Alumni

Founders Award

About the Alumni Founders Award

Georgetown Day School opened its doors in 1945 as the first integrated school in a segregated city, founded by seven families who sought to create a school committed to academic excellence, educational innovation, and social justice.

The Alumni Founders Award is given in the spring to honor an alumnus who embodies the GDS values of fighting for social justice, equity, and serving the greater good. Nominations are open to all fields and levels of accomplishment. Alumni may self-nominate or nominate others for the award.

The nomination period begins January 1 and ends April 15.

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Nominees

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  • BETH BERNSTEIN-YAMASHIRO ’83 — PRINCIPAL, ENVIRONMENTAL CHARTER SCHOOL

    Beth, a GDS-lifer, has dedicated her career to the values first instilled in her at GDS: a love of learning, an abhorrence of bigotry and intolerance, a broadly rounded fund of knowledge, the ability to enter the great conversations of life, and the willingness and capacity to bring needed change to a troubled world. At UC Berkeley, she was active in student government, advocating for the inclusion of African-American studies in the university curriculum. After graduating from college, she became an educator. 

    Beth has served as principal of the Environmental Middle School, a charter school in Inglewood, California, since 2013. The school’s mission is “to create and deliver vibrant, innovative interdisciplinary learning opportunities using the environment to engage students and connect them to the wider world.” 

    Prior to that, during her tenure as principal of the Los Angeles Leadership Academy Charter School, she saw the school through a successful extension of its charter. Because of her work administering the GEAR UP program—a federal and state program that encourages and prepares low income students to attend college—she was able to support an opening of a new high school campus, which continues to send students to colleges around the country. 

    Learn more about Beth and Environmental Charter School.
  • CHANTAL COUDOUX ’06 — DEPUTY DIRECTOR, COLLECTIVE ACTION FOR SAFE SPACES

    Chantal currently serves as the Deputy Director at Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), a grassroots organization working to end gendered harassment. Two programs include CASS’s Rethink Masculinity program, which works with masculine-identifying people to build skills and strategies for building healthy relationships, understanding consent and boundaries, and everyday violence and, the Safe Bar Collective, a network of bars, restaurants, and community groups working to make nightlife safer.

    Chantal is also currently organizing to pass the Street Harassment Prevention Act, the first U.S. policy to address gendered and identity-based harassment in public spaces. Chantal is a graduate of Scripps College, with a degree in Politics, Social Justice, and Race Theory. Following Scripps, she spent several years organizing for The Labor/Community Strategy Center, a Think Tank/Act Tank for regional, national, and international movement building. She also spent time working for Dignity and Power Now, a Los Angeles based grassroots organization that fights for the dignity and power of all incarcerated people, their families, and communities. At Dignity and Power Now, Chantal worked closely with founder Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

    After leaving L.A. to come back to DC, Chantal spent time working at the Restaurant Opportunity Center, an organization that advocates for restaurant workers to move up in the restaurant industry and fights for one fair wage.
  • ABIGAIL ALPERN FISCH ’16 — FOUNDING STUDENT COORDINATOR OF THE TUFTS UNIVERSITY PEACE AND JUSTICE SOCIETY

    Abigail established the Tufts University Peace and Justice Society to create a community for students interested in the Peace and Justice Studies major and to encourage and increase dialogue between student groups interested in promoting social justice. She has used social media platforms to communicate curriculum changes occurring within the major and shared her findings with the Tufts University Administration, Provost, and President. 

    Abigail also participates in community service work through Tufts University's largest undergraduate organization known as the Leonard Carmichael Society. She is a weekly volunteer and the social media coordinator of Peace Games, an after-school program for elementary school students. Through games and small-group discussions, this program promotes sustainable peace, conflict resolution, mindfulness, communication, resilience, and advocacy.
  • LISA GELLER '12 — MASTER OF PUBLIC HEALTH STUDENT, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH

    Lisa began her work on gun violence prevention the summer before her senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when she interned at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). During her senior year of college, she worked with local advocacy groups to defeat a campus carry bill and debated pro-gun advocates about guns on campus.

    After graduating, Lisa turned her internship into a full-time job at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Her work with the Legislative and Public Health teams instilled in her a passion for health policy. After two years of full-time work at CSGV, Lisa decided to leave her job to start the Master of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

    Lisa is currently pursuing her MPH at Hopkins, where her research focuses on health policy, specifically injury and violence prevention. She is also a Research Assistant at the Center for Gun Policy and Research. Her main areas of interest within gun violence prevention are suicide prevention and issues related to domestic violence and firearms. Lisa graduates in May 2019 and hopes to return to DC to continue her work on gun policy.
  • LAUREN JONAS '01 — SUCCESS ACADEMY SCHOOL

    Lauren began her work in education at Teach for America and eventually went on to become the principal of two Success Academy schools in Harlem in New York City. 

    Success Academy's dual mission is to “Build exceptional, world-class public schools that prove children from all backgrounds can succeed in college and life; and advocate across the country to change public policies that prevent so many children from having access to opportunity.” 

    According to Adrienne Biel, who nominated Lauren for the award, "Her schools have had amazing results for students, bringing them up multiple grade levels in a school year. Her dedication to her schools and their students is unparalleled."

    Learn more about Lauren Jonas and Success Academy Charter Schools.
  • RACHEL MARCUS ’85, FOUNDER, LATIN AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CHAGAS

    Rachel is the founder of Latin American Society of Chagas (LASOCHA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of Chagas disease in both the at-risk Latin American immigrant community and health care providers. 
     
    Chagas, also known as the “kissing bug disease”, is common in Latin America and is transmitted by triatomine insects endemic to Latin America. The disease can live in the body for decades without producing any symptoms and could be passed from mother to child. A third of those with Chagas develop heart disease or megacolon, and untreated, they die from what appear to be sudden heart attacks. LASOCHA screens and treats victims for free, including providing free cardiac testing. 
     
    Rachel devotes at least a day a week to seeing patients at the clinic she helped establish in Northern Virginia, but also frequently works nights and weekends to keep the project going. 
  • TRACEY PYLES ’82 — MAASAI GIRLS EDUCATION FUND

    Tracey describes herself as a “proud GDS alumnus,” although she attended GDS for only two years, 1978-1980. She appreciates "GDS and all it stood for back then and still stands for today."
    She has a varied background: humpback whale and sea turtle research in the 80s; international work as an interpreter for the State Department in the 90s; medical school and Emergency Medicine in the 2000s; and now a continuation of medicine including travel to Haiti during the immediate post-earthquake period, and to Nepal and Mexico.

    The passing of her mother in 2013 precipitated her inheriting the honor of running the Maasai Girls Education Fund in Kenya. Tracey currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors of the Massai Girls Education Fund whose mission statement is: To improve the literacy, health and economic well being of Maasai women and their families in Kenya through the education of girls and their communities.

    Their goal is “to increase enrollment of Maasai girls in Kenya, reduce the dropout rate, and support every student until they have the knowledge and skills to enter the workforce in Kenya. Our work involves a long-term commitment to each of our students. Our success is measured by how many scholarship students complete their education and are prepared for a job in Kenya.”
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  • JENNA QUEENAN ’07 — 11TH GRADE ENGLISH AS A NEW LANGUAGE TEACHER, SUNSET PARK HIGH SCHOOL

    Jenna states, “Out of all of the schools to which I applied, GDS was most clearly committed to social justice. GDS made me who I am.” While at GDS she co-led Rainbow Connections (GSA) and helped develop the school’s gay pride week as well as trans day of awareness.

    Educational equity has been her passion since college. She is currently a 9th and 11th grade English as a New Language (ENL) teacher at Sunset Park High School, a public high school in a predominantly low-income, immigrant community in Brooklyn, New York. Her experiences teaching in this community and in the advocacy work she has completed have helped her understand that student experiences outside of school have impact on their academic learning. She has worked to ensure that social justice is interwoven in her teaching and says, “One of my primary goals as a teacher is to ensure that my students leave my classroom with the language to describe the world they experience as well as the tools to organize for change, if they wish to do so.”

    She has taught classes on the history of race and protest in the U.S., explored the issue of environmental racism through the lens of Flint Hill, and helped start a school steering committee on issues of race and equity. The steering committee hosts monthly meetings to discuss racial identity and implicit bias, as well as how to create safe spaces in the classroom.

    She is also active outside of the classroom, where she organizes work centers focusing on creating safer spaces for undocumented and immigrant students and families in schools. She co-founded Teach Dream, a community of more than 300 educators who collaborate city-wide to improve outcomes for immigrant students. They believe it is the school’s responsibility to provide students with resources to help them navigate their lives in and outside of school. “At the end of the day, all of my work is driven by my love for my students,” she said.
  • SARAH ROSENBLOOM '93 — FOUNDER, TOA NAFASI PROJECT

    The Toa Nafasi Project—meaning provide a chance in Swahili—is a grassroots educational organization incorporated in the United States and operating in Moshi Municipal District, Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania. This program that works within the existing public (government) primary school system, where the majority of children are enrolled. The Project provides a unique and innovative approach to support the needs of Standard (Grade) One students with learning difficulties so that they may overcome them and continue their studies.

    In 2007, Sarah went to Tanzania to be a short-term volunteer primary school teacher. She was troubled to see a number of students writing backward or upside-down, in both literacy and numeracy exercises. They could not figure out what they were doing wrong, and their teachers were at a loss to help them. Acutely aware of the educational benefits she had received at GDS and later in college, Sarah knew that children who struggle at such an early stage in their education are at significant risk of never catching up, dropping out early, and/or having limited work and life opportunities. 

    After several years of researching, networking, and planning, in 2012 Sarah founded The Toa Nafasi Project as a grassroots educational program that supports the needs of Standard (Grade) One students with different learning styles. With the GDS model in mind, she sought to create safe space, where differences are respected, inclusion embraced, and every student in the classroom has an equal opportunity to succeed regardless of his or her learning style.
  • ZAK SANDLER '04 — MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE WITH A MUSICAL TWIST

    Zak Sandler, a GDS lifer, is breaking new ground: he is a mental health advocate with a musical twist. In line with GDS's values of social justice and serving the greater good, Zak is openly sharing his journey with bipolar, in order to inspire people with mental conditions to speak out, and to create an environment where we approach mental health from a place of love, not fear. After just two years in the mental health community, Zak has won the New York State Young Leader Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization. He has also spoken at NAMI's National Convention (attended by over 1,000 people), and is a presenter for their In Our Own Voice program. He is about to receive training from The Moth (podcast downloaded over 50 million times a year) to join the Storyteller program at the JED Foundation, a nationwide organization focused on suicide prevention among sttudents.

    Zak's "musical twist" comes from his creative projects. His original musical, INSIDE MY HEAD, tells the story of a young man learning to work with his bipolar, and was produced by NY Theatre Barn. His docu-series, INSANELY TALENTED, explores the link between creativity and mental conditions among both celebrity and up-and-coming artists, and is being considered by a major up-and-coming distributor. And his song, "I Am Me", which asserts that he is not an "illness" or a "disorder", but rather, himself, was performed with This Is My Brave, an organization that produces mental health concerts worldwide and has designated Zak as a Featured Speaker.
  • MICHAEL SCHAFFER ’91 — WASHINGTONIAN MAGAZINE

    Michael Schaffer is the recently appointed fourth editor in Washingtonian's 49-year history. Schaffer joined the New Republic in 2012 and played a large role in its redesign and increased online operations. He was editor of Washington City Paper from 2010 to 2012, and has also been a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer and U.S. News and World Report. He is the author of One Nation Under Dog, a 2009 book about Americans’ relationships with their canine companions.

    According to Julia Fisher ’09, one of Michael's mentees, “Mike has built his career around producing good, socially important stories told well—which I take to be close to the heart of what GDS instills in its students. He is an admirable mentor who goes out of his way to encourage and foster young talent (I was a beneficiary of his kindness and wisdom), an upstanding Washingtonian, and a journalist who loves the written word and the effect it can have on a city he loves.”

    Michael graduated from Columbia University with a degree in history. After college, he was as a Fulbright Scholar in Sri Lanka. As a child of foreign service officers, he lived in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
  • SARAH TANNENBAUM SHERMAN ’93 — VOTE ME TOO

    When the #MeToo movement caught fire in the fall of 2017, Sarah recognized the opportunity to support women, and in particular women running for public office, through powerful video messaging. This motivated her to launch her own super PAC, Vote Me Too, earlier this year.

    Now a growing coalition of women and allies, Vote Me Too is ready to turn the breakthrough #MeToo movement into a power for lasting political change through free, or affordable, “...fearless video ads…in select local markets nationwide to support a slate of endorsed female candidates for congress and senate.”

    Following the presidential election of 2016, she and her husband, John (also a Hopper) started Indivisible Baltimore, which grew to 3,200 online members. She organized and attended weekly Anti-Trump Tuesday Rallies and attended the 2017 Women's March in Washington, DC. Towards the end of that March, Sarah says, ”I just remember seeing all the signs covering all the monuments and in trash cans and they were going to be cleaned up the next day. And I thought, 'This cannot be thrown in the trash. This collective feeling of women's power cannot be thrown away.’”

    Sarah’s journey to her current calling was by way of a BA in English and Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and study abroad in London with Syracuse University, with a concentration in creative writing. She went on to earn a master’s in Culinary Arts from L’Academie de Cuisine and then did graduate coursework in early child development that allowed her to teach in North Carolina and in two DC Public Schools.

    Her current political experience started in earnest when she volunteered for the John Kerry presidential campaign through Emily’s List, followed by both Obama presidential campaigns, two Martin O’Malley campaigns and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid.
  • LAURA SPERO '98 — FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JEVAIA

    Laura Spero is founder and Executive Director of Jevaia Foundation, which works in the primary health care system of Nepal to establish community-based dental care in rural villages. The project originally began in 2003, when Laura was a volunteer teacher in the village of Kaskikot, Nepal, where she lived with a local family. When many residents approached her seeking help for dental pain, she began organizing and problem-solving with teachers. Their efforts eventually grew to include eight rural dental clinics in the public government system, serving an area of 50,000 people. Currently Jevaia Foundation is active in advocating for health policy in Nepal that will replicate its human-rights approach to oral health care in the rural primary care system.

    Laura is self-taught in Nepali language and since 2002 has spent some of each year in Nepal, where she continues to work closely in her "home" village of Kaskikot. She maintains a blog about life in rural Nepal (www.allthepiecesof.com). In the U.S., Laura has worked with numerous agencies that seek to amplify the voices of marginalized groups, such as StoryCorps, a national oral history project, and Learning through an Expanded Arts program, a nonprofit that promotes the arts in New York City schools. She recently completed her master's in social work with a human rights focus.

Alumni Relations

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Past Founders Award Winners

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  • 2018 AWARD WINNER — ANNA SHNEIDERMAN ’97

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Georgetown Day School is a coed, preK-12, non-sectarian private school in Washington, DC with small class sizes and a diverse school community. Our comprehensive, innovative curriculum includes hands-on learning, honors and AP classes, as well as advanced-level math and STEM courses. An education is not just college prep and SAT scores. GDS teachers focus on providing the best education for each child, from elementary grades through high school. The school performing arts program includes theater, dance, and music. The athletics program offers competitive sports for student athletes, including cross-country, track, soccer, lacrosse, and crew/rowing. With our strong commitment to financial aid, an independent school tuition is affordable.