To learn the story behind Global Connections, we asked Robin McMahon to fill us in on the grand vision behind the event.
How did Global Connections get started?
Smith as a “Global Connections” school was decided around the new millennium--2000. Smith's planning committee, headed by its newly appointed principal, Valerie Reinhardt, envisioned a school community of administrators, teachers, parents, and university leaders working together to reach beyond the classroom walls to embrace the world at large with what was later termed: 21st Century Skills. Since I was on the planning committee, Ms. Reinhardt called me that summer and asked if I would teach a Global Connections class. It sounded exciting, and I was looking forward to writing the curriculum for a brand new course.
Smith was still under construction (literally) when the front doors opened to students in August 2001. One hallway was not complete, and 7th grade students and teachers shared space wherever they could while hammers and drills echoed down the hall. Only a few weeks into school, it seemed the foundation of our country and community was shaken by the tragic events of 9/11. It was a tough start.
A conversation with Ms. Reinhardt prompted the idea of holding an event for the community. We chose the third week in November because it is International Week, and the vision for this event quickly took shape as it became a party where the whole world was invited. The first event attracted maybe a hundred visitors, but parents, like Sandy Wong and her Chinese exhibit and organizer Sherry Anscher, helped make the first evening a success ... and it has grown for the last 17 years into a flagship program and event at Smith Middle.
How has the event evolved over the years?
The goal each year is to involve students in every aspect of Global Connections, and every year, we find new ways to elicit student participation. Students design the t-shirt logo, help develop and decide the theme, prepare academic projects for display in November, and learn cultural dances for the performances in February. The first few years, there were student cultural performances on the same night we held the cultural exhibits, but that lasted only a few years before we had to put the performances on a separate night that week due to the vast number of student participants. After a few years of sell-out crowds in our auditorium and an over-flow crowd in the cafeteria, we had to move the performances in 2010 to a bigger venue: Chapel Hill High auditorium in February.
What are some Global Connections memorable moments from the past decade?
Landing a helicopter on our soccer field for our Celebration of Flight event, hundreds of students running down Seawell School Rd. at night following the Special Olympics torch for Global Games, singing around the pyramid built by Mr. Martin's CTE classes for our theme of Light, Love and Leadership, dancing to “Thriller” by Michael Jackson with hundreds of Smith students in the hallway of the school, rising high above the soccer field in 2010 in a hot air balloon for our theme of Energize: Look to the Skies, and watching hundreds of Smith students packing meals for StopHungerNow.
Almost Two Decades of Diversity
- 2001 - Wrap Your Arms Around the World
- 2002 - Dance Around the World
- 2003 - Fly Around the World
- 2004 - Surge of Sound: Raise Your Voice
- 2005 - Global Games
- 2006 - One World
- 2007 - Light, Love and Leadership
- 2008 - What a Little Can Do
- 2009 - Compassion: Use Your Compass to Guide You and Your Passion to Drive You
- 2010 - Energize: Look to the Skies
- 2011 - Virtually There
- 2012 - Journey in Mind, Body and Spirit
- 2013 - STILL WE RISE
- 2014 - Global Connections 2014
- 2015 - World Anew
- 2016 - This Little Light
- 2017 - Beyond Labels
- 2023 - Two Decades of Diversity
- 2024 - Tapestry of Cultures