Tag Archive | "The Ross School"

Ross Students Offered a Lesson in the Transience of Life

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Lama Tenzin, a Tibetan Monk, creates a Mandala of Tara with colored sand at the lower campus of the Ross School on Thursday.

Lama Tenzin, a Tibetan Monk, creates a Mandala of Tara with colored sand at the lower campus of the Ross School on Thursday.

By Tessa Raebeck; Michael Heller photo

In 1961, two years after Communist China invaded Tibet, 8-year-old Tenzin Yignyen and his parents fled their homeland for India, where they found refuge with other exiled Tibetans in Dharamsala.

Their possessions were gone, and their life uprooted, but rather than giving into hatred toward the Chinese and distrusting the world, the Yignyens—like many other Tibetan families—turned to compassion.

“War is the worst, and it cannot solve any problems; Love and kindness is the fundamental source of our happiness,” Lama Tenzin, now an ordained Buddhist monk, told students in a presentation at the Ross School Friday morning.

Lama Tenzin, who was ordained by the Dalai Lama and earned the highest degree from the Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, spent four days at the school last week meditating and meeting with parents, students and staff. His visit culminated in the creation of a mandala, a cosmic diagram representative of the universe, and in this case, a celestial mansion for Tara, the female deity of clarity.

An ancient art form originated in 6th century B.C India, mandalas can be used as spiritual teaching tools to develop virtuous intentions and paths. Lama Tenzin brought white marble dust from India and dyed it into various shades of green, yellow, orange, red and blue. Using a long metal funnel called a chakpu, Lama Tenzin meticulously applied the colored sand to an outlined design, working his way from the center outward. Each line is precise, with every inch of the mandala taking minutes to construct.

By Thursday afternoon, Lama Tenzin had constructed a full mandala, a large circular design about 5 feet in diameter.

Sand mandalas are created in the spirit of impermanence and non-attachment; the monks spend hours creating beautiful designs and when they are finished, they destroy them. The Tara mandala was dismantled in a ceremony Friday morning, when Lama Tenzin chanted, blessed the sand and made the first “cuts” through the mandala, dispersing the sand. The children then used sponge-like brushes to push the sand from the mandala’s edge to the center, blending the distinct, orderly blocks of color into a chaotic rainbow.

“When I cut the mandala,” Lama Tenzin explained, “you should envision all the obstacles in the whole world—particularly for your school—have been removed.”

The sand, blessed by the monk, is then offered to a body of water “for the benefit of marine life, the environment and all sentient beings,” according to Lama Tenzin. Following the dismantling, students, parents and staff members accompanied Lama Tenzin to Long Beach in Noyac to disperse the blessed sand into the bay.

“He makes mandalas to represent that nothing can last forever,” said Francesca, a fourth grade student at Ross, of Lama Tenzin.

“He’s very respectful and he’s a very nice person,” her classmate Gabe added.

Lama Tenzin uses the Tara mandala as a tool to educate the children on overcoming obstacles. The intention, he said, is “to let them know they are spending many, many years to become a smart person…. Smart cannot make them happy.”

“Most important to make them happy is to educate your heart,” he said of the children. “To remind them that [a] good heart is extremely important, compassion is extremely important.”

“We don’t need breakfast, we don’t need cell phones…. Our future generation should be the happier people, as well as make the world a better place to live,” he added.

Lama Tenzin outlined life’s obstacles and the intentions that can overcome them. Doubt and suspicion is overcome with trust, ignorance with wisdom, and wrong views and expectations with realistic views and common sense.

“He teaches us about peace and teaches us to not be greedy and be happy with what we have,” said student Dorothea.

“I think it’s good to have him at the school because he told us we shouldn’t be paying so much attention to what we want,” her classmate, Evvy added. “We should be really thankful for what we have instead of wanting more things…. It’s very important to just learn new things.”

“Surrounded by loving people, you are more happy,” he said, citing the importance of moral ethics. “Educating the heart is extremely important for individual happiness and world peace—how to see the wider perspective, not the narrow point.”

Lama Tenzin said one could be a billionaire with no financial worries and still be miserable if one’s heart did not have compassion.

“Good people with big hearts should live long on this planet,” he said. “Bad people… they die soon.”

“Whenever a problem comes, you should [look at the] wider perspective, different angles,” he added. “You reduce suffering that comes from that problem cause you look from every direction. Mandala is [the] guide map to reach [a high] level of happiness.”

“He’s a good inspiration and role model,” Ross student Elyse said of the monk Thursday. “He teaches good things and you can look up to him.”

“He teaches us about important things like patience, wisdom, love, and compassion,” her friend, Maya, added. “He also taught us that the best way to take care of mistakes is not to make them.”

“I really love you and I really see very many beautiful students,” Lama Tenzin told the group gathered for the dismantling ceremony Friday morning. “You have a bright future and you will make this world a better place to live. The essence of this message is: if you can, help others.”

“If you hurt all the time other people—you lost all your friends and good people, so you feel very lonely on this planet,” he continued. “You should love everyone, but don’t be too attached. Enjoy, love each other, but don’t expect too much from that person or that object.”

Holding up his index finger and thumb about an inch apart, he said, “Human life is very short.”

“We don’t have time for stress, worry,” he said, shrinking down under his hands. “Why you do that? Enjoy each and every moment—that is very important, okay?”

At Long Beach Friday, Lama Tenzin chanted and blessed the sand, reconnecting it to its home in nature. Once a detailed painting, the colored sand was blended together in a vase, with the individual shades lost.

After his prayer, the exiled Tibetan brought the sand to the water’s edge, chanting as he dispersed clumps into the water and the gray-blue mounds were swept away by the waves.

“No single part of the world is independent, everybody is for each other,” Lama Tenzin said. “Whoever you are, if you have love and compassion, that will make you beautiful forever.”

Dr. Gregg Maloberti

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By Claire Walla

The interim head of the Ross School who will officially take over for current Head of School Michele Claeys when she leaves the position this July.

You’ve been in the admissions department at various private schools for many years, currently serving as dean of admissions and financial aid at Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. How easily do you see yourself transitioning into the role of interim head of school at Ross?

The things I did [as dean of admissions] — like changing the student composition and creating new summer programs to make it easier for new kids to transition into the school — those were systemic changes. I did these things in concert with lots of different issues, all really with the mind that I would eventually like to run a school one day.

What’s one of the challenges you think a head of school faces these days?

Understanding what kind of curriculum is needed today. If you want to train doctors, lawyers and businessmen, then you know what to do. But what if we’re talking about graduating the people who are going to invent the next version of the Internet, or — who knows — interplanetary travel? You’re going to need a different kind of education, one that’s not so focused on set boundaries.

What’s one specific task you’ll have to tackle when you officially come onboard at Ross in July?

The school is now 20 years old, so one of the first things we’ll be doing is looking at the next decade, hopefully the next 100 years. It’s time to think about how the school can become sustainable over time.

The second priority is the boarding program. It’s brand new, so we’re looking to figure out how that boarding program can grow.

With the whole world at your fingertips, where do you even begin?

Strategically, we look at areas around the world that have an interest in boarding schools and have elementary and middle schools that can [prepare] kids leaving them [for boarding school abroad].

I know there are currently a lot of students from China. Do you try to balance where the students come from?

There is a disproportionate number of students at Ross from China. But, for one thing, Ross has just introduced a Mandarin program K-12, so it was the school’s initiative to get some kids who speak Mandarin on the campus. The other thing is that China is the newest big market for boarding schools.

You’ve alluded to the fact that a lot of boarding schools are taking in a lot of Chinese students. But, are they doing more than just filling their beds? A lot of them aren’t. Because Ross has a mission to create a sense of globalism, Chinese history is an active part of the academic curriculum.

Just this February, 100 kids from Ross actually went to China for M-terms.

At the end of the school year you’ll officially make the move from New Jersey to Long Island. Are you excited to move to the East End?

Thrilled! I don’t want to get on that bandwagon of dissing New Jersey, but… I’m interested in being in a location that’s naturally beautiful [laughs]. The clean air, the sunshine — it’s paradise!

Taylor Montemarano

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The Ross School senior talks about her experience in Africa, which inspired her to host a fundraiser for African Impact’s Happy Africa Foundation, whose goal is “to promote and advance community and conservation development on the continent of Africa.”

What was your inspiration for choosing this topic as your senior project?

Pretty much I was first inspired when I went to Africa with my school in March. We went with an organization called African Impact, which is the organization I am raising money for now. We went with them to Africa and we built an orphanage in Mozambique. It was incredible. It was a life changing experience. So upon returning home, I felt like I was not finished. I felt incomplete. I knew I wanted to go back really badly, so I organized a trip this summer with my mom and my best friend. We went to Tanzania this time but with the same organization. We went to a nursery school where we taught the children and played. And when I came home, I wanted to go back again. I felt like each time I came back that there was more I could do, that I was not finished. Since I couldn’t go back with school starting, I decided this would be a wonderful time to raise money for this great organization and basically I was going to have this fundraiser event where all the money will go to this nursery school we were at, and will basically provide them with pens, pencils, everything – because they basically have nothing. It is pretty much the floors, three posters in the classroom. They have nothing – no materials. When we went down we actually brought a huge suitcase of things to give to them and they have to distribute it over time.

In addition to the fundraiser you also have completed a documentary film on your experience. How did that happen?

Yes. When I was there this summer I took a camera from the school. I had never worked with film before, but I just took it, I set it up and shot. When I came back I was thinking maybe I can make something of this, maybe not; maybe it will be the main component of my senior project, maybe it won’t. So I have been taking this class, and I am the only one in the class. There is a lot involved in documentary filmmaking and a lot involved in this project. I actually found footage our teacher shot in Mozambique, which I have been integrating with the footage I shot this summer.

What story does the documentary tell? What message pops out?

The message is pretty much how this organization, Africa Impact, is a wonderful organization to be involved with and how much of an impact you can have on such a small society by volunteering your time, and how so little can mean so much.

Can you tell us a little about the organization?

They have 21 projects in 12 different countries, all in Africa, and they are all different. There are some involved in animal conservation to building orphanages to working in nursery schools. It is all hands on.

Is there one aspect of that kind of volunteer work you are interested in on a personal level?

Mostly, helping the little kids because they really do appreciate it more. Sometimes the adults see you coming and they kind of take it all for granted; but the kids are happy you are there and encourage you. When we were at the orphanage it was amazing because we had an opportunity to make these kids feel loved and they don’t really have anyone providing them that. I don’t know how to even explain it, but the feeling is incredible.

What did your mom think about the trip?

She hadn’t been to Africa, but she had been to Peru and she was there twice this year working at an orphanage, so she knew the feeling. She loved the trip. She would go back as well.

So your volunteer work is a family affair, and nothing new?

Definitely. My dad, he went to the Philippines last year with his girlfriend, whose family is from there and they visited an orphanage and helped out there.

Do you see yourself working towards a future in international education or a related field? Has this shaped where you are going in the next couple of years?

As of a couple of months ago, I was thinking about taking a gap year after my senior year, which I am still considering. I would apply to schools, defer for a year and maybe intern with this organization on all the different projects. I want to see what I am interested in and then come back and focus on that.

What are your hopes for the fundraiser?

Hopefully that a lot of people come. In the beginning I was actually going to organize a trip to send a group of people with me to Africa, and for a while that was really what I wanted to do. With the economy though, it became so expensive and difficult to encourage people enough to go. I just want to motivate people to want to go, so they can see for themselves how much fun it can be and the kind of impact they can have on people’s lives.

Montemarano will screen her film, “Explore, Inspire, Impact” at the fundraiser on Friday, November 7 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Ross School in East Hampton. The event will also boast African drumming, a photography exhibit and sale, and a sampling of African cuisine. For more information on African Impact, visit www.africanimpact.com.