Omar Khoury, a 2015 graduate of The Summit Country Day School, told an audience gathered for the school’s fifth annual Global Evening on Wednesday, March 13 that his sense of comfort and stability was shattered four years ago when he arrived at the University of Pennsylvania.
As a small, Catholic high school graduate with a comfortable socio-economic status, he admits to being naïve when he went to live in the poorest of the country’s 10 largest cities.
“Located in west Philadelphia, Penn is a lavish campus unbelievably contrasted by poverty stricken communities just a few blocks away,” he said. “People experiencing homelessness were everywhere and the reputation of West Philadelphia’s crime rates certainly made it easy to distance yourself from engaging in this reality.”
Omar, a Symmes Township resident, who will graduate in May with a double major in Modern Middle Eastern studies and English Literature, was the keynote speaker at Global Evening. The event gives Summit students in Advanced Placement (AP) Human Geography an opportunity to present research projects to the community, provide education on global topics, and celebrate contributions to geographic literacy that The Summit community makes. The event also features faculty or alumni speakers who have been engaged in global issues.
Omar’s return to The Summit was an opportunity for him to challenge current students to live up to the mission of the school: “to become leaders of character who value and improve the world they inherit.”
Omar said he discovered that basic things he took for granted – the Internet, air conditioning, beds, a pantry, a yard – were absent in the worlds that exist in corners of the United States. Just as he found poverty a few blocks from his campus, he said so can students at The Summit find poverty a few blocks away. “Acknowledging my blindness and lack of awareness was the first step to growth,” he said. “…The person who is aware has the knowledge, understanding, and values to act in an informed manner, to demonstrate empathy, to engage in communication, and to build community across social, cultural, political, geographic, and economic boundaries.”
Omar said that broadening his awareness gave him the impetus to be globally and locally conscious. There are things to learn and things to change, he told his audience. “And this dynamism with which to live a life is something, I promise you, can be invoked to build your legacy.”
Faculty coordinator for the event, Tracy Law, Ph.D. also invited 2014 Summit graduate Marisa Ortiz, Loveland, to present. Marisa graduated from American University in Washington D.C. with a major in International Relations, with an emphasis on Latin America. She now works for an organization that serves Cincinnati’s Hispanic population. Marisa presented on the topic “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela.”
In her presentation, she attempted to raise awareness of the plight of Venezuelans since 1998 when Hugo Chávez came into power and the years since his named successor, Nicolás Maduro, took over. Despite being an oil-rich country, a humanitarian crisis has resulted from a state-controlled economy that has made food and health care unavailable to many. Venezuela now has the world’s highest inflation rate and has more residents seeking to immigrate to the United States than any other country. Ms. Ortiz discussed the impact of widespread shortages of food and medical services and neglect of infrastructure that has led to water rationing and cuts in electricity.
Presentations were also made by students in Dr. Law’s AP Human Geography class, one of 20 Advanced Placement classes offered at The Summit which allow students to earn college credit while still in high school. In this class, students learn the patterns and processes that have shaped human understanding as well as the ways people use and alter the planet’s surface. Using spatial concepts and landscape analysis, students examine socioeconomic organization and environmental consequences.
During Global Evening, a team of seniors in Dr. Law’s class – Ben Carcieri, Andrew Warren and Will Pauly, Hyde Park, and Bronson Mehlman, Clifton – presented their research project entitled “Life at the Top of the World” about the Sherpas who guide climbers up Mount Everest.
Other students in the Advanced Placement class presented their research as posters. Senior Paul Wilson, Kenwood, presented “AIDS in the United States.” Seniors Emily Harris and Brandon Harris, Amberley Village, and Maya Mehlman, Clifton, presented “Women’s Rights around the Globe.”
Juniors Keelin Rademacher, Loveland; and Elsa Khan, Mason, and senior Tara Franke, California, presented “The Reality of Poverty in Ohio.” Junior Hughie Headley, Hyde Park; seniors Alex Almaguer, Loveland; and Rylan Woods, Forest Park, presented “Sustainable Hydroponics.”
Seniors Jerry Wu, Blue Ash; Lilly Gieseke, Hyde Park, & Maria Maples, Amelia, presented “Development & Tradition in Brunei.” Anna Fahrmeier, Anderson Township, presented “How Flooding Affects People and the Environment.”
See a photo gallery of images from Global Evening here.