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.
Proctor Academy hosted the 3rd Annual Rail Trail Rally to benefit Special Olympics New Hampshire Saturday morning. With over 250 participants, including 80 Special Olympians, hundreds of volunteers, and every Proctor student (who was not taking the SAT's) taking part, the event was the biggest in its three year history. Even larger than the event itself, however, is the impact the event has left on each of our lives.
Perhaps it was serendipity that Robert Azzi, a Muslim American, came to speak on Monday night. His arrival at the invitation of the Andover Library and Proctor also coincided with the first Presidential Debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Mr. Azzi spoke in the Wilkins Meeting House, sharing his reflections about being a Muslim in the United States. Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, the son of a mill worker, an architect by training and a photographer and journalist by trade, Mr. Azzi lived in the Middle East for decades as a photographer and reporter, working for Newsweek, Paris Match, Fortune, National Geographic and other publications. He has been a Nieman Fellow in journalism at Harvard University, where he also served as a member of the Leadership Council of the Harvard Divinity School. He spoke for two hours, about the same amount of time as the candidates.
Proctor welcomed Dr. Derrick Gay to campus Tuesday to help us explore the double-edged sword of diversity at independent schools. Through interactive conversations, faculty investigated the challenges around diversity efforts at Proctor, including how we understand our own identities, the power of the words we use on a regular basis within the cultural context of our varied student experiences, and how to develop tangible strategies to better integrate diversity efforts into our educational mission.
At Proctor, we live in this wonderful bubble where intellectual curiosity is celebrated, students embrace challenging conversations alongside each other, safely travel the world on Proctor’s off-campus programs, warm meals are provided three times a day, and our biggest stress is not having enough hours in the day to learn all we want to learn. Families choose to invest in this safe, supportive, intentional learning community at Proctor, and it is without a doubt the best environment for students to learn about themselves and the world around them.