Round Square Conference Highlights and Reflections: Part 1

David Miller – October 13, 2013

Throughout the conference, keynote speakers inspired Round Square members to aspire for change with examples of past developments as well as prompts for future innovation. The Kielburgers, Mark and Craig, provide underprivileged children with the five pillars for sustainability: clean water and sanitation, health, alternative income and livelihood, agriculture and food security, and education. Jessica Jackley promotes independence through entrepreneurship with Kiva, her micro-financing platform. Adam Braun empowers young generations across the world, encouraging those of us with the necessary means to help educate those in need. The keynote speaker who resonated most with me, however, was Peter Diamandis. Listening to his ideas about exponential thinking, his inquiry into the way humans innately adopt a negative view of the world, his analysis of the developing power of technology, and his projects, such as the XPrize, made me more hopeful about the ability we, humans, have to improve the world. Humanitarian activity in its weakest form wrestles with the effects of underlying problems (i.e. contributing food items to communities that are not t self-sustainable). Today, organizations expand resources, dispatching people and materials, to educate communities about the techniques for agricultural sustainability (undertaking, in a superficial manner, the underlying problems themesleves). Dr. Diamandis’ prompts us to shape a future of “crowdsourcing genius”, where the world’s information becomes available to people across the planet (confronting the problems at their roots). In this vision of the future, all humans interact and communicate continually, making us self-sustainable in our quest for self-sustainability. 

-Nahla Gedeon Achi


Though the last ten days were all filled with exciting and interesting activities, there were some that had a bigger impact than others. It is hard to leave a conference so engaging as this one and pinpoint the moments in which you were truly affected, however at many times throughout the last ten days my mind was flooded with ideas, questions, and hopes for the future. Many of these moments happened while at The Island School.

     People sometimes say that to really understand the problem or what can be improved in a community you should step back and observe it as an outsider. I found that I had a similar experience while at The Island School. It is really helpful to see how other communities run and somehow try to bring some of those positive actions, habits, and ways of thinking back to our community at Deerfield. The IslandSchool’s sustainability was inspiring and the dedication to service was evident. In some ways, it seemed like a smaller Deerfield, simply tucked away on a somewhat uninhabited island in the most beautiful place on earth. However, The Island School had gone one step further than Deerfield in almost all of the Round Square ideals. From enforcing navy showers to volunteering at the Deep Creek Middle School, though not a Round Square Member School, The Island School embodies the ideals and simultaneously educates the temporary students in ways they wouldn’t otherwise be able to learn. After living the rustic life at The Island School, I was inspired to somehow make Deerfield more like it, but before returning to Deerfield I would be even more inspired at the conference in Florida.

            The opening ceremony of the Round Square International Conference 2013 included the most affecting speaker I think I have ever had the privilege of seeing. Adam Braun seemed to be the person that the majority of the people in the room, myselfincluded, aspired to be. He was helping others everyday and was extremely passionate about it and happy to be doing it. He had found his path and given his life value. He delivered his speech in a way that made it look easy andattainable, giving off the message that we too could take the leap, go against the social status quo and do something that truly makes this world a betterplace, such as start an organization that builds schools and brings education to underdeveloped countries. When I entered the opening ceremony, I was thinking about the days to come and meeting people from all over the world and all the homework I knew I would have to make up; however, when I left the ceremony I said very little and simply thought to myself what is it that I want to do with my life and how I could possibly take the giant leap that Adam had just described. Adam’s talk however didn’t simply bind me to the idea that I was obligated to help those in need but also helped me realize that I have the opportunity to branch off, find my own passions, and make a difference; in other words, it liberated me.

            Even after a week of interesting discussion and leadership workshops, Adam’s speech is still one of highlights of the week and his organization, Pencils of Promise, is something that I really hope to make known on the Deerfield Campus and maybe work with in the future.

–Maddie Nelson


            The experience I had in the past week was amazing and meaningful. I had a better understanding of IDEALS of Round Square and actually put them into practice: We had three activities day exercising the pillars, and we had the keynote speakers who gave us inspiration of successful ideas.

            To me, the leadership skills I learned were my best developments made in the conference. Before I came, I hardly had any experience or special talents of leadership. However as I had more responsibilities in the math team, the abilities became necessary.

            The keynote speakers served as great examples of successful leaders. Some of them started with nothing but only an idea and finally did amazing works. All of them had persistent minds with a determination.

            The leadership workshop of breaking the unwritten rules gave me the most inspiration in the entire conference. To be a good leader, one needs to be able influence the people through words or action. In order to be influential, it is imperative for leaders to know people and socialize, because of the huge influence of relationships as well. More importantly, one must break the “unwritten rules”. The unwritten rules are our nature of competition and rivalry. In most occasions these rules don’t benefit either sides. A good leader always knows how to break these through the ways of cooperation. We also came up with a “manual” of planning events, a planning system, which is step-wise. The process includes the following: defining the task, organizing strategy, setting goals, where to focus the effort, estimating risks and chances of fails, and finding the purpose. A leader faces many challenges from a lot of aspects. The leader has to overcome the brain’s nature of fear and anxiety, moreover, keen on taking opportunities. Trying is better than doing nothing. Simple things are not often easy. If we can try over and over again, success is definite.

-Robin Tu


The opening ceremony was over and the conference was officially beginning. Nahla, Henry, Alex, Maddie, Robin and I were split into different Barraza groups, it was the first time we were all separated. My Barazza group was the last on the list, Barazza group 34. As my group was called up I untucked my shirt, loosened my tie and headed off to the classroom where we would commence with our first group discussion.  The trek over to the classroom was a silent moment, a moment where we were all just reading the new faces around us and adjusting our minds to this new scenery and environment. Most of the kids in my group were Australian or German and I was the only American. In the classroom, I could hear the phrases, “I reckon and keen” coming from the Australians and the aggressive sounds coming from the German delegates. Our group leader Collin, a very cheerful and at times overly enthusiastic fellow, tried his best to ease the tensions and anxiousness among us with a few icebreakers. In the end, we all learned that we were from different countries and schools, but the one thing we did all have in common is that we had either just started or were finishing junior year, or grade 11 as the Australians would say. Following the ice breakers came questions regarding the key note speaker, Paul Braum founder of Pencils Of Promise, Collin read off the questions and for the first two minutes nothing was said and we all just looked at each other hoping for someone to have enough confidence to speak and then there came Rahul. Rahul, the Canadian, spoke quietly at first, he spoke of how inspired he was by the speaker to not wait for others to make change but to initiate change himself. Everyone agreed that this was a solid point and then following his remark Cam , an aussie, shared that he would like to follow in Braum’s foot tracks and last but not least Caleb, another aussie, spoke of how it was his dream to build schools for his home country Ethiopia. Hearing those responses I myself felt compelled to speak and when I did all my anxiousness escaped.  Regardless of  our home country and cultural beliefs we were all able to agree on this question.  All of us knew of places within our own communities that needed help and  nearly all of us spoke of  how we wanted to do our part in helping.   That was the commonality between us. Yes we may all speak differently and believe in different things but the one thing we all strive to accomplish within our lifetime, even as youth, is to make a positive impact in our world.

-Tarek Deida


The past week and a half has been absolutely amazing. This trip has helped me to figure out what makes me happiest. At the Island School, we were forced to take navy showers, live amidst mosquitos, wake up before sunrise, exercise in the heat, and more. But, I can quite honestly say that those were four of the most fun and productive days in recent memory. I have learned that I am happiest when I am exploring new places living with a sense of purpose. Those creature comforts that we live with at Deerfield have much less effect on my happiness than I thought.
At the conference portion, I found the four speakers to be the highlight. I related to their life stories and became really excited for the future. Friday’s speaker, especially, left me with a much more positive outlook. If you were to watch any sensational news program, you would tell me I was lying. But, our world is really in a much better place than it has ever been. Life expectancies worldwide are growing longer and longer. Crime statistics are at their lowest in history. And new technology promises an even brighter future. The rollout is not years down the road, either. In the next ten years, children in “third world countries” will receive world class educations with the power of the internet and iPads. Cars will use radar, cameras, and computers to avoid collisions.  Machines will filter even the most dirty water into a drinkable state. 
Finally, I would like to thank everyone I met this week and especially the 5 other Delegates from Deerfield and Mr. Kelly and Mr. Miller. You guys made the 3 am departures bearable. Thank you for this incredible opportunity!
-Henry Cobbs