Staples Goes Global


Schorr and Cody were the only two Westport students representing the United States among 13 other coutnries at the Hwa Chong Insitute.

In a country 9,500 miles, 22 hours, and an ocean away, two Staples students spent ten days meeting students who represented 13 countries.

Jack Cody ’14 and Warren Schorr ’14 traveled to the Hwa Chong Institute in Singapore from July 20 through July 31, participating in the Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit. Involved in everything from paintball to presentations by ambassadors, the students forged global bonds with their international peers.

Students said friendships were fortified through fun activities, which allowed them to loosen up after scheduled ambassador visits and presentations. Schorr enjoyed the chance to do outdoor activities, like kayaking and the more exotic dragonboating. Cody’s favorite activities were paintball, hip-hop dancing, a fashion show, and a night safari at a nearby zoo.

“Some of the activities were so weird and I could have never imagined taking part in them before my trip, but they all were the highlights of my ten days in Singapore,” Cody said.

The trip was more than just a good time, though, as it emphasized social awareness and international communication.

The trip stems from a partnership between the prestigious Hwa Chong Institute and the Westport schools through Columbia Teachers College. Director of Secondary Education Lisabeth Comm coordinates this partnership.

As a direct result of this initiative, Staples was invited to send two top students to Hwa Chong’s International Leadership Institute, Comm said. Social Studies Department Chair James D’Amico and World Language Department Chair Maria Zachery chaperoned the trip.

Each day at Hwa Chong started with a guest speaker, for example a business leader or the editor of a major Singaporean newspaper. Then, students toured the city and participated in other activities, from a river cruise around the city to tea with the president of Singapore. The evenings were time to socialize and work on group presentations dealing with social issues.

The theme of the conference was “Global Inclusion, Shared Responsibility,” with a focus on solving global issues and encouraging socially active students. The summit’s website emphasized the importance of priming young leaders as “catalysts of change.”

In accordance with this goal, each country created a presentation on a global issue. Cody, Schorr, and students from Scarsdale, NY and Sterling, VA made up the United States team and presented on the R2P Doctrine, an anti-genocide legislation. Other countries tackled issues like national disasters or gender inequality.

Although the presentations were grouped by country, students integrated to discuss the issues, fulfi lling the global aspect of the summit.
“It was pretty surreal,” Schorr said. “The kid on your left is from the UK, the kid on the right is from Oman, and the kid directly opposite you is from Japan, and you’re all in a country you’ve never been to before talking about issues you never thought you’d discuss.”

Students from schools worldwide shared the same appreciation for the program.

“It was unity in diversity,” said Arjun Praveen, a student from India and Schorr’s roommate. “Even though there were differences, we shared many of the same interests.”

Melissa Hinkley, a student from England, roomed with a student from China. “I was feeling pretty daunted initially, but after sitting and talking with her and teaching her some English, her showing me postcards from the Xi’an province, and watching her play piano, we became close friends so quickly despite how different in personality and culture we were.”

Beyond unique activities and international friendships, students encountered the unique culture of Singapore itself.

“The lack of any visible litter on the ground pretty much anywhere you go is kind of an analogy for their approach to things,” Schorr said, describing Singapore’s disciplined atmosphere.

“You can get fined for so many things,” Cody added. Offenses include spitting, chewing gum, eating on the subway, and feeding birds.
Both students agreed, however, that Singapore offers a culturally rich experience.

“The culture is far from sterile,” Schorr said. “There’s vibrancy behind everything coupled with a remarkable efficiency that has contributed greatly to the nation’s rapid growth.”

The nation excels in education, and according to Comm, Hwa Chong is one of the best schools in Singapore. “The ultimate take away is the need for global communication and cooperation in order to strengthen both the education system in Singpapore and the education system in Westport,” Comm said.

Hwa Chong and the Westport Public Schools will continue their partnership: each received a $100,000 research grant from the Singapore National Institute for Education for a comparative study of the school systems.

This fall, Columbia Teachers College and Singapore National Institute researchers will have a presence in classrooms both at Staples and Hwa Chong.

Staples will be invited to send two students to next year’s summit, Comm said.

Cody and Schorr, the first Staples students to attend, had highly positive reactions overall. “Anyone who has the chance to represent Staples at the summit next year should seize the opportunity,” Cody said.