Stories of Leadership, Service, Scholarship and Character
The many voices that make up our school speak to our varied experiences and united ideals. At the National Honor Society and Cum Laude Society assembly this year, four students shared speeches about the core tenets of NHS: leadership, service, scholarship and character. Mentored by Upper School English Teacher Dr. Jackie Baugh, Robert Dubinksi ‘20, Mariner Fagan ‘20, Victoria Stamato ‘20, and Laura Hupp ‘20 spoke about their growth as members of our school community and as individuals finding their way in the world.
Robert Dubinski ‘20 spoke about how his understanding of leadership has changed during his years at Severn. As a kindergartener, leadership meant being the line leader — appointed by the teacher, holding a certain rank and physical place in front of his peers. Now, leadership means something quite different. Excerpted from his speech:
“As we know, at Convocation, seniors are paired with kindergarten and first-grade students from our Lower School to lead them into the assembly. Afterward, we read Not Norman to the kids before leading them to their busses to head back to the Lower School campus. Now, everyone would consider the senior a poor leader if all they did was take our young Admiral from the bus to Convocation. Instead, the mark of an admirable Admiral is predicated around the attitude and emotional comfort of the lower schooler they are tasked with watching.
On that day, I saw several of my peers display remarkable leadership qualities in comforting the children they were leading. A pair in front of me, Maeve Galway '20 and Will Kennedy '20, went to great lengths to do this. I noticed how at first, Flynn did not want to hold their hands. Like most children, he wanted to appear self-assured and grown-up, but upon walking into the bustling, noisy gym, his hands shot up like rockets and grabbed each of their hands tightly. Upon noticing the shift in his attitude, both began trying to comfort him by talking about his favorite activities. With each question they asked, Flynn responded more and more confidently until he seemed not to notice all the noise and activity around him. Will and Maeve skillfully made him feel comforted in a strange and foreign environment.
So it was during Convocation that I began to truly appreciate one of the fundamental truths of leadership. Leadership is not a given position or rank. Mature leaders must also care for the comfort and well-being of their followers. Once we decide to genuinely care for the welfare of those in our care, we become leaders. Once we decide to put aside our time to help someone in our group or class or business, we become leaders. Once we decide, like Will and Maeve, to selflessly care for the comfort of a small Admiral, we become leaders.”
Mariner Fagan '20 shared several anecdotes about how his work with Special Olympics, Chesapeake Bay cleanups, and helping the Severn community have given him new perspectives. Excerpted from his speech:
“I volunteered with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay which organizes trash cleanups in and around Annapolis. The first time I went to one, I gained a new perspective on an important aspect of my life that I thought I knew everything about, the water. Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to sail competitively all over the world, and through these experiences, I have sailed in both crystal clear and trash-littered water.
There are obvious large-scale factors that contribute to polluted water but after I and fifteen volunteers spent three hours cleaning up beer cans and candy wrappers on only an acre of land behind Bates Middle School in Annapolis, I learned that so much of the pollution issue comes from people carelessly littering on land. Behind Bates, there is a small stream in the woods that eventually leads to the Severn River. Whenever it rains all of that trash gets swept into the water. This experience gave me a completely new perspective on how littering affects the world around us and our thoughtless actions in one area can negatively affect another in a way that we never would have expected.
Participating in Special Olympics events and cleanups around Annapolis have given me a new perspective on myself and how my actions affect the community around me. And as Severn students, we face smaller opportunities for service on a daily basis that help our community run more smoothly. For example, students are responsible for lunch duty and NHS members, including those inducted this morning, are tasked with tutoring other students. If we start embracing these simple daily forms of service it will not only make it more enjoyable, but we may never know what new perspectives we might gain.”
Victoria Stamato '20 spoke about how her attitude toward academics changed after seeing the examples set by her good friend Addi Harris ‘20 and her sister Rebecca Stamato ‘18. Excerpted from her speech:
“If you were to tell me my freshman year of high school that I would be standing here this morning delivering a speech on scholarship, I would have laughed because I wasn’t doing my best in school. Yes, I got okay grades but I could have done a lot better. Unlike many upperclassmen, I was not inducted into NHS my junior year. The truth is I have always struggled academically. Clearly, I needed a bit of guidance on my journey to scholarship and as it turns out that guidance came from Addi Harris.
Addi and I were very similar, especially how we performed in school. But during sophomore year, Addi changed. She became a fantastic student — studying as hard as she could, taking advanced classes and earning top grades. I admired the student Addi had become. Maybe I was even a little bit jealous because I had always wanted to be that student, but hadn't put the work in yet. And last year, as my sister Rebecca packed up her room for freshman year at college she turned to me and asked, 'Victoria, what are you doing? You could do so much better in school if you just put some more effort into your work.'
In the fall of my junior year, I began to turn things around. The first step I took was actually taking notes during my classes. I also annotated books I was assigned to read and made study guides, staying up into the early hours of the morning to make sure I knew the material properly. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions, but more importantly, I wasn’t afraid to ask for help.
The outcome of me taking these steps is that I will be inducted into the National Honor Society this morning. So to the people who are not being inducted this year, and to the people who worry they may never be inducted, you still have time to turn it around. Just ask yourself, what aren’t you doing?”
Laura Hupp '20 compared developing character over a lifetime to the way that an icicle grows drip by drip. Excerpted from her speech:
“Winter is known for its frigid temperatures and snowy weather. This time of chilly and brief days is often associated with feelings of sadness and despair. When temperatures fall below freezing, but the sun still shines, icicles start to form. The drips from melted snow and ice freeze together to form the new icy spikes that line our gutters. Drip by drip the icicle grows longer and longer. Like icicles, character forms during the wintery times of our lives.
We have all made bad decisions. On this day last year, I was the only Severn student to park on campus. When Mr. Buckley saw me, he handed me a maroon card. I cried. For me, breaking the rules and parking on campus on a day we were told not to was out of character. But I learned from that mistake and today, I found a nice spot at Cypress Creek. That little drip from a year ago helped form my icicle. When we make bad decisions, we learn about what we can do to better our character. Making poor choices is inevitable, but it is how we choose to handle the consequences of those poor choices that truly shows our character.
An icicle does not start to form on just any cold day. It needs the sun to get going. Our kindergarten teacher who told us sharing is caring. Our middle school lacrosse coach that taught us good sportsmanship. Our parents who taught us how to love and be loved. They are our suns. So to every parent, guardian, grandparent, friend, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, coach, and teacher — from all of us, thank you. We owe it all to you. You are the sunshine during the winters of our lives that allow our icicles to form.”
National Honor Society and Cum Laude Society
Severn was proud to induct 59 students into the Jonah Halsted Chapter of the National Honor Society and the 10 students into the Severn School chapter of the Cum Laude Society this year. Our annual assembly is a chance for families, teachers and peers to recognize student achievement and reflect on our shared commitment to character, scholarship, leadership and service in the many forms they take.