Swasti, Grade 12 (From a speech given at the Cognita Leadership Conference 2019)

Someone once told me starting a speech with a statistic makes it memorable. So here I go: Look to your left, look to your right. 10 out of 10 people around you will have been to a school and will have had a high school experience packed with memories, fighting the wilderness and hormones and creating their own unique future.

One day, 20 years later, maybe I’ll be in a place like this, listening to a young barely significant person talk about how she heard someone give her a bad tip on speech starters, and look back on my high school years and remember that those were the best four years of my life.

I joined Stamford American International School in 2017 and stepped on the stickiest piece of gum there was, because I know for a fact that I will carry what Stamford has given me, with me, with every step I take, for the rest of my life. Not only does Stamford provide world class amenities for students to indulge in their passions and create an impact on the future world through their excellence but also provides a family to every single member.

Stamford is a place I genuinely like to go back to every morning, it’s a place where every turn I there will be someone smiling or waving or ready to make sure that you’re at home. I’m not saying this because I’m here at the Cognita Leadership Conference and well, I was told to say good things about my school, but I’m saying this because this feeling of belonging that every member of the Stamford family has, enables each student to create an identity of their own.

My school is in a constant endeavour to be better, to be in constant motion, to never stagnate. The youth of Stamford is quite possibly her greatest strength because the community they have created in the last 10 years, many institutions may not be able to do the same in a lifetime. They always encourage us to voice our opinions, to say what we think, to question what may seem unreasonable.

The atmosphere of open-mindedness along with international-mindedness makes Stamford a place that prepares its students for the future, for the real world even before the student realises it. Furthermore, Stamford is gifted with probably the best career counselling team that is recognised across finest universities across the world and provides real-time, real-world, practical advice and leads the student to her rightful path while keeping room for her to be whimsical. Range of subjects- adequate, helpful, keeps in mind most aspects of future prospects and flexibility with interdisciplinary courses. The proficiency with which every member of faculty in Stamford understands the students is unparalleled because it creates an environment that is easy going yet efficient.

Student-teacher relationships at Stamford... Fun, care, personal involvement, not obligatory, enjoyable, or that’s what I’d like to believe. CCAs ensure all round development instead of sticking to conventions of high school curricula and ascertains that every student is an outstanding individual in some way or the other.

Something unique about Stamford that I’ve mentioned in any and every speech I have ever given about my school was the fact that from the day I came, I knew I was not an outsider. I was not someone that got dropped from outer space in the world of Stamford kids. But it almost felt like as if I was meant to be there, everyone knew I was coming and in their heads they already saw me as family. And for that I will be grateful to Stamford forever because that first day, that first friend I made who is my Best Friend now, made me capable of standing here and delivering this speech to you today.

I will be grateful to Stamford for making me believe that I can, I will and nothing can stop me, because in no universe does it make sense to me to think about why a new kid that has been in a school for 8 months would run for Student Body President, and win. At every juncture my school has reminded me that as long as I have conviction in my ability to pull through, even if almost every other person doubts it, I will pull through. That will be a part of my identity that I will never be able to alter.

Stamford inculcates self advocacy and makes my person a leader, a voice, an individual but also a part of a “people” and ensures that the Stamford people are ones that will create a robust future for themselves and for their future world.

Mark, Grade 11 (From a speech given at the Cognita Leadership Conference 2019)

My name is Mark McMahon and I’m a Grade 11 International Baccalaureate Student at Stamford. I come from Ireland and I have previously lived in Thailand, France and currently Singapore. Having been exposed to many school cultures throughout my expat life, I’d have to say the culture created around Stamford is truly unique.

Since walking through the gates of Stamford 6 years ago, I have become a better version of myself, and a leader I never thought I could be. I won’t lie, my first day was full of nerves like any other 6th grader would be, but I soon discovered all that Stamford had to offer.

I have attended International Schools my entire life and they all had their individual strengths and weaknesses. As a school, Stamford does a lot well, but there is always room to improve in order to better support your students learning. Today, I will cover 3 improvements I foresee having the biggest impacts on student’s futures, first, job opportunities and student internships then test and assessments and finally teacher to student ratios.

School provides you with a system of education, but little work experience, emphasizing the importance of internships and other job opportunities. As students, we need the exposure to the real world in order to make better-informed decisions in regards to the profession we seek for our unique future. Determining what you will do for the rest of your life at the age of 18 is a big responsibility and a constant weight on our shoulders; however, this is when Internships come in to support your students in making this critical life decision. As a school, you need to stand by and support your students during these crucial times, so that they too can create their own unique and successful future.

Assessments, Tests, Mocks and Grades, not only the words that students dislike to hear but the time of year students least look forward too. Many student’s jaws would drop at the question of more rigorous assessments in the MYP, but I stand in front of all of you today, jaw dropping or not, to ask for more assignments and tests. As I quickly learned in the IB, you have assignments and tests every week, which isn’t comparable to the MYP. What I’m trying to get at, is that if students have more assessments and tests then they will be able to develop their test-taking skills and strategies before facing their mocks and final exams in May.

As Jaime Escalante once said, “Life is not about how many times you fall down. It's about how many times you get back up.” This idea of failure is heavily feared by students, but to me, failure presents the opportunity to learn and grow from your past mistakes. The increase in assessments and tests will teach students from a young age, that failure presents an opportunity for success rather than disappointment. So as an IB student would question: To what extent can failure be beneficial for students learning?

Teachers, a crucial resource, one in which you can never have enough of. Teachers guide and support students throughout their learning process, which is why it’s essential to have a high teacher to student ratio. The more concentrated the teacher can be on a smaller group of students, the easier it will be to outline student’s strengths and weaknesses. This will create a unique relationship between the student and teacher, allowing students to be more comfortable in approaching their teachers when a concept is unclear or misunderstood.

We are all gathered at this Cognita Leadership Conference today as change makers. We want to improve the quality of education given to students, we want to change the educational future for generations to come, and that is what we can and will do.