What does it mean to be a leader at Severn? To speak at the podium, shine bright on the stage, or score the winning point on the field? Those accomplishments are extraordinary, but leadership in our community has evolved to include so much more. It's also the student who demonstrates emotional intelligence and amplifies the work of their peers. Another who embraces a growth mindset and is intellectually curious. And those who see problems in the world and seek to make change for the better. These are the qualities the world needs from leaders today. And after working together during the summer Leadership Lab Retreat, our upper schoolers are up to the challenge; they are ready to go All In.
We did it. We made it through. We not only survived, we thrived. From hybrid learning and quarantines through the fall and winter to welcoming each grade back to campus in full and resuming in-person gatherings this spring, this year was a roller coaster of challenges and triumphs, loss and laughter, struggle and growth. As we bid a fond farewell to the 20-21 school year, we pause to celebrate milestone moments in our students' lives with graduation and promotion ceremonies, thankfully held in person with guests. Reflecting on the many ways in which the past year kept us apart, we can say with certainty that Severn Admirals are better together.
Through the Van Eney ‘09 Fellows Program, select seniors transcend our traditional curriculum with a year-long intellectual pursuit that reflects their growing interests and passions. To complete this year of independent study, our students must demonstrate genuine curiosity and a commitment to pushing past their academic boundaries. And with so many obstacles to overcome this year, we are reminded that mentorship and support are equally important to the program. In the spirit of true fellowship, our 20-21 Fellows hosted two events inviting all members of our community to share in their inspiration, challenges, and discoveries: a fair for their peers and an evening of presentations for families.
The arts at Severn are more than outlets for creative expression. They provide a lens through which to view our world with an understanding of self and empathy for others. And as we celebrate our creative community this spring with awards and performances, we are reminded that the arts can also be a powerful tool to persevere through struggle. Upper School Arts Department Chair and Choral Director Mr. Rob Redei put it best, "Between remote learning, distancing, quarantines and COVID restrictions, there have been many chances for our artists and performers to throw in the towel. But at every obstacle, our programs and our students have found a way or made a way."
During a year that began with tight restrictions on in-person activities and limited opportunities at many volunteer organizations, Upper School students used their collective Admiral energy to reimagine service for our local community. From writing cards for health care workers and expanding the reach of donation drives to staging children's fairs and galvanizing the community to benefit a local pop-up pantry, they worked all year to give back at a time when the world needs it most.
Gun control. COVID-19. Incarceration rates by race. Degrees earned by gender. Are these topics you'd expect from a typical precalculus assignment? Mr. Andrew Otero's Upper School precalculus class is anything but typical. He has a passion for challenging his students to think independently, to form data-based arguments about topics that matter, and to develop habits of mind that reach beyond math. As data literacy becomes an increasingly valuable skill, Mr. Otero's precalculus classroom is a practice ground for translating big mathematical ideas into real-world solutions.
For the past several years, our Upper School chapter of the Junior Classical League (JCL) has hosted an array of events including toga parties, Saturnalia celebrations, and certamina (quiz-bowl-style contests) to celebrate and expand their knowledge of Latin and Roman history, mythology, and culture. This year, the club brought some light-hearted fun to Price Auditorium, following guidelines for COVID safety, for one Friday night of game-show-inspired shenanigans with a Classical twist.
Multicultural Alliance (MA) is a student-led club that aims to promote cultural awareness and unity in our Upper School. Since its inception, it has served as an unofficial affinity space for students of color to share their daily lived experiences at Severn, and where allies are encouraged to join in and support. Over the past two years, under the leadership of ChélaCunningham '21, YealaGrimes '21, Abijah Pennant '21, and Maddie Skinner '21, the club's mission has grown to include more outreach and education as they examine issues and amplify the stories of historically underrepresented communities.
Written by Chéla Cunningham '21 and Sarah Dixon '24
On January 26th and 27th, Severn Upper School students, both remote and in-person, came together to focus on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Organized by students for students, Unity Day is the culmination of club planning and open-minded conversation. Though it’s not an academic day, students walk away with a new-found understanding of the different perspectives held by their classmates.
From drama productions in the stone amphitheater to team-building exercises on the challenge course, teachers and students use the James M. Stine Environmental Center in many ways. But that is only part of the value it provides our school. Situated along the Severn River, the center is home to a diverse selection of native tree and plant species. It is a rich carbon sink that offsets some of our community's carbon footprint. But as climate change progresses and sea levels rise, the center is vulnerable. To explore what that might mean for our community, our Upper School Climate Science class conducted a in-depth study, bringing their understanding of global climate change home to our backyard.
Over the past few months, our Water Street Players faced more challenges than ever in creating their annual fall Upper School drama production. With distancing guidelines and rotating schedules, a typical performance simply was not possible. But they rose above these obstacles to create a truly impressive dramatic experience with the 1940s radio play, Gaslight. The result? A gripping, chilling performance that reached beyond the limits of traditional theater and kept the audience on the edge of their virtual seats.
Adding purposeful positivity to our daily routines can make a significant impact on students' well-being, but often this is much easier said than done. Upper School Counselor Ms. Sam Straub shares her expertise on how to bring positivity into the classroom despite a seemingly endless string of challenges in today's world. She wrote the following piece for teachers, but any adult can use her ideas to help the children and teens in their lives.