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South East Asia | John-Alex Mason ECS Scholarship Recipient 2015

February 03, 2015

Kristi Tilghman, a senior at The Colorado Springs School (CSS) will participate in the Sojourn in South East Asia: Past and Present Vietnam and Cambodia as the 2015 recipient of the John-Alex Mason Experience Centered Seminar (ECS) Scholarship.  As a CSS alumnus of the Class of 1994, John-Alex Mason had been active 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. 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.

Imaging herself as a modern Indiana Jones, Kristi looks to fully embrace the adventure to Cambodia and Vietnam. But as a more serious scholar, Kristi first became intrigued with this part of the world during her Advanced Placement History Class in which she studied the Vietnam War. She recalls being “absolutely struck” by a series of letters a soldier had written about the horrors of war. Her vivid imagination wants to take those words off the pages and experience the country and culture first hand in the present day.

She has furthered her interest in this subject through her Advanced Placement Comparative Politics course this year. The three-week ECS seminar will now give her the opportunity to delve deeper into the political and economic challenges faced by these countries as well as explore cultural and environmental wonders.  An element of service runs deep for Kristi as she serves as a member of the National Honor Society. Her humanity attracts her to the service component of this ECS. Students will help build a shaded outdoor reading space at a local Vietnamese school. The reading shelter will provide a respite from the sun for those students wishing to read while outside. 

With an optimistic outlook and a fervor for life, Kristi aspires to study international business in college and is eager to make her college decision. She has already received many college acceptances and Trinity and Lake Forest are two schools among the top of her choices. As a thespian at CSS, Kristi starred as Belle in the school’s musical production of Beauty and the Beast last spring and this year she will explore a new stage on Boddington Field as she has decided to play soccer for the first time this spring. Kristi also played volleyball for the Kodiaks and recently earned a Scholastic Art Award for a charcoal figure-drawing. She is an active member of KICS, a philanthropy club at school and Upstagers, the drama club.  

Kristi is a veteran student at CSS having embraced a love for experiential learning and seminars since preschool. As a high school student she has previously participated in the Desert Solitaire ECS, The Brain ECS, and the Marine Biology ECS in Bonaire. 

Interested in the continued adventures of the Experience Centered Seminar program? Follow the ECS Blogs.

Recently recovering from decades of war and isolation, Vietnam today has become a country renowned for its tremendous economic growth, welcoming people, and rich history. We explore Vietnam’s rich and diverse cultures and history from 15th century port villages like Hoi An, to capital city, Hanoi, which recently celebrated it’s first millennium in 2010. We delve deeply into the history of the Vietnam war, visiting sites like the Hoa Loa Prison (Hanoi Hilton), the tunnels of Cu Chi, and the War Remnants museum in Saigon. We also learn about Vietnam’s rich environmental wonders as we explore the Mekong Delta and paddle in the world class kayak destination of Ha Long Bay. Our group works hands-on with at least one NGO that has worked to combine historic and cultural preservation with the goals of economic development. We wrap up our experience with the powerful comparisons and contrasts of Cambodia, where we spend 5 days immersing ourselves in local culture. From the world famous temple at Angkor Wat to the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, students delve deeply into Cambodia’s beautiful and tragic past.

Experience Centered Seminars (ECSes) 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.

Established 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 pf 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

CSS offers an experiential educational 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