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Amos Joseph knows firsthand the power of education, having seen it transform his hometown of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.


“In the past, education was reserved for a specific category of privileged people,” Joseph said. “The power was governed by the bourgeois, but now through education, anybody from any level can be the president or anything.”


Joseph works for BuildON, an international nonprofit that runs afterschool service programs in the United States and builds schools in developing countries. He has been with the organization for four years, and has worked closely with Dallas International School in the past through joint efforts with BuildON.


“The DIS chapter of BuildON came to Haiti five years ago to help build a school,” Joseph said. “I wasn’t a permanent staff member then, but I spent time in the local community with DIS to help build the school. Since then, we stayed connected.”


Joseph credits his experience with the DIS chapter as motivation to eventually join BuildON full-time.


“Especially in the community where I first met with DIS, we saw how difficult it was for a kid to work at travelling to school and work a job,” Joseph said. “We saw just how great it was to bring a school into the community. It helped them. They have electricity now, they have a well, they’re trying to get a health clinic and other things to try and help the community.”


Joseph’s responsibility with the organization lies in the logistical planning of the schools. Since BuildON focuses on constructing schools in rural areas that haven’t had them before, the change can be jarring to a community.


“I meet with the villagers first to help prepare them mentally and psychologically,” Joseph said. “I explain to them our methodology. After, I help purchase the materials for construction. We help the community get involved in the project too. We help provide laborers to help work on the construction. Every day we have a minimum of 20 people working on the school.”


While vacationing in Orlando, Joseph was invited to come to Dallas to tour the DIS campus and address the students. His message to them was simple.


“I want to tell them how education is better for development,” Joseph said. “I’m the youngest from a family of nine, and I’m the only one who finished school. What I have accomplished is only because I have been educated. Education is the key that can open every door.”

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Everyone at both Dallas International School campuses could tell something was different when they walked outside: it was much cooler than a normal August afternoon in Texas, and the shadows and lighting looked unfamiliar. These were the first signs of the much-anticipated solar eclipse on the first day of school, August 21.


“Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun so that it blocks part or all of the sunlight when viewed from certain places on Earth,” said Wendie Meymarian, Curriculum Development and Instructional Coordinator at DIS, who helped organize the viewing and teach students about its significance. “And Earth is the only planet in the solar system where eclipses can happen this way because of the moon’s size and its distance from the sun.”


“Even though we were not in the path of totality, it was still an incredible sight with 75% coverage,” Meymarian said. “We noticed that even the temperature dropped several degrees, making the viewing time more pleasant, as it was distinctly cooler outside.”


All DIS students from first through twelfth grade went outside at 12:45 p.m. and, after donning the proper safety glasses, had the opportunity to directly observe the eclipse. Students already had lessons from their teachers on the rare nature of the event. They also drew the different stages of the eclipse on a worksheet as they observed them.


“Students and adults alike were in complete awe of the experience,” Meymarian said. “There were over 250 students and adults on the soccer field at the lower campus and everyone was completely engaged. Aside from having many questions, students wanted to know more about how solar eclipses occur.”


Fourth graders Neel and Tristan couldn’t contain their excitement when talking about the eclipse.


“I thought it was very scientific,” Neel said. “It’s rare for the moon to be between the sun and Earth. I also wondered how they know when the next solar eclipse will come.”


“It was cool,” Tristan agreed. “I only saw a lunar eclipse before, not a solar, and it was much darker.”


Meymarian emphasized how the eclipse was a great opportunity for teachers to use a natural event as what she calls a “teachable moment.”


“At DIS, our teachers try to seize any teachable moment and use it for the benefit of our students,” Meymarian said. “These events allow us to teach outside of the four walls of our classroom, integrating real-life experiences into our daily lessons.”


“Some scientific ideas can be more abstract or not visible to the human eye,” Meymarian said. “The solar eclipse was an out-of-this-world phenomena, and for some of our students, maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” 

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Ali Sadek opened the e-mail and read it, then read it again. It just couldn’t be real.


“Hello Triathlete. Congratulations! Due to your placement at the 2016 Age Group National Championship, you have earned a roll-down spot on Team USA for the 2017 ITU Draft-Legal Sprint Triathlon World Championship in Rotterdam, Netherlands,” it read.


The Dallas International School sophomore had always dreamed of representing his country as a triathlete, but he didn’t think the opportunity would come along so quickly.


“I went to Age Group Nationals in August,” Sadek said. “They took my times, and they said they were pretty good. But honestly, I was quite surprised when I got the e-mail.”


But Sadek was probably the only person surprised by the prestigious invitation. His coaches, classmates and friends know the dedication that he puts into his training, which includes upwards of three hours of swimming, biking and running each day. He often uses the athletic facilities at the University of Texas at Dallas, a privilege afforded by the partnership formed between the university and DIS.


“I train a lot,” Sadek said. “Yesterday, I was at a bike race. Today, it will be something else. Consistency is everything.”


That consistency has helped Sadek reach new heights, but he’s not done.


“I want to go to the Youth Olympics,” he said. “Then I would feel that all my training and hard work and effort will have paid off. To receive a team uniform and be part of the U.S.A. is such a big deal to me. It’s just an honor to represent the U.S.A. outside of the country.”

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The children chattered excitedly as they waited in the rainbow-colored lobby, giant check in hand, ready to have their picture taken at the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in downtown Dallas.


These Dallas International School elementary schoolers were some of the most enthusiastic participants in the annual Rite Race, a fun run that the school puts on to help raise funds for the hospital. A total of $108,000 has been raised for the hospital through the Rite Race over the years. The $4,000 donation this year was the biggest contribution ever raised by the DIS community. To show their appreciation, the hospital invited the students down for a tour of their colorful facilities.


Mike Stimpson is the director of volunteer services at Scottish Rite. He and Mandi Valdez, a development officer at the hospital, led the tour.


“This will help our kids so much at the hospital,” Stimpson said as he accepted the check from the students. “We are so thankful that you guys do the Rite Race every year.”


Valdez then led the children into the lobby which housed an incredible blimp display, and the fun began. Students were shown all of the inner workings of the hospital: rooms where children use digital technology to play and recover, a hallway full of relics donated by local pro sports teams and even a hands-on presentation of prosthetic limbs made for patients.


“I always look forward to this every year,” Valdez said later. “The kids really do get into it and enjoy it. They embrace the race and the hospital. It’s great to see them pick a cause that they’re passionate about. We just really appreciate them.”


Stimpson said he appreciates the partnership that has formed between DIS and Scottish Rite.


“We are so thankful year after year that they choose to help us,” he said. “I think it’s a great example of kids helping other kids. We love it when they can come to the hospital and see firsthand what their money does. The fact that they’re in a school that encourages and teaches that is tremendous.”

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The assembled ninth graders hung on Zsuzsannah Ozsváth’s every word, listening intently to her personal history full of tragedy, fear, suffering and, ultimately, joy.


Ozsváth, the director of the Holocaust Studies program at the University of Texas at Dallas, was invited to address the ninth graders as a capstone of sorts for their yearlong study of World War II and the Holocaust. The Hungarian native was just a young girl when Nazi soldiers began taking over her homeland in 1944.


“I remember when I was four years old, my father was listening to the radio and he said, ‘Everything is over,’” Ozsváth said. “I knew something terrible had happened. Walking down the street, people started speaking in soft voices, neighbors discussing current events. I knew there would be big problems for my father’s pharmacy.”


Young Zsuzsannah simply couldn’t understand why all these terrible things were happening to her family and her people. But a foreboding conversation at a birthday party shined a light on the actions of the Nazis.


“I was invited to a birthday party of a little girl named Hannah who had been smuggled into Hungary,” Ozsváth said. “She told terrible stories about what happened in Poland. She told me of the Germans making groups of the men, women and children. The men were shot. I asked her why. ‘Because we are Jewish,’ she said.”


On March 19, 1944, the Nazis began their invasion of Hungary. While many of the Jews there were allowed to stay in the city of Budapest, most lost their businesses and almost everything else. Ozsváth and her family members were forced to wear the yellow Star of David on all of their clothing to identify them as Jewish. Ghettos were created in the city and filled with Jews who were housed up in apartments with up to 18 people living together in one unit.


Perhaps the most heartwarming part of Ozsváth’s talk was the story of Erzsi, a young girl who came to work as a helper at the Ozsváth family pharmacy before the Nazi occupation. Zsuzsannah and her brother liked her so much that she eventually became their live-nanny. Once the Nazis invaded and the family had to limit their movements and hide, Erzsi told them not to worry, because she would save them. Erzsi would come by every day and bring food to the family, and she eventually acquired false papers that allowed them all to escape.


The Allies finally pressed through to victory. Hungary and, eventually, the whole of Europe was liberated from the Nazis. In the worst of times, Ozsváth had done her best to maintain a positive outlook. After the war was over, the memories of the perilous experiences she had endured stayed with her, and they remain deeply embedded in her being.


“I didn’t decide this is what I will be,” Ozsváth said. “This is what I am. It has completely influenced my life forever. You can suffer tremendously and be tremendously joyful. I don’t know that you can experience one without the other.”

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David Tomlinson wanted to make one thing clear: writing a book is not easy.


“I always knew I wanted to write a book,” Tomlinson told students of the DIS English Honor Society last week. “So I started writing and reading. A lot. I eventually started outlining my novel and began writing it piece by piece. It took me two and a half years just to write out each scene after the outline.”


Tomlinson was the invited guest of the English Honor Society, as they had just finished reading his first novel, The Midnight Man, a project that took Tomlinson eight years to complete from start to finish. Tomlinson’s two daughters, Cadence and Laurel, also study at the school.


Students asked Tomlinson numerous questions, but they seemed especially keen to learn more about his inspiration behind The Midnight Man, a gripping crime thriller that takes place in rural Oklahoma.


“I actually grew up in a small town called Perry, Oklahoma,” Tomlinson said. “So I was really interested in taking the social forces of the mid-1990s in Oklahoma and personifying them into the characters in the book. I wanted to cover stuff like racial bias, politics and social inequality.”


Tomlinson also detailed the many emotions that came along with the release of his first-ever novel. He’s attended numerous book clubs that have studied his book, and he said that he was fascinated by the many reactions that it received.


“I’ve learned that once I’ve written the book and released it into the world, I no longer own it,” Tomlinson said. “Your experience with the book is yours. It’s right. It scares me a bit, but it’s also cool. I’ve been to book clubs where people have had very personal connections with it that have been really cool for me to hear.”


The author’s ultimate advice to the group of aspiring writers was to keep persistently writing, even if the results don’t turn into the next great American novel.


“If you want to be a creative writer, most good writing is rewriting,” Tomlinson said. “The first draft is never going to be great. The sentences in this book have been written at least a dozen times each. It only gets better over time.”

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Dallas International School has always focused on helping students become fluent in the languages of the world, including French, English and Spanish. Starting in the fall of 2017, the school will introduce its specialized Mandarin Chinese program, with instruction beginning at age two.


In partnership with the Confucius Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas, this program will be available to all DIS students upon entrance into preschool. In addition to the signature French/English immersion instruction that each student receives, parents will have the option to place their child in a Mandarin Chinese language track one day per week. A Spanish language track is also offered. Both tracks are available through fourth grade, with additional instruction being offered in the student’s chosen language all the way through high school graduation.


“This program will be an early exposure to a third language for our students,” said Dr. Mehdi Lazar, head of the primary school at DIS. “Adding Mandarin to our preschool and elementary academic offerings will not only prepare our students for a globalized world, but it will also expand their understanding of languages.”


In addition to classroom instruction, students will have numerous cultural learning opportunities through the new program, including Chinese folk stories and plays, traditional dances, instruction in Chinese painting, writing and calligraphy and even a Chinese New Year celebration. This unique offering is meant as another language option for DIS students as they prepare to become global citizens. As the most spoken language in the world, experience with Mandarin Chinese will help students not only during their academic career, but throughout their lives.

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For Isabella and Simone Flodin, tennis is a family affair.


“I’ve been playing since I was nine years old, and Simone’s been playing since she was seven,” Isabella said. “We moved here from Los Angeles, and my mom and dad both played there in high school. Once we got to Dallas, my mom took tennis back up and she signed us up for classes. Our whole family plays, really.”


Isabella is a ninth grader at Dallas International School, while Simone is in seventh grade. The sisters recently competed in separate TAPPS tennis tournaments over the past week at the University of Texas at Dallas. Simone won the middle school IAA singles tournament, competing against a field of players from nine other area schools, while Isabella beat out players from 12 other schools to advance to the high school state tournament in Waco, along with classmates Julian Rueda-Rojas, Noor Siddiqui and Hailey Archer. That tournament will take place April 12-13.


But before the girls took the court for their respective matches, they were a mix of emotions.


“Before I went on court, I was kind of nervous, because I didn’t know what to expect,” Simone said. “But once I got on there, I felt good and I knew I was going to win.”


“I just had to dominate, because I didn’t want to give my opponent a chance,” Isabella said. “I didn’t want the match to be close. I just really wanted to win.”


The Flodin sisters had each grown up playing various sports, but they both fell in love with tennis, albeit for different reasons.


“I’ve done a lot of sports in my life, but I like individual sports,” Isabella said. “I like being in control of the competitive aspect. It’s so intense, and I love that. I love the physical challenge and the mental challenge. All of that is really fun.”


Simone’s take is a bit different.


“I actually love teams,” Simone said. “I’ve been playing soccer since I was three, and it’s just so fun. I just enjoy going out there and competing. I just think tennis is fun. Even just hitting the ball, I find so much joy.”


Last year, when both Simone and Isabella were in middle school, they even competed against each other in the IAA tournament.


“Let’s just say that Simone is not a fan of playing me,” Isabella said.


“She’s mean!” Simone replied, laughing.


Both sisters received extra motivation for their matches from their coach, Jesse Llamas. Besides instilling in them a love for competition and a drive to win, coach Llamas offered some additional spoils if victorious.


“All I really wanted was to play dodgeball for gym class, so I asked coach Jesse if I won the whole tournament, could we play dodgeball on Monday?” Simone said. “He said yes, so when I won the tournament, I was so excited because I knew we would be playing dodgeball.”


Coach Llamas has seen the Flodins improve not only in their athletic skills, but in their competitive attitude as well.


“They have always been fierce competitors with amazing tennis skills, but what I have seen develop over the years is their true enjoyment of the sport,” Llamas said. “They were amazing to watch. They compete with style and class. They are exactly what Dallas International School student-athletes are all about.”


Both sisters have lofty goals for their future tennis careers.


“I want to play in college,” Isabella said. “If it takes me further, then great, but that’s ultimately what I want to do.”


Simone, however, has her sights set only on one thing.


“I want to beat Isabella,” she said.

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Have you ever thought about the level of toxicity within the bodies of water around your neighborhood? Ever gone so far as to carefully test a few of them by conducting a thorough investigation?


Well, Russell Ramsay and Eddie Ulbricht have, and these two Dallas International School eighth-graders say that they’ve just scratched the surface of what they want to do to raise awareness about the importance of clean water in the Dallas area.


It all started out as a DIS science fair project that Ramsay began last year.


“I did a project at last year’s fair on the oxygen content in water,” Ramsay said. “I only tested the oxygen in the water, but this year we tested way more parameters.”


That’s where Ulbricht, Ramsay’s longtime friend, came in.


“I’m a fly fisherman, so I do a lot of fishing,” Ramsay said. “Eddie does too. I’ve been to Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas to fish and he’s been to Montana and other places. We always go to these really pretty places to fish for trout, and we realized that fish just don’t live in ugly places. We wanted to find out why.”


The duo cooked up a plan to test the toxin levels in local bodies of water around north Dallas. They selected three locations to test: Twin Lakes, Cottonwood Park and another north Dallas park near a Frisbee golf course.


“We ended up conducting experiments by using a living organism to detect toxins,” Ramsay said. “In this case, we were using daphnia magna, or water fleas.”


What they found out surprised them.


“We found that our local bodies of water are pretty toxic,” Ulbricht said. “They couldn’t really support a steady population of water fleas. We also found that bodies of water closer to golf courses or runoff from the street had higher toxicity because of the phosphate found in fertilizers.”


Under the direction of their teacher, Florence Delleniaux, they entered their findings into the school and regional science fairs. It was the first time that DIS eighth-graders had ever participated in the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair (DRSEF). The pair took home a junior division first place award for their work.


So what’s next for these two budding scientists?


“Next year, we want to further our research,” Ulbricht said. “We really want to expand our area and do both urban areas and rural areas and do our tests over the course of an entire year.”


For now, both young men are dedicated to sharing their findings with the community to help raise awareness.


“There are a lot of people that eat the fish in those waters,” Ramsay said. “They’ll go fishing, they’ll eat it and it’s potentially harmful because of the toxins. People just need to be careful what kind of fertilizers they use and what stuff they put down the drain.”

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The students crowded behind the starting line, full of nervous energy and eager to begin.


“Are we ready?” shouted coach Jesse Llamas as a crowd of parents looked on. “On your mark, get set, go!”


And with that, a cheer went up and the annual Dallas International School Race for a Cause was underway.


The first race took place on the lower campus on Friday, March 10. Students ran laps around the inner courtyard of the school to raise funds for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Each lap completed by the students resulted in a donation to the hospital. Scottish Rite representatives even came to cheer along the students as they ran. Teachers and staff also hopped in, completing laps with the students to help encourage their progress. In total, the students ran 1,965 laps.


“This year, students were trained in groups to prepare for the race, so their motivation was even higher than last year,” said Severine Le Duff, the physical education teacher at the lower school and facilitator of the race. “In French, we like to say that union is strength.”


Upper school students joined in on the fun on Friday, March 17. Running their laps around the newly completed recess area in front of the Waterview Parkway campus, all participants enthusiastically raced to raise funds for the DIS chapter of BuildON, an organization that constructs schools in underprivileged areas in Haiti. Once again, teachers and administrators ran alongside the students to help raise more money for the cause. Upper school students finished with a total of 1,975 laps. With dance music playing on the speakers and a wealth of sunshine coming down onto the field while they ran, the cheerful mood was contagious.


As the final buzzer sounded and the runners slowed down, that positive energy refused to dissipate. Hugs and high-fives were exchanged and smiles ran rampant as the happy feeling of helping those in need settled on the tired group of students and staff.