Upper School | Gr. 9-12

Speaking Our Values to Lift Others Up

Each year at the National Honor Society and Cum Laude induction assembly, four students speak about the pillars of NHS: character, scholarship, leadership, and service. Those same words rise above the names of every Severn graduate in the Teel Rotunda. Students and teachers post them around campus, in one form or another, as they represent the values that hold our community together. Mentored by Upper School English Teacher and Severn Oratorical Society Advisor Dr. Jackie Baugh, Lana Cate ‘22, Paul Baldwin ‘22, Daniel Berlin ‘22, and Taylor Boteler ‘22 shared how these values shape who we are as Severn Admirals and members of the greater community.


Severn School student giving a speech at the podium.
Lana Cate '22
Lana Cate '22, inspired by athletes in the 2021 Olympic Games, talked about resiliency, inner strength, and persistence. She used that spark of inspiration to highlight an exceptional friend who embodies those traits. Excerpted and edited from her speech,
"When you are at your rock bottom, will you stay down or stand up? Will you sink or swim?

A 2021 graduate of South River High School, Mia Jocic’s character exemplifies Olympic fortitude both physically and mentally. Not unlike many medalists, she has faced many adversities in her life. She is a first-generation American in her family, who came to America to escape a war-torn former Yugoslavia, known today as Serbia. Growing up, she experienced many different memories than the traditional American girl. She learned English at the same time her mother did. She remembers watching Sesame Street with her mother and older sister, trying to understand what Big Bird was talking about when he said, 'Bad days happen to everyone, but when one happens to you, just keep doing your best and never let a bad day make you feel bad about yourself.'

In 2004, when she was just 2 years old, Mia was diagnosed with what doctors originally thought was a hemangioma, or a clump of blood vessels that looks like a birthmark. The mass was later re-diagnosed as an arteriovenous malformation. This subjected Mia to many physical and mental struggles — countless doctors’ appointments, crude comments from peers, and the worry of a tumor inconspicuously forming near the mass.

With so many life-threatening issues, where could she turn to for stability? The answer was quite simple: swimming. Through swimming, she was able to channel all of her anxiety into something positive. The repetition of two-hour practices, six days a week, helped her form goals and a foundation for herself. She was able to meet her best friends and gain new confidence and independence. Mia started her life as the young girl who couldn’t speak English. Now, she has grown into a young woman who is always the first to introduce herself, to cheer her teammates on, and to give that important speech during a hard practice.

Mia has had many opportunities to sink. Instead, she chose to keep swimming. In my eyes and the eyes of the community, Mia is a gold medalist in good character."


Severn School student giving a speech at the podium.
Daniel Berlin '22
Daniel Berlin '22 talked about scholarship as a mindset that drives us to do and be our best. He shared anecdotes about Lila Gibson '22, Ella Fingado '22, and Henry Reath '22 as examples of that mindset in action, lifting up his peers while encouraging others to do the same. Excerpted and edited from his speech,
"Scholarship is an attitude. An attitude that one has where they challenge themselves to build a foundation of knowledge and new ideas, to push themselves to learn beyond what is expected.

Scholarship is not striving for the highest grade but striving to learn. Scholarship is not looking for the easiest answer but looking for the most thorough answer. Scholarship is not done for the praise of others but rather for the benefit of ourselves. Scholarship is not only limited to what we learn at school but can include whatever knowledge we pursue. And scholarship is not inherently boring but it’s something that we can make enjoyable.

Herein lies a problem. Though many of us hope to have the attitude of scholarship, most of us have lost our scholastic desire. Think back to elementary and middle school. During this time, we all asked, 'why.' 'Why do cicadas emerge every 17 years? Can humans live on Mars? Why did Sarah Jay beat me for class president?'

When we were young, we had an innate curiosity — what Mr. Salinas calls a rudimentary form of scholarship, if you will, that formed our foundation for attaining true scholarship. But ask yourself, do you still have an attitude of scholarship? When high school comes around, we tend to change our attitudes. It’s part of life. Grades, sports, and college begin to take precedence over our scholastic desire. Having answers to questions becomes valued over asking questions. The good news is that scholarship is still attainable, and it does not require years of work or staying up until 2 am to study; it simply requires a change in our attitudes.

In the footsteps of Lila Gibson '22, let’s seek to enjoy our scholastic life. In the footsteps of Ella Fingado '22, let’s have the desire to learn more simply for the benefit of being more knowledgeable. And in the footsteps of Henry Reath '22, let’s be willing to learn even when what we learn challenges our beliefs."


Severn School student giving a speech at the podium.
Paul Baldwin '22
Paul Baldwin '22 explored the many ways to lead, from more traditional leadership positions to simply leading by example with compassion and care. True leadership elevates the lives of others, supports their growth, and creates the momentum to do more. Excerpted and edited from his speech,
"Day to day, we always have someone who we look up to and are positively influenced by the things they say or do — or don’t do. Most of us, in some way, are role models, whether we know it or not. I grew up with my three older brothers as my role models. I wanted to do everything they did, play the same sports, go wherever they went with their friends. Yes, I was the stereotypical annoying youngest sibling. Andrew, the oldest, paved the way by jumping into the unknown to fulfill what he thought to be his purpose. I always looked up to Andrew as my role model and not just because he was the only one who didn’t pick on me. He had always had a dream — this passion to serve in the military — and nothing was going to stop him from achieving that. I loved that about him. Now he’s a major in the Army and has completed seven tours, four in Afghanistan.

He has inspired us to follow in his path and even make new ones. Leadership, oftentimes, causes a ripple effect. Seeing acts of leadership usually leads others to want to step up and strive to be better.

At Severn, I look around and see my friends, teammates, coaches, and teachers who I see exhibit leadership every day. I want to share a story about one particular instance of leadership at Severn, and although I don’t know who was there to observe that day, I know that I was impacted by what I saw. My sophomore year, we had just gotten out of class and everyone was rushing into the lunchroom to secure a spot at the table. It was when I sat down with my friends at the table that I saw a freshman sitting by himself. I waited for a second to see if anybody would sit with him but no one did. I wasn’t sure that anybody had noticed, and just as I began to say something about it, Ryan Countryman '22 got up from our table and put his lunch down on the table right next to him. A couple of others followed and started talking to the freshman and making him laugh.

Seeing his smile changed me that day. It showed me just how easy it is to step up and embody the role of a leader."


Severn School student giving a speech at the podium.
Taylor Boteler '22
Taylor Boteler '22 shared a unique perspective on service at Severn during the uncertainty of pandemic restrictions. Being part of a service-minded community reaches beyond simply filling requirements: it's a way of being in the world. Excerpted and edited from her speech,
"Last year, community service at Severn looked a little different than previous years. If anything, it looked better because even though it wasn’t mandated, many Severn students still did it. Here at Severn, we don’t do it for the hours. We do it for others.

The one thing that was obvious by the end of the year was that service is important enough to us that it continued within the student body, even when there were limited options to be of service. Community service at Severn is recognized and appreciated with a service award and a graduation requirement, but after seeing how many Severn students continued to do community service last year begs the question… does it really need to be mandated? We as students last year were given the option to skip community service, but many people in the audience today went above and beyond to keep being of service to others. These individuals did it for others, not for the hours.

This past spring, Sophie Fionda '22 went to Severn’s Environmental Center cleanup event held in the woods behind McCleary, which was offered to Severn students for a chance to earn community service hours towards the following year. Even though it was hot, humid, and about to storm, and she could only get two Severn hours, Sophie stayed and helped for the full four hours.

On a larger scale, Sage Christensen '23 and Lily Hughes '23, and their Admirals in Action team, raised about $68,000 towards cancer research for their Students of the Year campaign with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

And Luke Fromal '22 went above and beyond to complete over 10 tutoring hours as an NHS member. Due to covid, NHS members were only required to complete three tutoring hours, but Luke decided to do more. At one point, he was even asked by Ms. Jackson to stop signing up for tutoring sessions so others would have a chance to be tutors too. To Luke, being a mentor to another student was an honor.

So, remember Severn School, we don’t do it for the hours! For those who do it for others, Sophie Fionda '22, Luke Fromal '22, Lily Hughes '23, Sage Christensen '23, Cole Keefer '23, Skylar Kagan '23, Chloe Chabot '23, Grace Cowell '23, Will Huber '23, Matt Kagan '23, Fionn Kinsella '23, Grace Curtis '23, and Will Dickinson '23, please join me in a round of applause."

National Honor Society and Cum Laude

Severn School teacher speaking at the podium in front of an auditorium of students.
English Teacher and NHS Advisor Mr. Richard Zmuda leads the inductees in reciting the NHS pledge.
Severn was proud to induct 86 students into the Jonah Halsted Chapter of the National Honor Society and ten students into the Severn School chapter of the Cum Laude Society this year. The annual assembly is a chance for families, teachers, and peers to recognize student achievement and reflect on our shared values. Members of the Severn community may log in to mySevern and click here for a link to watch the entire ceremony.


Lower School

Upper School