What separates Nairobi from Boca Raton extends well beyond the approximately 8,000 miles of geographic distance. But expect that line—and countless others—to blur this October as students at Saint

Andrew’s School welcome representatives from six continents to our backyard for a thoughtprovoking conference like no other. Two years after gaining entrance into Round Square—the prestigious international organization that empowers (primarily high schoolaged) students to become responsible, forwardthinking citizens of the world—Saint Andrew’s will host an annual event (Oct. 6–12) expected to draw nearly 700 student delegates and another 300 educators to town from schools as far away as Australia, Japan and Kenya. Saint Andrew’s students who’ve attended prior Round Square conferences call the weeklong agenda nothing short of life-altering.

“It really opened me up to people I never expected to talk to,” says William Leas, who attended the 2011 event in London. “You’re discussing topics that you might never discuss with students from India and South Africa. Nothing else compares to it.”

“I went to Kenya [for a spring 2012 event] and lived with a Nairobi family for a week,” says student Charlotte Dowell. “I left Africa with a completely new sense of my life and the things I hold dear. ... Here, someone may cry if an iPhone breaks. Those students had nothing— and they were singing and smiling.”

Although international delegates won’t have the chance to ride camels on the beach, as Dowell did in Africa, the South Florida version of Round Square promises enlightening discussions and experiential activities that not only speak to our corner of the country but also that play into the conference theme, “Waves of Change.”

“If the conference were two sides of a coin, one side would be the U.S.—democracy, community service, environmental concerns,” says Nick Dorn, director of student leadership at Saint Andrew’s and the 2013 Round Square chair. “The flip side will hopefully inspire other countries to approach their problems in a whole new way.”

Nick Dorn, director of student leadership at Saint Andrew’s.

Dorn adds that America’s entrepreneurial spirit, evident in the roster of keynote speakers, will be an underlying thread that runs throughout the week. “We want to make that contagious for the rest of the world,” he says.

At a recent planning meeting, Dorn was the only adult in the room. That’s because students set the Round Square agenda and, as much as possible, run the show.

“They’re not only student leaders, they’re conference commandos,” Dorn says. “They’re going to be on the ground, keeping their eyes on the other delegates and making sure they’re getting the most out of their experience.”

Students aren’t the only ones destined to experience the impact of Round Square. Upward of 250 local families will serve as host parents for student delegates. Parents can provide lodging for up to two students, but each student must come from a different cultural background, per Round Square protocol. It’s just one more way that Round Square inspires participants to think beyond their borders in pursuit of common—and higher—ground. “When else would you be exposed to over 50 countries [in one setting],” says Sophia Lukes, who’s on the student steering committee with Leas and Dowell. “I was in a dorm room [in London] with about 10 girls, and each one was from a different country. You begin to realize, despite our cultural differences, just how similar we all are.”

 

To continue reading, please pick up a copy of the September/October Boca Raton magazine.