Recently the junior and senior classes at Mount Madonna School had the opportunity to interview John Laird, California’s Secretary for Natural Resources. Each year as part of their Values in World Thought course, students engage in conversations with individuals working for change, and through these dialogues the students come to better understand their world, country, community and selves.
This interview was one step in these students’ year-long preparations for a trip to our nation’s capital later this spring. In May, Values teachers Ward “SN” Mailliard and Shannon Kelly will depart with the students on a 12-day ‘learning journey’ to Washington, D.C. to meet and interview those engaged in public service as part of MMS’ government studies program.
Laird began the discussion by sharing some highlights from his career and describing what his current job entails. Afterward, students said Laird’s friendly manner put them at ease, and they appreciated his advice as they start to prepare for life after high school.
“I specifically enjoyed when Mr. Laird said to just follow your curiosity,” notes 12th grader Kabir Ahluwalia. “He told us that when you go to college, you should explore the possibilities, because you may find that you love something you never even knew about.”
“John Laird talked about the power that incremental changes have in contributing to significant overall change,” explains 12th grader McKenzie Caborn. “This immediately grabbed my attention and sparked a determination in me to help in any way that I can. The future of our world often seems like an ominous topic. When thinking about all of the struggles left to be solved, I find myself feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. Mr. Laird’s reassuring words helped me realize that I cannot keep waiting until I find the ultimate solution. I have power now, in every small action that I choose to take.”
Following the introductory comments, Mailliard and Kelly broke the students into small groups to work on formulating interview questions. “We emphasize to our students to only ask questions that they really care about knowing the answer to,” explains Kelly. “This creates an atmosphere of engagement and ease rather than one of artificiality.” When the students regrouped a short time later, they were ready:
“One of the first questions that my group asked concerned how one’s parents’ views shape one’s personal views,” says 11th grader Brooke Staveland. “Mr. Laird answered that though we might be influenced by our parent’s views, by testing those viewpoints, one discovers what one actually believes. By testing and exploring the world of ideas around you, one discovers oneself.”
“It’s not about where you go, or how prestigious a college it is,” adds classmate William Bryan, “but rather what you make of your experiences. In a way I felt like he was saying that it’s about the journey, not the destination.”
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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.