What does MLK Day mean to you? This was the question posed at the start of our community assembly today. Equality. Work yet to be done. Celebrating diversity. Love for our brothers and sisters. Perseverance. A fight worth fighting. Civil rights. As each person stood and shared a word or phrase, you could see a cracked door into their life as light shone on each individual’s story. For some of us, our story has long been openly read by those around us. For others of us, we've allowed our story to collect dust for years as we have clung tightly to our thoughts and emotions for fear of judgement. This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at Proctor provided connection through self-reflection; an invaluable exercise we must never limit to a singular day in mid-January stamped as a federal holiday.
Today’s blue skies, warm sunshine, and clear pathways will soon give way to more than an inch of rain and unseasonably warm temperatures tomorrow and Friday. The weather patterns this winter have been changing at the same breakneck speed with which we navigate the Winter Term at Proctor. Sunrises, classes, assembly, afternoon programs, races, games, rehearsals, extra help sessions, study hall, college counseling meetings, sunsets blur into a life that is equal parts invigorating and exhausting. In order to set our eyes on the invigorating, and not solely on the exhausting, we must intentionally carve out time to press pause and connect with each other.
I wrote about the “small marvelous” last year at this time, wrote about the bell that sits in the bookcase in my office, the bell that was dug up on Proctor grounds by two self-proclaimed “dirt fisherman” Dave Elwell and Dana Newton, the bell that must have jostled off a harness a hundred years ago to sit quiet and silent in the dark for years before the metal detector pinged on it. But it rings again when I pick it off the shelf, the small metal clapper knocking against the nickel sidewalls to send out a warm, wholesome sound. A chuckling ringing, a smiling sound. I imagine it shaking out its winter melody, the sound of sure-footed joy, as a horse-drawn sleigh slips through snow-packed Andover streets. Not hard to conjure after this week’s snow.
Dominique Jordan Turner explores poverty as a superpower in her TedX Talk recorded earlier this summer (see video below). Her insights into the skills and strengths obtained by young people growing up in poverty not only prove valuable to us as educators of a diverse student body, but her underlying message applies to all of our students. We all share an understanding that young people need to experience an intersection of belief in their lives in order for learning to take place; belief in themselves, others believing in them, and belief in something bigger than themselves.
The best ones are those that you move in and out of seamlessly, that offer delight, bring laughter, and deepen an understanding of the world. They are the friendships forged over years, spanning decades. Sometimes, in rare instances, a friendship will touch a community, its impact ringing out the way a bell rings out, looping its peels in ever widening circles. That’s the kind of friendship Proctor has with John Around Him, who has been on campus this week. He has brought the experience of his travels in the world and the wisdom of the Lakota people to Proctor’s campus, and we have delighted in his return as one delights in a visit of the closest of friends.
On Monday, we gathered as a community to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. alongside guest speaker Dr. Derrick Gay. Together, we continued the never-ending work of understanding our own identities within the constructs of a global society. As we engaged in a series of activities centered around our exploration of self, we worked to understand our blind spots and to better understand, and acknowledge, alternate perspectives.
Each day we are reminded that while we often live in a bubble at Proctor Academy there is so much more depth to the world around us. Regular blog posts from Ocean Classroom, Mountain Classroom, European Art Classroom, Proctor in Costa Rica, and Proctor en Segovia help us emerge from the Proctor bubble as we watch peers explore the world and all its complexities. Similarly, our involvement with Special Olympics and opportunities afforded us through Project Period further expose our students and faculty to a much broader world than our geography would otherwise allow. While Ocean Classroom made its historic entry into Havana Harbor, Proctor welcomed Julie Marner, Executive Director of Burundi Friends International, and Fabrice Bizimana, a native of Burundi and former student of Julie’s, to campus. Over the course of their four days at Proctor and Dartmouth College, Julie and Fabrice provided invaluable insights into the people and culture of Burundi, all while allowing us to live and learn outside our bubble.
Joanna de Peña '08 was voted onto Proctor's Board of Trustees this past weekend becoming the youngest member of the board to date. In 2004, Joanna made the difficult decision to leave home in Lawrence, Massachusetts for the opportunities Proctor Academy afforded her. Her passion, confidence, and wisdom beyond her years commands the attention of others whether she was serving as the emotional leader of her basketball team at Proctor or is speaking to an auditorium of inner-city youth about investing in their future. During her recent visit to campus, she shared insights with Freshman Seminar classes, challenged Head of School Mike Henriques to a little one on one in the gym, and reflected on the impact Proctor has had on her life.