off” is beneficial to our mental and physical health.

Study halls, a not-so-common opportunity in most high schools, can contribute to a healthier student life. Candice Etemesi, a busy high school student, referring to study halls says “most people use the time to do work because it is the only time where you can guarantee that people will be quiet. So it is easier to work. It also cancels the stress of having all-nighters or having to wake up early.” Mandatory study halls will not completely fix a student’s health and stress problems. However, by providing students with a time to either finish work, relax, or sleep within the school day would help to bring us a little closer to healthy lifestyle. A school in California recently included a mandatory study hall into their schedule, and as a result, there were 228 less failing grades reported than the year before when study halls where not mandatory. Mandatory study halls are not only beneficial to students overall health, but are also beneficial to their education and the schools themselves.

Is it time for students to demand a time to work, a time to study, and a time to rest? When will what is good for adults also be good for us?

Stressed Test

The incessant tapping of that yellow number two pencil against the desk never seemed to end, just like the constant reminder of the score I received on my Scholastic Aptitude Test (the infamous SAT).

I remember every detail about that day, the pencil tapping especially. The poor fellow behind me must have been struggling on the critical reading section, because he just about tapped himself out of that stuffy room. To add insult to injury, he spewed his breakfast all over his test booklet and left a little bit of residue in my kinky hair.

This is the story I would actually prefer to tell my peers when I have to explain my SAT score. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and like many students in the United States, standardized tests are just another challenge to add to our already problematic lives.
John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight, uncovers the truth behind standardized tests in America in this video that went public in 2015. Before proceeding with this article, take some time to watch this short video in which Oliver explains what these tests are, and the horrors that occur because of them. As a graduating senior, I feel that it is important to address the pains that high school officials decide to place upon us. A commentary on Oliver’s intriguing video is long overdue.

He begins by explaining how standardized tests are made to look enticing, but after experiencing one, students’ opinions change dramatically. In fact, some students skip their tests, proving that either they are rebellious teenagers who do not want to do anything remotely educational, or that the tests are simply awful. These students may also be emotionally scarred by previous test experiences. Similar to my “SAT testing experience”, students sometimes become ill and have mental breakdowns during these (clearly traumatizing) tests. Funnily enough, such occurrences are not uncommon and clear instructions are provided by the proctor of the exam prior to the occurrence of an incident such as vomiting.

John Oliver proceeds by tracing the immense pressure America decides to give her students back to the 1990s. Back then, American students ranked low compared to other countries when it came to testing. Therefore, operations like “No Child Left Behind” and more recently “Race to the Top” were set in place to help with this national issue. This “needed” intervention, meant to help Americans increase test scores, managed to also triple the number of tests admitted in the country.

Apart from the sick students who cannot seem to catch a break, Oliver hit on another important aspect of standardized testing that some people may neglect to mention. Pearson Education has power over many American schools; students – this is the company to blame for most of your stomach ulcers and migraines. They control many standardized tests, in addition to other aspects of American education. Shockingly, to find graders for the tests, they post job openings on Craigslist. This is an issue that is not exclusive to Pearson Education. Some graders have spoken up and said that grades are not always based on merit, and sometimes they are even based on the last year’s scores. Therefore, if the company is looking to imitate the scores that students received the year previous, graders are instructed to give a certain number of two’s, three’s, four’s and so on. Essentially, graders are asked to see exam papers as a particular number, whether or not the paper is worth the score.

The US has gone through all of this trouble in order to improve the test-taking abilities of its students, and yet the test scores have not even improved dramatically since the changes took place. The injustices that go on after a student has suffered through these grueling exams is heartbreaking, and a better system for standardized tests needs to be established. Is the pencil-tapping induced stress that America is placing on students really worth it?

Senior Sem: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The thought of doing this major assignment was daunting. As a practicing procrastinator, I can testify that I was not looking forward to delving into this work. Unfortunately, I did not have a choice in the matter, and I had to complete my senior seminar – and earn a passing grade – in order to graduate. If you have ever had a conversation with me that lasts more than ten minutes, you would know that graduating from high school is a priority of mine. I have wanted this distinction since my freshman year, but having started my senior year at a new high school where graduation and senior seminar were linked, I was having my doubts; things were not looking up for me.

Senior Seminar at Rosslyn Academy is a three thousand two hundred and fifty word research paper, coupled with a forty-five minute presentation; all seniors that want to graduate must do this and pass. Just the mere thought of it made me want to cry, and watch several episodes of a TV show to distract myself (which I did, many times). Even writing this article upon completion of my Senior Sem was a struggle.  As the various deadlines approached (thesis, bibliography, rough draft), I would find myself neglecting my other academic responsibilities. During one of my study halls, as I was stressing over my paper, Joanne Ngotho, a fellow student stated that, “[The teachers] put too much emphasis on it.” So much unnecessary importance is placed on this seminar that my whole world literally stopped so that I could finish it – it had grown in my mind to be important enough to justify the devotion of all my waking moments.

When Senior Seminar is being described by the teachers in charge of this task, it is made seem like nothing else matters, and the worst part is that I somehow fell into that trap. I know that other things matter, and that life moves on after the seminar is over. Even though my life is moving on as Senior Seminar is now behind me, in the moments leading up to it, I felt caught between a rock and a hard place.

This outburst is not to discourage you from working hard on your assignments. I worked really hard on my seminar, but I wish that I could have known that it was going to be okay and I was going to pass. By that I mean, I wish I believed that eventually I would be done and I would graduate; but that never stopped me from obsessing over this one assignment.

In my future, perhaps in university, I see how this seminar could be helpful. Ngotho also said, “It is beneficial in the long run because it prepares you for university.” The seminar will probably prepare me for university where I will face hundreds of these types of trials. Although I’ll most likely still be worried about them because I am constantly overwhelmed by the pressure put on me – by me – I might look back and appreciate the experience I had in my senior year. Then again, I might not.

Making sure that different obstacles in life do not take over your whole life is important. Life is too valuable for one to be constantly stressed about everything. All stages of life are full of all sorts of difficulties. The important thing is to make sure that one’s mind stays focused on what is important – whatever that may be for you.

The Truth Behind the Mask

We lie. Every day, everywhere, and at every time someone is telling a lie. What is truth? Truth is something that our society does not treasure anymore. The United States might even have a president in the near future that is so accustomed to lying that he does it without realizing it. Public figures lie. And so do we. We hide behind our masks of lies every day.

Emphasis is put on people who wear their hearts on their sleeves, yet there are many that don’t live this way. Instead of showing their true emotions to the world, they put on a façade so that they can avoid getting hurt, or in Donald Trump’s case, so that he can win the presidential election. For those of us who think that Trump is being “honest,” we must think again. He, like so many people entrenched and emboldened by the media, is fooling us so easily because he has fooled himself already. Since wearing a mask has become such a normal thing, we often view life from a distorted point of view – a point of view that should not exist. But we must beware: this masquerade lifestyle comes with its dangers.

Living a dualistic life forces one to split his or her personality into two, in order to maintain a particular lifestyle. Art teacher, Marissa Wicklund, avidly states that, “You should never be a different person, no matter what life situation you are in, as danger could arise if someone crosses between two or more of your life circles.”  While this opinion remains true, there will always be a part of a person that is not completely open. “We all want acceptance. We have a deep fear of being truly known because of the faults we have. To distract from that we make people see what we want them to see, and we tie ourselves to people and to trends,” says Sean Harrison, a history educator at Rosslyn Academy. It is part of human nature to want to be accepted by everyone, even though it is impossible. Without proper determination, one can be sucked into trying to please the crowd and accepting norms that she does not stand for. Harrison also emphasizes that, “The danger with that is that we are being accepted for something that we are not really. It does not feed the deep need to be known and loved no matter who we are. So when we are constantly hiding that person with a mask we make it harder for us to know who we truly are, and therefore make it more difficult to truly be known and loved.”

We are all broken. If our lives were to make a piece of art, there would be millions of fragments scattered everywhere, and putting it together would be an almost impossible task. Life can be hard. Mr. Harrison concludes his thoughts about social masks by stating that, “It gets easier when you grow older because people will be more vulnerable with their brokenness then they can accept yours. Being honest about who we are and our brokenness makes us more real.”

So how can we shed our masks? Do we just need to wait until we “grow up” (will Trump grow up yet?)? What does it mean to live a non-dualistic life? Being vulnerable and honest with yourself and others can be the difference between living a life that is real or unreal.

The Trump Card

The U.S. presidential race, still in its early stages, has grabbed people’s attention largely due to the fact that Donald John Trump is involved. And what initially seemed like a long shot has changed as polls show Donald Trump is currently the Republican front-runner to win the election in 2016. Would Donald Trump really make a good president?

He has become the focal point of the presidential campaign by saying outrageous and derogatory things about minorities, women and immigrants. He sometimes speaks without thinking and embarrasses himself on occasion. However there’s no denying Trump has done a good job of making himself rich and famous through his business (The Trump Organization) and his reality T.V show “The Apprentice,” – his net worth is about 4 billion USD. And with the U.S. Government currently trillions of dollars in debt, this is the sort of leader that might be able to fix the financial problems that the country faces. But is that it? What else does he have to offer as a potential president? He is a businessman. Is he a politician? Does he have what it takes to run a country?

It seems that he is trying to invoke the hidden racial / religious bias that might be rooted in the sub-conscious mind of America. Trump has now openly advocated banning Muslims from entering America. He controversially has said, “They’re not coming to this country.” He is blunt, and occasionally, his remarks can even be considered to be incredibly rude, racist, and brash.

Donald Trump is seen by many individuals of the international community as the type of leader who will deport every non-American back to “where they came from”. But is this view entirely correct? As Trump has stated, “we want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally.” This statement goes to show that Donald Trump’s agenda is not to deport every non-American, but rather to remove all the illegal immigrants.

Some people also think Donald Trump will ruin the economy and destroy American-dependent countries. Tae Wuk Woo, a Korean student currently attending Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi says, “How can we not be afraid of the outcome of the US election when the United States, Wall Street in particular, has a grip on the world’s economy?” The US is a world power, and a major player in the global economy. Should the world be afraid of Trump?

The truth of the matter is that Trump does not hold such power and the world’s economy would not be held in the palm of his hands if he were to become president of the United States. Supporters of this particular candidate believe in his idea of making “America great again”, even though this is tied together with building a wall along the border between the US and Mexico. Is the building of this wall taking it a little too far?

Should internationals of non-American descent give any thought to the elections going on in the United States, knowing that Trump’s loyalty will only be to America and Americans. Making American great again will be good for American citizens, but what about countries that continue to be dependent on America and its foreign policy? Will there be any negative repercussions for the rest of the world? We can only hope that the future president – regardless of who is eventually sworn in – will not only concern himself (or herself) with American, but also will keep in mind America’s relationships with other countries too.

Modernizing Modesty

The hijab (حجاب) is a veil that covers the head and chest, worn by some Muslim women as a symbol of modesty and morality. The Western media often portrays Muslim women either as veiled victims with a lack of free choice, or a threat to the Western societies in which they reside.

However, the level of acceptance of the hijab is now evolving. As new generations of Muslim women come of age, they find ways for the hijab to complement their growing desire for self-expression. With this new confidence, a new breed of designers has developed, specializing in “hijab fashion”.

Hijab fashion companies currently have a great opportunity, in this untapped potential market, to showcase women of different shapes, sizes, ethnicities and ages. in making the most of this opportunity, these companies may help to counteract the negative messages and break the stereotype that mainstream advertising may be sending out about the hijab. “As a Western woman, I appreciate the Hijab; it is important for the West to realize that the wearing of the hijab is a choice. Western culture is trying to integrate it, and I think it is positive, but there is a fine line between romanticization and appreciation” says Meredith McKelvey, American student at International Christian school in Kenya.

The trend, like so many others in the fashion world, could be just another marketing gimmick, except that the hijab is not just an article of clothing. iIt is a politically charged symbol.

Muslim women who choose to wear headscarves sometimes face challenges, but Stephanie Kurlow, a 14-year-old Australian citizen, is not letting anything stop her from becoming the first professional hijabi ballerina. She has been taking ballet classes since she was 2 years old. She has faced many challenges with regards to her faith over the years; dancing, according to some Muslim traditionalists, can be considered forbidden. Add to this the self-consciousness that also feels when she tops her tutu with the modest hijab headscarf, and one can see that she has already overcome many difficulties.

But she keeps pushing forward with both her passion for ballet, and her faith. Kurlow wants to one day open a diverse performing arts academy. She says she wants to “inspire other young people who maybe don’t feel so confident to follow their dreams due to the outfits they wear, religious beliefs or lack of opportunities.”

Jhillah Chaaker, an Iranian student at Rosslyn Academy, has similar feelings about the hijab. She says, “We are normal people, we cover ourselves by choice. I wear it to embrace the beautiful religion I love. Hijabs do not restrict us or exclude us from society when it comes to partaking in daily activities or pursuing dreams. If everyone else can dress down with shorts, why cant we dress up and cover ourselves without being judged?”

In January 2016, after 71 years of a tall and skinny Barbie, Mattel introduced new physically diverse Barbies that are curvy and small. Now, Haneefah Adam, a 24-year-old who lives in Nigeria, is calling on the doll company to introduce “Hijarbie”- the new diverse body-type-friendly Barbies we know and love, dressed in up-to-date hijabi fashion. This Barbie would represent and inspire millions of Muslim girls around the world who play with the toy.

In our world, everything is changing. It’s time Mattel caught up with retail giants such as H&M, Dolce & Gabbana and Uniqlo, who have answered women’s calls for more diversity in their designs by stocking hijabs and featuring them in campaigns. The acceptance of the hijab in today’s world is truly inspiring and a positive move forward. As long as the true meaning of why Muslim women wear the hijab is not lost, the modernization of modesty is just around the corner.