From Botswana to Thailand for Summer Grant Recipients


Every summer, Groton gives students the opportunity to apply for various grants directed towards service projects. These grants—the Lawrence Fund, the Dwight Fund, the (Groton Opportunity for Leadership Development) G.O.L.D. Fund, and the Parents’ Independent School Network (PIN) Grant—are all amazing chances for students to explore the world and make a difference. Not all of the grants, however, which are each intended for slightly different purposes, are awarded each year.


Director of Community Engagement Jonathan Freeman-Coppadge, who heads the board that reviews grant applications, says that the Dwight Fund “supports a Groton student’s internship at a social service organization that seeks to redevelop deteriorating American communities by fostering leadership and self-sufficiency.” This year the grant was awarded jointly to a group of fifth formers: Land Tantichot, Rajit Khanna, Gus Vrattos, Gabriel Scholl, Brent Gorton, Lars Caspersen, and Cal Wilson.


The Dwight grant recipients plan to teach English at the Bangkok School for the Blind in Thailand this summer. (While the grant is intended primarily for American projects, conditions are sometimes loosened to allow for international experiences in the spirit of urban renewal.) As soon as school ends, the boys plan to spend two weeks in Thailand, volunteering to teach at the school throughout the week and exploring Bangkok on the weekends. The inspiration for the trip came from Land, who has spent summers volunteering at the school since his second form year.


Land “wanted to share his passion for this project with friends from Groton through a service trip with the hope of bringing in more help for the school,” according to Gus, a fellow recipient.


The boys, none of whom have been to Thailand except for Land, are excited for the opportunity to experience the country. Brent says, “I am most excited to interact with and teach kids I never would have been able to meet elsewhere in a unique country I have never seen before.” In addition, they are excited to explore Bangkok and simply have fun. Gus says, “I will certainly learn about their lives and gain an appreciation not just for life without sight, but also for life in Thailand and what that is like.


“It would be really cool if I learned some Thai,” he adds.


In addition to teaching English, the boys also have planned on making 3D printed Braille maps of famous sites in Bangkok, teaching the kids to code, and leading cooking classes. “Children with disabilities are often overlooked in many Asian countries, and the Bangkok School for the Blind is a noble cause that we would like to help further by providing skills for these children that empower such as a mastery of the English language,” says Gus.


The Lawrence Fund, which Mr. Freeman-Coppadge describes as allowing an Upper Schooler “to live outside of the United States in a different culture and engage in activity with a focus on service to that community or a specific educational goal,” was awarded to Montanna Riggs and Eliza Lord ‘19 for work at the Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone, Botswana.


Unlike the Dwight recipients, who will commute back and forth from the school each day, the Lawrence recipients will live at the Maru-a-Pula for three weeks this summer. Montanna and Eliza – who plays the marimba – were inspired to apply for the grant by the marimba group from Maru-a-Pula that visited Groton two years ago.


The world-renowned Maru-a-Pula marimba band tours the United States every other year, and on their last tour visited Groton as well as other schools, such as St. Mark’s School and Milton Academy. By the end, many audience members were up dancing throughout the CPAC aisles and several more stayed back to play the instruments after the performance.


The girls will immerse themselves in daily life at Maru-a-Pula. Both dedicated musicians, the girls will spend most of their time during school hours working in the music department, though they will attend some academic classes. In the afternoons, in addition to doing afternoon sports with their peers, they will journey out of school property with the Maru-a-Pula community service group “to work with AIDS patients, orphans, homeless shelters and more,” according to Eliza.


The main focus of the trip for the girls is musical immersion. “We have been more or less sheltered in terms of only ever learning classic Western/European style of music,” says Eliza. “We’d love to bring their style of music back to Groton to broaden Groton’s repertoire and understanding of the whole world of music.” The girls hope to bring their trip full circle by presenting the music they’ve learned in a performance next year or even starting a new club.


Echoing the sentiments of the Dwight recipients, Montanna says, “I’m most excited to experience a new culture. I think it’s one of the most incredible experiences to go to a foreign country and just live with the people there because of the amount that you can learn simply by engaging in their everyday activities.”