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Global Education & Serviam Symposium 

  • Annual, school-wide, exploration of important concerns facing our world today.

  • 7th annual Symposium in 2020 -  "Girls' Access to Education."

  • Classroom projects, research, prayers, and service initiatives throughout the year.

Each year, Ursuline students explore issues of global importance and take action. Our 6th annual Global Education & Serviam topic in the 2018-19 school year was an exploration of global displacement.  On March 17, 2019 Ursuline welcomed activist and author Luong Ung as the keynote speaker at our 6th annual Global Education & Serviam Symposium.  

Ms. Ung shared her story as a child of war in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge invasion and genocide in the 1970s. Her message was profound and inspiring, highlighting resilience and strength in the face of forced displacement, violence and loss.

Ms. Ung told Ursuline students how vital our school motto of “educating, inspiring and empowering” truly is. “We must use our authentic voice to bring about true change in the world. Peace is an action, not a wish – and together we have exponential power to make lasting change.” As a young girl sent from a refugee camp in Thailand to Vermont, she encountered some hardship and prejudice but also people who were kind, everyday heroes and who helped her overcome her anger and sorrow. Ms. Ung encouraged the Ursuline community to never underestimate the value of being a kind, good and compassionate person of integrity.

Following her presentation to the school assembly, Ms. Ung generously spent time answering questions from students and speaking to local press, News 12 Westchester and Catholic New York. In the photo above, Ms. Ung is with students pursuing the Global Scholar distinction and leaders of our Amnesty International Club. Pictured below at left is Ms. Ung with Global Education Coordinator Maria Barton, Principal Rosemary Beirne, and President Eileen Davidson.  Below at right, Ms. Ung is with members of our school newspaper staff, Unison.


Ms. Ung’s memoir,  First They Killed My Father, became a 2017 Netflix Original Movie that she co-screen wrote with producer-director Angelina Jolie.

Ms. Ung was also one of the writers for the documentary "Girl Rising." In addition, for 10 years, she was the spokesperson for the "Campaign for a Landmine Free World," a project of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation that co-founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

Ms. Ung's other books include Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind, and Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing and Double Happiness.  

The Global Education & Serviam Symposium at Ursuline is generously funded by a grant from The Edward E. Ford Foundation.

We invite you to read more about this inspiring speaker and her effect on students, as reported by Catholic New York HERE.

2018 - Global Hunger & Food Justice

The Middle School launched our study of global hunger and food justice on October 11, 2017 with a special morning program that began with a prayer service on the theme of bread. The girls watched and discussed the Documentary "A Place at the Table" and wrote prayers about hunger. The students and several middle school teachers also prepared a meal for the HOPE Soup Kitchen, and they created cards and place mats for Meals on Wheels.


Our Global Seminar elective class helped kick-off and educate the high school grade levels about this issue.  Mrs. Barton, Global Education Coordinator, provided the content outline. Then the class broke into groups, researched and framed the whole issue. An Animoto video was created with Social Studies teacher Chris Bratt as technical advisor.  The students then led a robust Question & Answer by grade level. 

Throughout the year, classroom teachers incorporated our symposium topic into various aspects of the curriculum. 
Mrs. Khalil's Spanish AP students studied the 10 Principles of Fair Trade, and they read in Spanish two autobiographies: "Cuento del Cafecito,” the story of an organic coffee farm in the Dominican Republic, and "Cajas de Carton" about the childhood of a migrant worker in California who is now a university professor. Ms. Perry’s Spanish 3H students Skyped with Peace Corps volunteer Lesia Danyluk ’13 to hear how a rural Peru community faces poverty and malnutrition. Ms. Saraceni’s Italian classes shared articles in Italian and English about world hunger. Spanish 1 students in Ms. Slade's class enjoyed creating informative posters about global hunger.

Sr. Brenda’s Spanish 5H seniors created informational materials about the Venezuelan food crisis to raise awareness throughout the United States and assist the Ursuline efforts to feed Venezuelan school children. In Ms. DiIorio’s art classes, each middle school student created her own beautiful clay bowl and we hosted a "Breakfast for Lunch" event. Students could eat cereal out of their masterpieces and do some interactive reflection about hunger.

We held several school wide food drives and delivered to two food pantries that Ursuline partners with - St. Peter's Catholic Church in Yonkers, and Mercy Center in Bronx, NY. 

On March 14, 2018, we were delighted to host two Forbes "30 Under 30" social entrepreneurs who lead innovative organizations that tackle hunger.

Rachel Sumekh, co-founder and CEO of Swipe Out Hunger, described how the organization partners with college campuses nationwide to end student hunger. Across the country, 1 in 5 college students regularly skips meals, having to prioritize the other costs associated with college. Today, Swipe Out volunteers on 36 college campuses invite students to donate their excess meals/dollars via a swipe machine that directly withdraws the funds from students' accounts. Donated meal swipes are converted into meal vouchers for students in need.

Robert Lee, co-founder and CEO of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine asked students to imagine finishing a delicious meal at a lovely restaurant and then learning that 40% of food is thrown out. Yet, at a homeless shelter 15 minutes away, people are hungry. In fact, 1 in 7 people rely on food assistance. Rescuing Leftover Cuisine has partnered with more than 30 local restaurants and markets to secure food donations and built a volunteer network of more than 1,400 people to hand-deliver donations to homeless shelters across New York City. They, like other such organizations, make volunteering simple and painless. It takes a minute to sign up on the app and get access to a calendar of food rescue tasks, pick convenient ones and download complete instructions. The organization now operates in 16 cities.

Our symposium keynote speaker on March 23, 2018 was Stephen Ritz, founder of the Green Bronx Machine.
Mr. Ritz enthusiastically recounted how he and his students have dramatically improved academic performance and transformed their South Bronx community from the poorest Congressional district in America to reclaimed neighborhoods with garden rooftops. It all started by growing plants in his classroom. Then, it evolved to providing food for the school cafeteria, donating produce to school families and making financial donations to homeless shelters, tsunami victims, and medical groups. Growing plants created environmental and social justice solutions in this unlikely place in the South Bronx!


Since greening his curriculum, Mr. Ritz has seen near-perfect attendance and graduation rates, and behavioral incidents slashed in half. Other communities, states and countries have looked to Stephen Ritz and the Green Bronx Machine for advice and inspiration. Mr. Ritz's TEDx Manhattan Talk boasts over 1 million views. Mr. Ritz has spoken at the United Nations and he consulted for Fortune 500 companies. He wrote The Power of a Plant: A Teacher's Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools which tells how one idea germinated into a movement and changed students' lives.

Ursuline students were inspired by this presentation and eager to get involved, to help alleviate hunger locally and to raise awareness about food insecurity. 

Service is an important component of our global education program. We began a service project with Stephen Ritz in early May 2018. Our 7th graders planted 4,000 vegetable plants
in partnership with Mr. Ritz at the Food for Others Garden which is the Bronx's largest organic soil garden; it is under the subway, on a decommissioned city street. Several Ursuline faculty and administrators joined in the effort.


In late May 2018, our Advanced Placement Environmental Science students returned to tend to the garden. They also planted 500 sunflowers which were initially grown in science classes at Ursuline and transported to the Farm.  There are five varieties of sunflowers to yield plants of various heights and create a beautiful floral tapestry around the vegetable garden. The sunflower plants also attract pollinators and help with phytoremediation to remove toxins from the soil.


This service project culminated with the harvest on July 10, 2018. Fifteen Ursuline students devoted a summer day to harvest collard greens, bell peppers, basil, and jalapenos. Students were joined by Principal Rosemary Beirne, Global Education Coordinator Maria Barton, and Director of Philanthropy Cathy McCarthy.

They partnered with members of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center team. The produce was donated to cancer patients living in public housing and to the food pantry at POTS  (Part of the Solution) in the Bronx.  As Stephen Ritz, says, Si Se Puede! Yes, you can!

This very worthwhile project was publicized on the front page of July 5, 2018 issue of Catholic New York.


2017 - Fashioning Global Change

The exciting topic at our 4th annual Global Education & Serviam Symposium on March 22, 2017 was "Fashioning Global Change." The globalization and sheer scale of the fashion industry has created the new consumer norm of disposable "fast fashion." It has resulted in a number of ethical issues which we explored as a school community.

We heard from women who are global change-makers in the industry. Our first keynote speaker was Elizabeth L. Cline, journalist and author of "Overdressed – The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion." Ms Cline described the incredibly labor-intensive nature of the fashion industry. She also described the amount that goes to waste.

Our second keynote speaker, Ms. Rebecca Magee, Manager of Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Eileen Fisher, Inc., shared some of the company's social consciousness and manufacturing improvement initiatives. In the Question & Answer session, Ms. Magee talked with students about the human rights question of what is the fair wage to pay garment workers.

The afternoon portion of the Symposium began with Mara Brockwell ‘18 reporting on a recent visit by Ursuline students to the Youth Forum of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations and participating in dialogue to help create resolutions for gender equality. Alice Varghese ’17 described the activities of the club Women for Women International.

Our third keynote speaker was Ms. Jane Mosbacher Morris, CEO & Founder of TO THE MARKET, an online marketplace of fashionable, artisan goods. Ms. Morris enlightened us about the importance of economic independence and changing lives through the dignity of work. She encouraged the students to discover how they can make a difference by first considering their own talents, then deciding on their focus, and keeping in mind the needs of others. She reminded the girls that no positive action is too small.

During the break-out sessions, our students gathered in small groups and pursued a variety of projects.

The middle school students repurposed cloth, yarn, and other materials into art objects. The 9th and 10th grades watched the video "True Cost" and then conducted team discussions on various human rights issues from the perspective of different constituencies in the clothing manufacturing industry.

Juniors worked in teams with Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute on a creative marketing project. Our girls were joined by a group of students from our sister school, Academy of Mt. Saint Ursula. Seniors spent time with Ms. Morris and then, in teams, created a "go-to-market" strategy for the country they were assigned.

2016 - Global Climate Impact


The April 15, 2016 Global Education & Serviam Symposium on Global Climate Impact asked Ursuline students to think of both daily, personal changes that could help the environment as well as big, innovative ideas to help change the world. The day began with Hannah Zamor '17 sharing her personal experience from her summer trip to Ethiopia with Global Concerns Classroom. Hannah explained the effects of climate change on the lives of the villagers she met.

The morning keynote speaker, Amy Freeze, WABC-TV Eyewitness News Meteorologist Saturday & Sunday Morning programs, shared her expertise on the basic principles of extreme weather patterns, the potential causes and how this relates to global climate change.

The following day Amy Freeze included her positive experience at Ursuline during her live WABC-TV Eyewitness News broadcast: Watch it here.



The 7th and 8th grades enjoyed a valuable break-out session with Kenyan Storyteller Alice Otieno-Pala who spoke to the students on the challenges growing up in Kenya in a small village, faced with climate issues such as drought and the chore of walking and carrying water for her family on a daily basis.




The 9th and 10th grades learned about the effects of climate change in Bangladesh. They created Bangladesh awareness campaigns via posters and social media. This was facilitated by Margi Bhatt, Education Officer at Global Concerns Classroom, a non-profit organization which has partnered with Ursuline since 2015.

The 11th and 12th grades watched an excellent documentary called “Racing Extinction” about the loss of biodiversity.


In addition, Ursuline film class students learned tips about broadcast journalism from Amy Freeze, in SCBS, our broadcast studio. The students posed candid questions about women in broadcasting and the future of media from a career perspective.

The afternoon session featured keynote speaker Baba Brinkman and his "Rap Guide to Climate Chaos." Baba is an award-winning playwright who performed at the 2015 COP21 Paris Climate Conference. His unique "lit-hop" presentation challenged the students and faculty to be advocates for big change in the world.

Students had prepared for the symposium earlier in the week in several classes, by watching films such as NASA’s Eyes on the Earth, calculating their carbon footprint online (pictured below), reviewing the papal encyclical Laudate Si and discussing Pope Francis' message to care for the earth.


During the week leading up to the Symposium, students also participated in a water carrying exercise during Physical Education class. Carrying large bottles of water several times around the field provided perspective on the everyday challenge faced by girls and women in other countries. Carrying water from wells a great distance each day often takes the place of education for many young women.

This year’s Global Education & Serviam Symposium on Global Climate Impact offered inspiration and a sense of gratefulness for all we have.


2015 - Global Health, Tackling Trachoma

Our second annual Global Education & Serviam Symposium took place in April 2015 and addressed a global health topic. Blinding trachoma is an infectious eye disease that is the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. In the late 1990s, Pfizer Inc. scientists discovered that one dose per year of their antibiotic Zithromax could prevent trachoma and its painful, scarring effects. Though treatment is easy and affordable, the focus today is on improving education and distribution in order to eradicate the disease.

On April 17, 2015 Ursuline was honored to welcome Constantine Clemente who served as Executive Vice President Corporate Affairs, Secretary, and Corporate Counsel of Pfizer Inc. and founding chair of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI). He was joined by Julie Jenson, Director of Supply Chain, Corporate Responsibility at Pfizer Inc. where she coordinates emergency relief and targeted international donations of Pfizer products. Dr. Arthur Clemente, Mr. Clemente’s son and family practitioner, rounded out the panel by providing a valuable medical perspective and explaining the epidemiology of the disease.

A multimedia presentation produced by Ursuline students led off the symposium and helped everyone understand the human dimension of trachoma. After a welcome and introduction by Diyu Pearce-Fisher ’15, Mr. Clemente began the discussion with the fascinating history of ITI and a description of the SAFE Strategy used to combat trachoma (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness, and Environmental Improvement.) He also shared the success story of Morocco where blinding trachoma has been effectively eliminated. Mr. Clemente hoped that students would realize through the symposium that, even as one person, they were capable of changing lives.

Ms. Jenson spoke of efforts to eliminate trachoma today and the logistics of drug delivery and education. She emphasized that many different skills would be needed to combat trachoma and all neglected tropical diseases over the long term – including research, technology, medicine, communications, marketing, and education. No matter your field of interest, you can play a part.

After the presentation, Ursuline students from global awareness and service clubs joined with facilitators from Concern Worldwide and The END Fund to work on various projects. Some met in classrooms to develop action plans and raise community awareness. Their plans were judged by Margi Bhatt of Concern Worldwide who hailed their insight and creativity. Student marketing plans included benefit concerts, blindfold challenges on YouTube, logos, Twitter hashtags and slogans (“See the World as They See It” and “Leave Blind Behind.”) The END Fund representatives led an exercise in understanding the challenges of blindness. With red END Fund bandanas covering their eyes, students experienced how everyday activities become difficult, and were surprised by their feelings of disconnection and isolation.


2014 - Educating Girls Around the World

Our first annual Global Education & Serviam Symposium in April 2014 addressed the theme Educating Girls Around the World.

Our inspiring panelists are pictured below with Ursuline School President Eileen Davidson, at far left. Panelists, from left, were: Amy Freeland representing Global Poverty Project, Isabel Sheinman representing Library for All, Sylvia Wong representing Concern Worldwide, Atti Worku, founder of Seeds of Africa, and Jeff Ash representing Arrive in Kenya,

Educating Girls Symposium

In the spirit of Serviam, students donated school supplies to help girls in other countries. Team Ursuline completed the 4K Spring Walk organized by Concern Worldwide in Central Park, New York City.

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