Author Archives: Amy Snow

Alumnae/i Profile: Dr. Gaynelle Henderson ’66

Opening the World and Opening Oneself

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” –Anita Desai  

Making an impact since 1955

gay-in-office-lobby-without-glassesGaynelle Henderson’s passion for travel and her belief in its power to transform is in her blood. In 1955, her parents, Jake and Freddye Henderson, opened the first African American overseas touring company in the United States. In 1957, Atlanta-based Henderson Travel organized the first tourist group from the U.S. to the continent of Africa—to Accra, Ghana, to celebrate its independence and the inauguration of its first Black African president, Kwame Nkrumah. This was before airlines were even flying to Africa, requiring Gaynelle’s mother to charter an aircraft from Paris to accommodate the group. As Gaynelle often shares, “This trip was the catalyst that made my parents decide to promote Africa as a tourist destination and persuade more people, African Americans in particular, to visit and return to their “motherland”. They knew that if people would only cast aside the stereotypes of Africa that are still too often seen, and venture forward to visit any of its 54 countries, they would realize what a diverse, colorful, fascinating, educational and totally unique experience travelling to Africa is.” As a result, Gaynelle’s parents and the Henderson travel agency have received numerous awards over the decades from the Heads of State of a number of countries and African and international travel and tourism organizations for pioneering African tourism.

Diversifying the company

Following her graduation from St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains (now The White Mountain School), Gaynelle matriculated to Howard University where she earned a degree in speech pathology and, later, a doctorate in organizational communications. In 1984, Dr. Henderson founded the Washington D.C. office of Henderson Travel/Henderson Tours. Seeing change in the tourism industry on the horizon, Gaynelle diversified the company in 1990, developing the Management Consulting Division (Henderson Associates) which provided professional services to the U.S. Federal Government from 1989 – 2004. With a client roster that included the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Labor, Education, Transportation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Export-Import Bank and Customs, Henderson Associates provided conference planning, education and training, facilities management, public relations and professional and logistical support services. Through her experience of contracting with many Federal Government agencies, Gaynelle learned the ins and outs of proposal writing, marketing, and contract management, which catapulted her into the next phase of her career– consulting in the international arena. She was able to combine this technical knowledge of management consulting and her in-depth experience in African travel and tourism when she was asked to manage the North America Office of Ghana Airways, Ghana’s official international airline.  

Promoting tourism throughout the African Diaspora

gay-standing-in-front-of-taj-mahalSince 1955, Henderson Associates/Henderson Travel has continued to plan and execute tours throughout the African diaspora and the world, connecting hundreds of thousands of people with Africa, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. In addition to customized tours for various sized groups of American tourists, Henderson Associates has played a pivotal role in various international tourism initiatives. Soon after her stint as General Manager of Ghana Airways, Gaynelle was asked to assist the Department of Tourism of Bermuda in marketing and ultimately managing the African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference (ADHT). The ADHT mission was to encourage sustainable economic development throughout the African Diaspora through cultural and heritage tourism. Gaynelle writes, “We encouraged communities and countries to research and document their own unique African heritage through slavery and to incorporate that history into new tourism trails and museums. This experience was tremendously important to me; I saw it as a natural progression for the company and as a way to explore and expand my own interest in Africa, its diverse history, sometimes tortured heritage and beautiful culture.”

Henderson Associates/Henderson Travel also contracted with The Ministry of Tourism of the Bahamas and of Tanzania and Zanzibar in assisting with their own ADHT conferences hosted by their Ministers of Tourism. Under Gaynelle’s leadership, Henderson Associates assisted in planning, managing and promoting international ADHT tourism initiatives from 2002-2009, attracting hundreds of participants to different host countries each year and bringing together Ministers of Tourism, heritage tourism specialists, museum directors, educators, historians, anthropologists and students from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, North, Central and South America. Gaynelle continues to consult with countries and communities within the African diaspora that are interested in researching and documenting their own unique African history and culture and incorporating it into tourism initiatives.

The role of SMS

When asked how her high school experience shaped her life and career, Gaynelle reflected,

“Through this work and my travels throughout the world, I have grown to really appreciate the foundation that St. Mary’s-in-the Mountain’s (SMS) gave me, as well as the sense of independence and adventure that it fostered in all of us. From Atlanta, GA, which was very segregated at the time, I came to SMS, a predominantly white private prep school in Bethlehem, NH, as the only African American student my first year and one of two thereafter. It was a very different and rewarding experience for me that expanded my boundaries and perspective on the world at that time. My experience at St. Mary’s had a tremendous impact on me, very much reinforcing the values and morals that my parents espoused, as well as my sense of independence and confidence. I also owe so much to my parents, who encouraged me and my siblings to travel the world, to view and treat all people as equal, and to strive to continue learning through education and experiences.”

The importance of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and into new places and experiences was clearly recognized by the Henderson family. Gaynelle’s parents truly walked their talk, educating all four of their children in New England boarding schools (Gaynelle and her older sister, Carol, at St. Mary’s), traveling extensively on their own, and opening up new travel opportunities for tens of thousands of others. Gaynelle’s mission continues: bring to others the deep learning that can only come from immersive experiences and, in this way, contribute to the understanding between people that will result in the equality and respect so very necessary in today’s world.

Program Mentors

There is so much to discover and explore at White Mountain and we want our students to get the most out of their time here. To that end, we are excited to announce a new initiative. Starting this year, seven White Mountain administrators are serving as Program Mentors and their task is to help students maximize their time on campus. Allison Letourneau, Associate Head of School for Enrollment Management, believes that the Program Mentors help to create a “two-layer advising system”. Our advising program is well-established and advisors do a great job of supporting students in their day to day lives; this allows Program Mentors to focus on the “big picture”. Students will meet with their Program Mentor twice per year and these meetings will focus on things like course planning, ideas for their LASR or mini LASR projects, leadership opportunities, and plans for summers and vacations. The Program Mentors will help students to identify and collect some of their best work to save in a portfolio which will be beneficial as they prepare for life after White Mountain.

orig_photo390615_7054242All White Mountain students in grades 9-11 will have biannual meetings with their Program Mentor, and then all seniors will continue to work with Lawrence Alexander, Director of College Counseling. Lawrence believes that the Program Mentors will play an important role in the college application process.  He recently shared, “I believe that the work our students do with their Program Mentors has the potential to yield many tangible benefits: frequent conversations about their interests and coursework will help students improve their interviewing skills, collecting a portfolio of their past work will give them a larger bank of writing samples to choose from, and overall they will be more dynamic applicants.”  We are excited about this opportunity to further support students in their learning and growth.

The following seven administrators are serving as Program Mentors this year:

Tim Breen P’17, Head of School (B.A. Bucknell University, M.S., Ph.D. University of Michigan)

Nate Snow, Associate Head of School (A.B. Bowdoin College, M.Ed. University of New Hampshire)

Allison Letourneau, Associate Head of School for Enrollment Management (B.A., M.A. University of New Hampshire)

Julie Yates P’17, Director of Development and Alumnae/i (B.A. Smith College, M.S. University of Michigan)

Shane MacElhiney, Academic Dean (B.A. Yale University, M.A. Columbia University)

Rebecca Dickinson, Director of the Learning Center (B.A. Wellesley College, M.A.T. The University of Chicago)

Peter Wickman, Director of Admission and Financial Aid (B.A. Gettysburg College, M.A. Villanova University)

Poetry Out Loud Competition

dsc_0444Organized by faculty members Becky Beno (Academic Coach) and Jacob Northcutt (English Teacher), the recent Poetry Out Loud competition that was held on campus was a big success! Jacob writes that he was “inspired by the connection the students would build with poetry as well as the opportunity for them to work on public recitation.” All of the students from Jacob’s English I and English II classes participated and the competition was also open to any other community members who were interested. About 30 people took part and many others came to watch and support their peers as they recited poems they had chosen and memorized.

img_20180127_201551334Laura Gonzalez ’20 was the winner of the competition. She recited a poem by Natalie Diaz called Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation that you can read here. The other top finishers were Mariama Lemon ’20, Jaylynn Alexander ’20 and Ayanna Dukes ’20. Laura will be competing in the regional event at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH.

Click here to see photos from the event as well as a video of Laura’s recitation.

UPDATE: February 27, 2018


Last week, Laura traveled to Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH to compete in the Poetry Out Loud semi-finals. Faculty members Becky Beno and Jacob Northcutt and three of her White Mountain friends joined her for the trip. Congratulations Laura!


Choreography and Performance

img_6200On a recent evening, the Choreography Class performed their piece called “Andromeda” for the community in the Lovejoy Chapel. Pictured here are the members of the class:

Front: Vendy Pospisilova ’20, Center: Sophia Mangold ’20, Johanna Clement ’20, Mariama Lemon ’20 and Rosie Bailey ’19, Back: Nathaniel Clement ’20

Annabel Clarance, M.F.A. and Kathy Kohatsu, M.F.A. co-taught the class and wrote the following description of what the students did throughout the semester:

Having spent the first half of the semester ‘finding’ movement, the Introduction to Choreography class spent the second half of the semester identifying ways to organize movement. Students learned different techniques to provide identifiable structure to their movement in order to create dances that resonate with an audience. Through both in-class exploration and video observation, students began the process of learning how to link their movement sentences together into larger paragraphs of work. Students had the opportunity to work independently and in groups of two or three and were asked to provide verbal feedback to their peers during class. One highlight of this process was the creation of a Self Portrait study wherein students started with a handful of statements about themselves and, through clever rearrangement and restatements, created a unique poem. They then used this poem as the structure for their movement study. The students’ final consisted of creating choreography for their culminating study of the semester. Using vocabulary from their Self Portrait studies students worked together to create a nearly 20 minute long culminating work. While working on creating their own dance works, students also had the opportunity to research, in depth, the life, works, style, and methods of a choreographer who was influential to the modern dance canon. Through this study, students gained an appreciation for and further insight into the choreographic process.

Click here to see the dancers in action during their performance for the community at the end of the semester. The members of the class choreographed this entire piece themselves out of three duets, six solos and a couple of full group moments. Each student crafted their movement from their own “I statement” poems.

Student Ambassador Profile: Ben Cohen ’18

cohenAs a Student Ambassador, you are often the first White Mountain student that visitors meet. What do you enjoy about this important role?

I really enjoy seeing new faces that are excited to potentially join the wonderful White Mountain community. I also enjoy being the first to meet some of the people that could be joining us here at White Mountain.

Congratulations on your recent college acceptances! Where have you decided to go next year and why?

Next year I will be attending Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. I applied to Lafayette as an early decision applicant. One of the reasons I love the Lafayette community so much is that it reminds me of the community here at White Mountain, small and personable.

Tell me about a class you are really enjoying this year and what you like about it.

This year, I have really enjoyed participating in research seminar. I enjoy being able to learn more about something that I am genuinely interested in.

You have been involved with the Young Adult Ski Patrol Program at Bretton Woods for the past couple of years. What does this involve and what have you gained from this experience?

Participating in the Youth ski patrol program takes up a lot of time and effort. I need to complete 10 full days of work. Three of those days are used for training/refreshers while the others are used as shadow days. On the shadow days I follow the patrollers and assist them if there is anybody in need of assistance.

Congratulations on being selected as a proctor this year! Tell me about what this role entails and what you are enjoying about it.

Being a proctor is a huge responsibility, but is an incredible opportunity that I wish everyone could have. I love being a proctor because it is a great introductory leadership position that helps me build me leadership skills, my social skills and my patience.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

dsc_0417Students, staff and faculty spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day engaged in discussions about service for the greater good. The theme of the day was: Service in Action: What Can WE Do? and was inspired by the following quote from Dr. King:  “Life’s most urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” Lawrence Alexander, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, set the tone for the day with a powerful talk at Morning Meeting about some of the lesser known heroes of the civil rights movement. Click here to watch his speech.

dsc_0410Throughout the day, students and faculty members facilitated workshops and ran cause and action groups to help us engage deeply in discussions about pressing national and global issues. The following is a list of some of the sessions: Poverty and Education, Net Neutrality, Activism by the Numbers, Time’s Up (Anti-Harassment), The Politics of Protesting, The Truth About Hijabis: Struggles and Stigmas, Health Issues and Children, Art and Activism and Disaster Relief in America.

dsc_0424At the end of the day, the community re-convened in Lovejoy Chapel. This provided an opportunity for groups to share their experiences and also answer the question “What can WE do?” by sharing the action steps that their group adopted. It was a productive and inspiring day thanks to the preparation of those involved with the planning and the engagement of the whole community in discussing these important issues.

Student-Driven Inquiry

screen-shot-2018-01-11-at-10-09-59-amTim Breen Ph.D., P’17, Head of School, and Allison Letourneau, Associate Head of School for Enrollment Management, recently wrote an article about inquiry-based learning for Insights, The Newsletter of the Independent Educational Consultants Association. In the article, they highlight three schools that are using inquiry-based learning with students from preschool through 12th grade and discuss the benefits that this type of self-directed work has for all kids. They write in part:

We live in an incredibly exciting time in education. Over the past decade, research has led to new understandings of the importance of motivation in learning and the role that inquiry-based learning—driven by students’ authentic questions—can play in developing enduring understandings. There has also been a focus on identifying the skills and habits that correlate with college success as well as an explosion in access to information and ideas. Anyone with a connection to the Internet can access vast stores of information and interact with others about ideas.

Click here to find the Insights publication and scroll to page 15 to read the article.


Alumnae/i Profile: Justin Plaskov ’02

jel33395-plaskov-justin-mAn attorney with Lohf, Shaiman, Jacobs, Hyman & Feiger in Denver, Colorado, Justin Plaskov ‘02 works in the employment law department and has won trials in federal, state and county courts. Justin was a key member of the 2015 trial team which obtained a $14,000,000 punitive damages verdict against a private federal contractor in a race/national origin discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. Justin recently spoke with White Mountain’s Office of Development & Alumnae/i to share the following update.

What is your current role?

I’ve been at Lohf Shaiman for over 5 years practicing plaintiff employment law and working under Lynn Feiger, the attorney who successfully litigated the first ever Title VII sexual harassment claim in the country. A lot of what we do revolves around civil rights, employment discrimination, reasonable accommodations for disabled clients, and contract and wage issues. As Lynn’s mentee, I’ve been fortunate to run more and more of our growing employment law practice.

What got you interested in law in the first place?

At places like White Mountain and Prescott College, where I got my undergraduate degree, we often talk about how we can best affect change. How we can do the most good. I was certainly attracted to using a law degree as a tool to help affect positive change.

Some of my interest was also personal. Once I started practicing for the LSAT, I started geeking out over the logic games – the problem solving section of the test. As I moved forward with the process, I also realized that it really did fit in my with skill sets. The law emphasizes critical thinking and thinking outside the box to problem solve, which were skills that were definitely fostered at White Mountain. And then once I got into law school at the University of Colorado, I discovered that I fell in love with learning in ways that were different from my prior experiences. I enjoyed pushing myself in a very structured, traditional classroom. At White Mountain, I was always pushed to expand on and grow in my perception of what I was capable of – in sports and the outdoors or in creative and inquisitive spaces in the classroom. But law was different. And I fell in love with it.

What brought you to White Mountain originally?

img_2880I was really attracted to White Mountain because of the outdoor opportunities available to students. My parents were attracted to White Mountain’s small student body. I was only at White Mountain for two years but at that age it certainly fostered my love for the outdoors. I spent so much time at White Mountain in the woods and mountains – just walking the bio-loop around campus, skiing 3 or 4 days per week, or going off with a group for the weekend.

Academically, I came from a public school where I wasn’t enjoying school. It took a while, and through the work of so many wonderful teachers, what White Mountain did was rekindle my love of learning. The humanities and environmental studies courses at the School really opened my eyes. I felt like nobody had ever taught me the things I needed to know about the world until I came to White Mountain.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school?

For other White Mountain alumnae/i considering law school, I would have four recommendations prior to applying. First, read books and talk with attorneys about law school to see if it sounds like something you’d be interested in. Second, take practice LSAT exams to see if you enjoy the challenge or if it feels like a chore. Third, spend time away from school after you graduate from college. I know that the experience of working as a professional (I was an international travel guide and high school history/government teacher) prior to law school enriched the experience and made me more ready to be an attorney upon graduation. And lastly, find the right law school for you. I chose Colorado Law School for a myriad of reasons, including the collegiality of the student body, the high academic standards, an older student body, and a high proportion of students who go into public interest fields after graduation. I know from talking with other attorneys that choosing the wrong law school can have significant negative consequences.

Intersectionality and the PoCC

screen-shot-2017-12-13-at-2-48-56-pmLawrence Alexander, Director of College Counseling and Director of Diversity & Inclusion, recently attended the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) People of Color Conference in Anaheim, CA. On December 12, Lawrence shared some of what he learned and experienced at the conference with the community in a Morning Reading. He spoke about one of the most impactful presentations that he attended at the conference, a talk by Kimberlé Crenshaw,screen-shot-2017-12-13-at-2-45-54-pm an American civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory.

Crenshaw is a professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, where she specializes in race and gender issues. Her presentation at the PoCC focused on the idea of Intersectionality, a term that she came up with to identify and explain the multiple biases and forms of discrimination faced by many people based on their identity groups. Click here to watch a TED Talk that she gave about Intersectionality in 2016.

“When feminism does not explicitly oppose racism, and when antiracism does not incorporate opposition to patriarchy, race and gender politics often end up being antagonistic to each other and both interests lose.” – Kimberlé Crenshaw

Lawrence really enjoyed his time at the conference and brought back a lot of information that he looks forward to sharing with the community. The Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee does monthly presentations at Morning Meeting and the community benefits greatly from these important conversations. Lawrence said the following about his experience at the conference:

“I feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity by White Mountain to attend the People of Color Conference this year. The PoCC provides professionals of color and students of color the opportunity to connect, grow, and recharge. I was also impacted by the number of professionals and students of other ethnic and racial backgrounds who attended the conference. It suggests to me that NAIS fosters an environment where inclusion work truly includes everyone.”


Evolution of a Gamer: Maggie Lubanko ’09

headshotOne of her earliest memories is of falling asleep at bedtime to her father’s voice reading “The Hobbit”.  As she grew, Maggie Lubanko ‘09 became a voracious reader herself, especially of fantasy and science fiction; stories with strong character development that pulled her into other worlds. When she was ten years old, Maggie’s parents bought her a Sega Genesis and Disney’s Pocahontas game. Maggie was blown away. Her game allowed her not only to observe, but to be Pocahontas – to run, jump and climb things as the historical character she so admired. Her Sega games gave her the opportunity to become part of the story world in a way that books did not. Thus Maggie began her lifelong interest in role playing, gaming and augmented reality.

Though eager to discover what the world of video games had to offer, Maggie was disappointed to realize that many games relied heavily on violence as a primary mechanic, often at the sacrifice of meaningful character development or strong narratives in the process. Her enthusiasm wavered for some time – but then she discovered RPGs (role-playing games), and that initial excitement was reignited in full force. Though violence did still play a role, the characters and stories took center stage in this genre, and Maggie devoured all the RPGs she could get her hands on. She eagerly explored everything from open world games (where the player is free to wander on their own terms) to the more linear style role-playing games, (where players have less overt freedom, but their choices affect the world, its inhabitants, and the way the story unfolds). It was during this time that she discovered The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The construction set the developers released alongside the game gave Maggie the tools to create some of her own characters and narratives in these virtual worlds, allowing her to immerse herself even further in these worlds she loved so much. As a middle schooler, Maggie vowed to become a game developer.

Fast forward to high school. Feeling left behind in class, silenced and misunderstood in her large suburban high school, Maggie began searching for options and found The White Mountain School. Maggie states, “At White Mountain I found a place where it was safe for me to be myself, where the uniqueness of each student was celebrated and where people unabashedly pursued their passions. I found a place where I was known by my peers and my teachers, and where I was part of a community.” With recovered confidence in herself and her abilities, Maggie felt compelled to excel in academics at White Mountain. She honed her leadership skills, learned the power of hard work and of being accountable to others in a community. While her creative thinking and love of stories never waned, at White Mountain and in college Maggie’s focus on gaming took a backseat to her passionate pursuit of more traditional academic excellence, outdoor sports and leadership opportunities. Following White Mountain, Maggie majored in English and Outdoor Education at the University of New Hampshire where she also discovered her love of marathons and ran track as a Division I athlete.

nerdFollowing college, Maggie moved to Colorado and she found herself once again drawn to the world of gaming. During her hiatus, there had been some exciting developments in the gaming world. She was excited to discover a vibrant and flourishing industry, with a growing independent developer culture. Many of these shifts allowed a new wave of games to emerge – games that were starting to utilize the power of the medium to tell impactful stories, to educate and enrich people’s lives with new experiences and perspectives. Maggie found herself, once again, drawn to the power of story, experiential learning and creative art design. She knew she wanted to build a career in the gaming industry. Entry level jobs in the field are hard to come by, but she secured a position in quality assurance (QA) with the well-known company, Dire Wolf Digital, as a games tester. She quickly advanced to project manager and was promoted to producer on The Elder Scrolls: Legends game among others. To her initial surprise, Maggie found work in Outdoor Education to be particularly helpful in her new job. As she puts it, “The world of game development involves many people with different specialties and ways of communicating. It’s fast paced and sometimes you need to be able to work grueling hours while also keeping your cool and maintaining perspective. When you’re leading an expedition, you need to be able to bridge communication style differences within your group, manage the unexpected under pressure, and sometimes, help the group maintain momentum (even after an exhausting hike in sub-optimal weather conditions!).” Maggie used team building skills she learned in outdoor ed to build effective product teams, helping her team become known as a particularly effective and efficient group of testers.

While she learned a lot at Dire Wolf and greatly values her experience there, Maggie wanted to explore more progressive companies. She was particularly drawn to her current company, Niantic, because of its mission driven approach to game development and focus on augmented reality. Niantic describes its mission this way: “Niantic strives to create a workplace culture that reinforces our core values of exploration, exercise, and real-world social interaction. We value mutual respect, creativity, intellectual rigor, and a genuine commitment to making the world a better place through our products”. ( In what has been a male-dominated field with a reputation for fostering hostile work environments for women, Niantic is a progressive company that has near gender equality, promotes women to leadership positions, and develops gender neutral games. They have a focus on augmented reality games that get players outside and interacting with real people instead of only in the virtual world. They seek to change perspectives and transform lives through their products.

What’s next for Maggie? She’s thrilled to be working at Niantic, a company she believes in, and on games like Pokémon Go, the Harry Potter Wizards Unite game and Ingress. While still in QA for now, Maggie continues to learn coding on the side and hopes to become the Development Director of a game in the future. She is excited about the future of augmented reality, and is encouraged by a growing trend in game development for games that address crippling social concerns such as addiction and mental illness. She believes in the power of games to help change lives. Given Maggie’s talent, tenacity and determination to do good for others, achievement of her goals in the games industry seems assured for which the world will surely be a better place.