Holy Himalayas! How many questions could you answer correctly about geography given a moment's time and no way to look up the answers? Erik Abele, who won first place in the Fenn finals of the National Geo Bee in January, qualified to move on to the state finals, where he finished fifth of 100 competitors earlier this month. 

Erik is a geography whiz; he won the Geo Bee at his former school, in Vermont, and came in fourth in that state’s finals.

Social Studies Chair John Sharon, who organizes the annual event, said that at Fenn, “we’re always making the push to go global” and he complimented Fenn’s social studies teachers for doing “an amazing job” in their classes.

The Fenn Math Team distinguished itself this year by finishing in the top 25% in the MATHCOUNTS Chapter Competition and seventh in the State Competition. Ben Kelly, Mark Morton, John Xu, and Quincy Hughes were joined by Ted Pyne and Jon Gong, who competed as individuals.

In the Chapter competition, John finished second; Mark, ninth; Quincy thirteenth; and Ben twenty-third.

The current eighth grade class boasts a group of "very strong" math students, according to Department Chair Ralph Giles. The competition “exposes the boys to a broader engagement with math,” he adds, “they develop a greater appreciation for the talents of others, and they see themselves in the larger mathematical community.”

The team met at 7:30 on Tuesday mornings and balanced their commitment to the group with their many other Fenn obligations. “It has been a real pleasure to work with this set of talented mathletes,” says Ralph.
“In the time before the fighting, before the rockets, before the warlords and their false promises, before the sudden disappearance of so many people we knew to graves or foreign lands, before the Taliban and their madness, before the smell of death hung daily in the air and the ground was soaked in blood, we lived well.”

Qais Akbar Omar believes that storytelling is healing—that it “eases the pain in your soul.” And so it is that Qais (rhymes with “rice”) spent several years putting his story—a riveting account of his childhood in 1990s’ Afghanistan—on paper. “While I wrote I was sometimes crying, sometimes laughing,” he told Upper School students who gathered in the Jafari Library on April 4 to listen to him speak. Published last year by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Qais’ book, A Fort of Nine Towers, chronicles the time his family fled war-torn Kabul and traveled all around Afghanistan trying to find food and shelter as “war chased us everywhere we went.” In 1992, when the mujahedeen came to Kabul, a short-lived liberation was followed by protracted civil war.