Ava Mandoli ’21 Shares Her Thoughts at Curriculum Night

Back in November, we asked two students to share their thoughts about MICDS at our Curriculum Night for prospective families. Here are the remarks of Ava Mandoli ’21.

Hi everyone, my name is Ava Mandoli. I’m a senior here at MICDS, and I’ve been going here since Senior Kindergarten—so I’d like to consider myself a “lifer,” although technically I’m not one since I didn’t start in JK. Since I’m currently in the middle of the college application process, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my time spent at MICDS, so I was really excited to be asked to speak here tonight. To give you a better idea of who I am, I’ll go through this 3, 2, 1 exercise we did in a few of my classes early this year to get to know each other. So: three things I love are history, photography, and playing the violin; two interesting things about me are that I’m a cohead of the Upper School Student Council, and I recently volunteered as a poll worker on election day. And one word I’d use to describe myself is curious because I’m always excited to learn new things and I love exploring different parts of St. Louis.

As you might be able to tell, I’m very passionate about history and civic engagement, and MICDS has played such an important role in helping me explore and develop those interests. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten the chance to take classes such as History of St. Louis, Nationalism and Decolonization, History of Environmental Conflict, and I’m currently in a Presidential Politics class, which is super special because we get to talk about history as it’s happening. Especially as an upperclassman, I really appreciate the variety of courses MICDS offers in the history department. This wide range of topics might seem unconnected at first, but I’ve learned that the world and its issues are unbelievably interconnected. I often find myself drawing on knowledge from previous classes to help me create a more three-dimensional picture of the topic at hand, and I think that’s a skill that will really help me in college and my career.

Something I value even more about MICDS and its curriculum are the opportunities the School creates for us to get involved with what we’re learning outside of the classroom. When I took History of St. Louis at the beginning of last year, we had several panels of speakers come to school to give presentations about specific issues that face St. Louis as well as the work they were involved in that addressed them. One of these speakers was Lindy Drew, the co-founder and lead storyteller at Humans of St. Louis, which is a nonprofit organization with over a hundred thousand followers that shares first-person stories and portraits of people and places all across St. Louis.

I found that presentation so interesting because it combined two of my interests, photography and civic engagement, in a unique way. I think the following anecdote really encapsulates what is so special about MICDS. I remember after Lindy finished her speech, I kind of lingered behind as everyone filed out of Brauer. I wanted to go and ask her a question about her work and if there was any way I could get involved, but I can be kind of shy sometimes and so I was hesitating. My teacher, Ms. Roberts, noticed me and said, “Do you want to go ask her something? You should! I’ll come with you up to the stage.” I owe a huge thank you to her for that moment of encouragement.

I ended up going and talking to Lindy, exchanging emails, and about three months later after an application process, I became the first high school intern at Humans of St. Louis. I’ve been interning there for almost an entire year now, and it’s been one of the most valuable experiences of my life. I actually wrote my Common App essay about it. But none of it would have happened without (A), the MICDS history department getting all these successful people to speak to our classes, and (B), the encouragement and support we receive from our teachers. For me, that moment was Ms. Roberts coming up to the stage with me, but I know so many of my classmates have had similar experiences, whether it’s with their humanities, STEM, or art teachers. It’s moments like those that remind me how special our teachers and school are.

Thanks for letting me share my experience with you all.

Stay tuned…soon we’ll share the remarks of Hasani Spann ’21!