Severn News

Upper Schoolers Embrace Change in 20-21

With so much going on in the world, acceptance is necessary to get through the day-to-day. But accepting change is only one part of the process. At a morning meeting Zoom last week, representatives from our annual Leadership Lab Retreat urged the entire Upper School to move beyond acceptance and embrace change. That means using creative thinking, perseverance, and inclusive leadership to make the best of what we have now and improve our school community for years to come.

What is the Leadership Lab Retreat?

The 3-day retreat involves a series of discussions and workshops on effective leadership; both students and faculty lead the sessions. The retreat is also an opportunity for our students to get to know each other better and develop new relationships. At the end of the retreat, they decide on an adaptive challenge, a goal toward which the entire community works throughout the year. Although students in elected and club leadership positions are expected to attend, the retreat is a voluntary forum where any interested student can participate.
Severn School high school students on a Zoom meeting during the leadership lab.
Our first-ever virtual sessions for this historic leadership retreat!

Day One

The event began Thursday evening with a Zoom meeting to introduce the program and discuss the future of the Honor Code with questions like:
  • How well do we know the Honor Code?
  • What role does it play at Severn?
  • What role do we want it to play?
  • How can we get there?

Day Two

On Friday, many students gathered on campus for in-person workshops while others attended sessions on Zoom:
  • Inclusion at Severn Seminar. How to create an environment where students can show their full identity and how to use the Honor Code to cultivate a culture of inclusion at Severn.
  • Social Media Strategies Seminar. How to use social media effectively in different areas of life, how to lead through social media, and how to use it as a platform to garner support for events and initiatives at school.
  • Umbrella Club Seminar. Discussing loss and grief, the importance of communication especially in leadership roles, toxic vs. honest positivity, gratitude, and other tips to support overall mental health.
For most, this was their first step on campus after months away. Although wearing masks and maintaining distance, our students were excited to be together once again; the sense of camaraderie was palpable.

Day Three

Saturday afternoon, the full group met again on Zoom to work toward a consensus for the adaptive challenge. Using a shared Google Doc to record their thoughts and moving back and forth between whole-group meetings and breakout sessions for several hours, they finally agreed upon a challenge to both inspire and motivate the Upper School: Embrace Change.
"My favorite workshop we did was definitely the inclusion one. I gained a new perspective on how I see myself and my identities, as well as my peers. The leadership lab was really well organized for the obstacles that COVID presents, and we took all of the measures it required to be safe, which I'm very happy about." — Elizabeth Biran '22
Severn school teacher demonstrates how to wear a mask correctly.
At the start of each session, faculty reminded students to keep proper distance and wear masks correctly.
"My experience at this year's summer Leadership Lab was very positive. With everything going on in the world, the leaders of the lab did an amazing job at adapting to the circumstances. I personally took away a lot of new ideas and was able to better understand the different perspectives of my peers around me. I was touched hearing the personal stories of my peers and even days later thought about what was discussed at the lab." — Alina Valencia '22
Severn School students lead a workshop during the leadership retreat
Student-led Umbrella Club seminar.

More Now Than Ever, Embrace Change

Past adaptive challenges include: Take the Initiative, Active Appreciation, Respect, Unity, Be There, and Set the Tone. Through the process of selecting the challenge, students take ownership of their power to improve our community. Embrace Change reflects that sense of agency. Our students want to create the best experience possible for everyone in the Upper School. They want to encourage each other to participate in school life, support one another emotionally through times of struggle and growth, become persuasive advocates for themselves and others, and have open discussions about sensitive issues.
"Given everything that is going on in the world right now ( COVID, Black Lives Matter, the election, etc.) it was very important that Severn got together as a community to discuss ways we can improve ourselves. We learned that we have to make the most of the time we have now and be open to the ever-changing world." — Thomas Castleberry '22
Severn School students lead a workshop during the leadership retreat
Student-led social media seminar.

The First of Many Steps

The Leadership Lab is only the first step in working toward the adaptive challenge. Student Council and clubs will use the Embrace Change mindset to plan activities throughout the year. The retreat group meets twice more in the fall and winter to check-in, evaluate progress, and make plans. Embrace Change will spark ongoing conversations to drive action in our community.
"We can have conversations on what challenges are similar around the world right now, and how the world is changing in specific countries and cultures, as well how it is changing as a whole. Even though there are many different ways to handle the challenges presented to us, we are universally experiencing and learning about the same obstacles as a result of the pandemic. We can also use the adaptive challenge to normalize sharing different cultures and spreading individual awareness. We have an opportunity now to open our minds to something different than what we have been led to believe is the norm, and we can use this to expand our wisdom and educate ourselves to benefit our own lives and others' beyond our community." — Emma Hlousek '22

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    • Photo of Severn School high school students wearing masks and having a discussion in the gym.

Lower School

Preschool-Grade 5
Chesapeake Campus
1185 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd
Arnold, MD 21012

Middle/Upper School

Grade 6-12
Teel Campus
Severna Park, MD 21146