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June 1, 2018

GVP Newsletter – May 2018


Letter from Head of School:


Dear GVP friends,

I had the great privilege of attending the Clarkston High School graduation last Friday night at the Georgia World Congress Center. As I watched the six GVP alumnae walk across the stage to cheering crowds, I could hardly contain my emotions. I thought about the challenges each of these young women had overcome and what each one had achieved in the last 5 years.

These alumnae were particularly special to me because they were part of the first GVP graduating class after I became Head of School. They left GVP for Clarkston High School in the spring of 2014 and managed to successfully navigate all the hurdles and hardships of high school with great strength and with tremendous support from their village.

Our Global Village is a diverse community of care for newcomer refugee girls as they begin their educational journeys in the US and as those journeys continue on into high school, college, and life and careers beyond school. This year we celebrated the graduations of nine high school seniors and two college seniors—our first ever college graduates and our largest high school graduating class yet. Together, we celebrate these young women, their families, and all those who empowered and encouraged them.

Our GVP students come to this new home with dreams of high school and graduations. They dream of attending college and having careers that will allow them to care for their families and communities. These young women don’t give up on their dreams, despite the odds. They embody purpose and potential and inspire us all. They are representative of the millions of young women around the world who are denied basic education and representative of what is possible with access to excellent education and a community of support. They remind us that better education empowers a better world. To quote Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, “The only solution is education, education, education.”

We thank you for believing in our school and our vision of ensuring that all refugee girls have access to the education they need to pursue their dreams. We thank you for believing in our students and their dreams and for being a part of their village of support.

We enrolled our largest GVP class to date in 2018 and plan to serve at least 45 students again in 2019.  I encourage you to stay in touch with us on social media this summer and come back to see us in August. We all wish you a fabulous and fun summer, and again, thank you for helping us dream a better world, one girl at a time.

With much gratitude,

Staff Spotlight: 

Suzanne Townley

by Amy Berry Pun 

Suzanne Townley, Social Studies Teacher

Suzanne Townley joined the GVP teaching staff in 2015 as GVP’s Social Studies teacher. Her teaching skills, leadership, and friendship have made her an exceptional asset to our teaching staff! After spending periods of time overseas serving in Morocco and Peru as well as sightseeing in east Africa, she developed a love and interest in cultures other than her own.

Her experiences in education broadened after teaching Social Studies for nine years in the public school system, but it wasn’t until she worked at Clarkston High School that her eyes were open to the needs in the refugee community.

As the lead teacher for an after-school program at Clarkston High, Suzanne quickly noticed that the gaps in her students’ education were hindering them from learning and from developing the skills they needed to be successful in school. Suzanne remembers how many students were merely doing their best to survive high school.

Overjoyed to discover GVP, Suzanne loved the school’s mission and focus on meeting each young woman exactly where she is and providing support for her needs in literacy development, as well as her social and emotional needs. She explains, “When girls leave GVP they will know some U.S. History, World History, and Human Geography. More importantly, they will have the literacy and English skills to continue learning and to be successful in high school and college if that is what their families want for them.”
Many students from this year’s Form 3 class entered Form 1 unsure how to start an English sentence or use a journal. Suzanne reflects how, three years later, these girls are defending oral and written arguments about the constitution! “Now, this group of girls is a cohesive group. They love and care for each other deeply across cultural differences.”

Suzanne reflects on her time at GVP with fondness. She loves Social Studies and has enjoyed pouring her enthusiasm for the subject into our girls. Our students’ passion and excitement about life and its new opportunities allowed for classroom experiences that were hardly ever dull! It was hard not to smile at the fun classroom and hallway exchanges that Suzanne often had with the girls. These moments shared with students were invaluable, sometimes even more so than the lesson for the day.

Many times, the girls were curious to know about the friendship that Ms. Suzanne and I have, a friendship that seems similar to their own friendships with each other. We catch up, share, and connect like they do! Relationships are a big part of what makes GVP different. We welcomed “Mr. Suzanne” (Alvin Townely) into our classroom, celebrated Kensington’s birth (Suzanne’s daughter), and grieved the loss of Bella (Suzanne’s cocker spaniel).

Now we mourn the leaving of our excellent Social Studies teacher and friend. Ms. Suzanne is taking time to focus on family, as she pours her love and energy into her daughter, new home and extended family in Roswell. She’s looking forward to connecting with the international communities near her new home. While she will always be a part of our GVP family, she will most assuredly be missed! We will look forward to seeing her back from time to time at Author’s Teas or through our collaboration at the High Museum of Art. Ms. Suzanne, thanks for three great years!



Volunteer Spotlight: 

Pia Ahmad 


by Julia Levy

Pia Ahmad, Board Member

Miss Pia has a pure heart. When I was at GVP, and she found out my mom passed away and I had a daughter to take care of, she became my friend, and told me I could ask her for help any time. When I was living with my cousin and his family at The Lakes apartments, we had a heavy rain and the apartment flooded.  Miss Pia and her husband came over and helped us move all of our things to another apartment. I was so grateful.”          
Kaltouma Saleh, GVP Alumna

Pia Ahmad, volunteer, mentor, and two-term Board Chair of the Global Village Project, found her way to GVP by googling “girls,” “education,” and “international”—the three things she was most passionate about.  Global Village Project popped up on the screen. She had been involved with another nonprofit that raised money for schools in developing countries but became frustrated at never getting to see the schools or monitor their progress. “I showed up for a GVP Development Committee meeting and the next thing I knew (former board member) Barbara Thompson told me I had to get involved right away. She told me that a new family from Afghanistan had just arrived and that they came through Russia. Since I spoke Russian, she asked me to take care of the family.” Pia was soon tutoring Robika, the teenage daughter, getting to know the family well, helping the son with job interviews, and, in that way, becoming involved with the work of GVP.

A year later Pia took a job with the City of Atlanta. “My job was process-oriented,” she said. “I felt I was born into this world to do different things.”  A year later she attended an Authors’ Tea at GVP.  “I remember standing in the corner, hearing the girls sing ‘This Land is Your Land,’ and I just wept. I thought to myself: I’m a fortunate person with a comfortable life. This is my calling and this is where I need to be.

Becoming more deeply involved at GVP meant joining the board. Pia became Vice Chair, and then Chair of the Board, playing a pivotal role in guiding GVP through a reorganization that brought Amy Pelissero in as Head of School. “It’s always been important for me to be involved strategically at GVP, but also as a volunteer,” Pia says.

Pia is now bidding farewell to GVP, moving with her family to London this summer.  But her years working with the board, staff, volunteers and especially the students at GVP have had an indelible impact on her and the work she will do in the future. “I would really like to continue to work with refugees in London, and that’s because of GVP and my experience there,” she explains.  “I would love to visit the refugee camps—learn a skill and help in the camps. I also want to stay involved with refugee education.”

I have had the privilege to get to know, work with, and have fun with Pia Ahmad: first, as a fellow board member; then, as a GVP staff member; and, finally, as co-mentors to Kaltouma Saleh. I have witnessed first-hand her commitment to GVP, her intelligence, and her drive. Most importantly, though I have witnessed her warmth and generosity toward her friends, colleagues and, especially, the students and alumnae of GVP.  We will miss you, Pia, and expect you to visit us often!



STEAM Career Day 2018 – May 2nd


Above and below:
GVP girls engage with STEAM Professionals, doing hands-on activities related to dentistry, neurology and textiles.


On May 2nd, GVP hosted its first Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) Career Day. Students spent the day engaging in STEAM -inspired activities including a building challenge, owl pellets, and a coding Scratch game. The students also participated in activities facilitated by our presenters who all worked in STEAM fields. For Career exploration, dentist Dr. Zerita Buchanan talked to the girls about what dentists do, how to prepare oneself to become a dentist, and how to care for one’s teeth; Neuroscientists Drs. Constance and Jacob Shreckengost, taught the students about parts of the brain and the importance of protecting their brains; and textile designer Jen Gin helped the students understand how to pick colors and textures for new designs. Furthermore, the students continued the study of owls (from our trip to Washega 4-H Center) by finding the bones of owls’ prey while dissecting owl pellets. They also practiced programming Lego robots, learned how to create digital games on SCRATCH, and participated in a building challenge to build a free-standing tower out of spaghetti noodles and tape that could hold up a marshmallow. Thanks to our guest presenters for sharing their STEAM careers and the other guests and GVP’s support team for making our first STEAM Career Day a hit.


GVP Performs  – May 11th

Above and below:
GVP students performing at the annual Playmaking For Girls showcase. 


Thanks to Synchronicity Theatre’s Playmaking For Girls Program Director Susie Purcell and her teaching team, including Jennifer Denning and intern Rachael Hayes Crouse, for helping GVP girls share their voices and stories! Thanks to everyone who attended GVP Performs! at the Decatur Library on Friday, May 11th. Your support for our students and for arts integration in our school is greatly appreciated. We look forward to sharing more of our drama and our stories with you next year!



Form 3 Graduation  – May 12th 

Above and below:
Form 3 students, staff, and family members at the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church for GVP Graduation 2018.


On May 12th, 13 Form 3 students were honored for completing GVP’s academic program, and 2 departing students were recognized for their accomplishments. The graduation celebration included song dedications to and by the graduates and certificate presentations. The ceremony was followed by a GVP family potluck lunch. Thanks to all the family and friends who came out to celebrate our students and their successes. Welcome to the GVP alumnae village, Graduates! Remember that you will always be part of our GVP family! We love you and can’t wait to see the wonderful things you will do in the world!




GVP’s Got Talent & Last Day of School Celebration – May 24th 

Above and below:
Our last day of school activities at GVP.


The 2017-2018 school year is a WRAP, and we are officially out for summer break. On May 24th we had our annual end of year celebration, which included our GVP’s Got Talent showcase; student awards; faculty, staff, & volunteer appreciation; lunch and more. Dr. Amy awarded CORE Value certificates for respect, appreciation, kindness, responsibility, and lifelong learning, and teachers recognized students with Guided Reading Awards. We sang together and said our goodbyes to departing students and staff. We ended with a dance party and wished everyone a safe and happy summer! We look forward to being back together in August!