When the 2019-2020 basketball season officially kicked off in mid-November at King School in Stamford, it was the first time many of the students had been on the same court together since suiting up for the Vikings against the Jianhua School in Beijing roughly 6,800 miles away in China.
Last Spring, an integrated and interwoven program was established for members of King School’s Boys Basketball Team, in combination with Global Studies and Mandarin language students, to share in a truly unique and transformative learning experience. The group of students spent 12 days in China visiting ancient cities, including Shanghai, Chengdu, and Xi’an and took part in an immersive academic program at the Jianhua School in Beijing. Along with walking The Great Wall, taking-in the history and vibrant culture in Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and visiting the National Panda Center and famed Shanghai Bund, the Vikings united on the court to bond, practice, and compete with and against their counterparts from Jianhua and other Chinese schools and club programs. It was on the basketball courts around China that King’s global approach to athletics and service learning really came to life and made a lasting impression.
“I'm still in contact with kids we met in China and really enjoyed having friends on the other side of the globe whose life is so different than mine,” explained King School Senior, Taylor Perlman. Taylor continued, “Traveling to China and being part of this program was an experience my friends and I will talk about forever.”
King’s global approach to education offers students the opportunity to learn about different cultures and communities while taking an active part in a reciprocal learning experience through service and outreach, a key component of King’s mission statement.
The global approach to athletics and service is not limited to the basketball court at King. This March, for the third year in a row, King student-athletes, including members of the Boys and Girls Soccer Teams, will visit an orphanage in Colombia sponsored by the Orphaned Starfish Foundation. OSF is a non-profit organization that supports computer literacy programming at orphanages across Central and South America and assists the orphans with finding jobs. Over the past 8 years, the Vikings Boys Soccer team has worked closely with OSF, and the initiative has now expanded to also include home stays by the Colombian orphans with King families. This has presented the opportunity for even stronger relationships to be formed, both through travel opportunities for the King students to Colombia and the Colombian students to King, as well as through the common language of the sport of soccer.
In addition, King student-athletes from many Fall teams were involved in planning and executing the Annual King Cares 5K walk-run event benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greenwich and Stamford, as well as the Orphaned Starfish Foundation. The annual event not only brings together the King Community but also empowers students to make a difference and support children in need.
This Fall also marked the third-straight year runners, coaches, alumni, and parents from the King Cross Country program traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in the Army Ten-Miler in October. Now in its 35th year, the 10-mile race featured 35,000 runners taking to the streets of Washington to help raise awareness about Army outreach, build morale, and promote physical fitness. Thanks to the tremendous work done by the King Cross Country team and their past participation in the Army Ten-Miler, a partnership with the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation was considered and led to yet another athletics and service learning initiative. Prior to the start of the 2019-20 school year, King School announced their support of Children of Fallen Patriots, a non-profit organization helping to provide college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty.
“It felt great to run alongside a bunch of active soldiers, veterans, and their families. I had the privilege of meeting a couple of them and I really admire what they do for us and this country. The race supports programs that support their families, so I was extremely happy to contribute to that effort,” said Dean Kaduboski, a Sophomore at King. “All of us at King are very fortunate in life. We get to go to a great school and we live in an amazing country. It’s our obligation to make sure that their families are supported. Children of Fallen Patriots is a tremendous organization that does just that, so we as a Cross Country team are very happy to help support this cause.”
During the holiday season, both Vikings Varsity Ice Hockey and members of the King Boys and Girls Lacrosse teams came together to spread some holiday cheer of their own with Person-to-Person and Harlem Lacrosse. Prior to skating to a 7-0 victory over the Forman School at Stamford Twin Rinks, Vikings Hockey hosted their Annual Teddy Bear Toss match with several stuffed animals thrown onto the ice by fans being donated to Person-to-Person, the local non-profit organization serving children and families in need in Stamford, Darien, and Norwalk.
“It’s about coming together as a team and helping students discover their own passion for giving back. They get to see how they can make an impact on the field or court, and in their community too. This really is a daily focus for us as we discuss service learning programs with students and how they can develop into leaders through these programs and events,” said Director of King Cares and Student Services, Karen Raidt.
Raidt explained, “That is one of the best parts about watching how students have grown through service learning and how they can come together to help. They get to not only experience what it means to ‘give back,’ but also reflect and share the impact that experience had on them and someone else. It has been fantastic to watch students develop in this way by building these relationships and connections. Those connections will only continue to grow.”
For Dr. Gilles Chosson, Director of Global Education at King, providing the opportunity for students to learn and connect with different communities and cultures is one of the benefits that allows them to better understand themselves and their place in the world as global citizens.
“My hope is to affect young students so they will have a richer life experience by being open-minded and working together to create a better future and world is the biggest reward for me, both here in Connecticut and abroad,” explained Chosson, who traveled to China with students last Spring. “It’s amazing to see this take shape. Students gain a deeper understanding, acceptance, and thrive in new ways through these shared experiences with their peers. That’s when students really realize the planet is so big, but it’s also so small in a lot of ways. From team building, to applying critical thinking, and communication I have seen students grow tremendously as leaders thanks to the relationships that come from global studies and through athletics. That’s one of the biggest attributes in all of this.”
Looking ahead to Spring at King, the Boys and Girls Lacrosse teams continue to rack up wins away from the game with Harlem Lacrosse, a school-based non-profit organization that provides academic intervention, leadership training and lacrosse to at-risk youths. King Lacrosse members spent hours assembling and packing-up gift bags to be distributed to Harlem Lacrosse student-athletes in December and will conduct lacrosse clinics and equipment donation drop-offs throughout the year.
"What I love most about Harlem Lacrosse and King School coming together each year is the continuity. King puts on a great event for our kids year after year, which enables them to form positive relationships and come back to see the same people they made memories with in the past," Elise Van Arsdale, a Senior Program Director at P.S. 149 with Harlem Lacrosse.
King School’s commitment to service affirms the belief that all students can learn and become responsible, productive citizens, locally and globally and thanks to King Athletics, that message is being spread from China to Colombia, Washington D.C. to Harlem, and all our surrounding communities.
In helping others through service and enriching the learning experience, King Athletics continues to make strides in preparing and planning for future unique and transformative Global Education and athletics programming for student-athletes. These programs include this year’s Colombia trip (March 2020), the next China trip (Spring 2021), and a new Baseball and Softball service and training trip to the Dominican Republic (Spring 2021), as well as a Girls Volleyball trip to Japan in 2022, as King reinforces the belief that service to the broader community, both locally and globally, is central to educational excellence educational excellence in the classroom and around the world.