Jamaican Student Wins Prestigious Fellowship
Seventeen-year-old Morgan Dunstan has been awarded the Zeidman Fellowship from the prestigious Sidwell Friends School (SFS) in Washington, DC.
This fellowship programme sends two distinguished alumni of the school each year to a Chinese university for a year of intensive language study. It provides for tuition, room, board and a monthly allowance. The programme gives Sidwell graduates a special opportunity to improve their Chinese language proficiency and experience a total immersion into Chinese culture. Either during the year or upon returning, Zeidman fellows share their experiences with the SFS community.
Morgan will be awarded a scholarship from the government of China to study at Shanghai Jiao Tong University starting in September. Naturally, Morgan expessed delight at being able to return to China, which she has grown to know as a beautiful, culturally rich country after studying in the southern province of Yunnan under the SFS semester abroad programme last year.
The Hillel Academy alum said her Jamaican alma mater prepared her for the famously rigorous academic curriculum at Sidwell Friends. She noted that during her five-year sojourn in Washington, DC, and at SFS in particular, she grew up in many ways.
"I found that the world is full of many amazing opportunities and possibilities that can completely transform a life if one is only brave enough to take advantage of them," she said.
SFS, long a favourite of Washington's leading families, is also a favourite for presidential children. Founded in 1883, SFS taught children of four White House occupants; Theodore Roosevelt, Richard M. Nixon, Bill Clinton and currently Barack Obama. Vice-president Biden's grandchildren are students as was Al Gore's son while he was vice-president.
The school is also known for its high academic standards and, in particular, its very strong English Language Department, where, in the past, its students have garnered the highest exam scores in the United States.
"My love for the written word was nurtured in this setting," Morgan said.
Last week, 123 polished young men and women shared their last meeting for worship together, then head of school, Bryan Garman opened the ceremony with a tribute to this "kind and generous" class, one he said set a high standard of accomplishment at every turn. He acknowledged the sacrifices of parents and the "extraordinary" faculty and staff who supported and pushed students when they needed it. And he advised the graduates to "never forget the power that you as an individual have on the world".
Upper School principal Mamadou Gueye read 'A Poem for Celebration' by the Irish teacher and poet, John O'Donohue. The verses encouraged listeners to "awaken to the wonders of your life . . . See the gifts the years have given."
The esteemed commencement speakers included:
Elsa Walsh, an author and reporter who was a staff writer for The New Yorker, shared what she wishes she had known as a newly minted graduate in Belmont, California. She quoted writer Henry James in the process: "Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind."
Her deepest regrets, she told graduates, were the moments she turned away from helping or comforting someone, either because she was on deadline or was uncomfortable and did not know what to do.
Also speaking - Bob Woodward, currently associate editor of The Washington Post and bestselling author's advice to graduates mirrored his roles as both political writer and parent. His reflections were on personal choices mixed with anecdotes about politics and war.
Morgan is the daughter of Ambassador Audrey Marks and her husband, Jassel Dunstan.