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Madagascar | John-Alex Mason ECS Scholarship Recipient 2019

March 05, 2019

Hannah G. '19 is the John-Alex Mason ECS Scholarship Recipient for 2019.

Hannah G., a senior at The Colorado Springs School (CSS) is participating in the Madagascar ECS as the 2019 recipient of the John-Alex Mason Experience-Centered Seminar (ECS) Scholarship. 

“I really appreciate this scholarship because I have always dreamed of going to Africa, especially Madagascar,” Hannah said. “I never really thought I’d get the opportunity to take a trip like this, so I’m ecstatic to have this chance. I find everything about the island to be fascinating, and I can’t picture a better place to learn about some of the most unique biodiversity and culture in the world.”

John-Alex Mason, a CSS alumnus of the Class of 1994, had been active in the life of the school and even planned and led a Blues ECS alongside faculty. As a student, his passions were explored and nurtured at CSS. His family credits CSS for offering transformative educational experiences such as ECSs that allowed John-Alex to pursue his music career and become a well-known Blues musician. After John-Alex’s passing in October of 2011, memorial gifts from family and friends established a scholarship fund to fully fund an ECS experience for a deserving student.

Hannah, who has attended CSS since pre-kindergarten, has a strong interest in wildlife and habitat protection and conservation, so much that she’s considering a career as a wildlife photographer, an environmental biologist, or a medical professional working with Doctor/Nurses Without Borders. For her Senior Capstone project, Hannah will be shadowing a variety of medical professionals at Penrose Hospital to further her interest in the field of medicine.

“Whatever I decide to do, it is my solid belief that all humans have a responsibility to protect and preserve the diversity of our earth,” she wrote in her application essay. “I would really appreciate the hands-on experience to better understand these beliefs and interests in the context of an environment such as Madagascar.”

Hannah is the current president of the National Honor Society chapter at CSS, as well as co-president of the Upstagers Theatre Club. She has taken several AP courses and started as a setter on the varsity volleyball team. She’s also largely involved in theater productions and choir. This spring, she will be playing the female lead, Laurey, in the Upper School production of Oklahoma!

Hannah has immersed herself with these past Experience Centered Seminars: Mexico to better understand how Meso-American culture has both affected and been affected by other cultures; New Mexico to experience the wonder of southwestern culture, art, and nature; and Peru for cultural and linguistic immersion (Spanish and Quechua) while studying the lives of the Andean people, past and present.

Madagascar will be Hannah’s first French immersion ECS. “Having studied French since the 6th grade, I believe this ECS will provide me with an opportunity to practice my language skills in an authentic and traditional setting,” Hannah said. “It is my hope that I can use my knowledge of the French language to connect with native speakers and to learn more about their lifestyle, belief system, and cultural values.”

More about the Madagascar ECS

This ECS studies biodiversity while answering the essential question: Considering the competing demands of development, tradition, and sustainability, what must be done to conserve Madagascar’s unique natural and cultural resources? The group will partner with Where There Be Dragons, an internationally-renowned study abroad program, to explore the intersections between conservation ecology, sustainable development, and cultural diversity. While the majority of Malagasy people make their income from the land, unsustainable land-use practices are threatening their ability to do so into perpetuity. Additionally, such unsustainable practices threaten the conservation of Madagascar’s unique wildlife. By connecting with local communities, NGOs, and environmental researchers, our group will explore the intricate challenges of working to protect unique and rare ecosystems, while also supporting the growth and development of local communities.

More about Experience-Centered Seminars (ECSs)
Experience-Centered Seminars (ECSs) are an integral part of the Upper School program and give our students the skills necessary to conduct large-scale investigations in college and beyond. Each March, our students participate in a three- to four-week-long study that immerses them in academic subjects through a hands-on, interdisciplinary approach. ECS’s approach broad, interdisciplinary questions to optimize the teaching of critical thinking, organized inquiry, in-depth analysis, and synthesis of information. They demand direct active participation and primary research in an environment outside of the classroom. Academic requirements include oral and written presentations, term papers, group work and projects, or final exams. The ECS experience sets our students apart as they move into the collegiate world and beyond. 

Click here to see this year’s ECS blogs that students will be contributing to.

More About the John-Alex Mason Scholarship
John-Alex Mason '94Established by friends and family of alumnus, John Alex-Mason ‘94, the John-Alex Mason ECS Scholarship is a full, merit-based memorial scholarship for a deserving student to explore their passion through an ECS. John-Alex Mason played an active role in the life of the school and even planned and led a Blues ECS alongside faculty. As a student, John-Alex’s passions were explored and nurtured at CSS. His family credits CSS for offering transformative educational experiences such as ECSs that allowed John-Alex to pursue his music career and become a well-known Blues musician. An application and essay are submitted by students and reviewed by a scholarship committee.

Past Recipients:

2013: Travis McDowell - The Blues

2014: Carl Churchill - Peru

2015: Kristi Tilghman - Sojourn in South East Asia

2016: John Churchill - Cuernavaca, Mexico

2017: Victor Wang - Life in Scandinavia

2018: Emma Walker - Peru

About The Colorado Springs School (CSS)
CSS offers an experiential education curriculum for PreKindergarten – 12th graders. Through superior academics and mentoring, The Colorado Springs School prepares students to think independently and to meet the needs of a dynamic world with leadership, ingenuity, problem-solving skills, and personal integrity. Learn more at or visit us on Facebook at

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