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School News

Friends' campus is buzzing with activity! To view more photos of campus events, visit the School's website, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.



Friends Seminary is sad to share with you the death of former school psychologist and parent, Janet Gibbs. Janet passed away on March 31 at the age of 100 after a full and impactful life. Janet worked both at Friends Seminary and at Brooklyn Friends during critical times at both schools. Her daughter, Nancy Gibbs ’78, is the former editor of Time and wrote a beautiful story of the School’s history, Children of Light. Her son, Christopher Gibbs ’76 is a musicologist and teaches at Bard College. Let us all hold this Friends family in the Light.


Friends Seminary Celebrates Black History Month

The Center For Peace Equity & Justice (CPEJ) kicked off Black History Month by hosting an Upper School assembly titled “BlackJoy/Black Excellence: A Discussion with Black Faculty at Friends.” Hosted by Kirsti Peters, Director of Diversity, Equity & Belonging, Black Upper School faculty came together to discuss topics such as their favorite Black History Month memory, favorite musician, and what inspired them to become educators.

Activities celebrating Black History continued throughout the month and included a Black Authors Read-In featuring Dance Teacher, Adia Whitaker and Grade1LJ. Black History Jeopardy with upper school students, bracelet making with lower school students, and a Black History Community lunch where students and faculty enjoyed some delicious soul food.

Later in the month R. Gregory Christie, an award-winning children’s book illustrator and lecturer, led an informative and inspiring presentation for the Lower School’s Community Period. He explained his writing and creative process, art techniques, and highlights in Black history that have been particularly inspirational for him. Mr. Christie believes in contributing his art to the stories of Black Americans who may have gone unnoticed.

Mr. Christie has a long track record of creating inspiring art. Selected collaborations include projects with Regina King, Karyn Parsons, Joe Sample, and the estates of Bill Withers and John Coltrane. His accolades include a Caldecott Honor, an NAACP Image Award, and six Coretta Scott King Honor Awards. In 2013, he designed the Kwanzaa Stamp for the United States Postal Service, the New Orleans Jazz Festival poster and had art featured on New York City's subway cars for a year. More than 20 of his picture books already live in the Lower School Library.


Opening the Skyspace to the Friends Community and Beyond

On Friday, March 1, The James Turrell Skyspace opened to the public. At this time the Skyspace is for the once-per-month public shows. Alumni are encouraged to tour the Skyspace during Reunion in May. The Skyspace will provide students, faculty and staff with an additional space for contemplative reflection, mediation and study. Denman Tuzo, Academic Center Director at Friends, hosts a weekly Meditation for faculty and staff in the space that is enjoyed by many.

The New York Times recently highlighted stories from students and alumni and how they interact with the space, speaking to it as an art piece, and noting how it falls within the Quakerly tradition. If you have any questions or would like to visit, please check out the Skyspace website, or reach out to me.


A Culture of Connection Continues At Friends Seminary

Pictured: Short Days, Long Shadows 2023

On March 8, over 460 members of the Friends community gathered together in person and virtually to celebrate the 2024 Contemporary Art Benefit Auction. It was wonderful to hear our talented student jazz band perform, the Chamber Singers celebrate our Rainbow Connections, and to hear the joy in the room when our Interconnected video played, showcasing the work of students and faculty. The Benefit is also the culmination of the Friends Annual Contemporary Art Benefit Auction. This year it raised $112,195 for the Artists for Artists Fund, bringing the fund’s total to $466,288. This generosity provides financial aid for the children of artists attending Friends. The Art Auction featured art from alumni Oona Brangam Snell '07, Sean Cavanaugh '87, Adam Dressner '98 and Parents of Alumni, March Avery, David Levinthal, Tony Oursler, and Patrik Smith.


First Year of Exchange Program Un Éxito!

A boat tour of Barcelona’s historic and bustling port, a guided visit of Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia Basilica, an excursion to the Picasso Museum — coupled with leisurely breakfasts at local cafes before class — were an incredible opportunity to soak in the rich culture of Spain alongside a demanding academic curriculum.

Last fall Friends Seminary welcomed six students from the prestigious Sant Ignasi (Saint Ignatius) in Barcelona, Spain as part of a new Exchange Program spearheaded by Kara Kutner, Director of the Center for Peace, Equity and Justice. Read more about their time at Friends here. You may also read about their experience in this month’s issue of The Insight, written by Theo ‘24.

In March, the tables turned and Friends students (Ayla ’26, Bode ’26, Clara ’26, Jeff ’26, Jane ’25, and Safira ’26) who served as hosts and guides were packing up to trade classroom seats in Barcelona. After a seamless travel experience, they were introduced to the beauty of Barcelona through group scavenger hunts, helping identify the important places in the life of Sant Ignasi, as they arrived the week the School celebrated the saint’s history.

Friends students delved into the School’s rigorous academic programming — exclusively in Spanish — and adjusted well to the more formal classroom environment. “I have been incredibly impressed with the students’ linguistic risk-taking and positive attitudes here! They did a great job of making good use of their time and their enthusiasm was consistently strong, explained Spanish Teacher, Kevin Donnelly.

The first year of the Exchange Program has been a great success, and plans are underway to replicate it for next year. “I am thrilled by the way the Friends community has responded to this important new global education initiative - putting language acquisition and the building of global citizenship at the forefront - particularly our intrepid Friends students,” explains Kara.


Grade 2 Students Explore The Neighborhood

On March 11, Grade 2 students toured the Friends neighborhood to explore what it feels like to learn social studies through Imaginative Inquiry. Developed in the United Kingdom, Imaginative Inquiry is an approach based on the idea that children’s imagination is our greatest resource in the classroom, placing it center stage as a powerful tool for learning.

As part of this project the students imagine that they were commissioned to work for the Department of Transportation. They are presented with a mock situation and asked to respond. In this exciting example, after the mayor banned the use of private cars within the five boroughs, students were hired as spokespeople to educate the public about the benefits of taking public transportation. Throughout the study, children have taken all forms of public transportation available in New York City(subway, bus, walk, bike, ferry) and collected data through interviews with commuters. This provides students the opportunity to actively learn about transportation options in the city and interact with people in the neighborhood as they collect and analyze the information, and then learn to present their findings.


Grade 3 Student Connect with Friends Alum At The Joyce Theater

On February 1, Grade 3 Dance students traveled to The Joyce Theater to enjoy “I Didn’t Come To Stay” which featured dancing by Orlando Hernández '08. The show combines tap, percussive dance, samba, house, and original live music. Orlando also prepared a special video message for students ahead of the show. Lighting design was also done by Kathy Kaufmann (P '07).


Global Language Exchange Program Fosters Deep Connection Between Students

By Theo Maniatis '24

In today's rapidly changing and increasingly interconnected world, Friends is dedicated to interdisciplinary programming founded in open dialogue, deep connection, and knowledge-sharing. To teach these important global competencies, Kara Kutner, Director of the Center for Peace, Equity and Justice, is spearheading a new approach to global education on 16th Street. This past fall, the School welcomed five exchange students from Colegio Sant Ignasi in Barcelona, Spain. These intrepid students were hosted by students Ayla ’26, Bode ’26, Clara ’26, Jeff ’26, Jane ’25, and Safira ’26 and their families. Friends buzzed with excitement as the community welcomed its first-ever exchange students from Barcelona. For three weeks, the five tenth graders from Colegio Sant Ignasi—a prestigious Jesuit school founded in 1892—lived with their host students, going to classes, activities, and excursions all around the city. The visiting students were especially excited to try New York City’s famous food offerings and immerse themselves in the city’s festive transformation this holiday season. They also took in many of the City’s cultural attractions with a trip to the United Nations, a Circle Line cruise, a visit to the Statue of Liberty, holiday ice skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and an evening of theater watching Kimberly Akimbo on Broadway. Exchange students also spent the Thanksgiving holiday with their American counterparts. Kara and her counterpart in Spain worked diligently to find the most compatible pairings that would support each other fully. One of those pairings was placing Carlota with Jane ’25 and her family. For Carlota and Jane, this new Spanish Language Exchange program provided an exceptional opportunity for friendship and formal and informal learning opportunities both in and outside of the classroom. Not new to exchange programs—she studied in Ireland as well—Carlota noted the distinct difference in the programs and the care in connecting her with a host family. Carolota saw a “big sister” in Jane. Friends student hosts traveled to Barcelona from March 9-30 to learn more about Spanish culture. To be able to participate, the students needed to have completed at least Level-2 Spanish classes with a B+ average or higher. I sat down with three of the exchange students – Mauro Luis Penzo, Bruno Carrasquilla, and Carlotta Gonzalez – who offered their insights and revealed that the first half of the program was a resounding success. From an academic perspective, the traveling students found that Friends is much more centered around student participation and involvement compared to their own school. “Here, we sit in circles,” Bruno explained. “Over there we sit in rows. The teacher talks and you take notes.” Reflecting on the success of the program so far, Kara shares, “It has been really impressive to see how both the Sant Ignasi and Friends Seminary students are not only experiencing language immersion and cultural exchange, but really learning to lean into the challenges of this kind of experience—especially at the start—with open minds and generous hearts.”


There’s No Debate on the Success of the Debate Team

The Friends Parliamentary Debate Team strengthens skills in public speaking, critical analysis, and understanding from multiple perspectives. A co-curricular program, established by Kiran Singh ’20, who was Grade 10 at the time, has grown over the last four years with dedicated support from Chair of the English Department Kate Olsen serving as an advisor. This year’s team has enjoyed considerable success with Jenny ’24 who is ranked number one in New York Parliamentary Debate League (NYPDL) and has qualified for Nationals and the NYPDL Tournament of Champions. Janelle ‘25 and Will ’25 are ranked varsity debaters, and Anna ‘27, Emil ‘27 and Lucy ‘27 are ranked novice debaters. Regular tournaments provide space for the students to compete and meet peers from a wide range of schools. Recently Friends hosted the NYPDL’s February Invitational with more than 70 teams participating. Kate comments, “This was the first tournament to be fully funded by the host school. I am proud of the School for making it fully accessible to all participants.”


Owl Sports

A Great Year for Friends Basketball

The Girls and Boys Varsity Basketball Teams demonstrated skill and dedication this season and the community enjoyed cheering them on at every step along the way. Those who were not able to attend in person appreciated watching via the live stream.

Girls advanced to the ACIS Semifinals against Avenues and lost in a tight matchup. The Head coach Deanna Petrucci comments, “I was optimistic coming into this season and we made great progress all year. The girls came to practice every day to work hard and build team camaraderie. We finished 3rd place in the league and 13-8 for the season. We had a great first round win in the ACIS tournament, and played our best game of the season in our semi final match-up against Avenues. Unfortunately, we fell short in a loss by 4 points, but as a coach, I was tremendously proud of the girl's effort and the team that showed up to play that day.”

Boys won the ACIS Conference Championship against Dwight and progressed to the NYSAIS semi-finals, where they suffered a tough 48-47 defeat against Collegiate. Head Coach Adam Cash comments, "Coming into my first season as Head Coach, I honestly didn't know what to expect from the team. I knew we had the potential to be pretty good, but I don't think I expected to end the season with a 20-8 record and the ACIS Championship.. Although it didn't end the way we had hoped, I can't begin to describe how proud I am of this team. I couldn't have asked for a better group of young men."

For the most up to date sports news, follow Friends Athletics at for weekly team and senior features! Please enjoy live video from Friends sporting events here:


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