Most of what happens in schools is tied to an academic year, from late summer through late spring. That said, the launch of the new calendar year is always positively marked by two events. During our first week back from winter break, we annually host a gathering of alumni, many of whom are still home from college, and some of whom form a panel to take questions from juniors and seniors. Later in the month we begin to host students applying to the Pods. While the children work (and play!) with teachers and other applicants in classrooms, we provide a different panel—of current upper schoolers, a parent, some administrative colleagues, and me—for their parents.
There’s something about the symmetry of applying kindergarteners and returning graduates that always feels right to me in January. It’s fun to get to know those who are enthusiastically considering Wildwood for their own families, and it’s downright rewarding to talk with graduates, hearing the updates on their college and work lives.
This year’s panel included Aethena Brooks ’14, who graduated from the University of Virginia and is working for a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. Terryn Adams ’12 was also there, having earned a neuroscience degree from Barnard and a master’s in medical sciences from Morehouse. She’s preparing her medical school applications. Harry Valner ’16, a current junior at USC, is part of their Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy. Anna Ramsey ’15 is in her senior year at Tulane, while Bella Levy ’13, who graduated from the University of Chicago last fall, is currently enrolled in a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program at Columbia University. Abe Bradley ’18, whose love of math and music was fostered during his 13 years at Wildwood and continues to be in college, is a first-year student at Wesleyan University.
There were, of course, dozens of other graduates at the gathering. Jake Reiner ’09 was one. Knowing that we’ll be hosting clinical psychologist and author Catherine Steiner-Adair here at school (she’ll be working with 5th and 8th grade students as well as presenting a parent education event on Jan. 29), I was reminded of Jake participating in a similar parent program when he was a junior at Wildwood. During a fishbowl conversation in which a smaller circle of students and parents were participating in a discussion about how to navigate technology, while others of us sat in concentric circles outside the primary discussion, listening, the father of a then-middle school boy asked an earnest question that was, basically: How do I keep my middle school son away from questionable online content? I remember Jake, in the most empathetic and non-condescending way, beginning with, “This must be really hard for you as a parent…” Having engaged and acknowledged the challenge, he went on to talk about how important it is for parents to talk to their kids about the values they hope they’ve instilled in them. Jake also noted how unlikely it was that the dad would meet with success if his goal was to shield his child from questionable online content, and that it would be best to have what might be hard conversations to guide his son toward making sound decisions.
I have similar fond memories from various events over the years, and it’s those moments that make me proud of our students and proud to be a part of this community.
The coming months will include many more affirming, celebratory, and educative events, no doubt, but those I reference have set a decidedly hopeful tone for 2019. Happy New Year to you and yours.
~ Landis Green
Head of School