Ally Kalishman

Benefiting From and Fostering Community at MICDS

At a recent admission event focused on “Living the Mission through Community and Curriculum,” Ally Kalishman ’21 spoke to prospective families about her passion for the MICDS community. Here are her remarks.

Good evening. My name is Ally Kalishman and I’m an 11th grader here at MICDS. I’d like to start with a story. When I was ready to choose an elementary school for kindergarten in 2008, there were tons of great options to choose from. But with life-threatening food allergies to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, shellfish and peanuts, my parents’ number one concern was my safety. This made our school search pretty unique since most people don’t have to worry whether their child will come home from school alive. 

My parents discussed my situation with countless schools, but no community was as responsive as MICDS. They revamped their entire snack system, got me special trays and a table in the cafeteria that they wiped down every day, and educated the entire staff on my needs. Everyone, down to my kindergarten peers, made me feel safe but also normal, working to integrate me as part of the community even if that meant making some adjustments to the status quo. My parents were astounded. They never dreamed they would find a place so accommodating and supportive. But MICDS was that place.

This story truly shows the character of this School. It’s our mission to make every student feel wanted and heard, but most of all accepted. MICDS takes all the individuality of each student and doesn’t just embrace it, but highlights it, making sure each student knows what makes them a special part of our community. And we as a whole are stronger from that.

As I get older, I realize how much the MICDS community has been a part of my life. The simple things people did, like a parent inviting me over and taking the necessary precautions to make sure I was safe or the lunch staff finding a way for me to sit at a regular table in Middle School, modeled this life of purpose and service that I admired. I felt so lucky to have a community that supports all of me, even the parts that are unique. 

Entering high school, I was inspired to get involved in helping those who can’t always help themselves. That’s when I found programs like Best Buddies, a program that fosters long-lasting friendships between kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities and MICDS students. Best Buddies shows me the incredible impact we can have on people’s lives, just like MICDS has impacted mine. As the current president of the chapter, we’ve grown the club to be one of the largest at MICDS, which says a lot about what we value. But it’s not just the students. Even my teachers get involved, coming to events and helping us plan even if they aren’t the faculty sponsor. This shows how much our teachers cherish student relationships and make an effort to support us in anything we want to pursue. As the backbone of our community, they too want to make sure they embrace and cultivate the whole you – even the aspects they may not see in the classroom. 

In addition, I’ve had the privilege to serve as the community service co-head, so I oversee all the amazing projects going on throughout MICDS. This affords me the chance to witness my peers passionately giving back every day. Now that I’ve held this position, I can honestly say that community engagement pervades so much of what we do. From athletics to the arts, everything has an element of empathy for others and that is the fabric of our pedagogy. For example, our annual Turkey Train, which is one of our biggest projects every year, brings the entire school together for one morning for one purpose. Each high schooler brings a frozen turkey and for two hours we all stand outside in a line and pass the turkeys across campus to be delivered later to the St. Louis Area Food Bank. This hands-on experience allows students and faculty to take time out to focus on others and provides a sense of empathy for those who are struggling during the cold winter months. Even the robotics team passes a turkey along, but of course, they built a robot to do it! This is just one example of the many unique ways MICDS fosters a sense of community into the school experience. 

We’re often told that we need to be the heroes of our own stories. But all those heroes couldn’t have possibly done it alone. To excel and to thrive, it doesn’t just take a trusty sidekick, but an entire village that has your back. For me, MICDS is that village. I’m so glad I chose MICDS all those years ago because this community has chosen me right back. Thank you!