On September 27th, members of the GWA community had the opportunity to speak at the Second AmCham Women in Business Summit held here in Casablanca.
The summit was organized by the American Chamber of Commerce around the theme of “advancing the entrepreneurial capacity of women in Morocco.” The GWA panel focused on the role of education and mentoring in fostering a new generation of entrepreneurs. GWA Board President Meredith Allen-Belghiti moderated the panel, which also included Head of School Dr. Audrey C. Menard, Upper School Principal Becky A.S. Read, Educational Technology Integrationist Summer Alcauter, and current GWA Senior Narjis Rachad.
Ms. Allen began the conversation by sharing GWA’s vision statement with the audience:
GWA inspires students to become multilingual, lifelong learners who pursue excellence, model integrity, and honor cultural diversity. We educate the whole person by equipping minds and building character, empowering students to serve Morocco and the global community with wisdom and compassion.
Since our vision is at the heart of everything we do at GWA, this made the perfect start to the panel discussion. Each of the panelists then reflected on how this vision helps GWA inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs.
Dr. Menard highlighted the phrase, “empowering students to serve Morocco and the global community with wisdom and compassion.” She spoke about the importance of teaching our students to serve their communities, both locally and globally. When faced with a problem, GWA students learn to look for solutions and for the various ways in which they can help. They will all become leaders in one capacity or another.
The growth mindset we have for both our students and educators at GWA helps to empower them for this future success. All of us continue to grow and change throughout our lives, and we know that a student’s IQ is not fixed at 18 years old. Ms. Read spoke about how she changed careers in her late 20s; Ms. Alcauter talked about how she is currently learning French and can relate to our students as a language learner; and Dr. Menard emphasized the meritocracy we have at GWA. We hold all our students (both girls and boys) to the same standards, and we tell all of them that they will make a positive difference in the world.
The cultural diversity found at GWA further inspires our students to serve the global community. Our student body is comprised of 41 different nationalities. By learning how to talk to one another, help one another, and bridge cultural divides, GWA empowers our students to tackle global issues, collaborate, and work as a team. Narjis spoke about the importance of this cultural diversity. She said that when you walk through the halls of GWA, you meet students who are Moroccan, American, Spanish, French, Swedish, Canadian, and many other nationalities. She finds it amazing to be a part of this community.
Ms. Allen then asked the panelists to speak about the importance of the American approach to education employed at GWA.
Our education system is not based on memorization and tests, but on inquiry and problem-solving. In the real world, there’s rarely one right answer to a problem, and we model that in the classroom. We ask our students to come up with multiple solutions and to debate their merits. Our LEGO Education Innovation Studio, MakerSpace, and Robotics Lab are examples of the access our students have to STEM technology. These spaces allow students to think, play, create, and have fun while they're leaning. Dr. Menard added that failure is a great word at our school. GWA students learn to fail fast and fail often, and they gain a lot from this experience. They come to appreciate that their work is not over when they first complete a project: to pursue excellence, they must seek feedback, revise, innovate, and persevere.
Narjis spoke about her experience in both the French and American educational systems. In her opinion, the biggest difference between the two is how much GWA emphasizes problem-solving and creative thinking. At GWA, your grade is not defined by a few tests, instead your work is evaluated more globally. You give speeches and presentations in class, and you learn teamwork through group projects. You also have the opportunity to get involved in a number of extracurricular activities.
Building character serves as another essential component of a GWA education. Success in entrepreneurship and business require good character and soft skills. Dr. Menard spoke about the importance of teaching initiative, perseverance, and grit. Ms. Alcauter added that in today’s digital world, we make sure our students learn to demonstrate good character online as well as in person. GWA teaches students to be digital citizens, respecting intellectual property and academic honesty.
Narjis said GWA has given her the opportunity to develop her communication skills, self-motivation, responsibility, leadership, and teamwork. The many extracurricular activities and sports in which she participates have helped her practice these skills. She founded a STEM Club at GWA to collaborate with students who have similar interests. She also plays volleyball, basketball, and participates in a number of other clubs and organizations. She has learned to manage her time well and to balance her studies and activities outside of the classroom.
GWA is inspiring a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs by empowering students, honoring cultural diversity, encouraging curiosity, and building character. We look forward to seeing and sharing what our students will go on to do!