Somali Author of Call Me American: A Memoir, Abdi Nor Iftin, Shares His Refugee Journey with SMA Prep Cadets

Somali Author of Call Me American: A Memoir, Abdi Nor Iftin, shares his remarkable journey as a refugee from Mogadishu to Maine and offers SMA Prep cadets a unique “outside – in” perspective of America. His story is powerful and ties into this year’s Inspire Project pathway: Project Equality. Cadets are exploring equality, tolerance, and, discrimination across gender, race, and ethnicity.

As a child growing up in Mogadishu, Abdi first knew of America when US Marines came to his village to provide food and places to eat because their presence allowed for peace. “I thought they were aliens.”  Abdi had never seen anyone that looked different than him.  He described his life in Mogadishu as difficult. There is no public service and there is also a war. He taught himself English from movies and began to feel that he was no different than any other child.  He grew a love of America and gained the nickname “American Abdi” and he knew that one day he would get there, even though it was not easy traveling 10,000 miles to the U.S.

“All humans share a desire for survival and acceptance.”

Many of his coworkers think of Africa as all the same. There are different languages and culture throughout Africa. In his book, he wanted people to see the human side of the refugee story. “All humans share a desire for survival and acceptance. I was just like every American kid who wants to be inspired by something. Everything you have is a privilege.”

The hardest part about adjusting to American was the lack of diversity where he lives in Maine. The weather was also a shock having come from a consistently warmer climate. He also described the more humorous side of learning about a new culture. “Ordering a coffee at Dunkin Donuts drove me crazy. In Kenya you just say coffee and they give me coffee, but here you have to say so many things.” He says he now sticks with hot chocolate.

SMA-Cadet MacCloud was reminded, “how to not take for granted all we have here. Mr. Iftin notices every little thing for example how many types of crackers are available at Walmart.”

When asked what drove him to keep surviving he replied, “Many times, I almost gave up on hope. As long as I was breathing and living another day, I needed to do everything it takes to get myself out of the life I was living at the time. I connected to the rest of the world through my stories. Teaching myself English motivated me because I was able to communicate to a wider audience.”

About Sarasota Military Academy

Founded in 2002, Sarasota Military Academy (SMA) is a public charter, (6th-12th) located on 2 campuses in Sarasota, FL. As an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, SMA provides students with a 21st-century learning experience immersed in daily military principles of honor, respect, and leadership. Combining extraordinary academics with the highest military principles of camaraderie, focus, leadership, integrity, compassion, poise, honor, and respect, SMA’s mission is to graduate young men and women who will confidently define their personal and unique goals for success in a multicultural and globalized world. More information is available at www.sarasotamilitaryacademy.org

SMA Prep Cadets Take on the NPR Student Podcast Challenge: Turn An Idea Into Sound

SMA Prep cadets in Military Studies and Digital Arts combine forces to take on the NPR Student Podcast Challenge. Cadets have begun brainstorming to find their podcast topic. They are working off of various topic ideas such as:

  • Tell us a story about your school or community: about something that happened there – recently or in the past — that you want your audience to know about.
  • What is a moment in history that all students should learn about?
  • Show us both sides of a debate about an issue that’s important to you.
  • What do you want to change about the world? What’s a big change that you want to make in the future?
  • Explain something to us that kids understand and grownups don’t.

From this brainstorm, students will select their podcast topic and begin to write scripts, collect content, designate roles and design the sound and feel of their podcast for submission. Submissions will be judged on the following criteria: Information and Structure, Personality and Creativity, and Production Quality.

Thank you to SMA-CPT Miller and CPT Davis for engaging these creative SMA cadets.

Bringing two classes together allows for 6th, 7th and 8th graders to build communication and collaboration across age groups. SMA-Cadet Kalli B., who is a 6th grader, says she’s excited about this project because “everyone is working together as a team and is open to each other’s ideas”. Many cadets have expressed interest in continuing a cadet-led podcast that will add to SMA Prep’s media platform already established through the live streaming daily broadcast of Prep World News.

The contest opens up to entries on Jan. 1, 2019, and closes on March 31, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. ET. NPR will pick two winners: one from grades 5 through 8 and one from grades 9 through 12. We can’t wait to “hear” what these talented and engaged cadets come up with when they Turn Their Idea Into Sound!

About Sarasota Military Academy

Founded in 2002, Sarasota Military Academy (SMA) is a public charter, (6th-12th) located on 2 campuses in Sarasota, FL. As an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, SMA provides students with a 21st-century learning experience immersed in daily military principles of honor, respect, and leadership. Combining extraordinary academics with the highest military principles of camaraderie, focus, leadership, integrity, compassion, poise, honor, and respect, SMA’s mission is to graduate young men and women who will confidently define their personal and unique goals for success in a multicultural and globalized world. More information is available at www.sarasotamilitaryacademy.org

Stanford Professor Emeritus and World-Renowned Psychologist, Dr. Zimbardo Challenges SMA Prep Cadets to Train for Everyday Heroic Action

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, an American psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University introduced cadets at SMA Prep to the Heroic Imagination Project of which he is the founder and president. Many know of Dr. Zimbardo for his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment along with many other notable works. Currently, he is focused on motivating people to no longer be bystanders and instead take action to have a positive impact on the world around them.

Growing up in poverty in the Bronx in the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. Zimbardo often wondered how it was that some of his friends in the neighborhood grew up to be “bad” kids while others grew up to be “good” kids. As he refocuses his pursuit of understanding human behavior, he has established a new approach by asking, “how do ordinary people act heroically? Being introduced to the Heroic Imagination Project, cadets began to make their own connections with issues such as bullying and intolerance that can also be a part of their adolescent lives.

“Heroism starts in the mind.”

The larger question Dr. Zimbardo posed to cadets was, “Can anyone be a hero?” and emphasized the need to teach people to move away from being passive and instead to help people and situations that are in distress. Other questions came to light such as how to eliminate stereotypes and become more accepting of others as well as the value of developing a growth mindset as opposed to a mindset that is fixed and unchangeable. Dr. Zimbardo imparted to cadets that success in life depends on mindset, are you thinking into the future or are you stuck in the present only seeking immediate reward?

 

Dr. Zimbardo speaks to cadets this year for Project Equality which is one of the pathways developed through The Inspire Project created by SMA-MAJ Todd Brown who teaches 8th-grade Individuals & Societies as well as Civics. Brown has been cultivating this program over 5 years and it has positively impacted many students. SMA Cadet-CPL Grace Wagler is currently attending SMA High School and shared this about Dr. Zimbardo, “something that really stuck with me was the idea that just as normal people can take on “evil” roles so easily, normal people can also take on roles as heroes. This was an interesting concept and I think it is amazing that DrZimbardo used the findings from an experiment that sort of went south (Stanford Prison Experiment) to inspire people to become everyday heroes.”.

Dr. Zimbardo is also involved in the green school movement with the goal to empower kids across the world as Eco-Heros. He currently works with schools in 18 countries and Green School in Bali is particularly impressive. SMA Prep was awarded the Green Flag award from Eco-Schools USA through the National Wildlife Federation. The connection to other green schools offers a unique opportunity for SMA Prep cadets to collaborate on a global level.

Dr. Zimbardo and his team believe, “Most people want to take effective action in challenging situations, they just don’t know how.” He is hoping to train a new generation of heroes, “suggesting that each and every seemingly ordinary person on this planet is capable of committing heroic acts”.

About Sarasota Military Academy

Founded in 2002, Sarasota Military Academy (SMA) is a public charter, (6th-12th) located on 2 campuses in Sarasota, FL. As an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, SMA provides students with a 21st-century learning experience immersed in daily military principles of honor, respect, and leadership. Combining extraordinary academics with the highest military principles of camaraderie, focus, leadership, integrity, compassion, poise, honor, and respect, SMA’s mission is to graduate young men and women who will confidently define their personal and unique goals for success in a multicultural and globalized world. More information is available at www.sarasotamilitaryacademy.org

About Heroic Imagination Project

The Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) develops and implements education programs, research, and public initiatives to inspire and encourage everyday heroism. Our mission is to encourage and empower individuals to take heroic action during crucial moments in their lives. We prepare them to act with integrity, compassion, and moral courage, heightened by an understanding of the power of situational forces. More information is available at www.heroicimagination.org.

 

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SMA Prep Cadets Explore the IB Learner Profile of Open-Mindedness

Congratulations to SMA Prep cadets, Ethan K., Sara D-R, Lucas S., Bryanna L., Illiana W., and James D. (not pictured) as the recipients of the October Ib Learner Profile Recognition for showing Open-Mindedness. Open-Minded learners understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values, and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view and are willing to grow from the experience.

Comments from their teachers explain how these cadets exhibit Open-Mindedness:

Ethan takes the opportunity in class to reach out to others to help his fellow classmates work out ideas with an open mind in order to complete their work. He is always eager to engage with others to explore questions and problem solve searching for a more effective or useful outcome.”

Sara has been in this country less than a year and is eager to help other students become more open-minded. She often points out that math is done differently in her country.  She volunteers to show the class different ways of doing math. Sara is also interested in learning new ways to do math from her classmates and teacher as well. She loves to help and work with others so everyone can understand new math concepts.”

Lucas is new to our country from Brazil and shows his open-mindedness every day as many things are different in the US. For example, Brazilians write their numbers differently.  Lucas speaks Portuguese and English and often explains to his classmates about life in Brazil. Lucas volunteers to answer questions and is always interested in learning new concepts. Lucas is a good self and peer advocate.”

Brianna shows her open-mindedness excelling when collaborating with others to develop ideas and problem solve. She also displays this attribute because she is a very good listener and she uses this to work effectively with others. Brianna will offer to help other students understand things from a new perspective and she enjoys listening to everyone’s ideas as well.”

Illiana approaches working with other always with an open mind. She is respectful and helpful and genuinely wants to hear what others have to say. Illiana shows confidence through sharing ideas with others as well. She thinks of her classmates, teachers, family and SMA Prep always with a positive perspective.”

James is an exceptional student who often demonstrates open-mindedness. He is always open to other people’s opinions and values their input.  He enjoys having a healthy debate on almost any topic and he finds it extremely important to understand all viewpoints related to the topic. His ability to keep an open mind allows him to have a more complete understanding of the topic being discussed. James values the importance of understanding all viewpoints before forming his final opinion. Through his open-mindedness, he helps other students around him to develop a similar attitude, which has had a very positive impact on our class as a whole.”

IBprofile

SMA Prep has transitioned its “Cadet of the Month” program to focus more directly on IB Learner Profiles as a fundamental part of the IB Middle Years Program (MYP). The new program “IB Learner Profile Recognition” selects 6 cadets monthly who display that month’s learner profile. November will focus on the IB Learner Profile of Caring.

The aim of all IB Programs is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world. IB Learner Profiles are a set of 10 attributes cadets are encouraged to “try on” to explore different ways of thinking about themselves as leaders to have a positive impact on the work they do and on those around them. Click here to learn more about IB MYP and the IB Learner Profiles. We encourage SMA Prep cadets to consider: “What IB Learner Profile will you become today?!”