Learning Beyond the Classroom

By Madison Califfo

Confession: I submitted my commitment to CGIU two minutes before the deadline. 11:58 on the dot.

Fast forward four or so months and I can now say that this choice to submit was one of the most meaningful decisions I have made since my time at GW.

My commitment, Di^2alogue, the commitment that brought me to the 2016 CGIU conference in Berkley, CA, aims at resolving generationally-rooted cultural divides through inciting cross-cultural and cross-generational dialogue. While the CGIU conference essentially serves the intent of jumpstarting and fine-tuning a commitment, whether in the form of networking, personal endorsing, or locating the necessary business partners, I made a conscious effort to be open. I reminded myself that while I had a lot to say, I had far more to hear. If I wanted to learn, I had to be willing to listen. My time at CGIU reinforced in me the power of actively listening and learning.

If you had asked me beforehand what I would have liked to gain out of the conference, I would have replied simply, an answer to all the madness. I had always known I had wanted to make a difference, but did not where to start. I had hoped that CGIU would have given me a place to start. While CGIU did not equip me with the conventional response, I learned to listen to the personal testament of the individual. Through understanding and acknowledging the power of the personal testament, I believe we will one day be able to solve all the “madness.”

Of all the sessions, my favorite session, Rethinking High Schools, iterated this point powerfully and perceptively. As the title aptly alludes, this session dealt with reworking the High School system. Despite many attempts at educative reforms in the past, the “system” is still broken. The session noted that this may be attributed to the fact that students themselves do not play in an integral role in reworking the system. The session opened with all of the panel members shedding light on their high school experiences.

Following this session, I got to know Able. Able is a high school student from Oakland, CA collaborating with XQ Institute, the organization at the forefront of the panel, in its effort to reimagine the system. Growing up near Silicon Valley, Able learned at a young age that he was passionate in matters of technology. His high school however, did not foster this passion. So, Able started a Computer Science club. At a school of just under two hundred students, his club has twenty five members. While Able plays a pivotal role in shaping the high school experience for his peers, it is to be noted that his efforts would have been largely ineffectual, were it not for attentiveness of XQ Institute in taking the time to listen to and respond to Able’s voice. It is this collaborative type of insight that I think wields the power to enact change.

My time at CGIU was colored by the talks I listened to and the conversations I engaged in. It was made memorable by the people I met and impactful by the flags the fly. Thank you, CGIU for the chance to learn beyond the classroom. Thank you, CGIU for challenging my world vision. Thank you, Melanie for making this all possible. You’re a real life superhero.


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