National Student Leadership Conference

Sienna Byrne '17 is bringing the skills and knowledge she learned in Washington DC back to HPA

With so many international students at HPA sharing their culture and worldviews, Sienna Byrne was inspired to participate in the National Student Leadership Conference’s program on International Diplomacy. She spent two weeks in Washington DC, learning more about governmental policy and procedure through visits to the World Bank, the Capital Building, and other historical sites. Now, Sienna hopes to bring some of the knowledge she gained back to HPA through her Model United Nations Club.


For Sienna, the most eye opening part of the trip was visiting the Russian embassy. “The first thing that really hit me was all the security measures, because you are technically on foreign soil when you are in a embassy”. Once inside, the Russian influence became noticeable with paintings from Russia adorning the walls, and even Russian marble on the floors. As they were going on the tour, one of the students asked the diplomats a question about the conflict with Ukraine, which they refused to answer. Sienna explains that “I was bit surprised, I thought they would at least try to address it just in a positive light, but they completely avoided it”, implying that the diplomats would only be saying positive things about Russia on the tour. “It sounds bad to say that, but you can’t really guarantee that the US wouldn’t say something similar about their foreign decisions”. This really exemplified the complexity of these international conflicts. “Countries do what they do, and it’s not always a clean nice thing you can see on paper”.

"You can set a path for yourself now, if you know what you want to do..there's all these opportunities in government even if you don't have a degree yet."

Besides just learning about potential careers in government, this program also taught students about leadership, and ways they could continue to develop skills that may be needed in their respective careers even after returning home. This included learning about Model United Nations, an academic competition where. students role play as diplomats from various countries. These students meet to discuss international issues from the lense of their country--much like the diplomats in the UN do. Now that school is back in session, Sienna has started her own Model United Nations club, bringing her experience from participating in this program, back into the HPA community.

Even now Sienna continues to learn more about leadership and international issues through her club. She explains that the biggest challenge she has had so far, it figuring out the logistics like key dates, or setting up a Haiku page. So far, the club has had one debate on the refugee crisis in Europe. Sienna monitored this debate, no easy task, as people’s opinions and egos can often infiltrate the discussion leading to things getting out of hand

“You can set a path for yourself now, if you know what you want to do…there’s all these opportunities in government even if you don’t have a degree yet". Sienna can’t wait to continue on this path to possibly go into international affairs both here at HPA, and after graduation.

Additional Information

Cost: $3,000
Duration: Two Weeks
Location: Washington DC
Highlights: United Nations Security Council Simulation, Diplomatic Site Visits, Leadership Component

Putney Writing in Ireland

What better place to learn about creative writing than the home of faeries?

Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, W.B. Yeats, and Alicia Chow? This past summer, Alicia Chow traveled to the home of some of the greatest writers in history: Ireland, to explore creative writing through Putney’s Writing in Ireland trip. During this 12-day program, Alicia was able to work on several writing pieces, travel to beautiful and remote parts of Ireland, make great friends, and explore the art and culture of one of the most important literary hearths in Europe.

During the first half of the trip, Alicia traveled with the other 23 students in and around Dublin visiting sites like Oscar Wilde’s statue, watching plays, and going to art museums. The exploration of Dublin provided a lot of inspiration for the groups writing workshops. For example, one of the genres Alicia worked on was called flash fiction, which involved writing short fictional stories based on phrases she overheard other people say such as, “toes are left-over fingers” or “free-range toilet paper”. These short segments of stories eventually come together to become a larger coherent piece. By the end of the trip, Alicia had written four longer pieces including her flash fiction piece that she shared at the group's final reading.


Alicia’s most memorable moment happened when the group traveled to the beautiful but remote island Inishbofin, where they were joined by a published guest writer. On the island they were told they would be going on a small hike, but instead ended up climbing to the top of the island's highest mountain. At the top, as the group tried not to get blown off the mountain, Alicia describes “Being up there and being able to see everything around me… It’s just amazing to be that high, and be able to say I did this. No one pulled me, no one drove me up here, I did this with my own two feet”.

There is so much gold in people. It’s not just about being in nature and going with Fergus, it’s about talking to these people and understanding their character and taking some of that to put in a different character”

Although Alicia was able to learn a lot about writing and Ireland, “The most important thing I got from the trip really wasn’t about the writing; it was more about being able to interact with people. Alicia explains that there is “so much gold in people. It’s not just about being in nature and going with Fergus, it’s about talking to these people and understanding their character and taking some of that to put in a different character” really pushed her to pursue her own dream: To write her own book. Alicia currently has over 100,000 words written fleshing out her story. Alicia is marrying concepts that she learned in Ireland, as well as ideas she learned with interning with Washington Post editor Fred Barbash, as well as allusions to history, fairy tales, and mythology.

Learn More About an HPA Student's Experience Interning With the Washington Post's Fred Barbash

This school year she is exploring many aspects of writing through her two independent English classes, and a digital journalism class. Although Alicia continues to love fiction writing, she also wants to explore the possibility of going into journalism, explaining that her internship with Barbash taught her that “journalism is more than obnoxious reporters shoving microphones down people’s faces, it’s about showing people the unseen story. I want to be helping people who are being abused”. Alicia looks forward to continuing to improve her writing in college, and narrowing down exactly what type of writing she want to go into.

Additional Information

Cost: $5,000
Duration: 12 days
Location: The Writing in Ireland Program takes place primarily in Dublin, although Putney has other travel programs all over the world
Highlights: Improve writing skills and recieve valuble feedback from writing instructors, explore and experience Dublin and travel to a remote island in Ireland

Bold Teen Earth Adventures

In a world where people are constantly connected to the web, are bombarded with emails and text, and are obsessed with curating the perfect version of themselves online, one HPA student, Rachel O’Toole, left it all behind. With just a single duffel bag, she boarded a bus to camp for three weeks with complete strangers. She would be traveling to places like Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, Alcatraz, and Las Vegas to rock climb, white water raft, and have the time of her life.

At first Rachel says it was hard to be without her phone. She felt very awkward on that first bus ride. “You don’t have people to fall back on. Whenever I am in awkward situations at home, I’m just sitting on my phone trying not to make eye contact. In this situation you actually have to have a conversation with people, and this conversation can’t revolve around a funny video you saw, you actually have to talk about your life”. On that first bus ride for example Rachel describes one person who told her his entire life story. “It was cool to me that they were so open to sharing what their lives were like that”. Throughout the trip, Rachel learned to be more vulnerable, opening up about herself more and more.


Once the awkwardness ended Rachel became very close with everyone on the trip. “You become instant best friends. They become so much apart of your life, because because everyone is so open”, For her, being able to spend time disconnected with these people in nature, helped them have a stronger bond than someone she might meet at home. At home, Rachel says she usually meets someone, and become friends over social media, whereas in this situation you really meet the person first. She recalls a time this past summer, when she and the girls pranked the boys by replacing the cream in their Oreo’s with toothpaste. Rachel explains that even the boys laughed about the prank. It was something that was funny for everyone, and it was like this because everyone was so close.

"In this situation you actually have to have a conversation with people, and this conversation can’t revolve around a funny video you saw, you actually have to talk about your life"Even her the way she took photos changed. No longer worried about how things would look on her profile, Rachel says that she felt more free to experiment with the photo’s she took. “When I was taking photos, it was about trying to get something different that I had never seen before and so I would look at things in a different way”. Rachel says she never realized just how connected to social media before she went on this trip. Now she often forgets where she even put her phone, because it isn't something she needs anymore.

The four weeks immersed in nature she spent last year just weren’t enough, so this past summer, Rachel left everything behind for six weeks as she participated in two Bold Earth programs, one in the Colorado area, and one focused on exploring the area around the Grand Canyon. She had just as much, if not more fun on these two trips as she had on her first adventure. She especially enjoyed how participating on these trips took her to some of the most beautiful places in the country, places she might have never visited. Rachel says that this newfound love of nature has changed where she wants to go as she starts to look at colleges and careers. Before, Rachel says that she was more drawn to the city, but now she want to go somewhere close to mountains, so that she can hike or snowboard. She even says that she plans on joining some type of outdoor club in college as well.

Rachel said that she would recommend others to try things, even if they, even if they don’t think that it is something for them. “I never realized I liked camping, or hiking, but now it's one of my favorite thing to do.”

Additional Information

Cost: $4,000
Duration: 14-25 days
Location: Bold Earth has programs all throughout the US and around the world
Highlights: Improve leadership skills, make great friends, enjoy traveling in small groups, get an "away" experience by leaving all connection to internet behind