During assembly this morning, guest Elena Terry, Executive Chef/Founder of Wild Bearies, a non-profit community outreach catering organization that supports participants to overcome alcohol and other drug abuse issues or emotional traumas, shared a story about her work gathering indigenous seeds and the importance of understanding the history and source of the food that nourishes us.
In AP Human Geography and Botany classes, Elena talked about building stronger communities within the Indigenous Food Sovereignty movement and the healing nature of working with traditional indigenous ingredients while building community. She spoke about the power of ancestral knowledge of food and animals being passed down from generation to generation as a critical component of sustaining community and culture. While we only were afforded a glimpse (and taste!) of her work in this area, the underlying principle of building community and culture through shared experiences lives deeply in Proctor’s educational model.
Immediately following assembly, we gathered the senior class for their yearbook photo. It is likely the only time this year, other than at Commencement, that this class will be together in its entirety (and even still we were missing those seniors studying off-campus this fall). Sometimes we look at this photo of our seniors in one place at the same time and wish we had more opportunities for a whole class to be together. But that is not how we are organized at Proctor.
We intentionally do not have a class-based organization at Proctor because we believe in the value of multi-age groups of students living and learning alongside each other. Advisories are mixed age groups. Small, family-style dorms are mixed age-groups. Project Period groups often have students from all four grades in them, as do athletic teams, art offerings, and even academic classes. We believe deeply that each student, regardless of their age or grade, has something to learn from every other student, and that it is through shared experiences that culture is passed down from one generation of Proctor students to the next.
Likewise, the same intergenerational sharing of experiences takes place within the adult community at Proctor. Whether we are in our first year or our 41st year, we recognize that informal, authentic relationships between community members serve as an incredibly powerful tool to build trust and belonging. We value and champion neurodiversity in all areas of our lives at Proctor, and we seek experiential, hands-on learning opportunities for our students and ourselves. The longevity of faculty and staff at Proctor ensures these tenets guide us, inform our work with each other and with our students, and center us when our worlds are overwhelmed with distractions.
Elena Terry illuminated for us that, unlike Proctor, many communities, especially indigenous communities, around the world have experienced violent disruptions to the continuity of their culture that have left generational impacts. Her work to patch and repair and heal indigenous communities through her work with food sovereignty is a powerful reminder for us to both support the healing of other communities, while doing our job to sustain Proctor’s community through our actions each and every day.