A Catalyst for Multiculturalism
A Catalyst for Multiculturalism

Zygi Jievaltas '17
GSS and GLI Scholar

Zygi Jievaltas says that Taft has spurred his intellectual development and helped crystallize his ambitions.

When I set foot on Taft’s campus for the very first time in September 2014, I knew very little about the US, about boarding school, and about Taft. I did, however, know that a new chapter in my life was about to begin.

Born in Belgium but raised in Finland, Poland, and Lithuania, I have been exposed to multiculturalism since I was a toddler. This dynamically changing life scene, although hectic, provided me with the opportunity to attend international schools during my childhood, making me aware of the cultural nuances of our world at a very young age. Since then, I have been an active proponent of cultural exchange in education, which is what ultimately led me to Taft. The Shelby Cullom Davis scholarship made my enrollment at Taft possible.

Taft and the Davis Scholarship have been instrumental to my intellectual development and to the crystallization of my ambitions. Taft has allowed me to not only cultivate my academic interests but also to develop physical and leadership competencies. I have been intellectually empowered to be more than just a student. One day, I can be a columnist writing about Russian kleptocracy and Putinism in the Global Journal, the next, I can be a delegate discussing economic resilience in Asia at a Model UN conference. I have also had a the chance to serve as a catalyst for multiculturalism, playing a role in Taft’s Global Leadership Institute and in the organization of our school’s World Fest. Even in sports, which were never strength of mine, I have felt a sense of inclusion within teams and have understood the importance of sports in shaping character.

Given the fast pace of life at Taft, I did not have much time to learn what it takes to succeed in an environment so different from my Lithuanian high school. I have to admit, before coming to Taft I used to focus almost solely on my schoolwork; I had a relatively rigid definition of what it means to be a student. But Taft’s emphasis on educating “the whole student” transformed the way I perceive education. Taft redefined the concept of school for me, exposing me to the endless opportunities that students have at this school and enabling me to grow as a person.