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October 4, 2017

GVP Newsletter – September 2017


Volunteer Spotlight:
Ellen Dotts

by Bethanne Jenks

Who is Ellen Dotts?

Ellen Dotts, chair of GVP’s Executive Board and weekly volunteer, is an executive coach who has helped pharmaceutical, human resource, and other industries around the world. After earning an undergraduate degree in psychology, she completed a Masters of Business Administration degree. She has been on the Executive Board of GVP for four years, and will be Chair of the Board for the 2016-2019 term. When asked to reflect on the time management challenges of being a parent, an executive coach, a GVP board member, and a volunteer, she said, “Successful time management is deciding to set aside time intentionally and then be intense—not just to be at a place, but of choosing just a few priorities. And stick to that choice of how to spend time! Do it well. Be fully focused and fully present without distractions.”

In speaking about the Board and its role apart from governance responsibilities, she commented that the Board strives to expose more people to GVP and invite them to know the students and the school.  She has observed that, when people encounter the individuals of Global Village Project, donations flow. She also stated that another role of the board is political advocacy for and promoting awareness of refugees in general.

In describing possible reason for the high level of commitment of board members, she noted that half of them have teenagers at home now, and most of these are girls. These include Ms. Dotts’ own teenage girls who, at 16 and 18 years old, are within the age range of GVP students. She also spoke about the importance and impact of GVP’s volunteer program. Before joining the Executive Board, 40% of the members had already been engaged with GVP students as volunteers, tutors, mentors, lunch walkers, or attenders of the Tribute to education. In other words, they had gotten the “touch and feel” of the students at GVP

Ms. Dotts understands first hand some of the challenges of being a newcomer in an unfamiliar place. She said, “When I lived in the Netherlands and when I travelled for business in Asia, I felt out of my comfort zone when I did not understand what people were saying or what the street signs meant.” The writer and Ms. Dotts discussed the awkwardness of being in a new situation and needing a translator and needing to know how to ask for help of natives without becoming a burden. They agreed that it takes some time to reach “a new normal” when in another country. Insights like these have supported Ms. Dotts’ understanding of the needs of GVP students. From her own experience, Ms. Dotts has advice for students who are looking ahead to what they want to become. She suggests that they “seek people who have already ‘assimilated well,’ notice how they succeeded, and ask for advice and feedback.


Staff Spotlight:
Linda Smiley

by Daphne Hall

Introducing Linda Smiley, Mathematics Teacher

Go ahead and discard your notions of geeky, boring mathematicians. Ms. Linda, GVP’s math teacher for Forms 2 and 3, is a person who is not afraid to take risks and try new things. Teaching at GVP is a prime example of one of those risks. She explains that, “Working at GVP is different from anything else I’ve ever done.”

When she’s not teaching or grading papers, Ms. Linda likes to walk, hike, bike, read, and knit. She enjoys putting things together, like IKEA furniture. She has joined a writer’s group and has enjoyed writing some character sketches.

Like her students, Ms. Linda has moved around a bit. She was born in Jackson, Mississippi and has lived in Chicago and Washington, D.C. as well as Atlanta. She lives here with her husband and has a son and a daughter who live in the area. Also like her students, she has studied multiple languages. She says French is her strongest language besides English, but she has also studied German and Russian.

Ms. Linda has been at GVP since the fall of 2010, the second year that GVP was open, and shared some of her thoughts about the school. In particular, she gives kudos to GVP’s “excellent staff.” In those early years, the flexible Ms. Linda taught science as well as math. From the beginning, she has been impressed with the ability of GVP students to adapt and learn English—to take risks and learn new things. Additionally, she says, “the happiness factor at the school is an uplifting surprise. GVP is a joyful place to be. I respect our students so much.” She also says, “I really enjoy moments when kids understand things and gain confidence. For example, just last week, a student exclaimed, ‘I’m smart this year!’ I also really enjoy keeping up with students after they leave.  It is so nice to see them making their own way.  The mentor program is such a great part of that trajectory–Michelle Kuperman is awesome!”

Ms. Linda is also part of each student’s trajectory. Thank you, Ms. Linda!