The Center for Experiential Learning (CEL), directed by Rosanne Mistretta, connects students with hands-on experiences and extended learning in the world outside AFS. During the summer of 2017, Echo Li (’19) ventured to Mexico with the Quaker Environmental Leadership Program for a week-long immersion centered on environmentalism through the Global Travel Program. She spent her time there living at the Las Cañadas ecovillage in Huatusco, Mexico with solar heat and other eco-technology. There, she learned about sustainability and conservation, which inspired her to become a founder of the Environmental Action and Justice Club at AFS.
After this meaningful experience, Echo worked through the CEL again and was ultimately chosen to participate in the highly selective Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) this past summer. The six-week program at Cornell University brings together high school students from across the United States and abroad. The program describes its participants as “not just intelligent but thoughtful, not just motivated but generous with their talents and energies.” Echo spoke of her fellow TASPers as being from, “very diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds [and] from all over the world.” The 12 students in her section read 10 texts throughout their time at Cornell, which included works by John Milton, James Baldwin, Shakespeare, and Marcel Proust then discussed them in seminars. Echo said this deepened her understanding of and reverence for fiction as a whole, and led to highly intellectual discussions during her time at Cornell. She also found the community living experience to be highly valuable.
Echo lived with 28 students in a fraternity house for the summer, where they practiced a system of democratic self-governing. There were 20 female students sharing only three showers, which made for an interesting experience! As a self-described introvert, Echo stretched her social comfort and became more conscious of being actively inclusive when interacting with others. The environment pushed her to talk to people who didn’t agree with her and ultimately moved her to think about the concept of a democratic system and how some people can be underrepresented or marginalized. Echo said of the Telluride experience, “I don’t miss the shower slots, but I miss the people. It’s the people who really make that program special because all of us…were very serious about intellectual inquiry.” The program led her to decide that she will explore humanities in college.