On Brasília’s 62nd birthday, School of the Nations, founded in the city, stands out as an institution that for forty-one years has been educating children and teenagers about a future of possibilities
Developing people through education is one of the main components of a society. Schools can influence the creation of urban, cultural, and social spaces. Since its inauguration, School of the Nations has become one of the highlights and models of international education that helped in the development of these sixty-two years of Brasília, with the spirit of innovation and creation provided by the constitution of a young city in which so many origins, regionalities, and nations are brought together.
Founded forty-one years ago by four educators, James and Jeannine Sacco; and Jacques and Suzanne von Frasunkiewicz, School of the Nations promotes not only the development of students for a university journey within the country and throughout the world but also the education of global citizens, providing the development of academic, ethical, and spiritual qualities.
“Our desire is for the School to be a place where nations come together to overcome barriers of prejudice and to be a means of learning to live together and relating to diverse people... from all over the world!” explains co-founder James Sacco.
Established to be a multicultural environment, its founders consider the institution the first international school in Brasília to adopt the bilingual model. Following the proposal of expanding connections and educating students to become citizens of the world, it offers, in addition to education in English as a second native language, immersion in Spanish, thereby shaping generations of students who are fluent in three languages, which can incentivize students to expand their knowledge of the twenty-nine other nationalities that make up the school community today.
With a rigorous academic curriculum, the education imparted at the institution is complemented by sports, arts, service activities, and moral principles grounded in the belief of the Bahá’í faith to educate citizens of the world based on the spiritual and visionary principle of the oneness of humanity. Bahá’ís believe the current and urgent need of humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and the nature and purpose of life.
"We were in the right place at the right time to make this vision a reality. It was a great place to do this experiment, of a School of the Nations because the Brazilian culture was supportive and receptive to the values we wanted to disseminate," says James.
The school, which started with just seventeen students in three classrooms rented from a local English school, grew quickly, as did Brasília. Over the three years that followed, the school grew to eighty-five students. In 1987, the school’s 125 students were finally transferred to the current campus located in Lago Sul after the founders procured the money to buy the land through donations.
“It was a celebration when we had a child coming from another embassy, of another nationality. It's like adding an instrument to an orchestra; each instrument is unique and necessary. If you have an instrument missing, then it isn’t going to work,” says the lively co-founder, Jacques. Later, in 2002, a second campus was opened to house the growing Early Childhood Education Program. Today the school serves about eight hundred students from twenty-nine countries.
From Brasília to the world
School of the Nations is an international, private, non-profit institution. It offers students the option to graduate with three diplomas: the Brazilian, American, and AP Capstone®. This particularity has made a difference in the lives of students, such as museologist Anna Sofia Meyer França, 27, who graduated with an international high school diploma. She was approved with a scholarship for the Erasmus Mundus master’s program, offered in European countries. To complete her education, she had the opportunity to study in France, Italy, and Portugal.
Currently living in Lisbon, Portugal, the former student expresses gratitude for having spent her entire school period in the institution that inspired her to follow international paths. “I studied at School of the Nations since I was four years old. I entered in 1998 and left in 2012, at the age of eighteen. I really spent my entire childhood and adolescence at the school of my dreams,” she says.
As soon as she finished high school, Anna chose to study at the University of Brasília (UnB) and was approved on her first attempt. “I had already chosen my course thinking about an international issue because I had always lived with people from all over the world inside the classroom. I studied museology at UnB for five years. Then I went to São Paulo to do a specialization course for one year. Then I was accepted into a master’s degree in Europe. I stayed in Portugal because I am working here,” says Anna. Before going abroad, she worked in museums in Brasília and São Paulo. At the museum of the Senate, she helped catalog the institution’s extensive collection distributed by the National Congress and recover relics from the now-extinct Monroe Palace, headquarters of the Senate, still in Rio de Janeiro.
“I am certain the school helped me become the person I am today because it opened many doors. Not only in relation to the people I met along the way but having had the opportunity to learn English as a second language, in addition to some other languages, and having lived with people from all over the world opened doors for me to see that I could also go to other places, which ended up becoming my goal. To travel, live in other countries, have the opportunity to work, and create ties in all parts of the world,” she adds.
The desire to give back to the community
Educating people so they are capable of contributing to the city, the country, and the world are some of the goals of the school, which has as one of its outstanding students the political scientist and energy and climate policy consultant Eduarda Oliveira Zoghbi, twenty-eight years old. Currently completing her master’s degree in public administration focusing on energy policy at Columbia University in the United States, she studied for most of her primary education at the institution that inspired her to pursue environmental activism.
“At first, what attracted my parents was the philosophy of the school and the opportunity to have access to bilingual education. They always said that they wanted to raise me for the world, as part of the future generation, and that I should have an education that encompassed diversity. The school had exactly these objectives, to get students out of their comfort zone, to think of more global solutions,” explains Eduarda.
The environmental activist recognizes the institution’s role as fundamental in the path she chose to follow. “I attribute a lot of my activism to the school. From early on, we began debating sustainability and climate change. A strong memory I have is a gift I received in fourth grade from my teacher, Ana, a DVD with the documentary by the former vice president of the United States, Al Gore, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which changed my perspectives,” she says.
As a participant in several volunteer projects developed in cities of the Federal District, such as Itapuã and Estrutural, she began engaging in her area of interest at a very young age. At the age of twelve, she represented the school and participated in creating Agenda 21 of the United Nations. “The School encourages thinking outside the box, beyond traditional professions such as a doctor, engineer, or lawyer. I went into Political Science thinking it would be a way to impact and change the environmental agenda in Brazil.”
Reflecting on the future, she says that one of her goals is to return to the capital and apply what she has learned to the city. “I really love Brasília, and one of my goals is to return to work as a teacher at UnB. I think the school also provides this sense that we can give back to the city the support and growth that we received. I know the privilege it was to study in an institution like that and to have had so many opportunities. I want to be able to give this back to the community by working in my area of environmental education and energy,” concludes the activist, who recently presented to the Brazilian Federal Senate her work in the Ecological Generation Forum at the university in the United States where she is finishing her studies.
Past, present, and future of the institution
Business administrator Danyel Dalmaschio Silva, 41, can be considered a representative of the institution’s past, present, and future. As the School’s current administrative and financial manager, he is also a former student and the future executive director. Having worked in several areas and positions in the administration of the school, he is proud of the path taken by the institution in the formation of Brasília and the lives of hundreds of students.
“Today, we have alumni working in various areas of the public and private sectors. Our aspiration is that our solid foundation in the education of virtues and values, associated with an excellent academic education, has formed citizens who are valuable and capable of contributing to a society that is constantly evolving, not only materially but also spiritually,” he says.
Besides being a student from 1992 to 1997, in 2004, Danyel returned to the School, this time to join the staff. He has worked as a receptionist, communication coordinator, extracurricular activities coordinator, and administrative manager. In July this year, he will assume the position of executive director of School of the Nations.
“I returned after a period of living abroad. No other educational institution has the experience and dedication that we do in educating students to become citizens of the world. It was at the School that I was able to live in a multicultural environment and understand that different cultures are not right or wrong, just different. Each one is based on their previous experiences of life,” he says.
Regarding the future, the next director highlights how the current global situation has shown how vital and valuable the international work developed by School of the Nations is and will continue to be. “Despite the challenges ahead, we remain focused on providing a service of excellence in educating citizens who will inherit a world full of complex challenges and who will have the mission to build a fair, sustainable, and global society,” he concludes.
Read the article on the Correio Braziliense site
Article written by journalist Sarah Paes