Pingry Students Protest Racial Injustice, Ask School to do the Same

Pingry Students Protest Racial Injustice, Ask School to do the Same

By Noah Bergam (V) & Meghan Durkin (V)

As the growth rate of the coronavirus begins to flatline, Americans grow tired of a virus that has ravaged this nation for far longer – the racially charged murder of innocent black Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, by a systematically flawed criminal justice system.

Since George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, thousands have taken to the streets across the country in frustration. These protests have called for murder charges against the policemen who killed Floyd, as well as concrete legislative reform to end these homicides. The former request was fulfilled on June 3, when the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a second-degree murder charge (upgraded from third-degree) for Derek Chauvin, who asphyxiated Floyd by kneeling on his neck for over 8 minutes, as well as aiding and abetting charges for the three former policemen who allowed Chauvin to do so. In terms of broader reforms, protesters are calling for divestment from police forces, an end to the Qualified Immunity (which make it extremely difficult for officers to be found guilty), and a ban on choke and knee holds.

Within the Pingry community, many students and alumni have joined in on the activism. Most have been helping spread awareness on allyship and petitions via social media, while others took part in peaceful protests in their communities. 

The protests across the country are evidence of a desire and pressing need for change. While most of these protests have remained peaceful, some have turned violent, with police provoking protesters and protesters taking part in arson and vandalism. In the case of the former, it is disturbingly unclear how police are being disciplined for their brutality, especially against peaceful demonstrators. In the case of the latter, there has been confusion over who has been inciting the violence, and debate surrounding the acceptable limits to what protesters should do. Some cite the destruction of private property alone as reason enough to condemn the rioting, while others see the rioting as a tantamount reaction to decades of oppression and police violence.

Pingry’s Discourse

In the wake of the Floyd shooting, Student Body President Nolan Baynes wanted to see allyship and action from the school’s administration, so on May 28 he emailed Pingry’s top administrators, including Headmaster Matt Levinson, asking Pingry to speak up. 

After some back and forth, including further student emails which pressed the school to take more direct action, administrators set up a community-wide Zoom meeting on June 3 to initiate more dialogue about the issue.

During the meeting, which was attended by over 300 students and faculty, participants had an opportunity to voice their opinions and frustrations in hopes of improving Pingry’s future responses and actions against racial injustice. Students were able to offer suggestions to the faculty and the administration, while teachers reflected on “action steps” they could take to better facilitate discussion around race in their classroom and beyond. 

On Friday, June 5, the Pingry Allyship Collective (a newly formed coalition of all the affinity groups, student unions, SDLC, and CASE) sent a letter to administrators requesting more transparency between students and faculty involved in diversity and inclusion (inset at bottom left).

Words from a Pingry Protester

Giles Burnett (IV), who took part in peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Somerset, NJ, on May 31, provided a statement on why he chose to protest:

 I’ll tell you what my mom told me. ‘Watch your tone around strangers, don’t wear your hoodie in public, never question or talk back to an officer, turn down your music in the car, don’t bike/drive through that neighborhood, you better be home before dark, take your hands out your pocket, walk with a purpose and don’t linger, you don’t get any second chances in this world.’ Or, I can tell you what America told me. ‘Cross the street or clutch your purse when you see me, follow me in the store, slow your car down when you see me, slow down your cop car when you see me, ask me if I’m lost or in the wrong store, ask me where I got that $20 from, ask me if I play football or basketball, ask me if you can say the n-word.’ That is my everyday life, I march so my black brothers and sisters don’t have to answer those questions. I march so innocent black men and women aren’t killed in the streets. I march to fight the systemic racism that plagues our country. This past week has been one of the most painful and exhausting weeks of my life. I’ve cried, reflected, laughed and everything in between. I’ve been able to channel these emotions into action and change. However, there is no change with only 14% of the nation speaking up. We need allies and we need unity. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Stay safe.

The Record’s Statement

We wholly condemn the police brutality present in this country, as well as the silence that has allowed it to viciously persist. As a publication, we stand for improvements in Pingry’s discourse surrounding race relations. We encourage writers of all identities to tackle these difficult subjects, and we are open to civil discussions around the presence of racial injustices in our School, our nation, and our world.  

Hi Everybody,


I am sure you have seen on the news and
through social media that the murders of
Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George
Floyd have resulted in mass outrage throughout
the country. This is not the first time this will
happen, and I doubt it will be the last. Many
members of our Pingry community have felt the
need to advocate upon social media discussing
possible protests, sending out petitions, and
even speaking their own emotions. As a school,
during times of crisis, this definitively being
one of them, we have been able to address
issues that are affecting students head-on. To be
direct, in the fall, when commenting upon the
suicide of nearby students, the administration
was very prompt to address the matter, and all
hands were focused upon it. It is odd that even
with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I was the
only person upon campus to speak out formally.
There seems to be some lack of adult input in
these situations, and it’s isolating to the students
whom it affects daily. From my perspective, the
daily micro-aggressions and events at this school
go silenced and unnoticed, especially from the
administration
As a middle school student, I would feel as
though I was alone fighting a fight that would
never be resolved, and here we are in 2020
dealing with the same issue. Except now, I’m a
senior with a legitimate position in our school.
As a Student Body President, an active advocate
in our community, and most importantly, a
Black boy, I’m asking you to speak out on
it. Show solidarity with the people who have
been affected by systemic racism for over 400
years who attend your school. If you don’t, I,
along with other students in your building, will
continue to fight the fight that has yet to be
resolved in this country. As adults, you have a
platform just like I do, and I hope you find a way
to advocate for people who look like me and not
just turn a blind eye and become shocked when
the next murder occurs.
Black tears fall upon deaf white ears.

Sincerely,

Nolan Baynes II

May 28 Letter from Nolan Baynes II (V) to Pingry
Administrators

We are proud to be Pingrians; we wish
to discuss diversity-related issues in Pingry
because we want this community to become
a better, more inclusive place. We started
diversity work in Pingry because we either
were displeased with the lack of representation
in our school or believed that the existing
representation is both superficial and trivialized
by the students and the staff. However, the
goal of PAC is not to point fingers or merely
complain about the past wrongs we have
observed. Instead, we wish to progress in
collaboration with the administration and
contribute to the commendable endeavors of
our school. In order to do this, however, certain
methods of communication and action must be
reformed; one of our main concerns is the lack
of collaboration and/or transparency between
faculty leaders who make diversity-related
decisions and the students who feel the result of
these decisions (or lack thereof). As a result, we
hope that the administration takes our ideas and
perspectives seriously.

Excerpt of June 5 Letter from Pingry Allyship Collective to Pingry Administrators

Students Brighten Up Quarantine at Delbarton Digital Science Fair

By Eva Schiller

On April 27th, in the midst of remote learning and stay-at-home orders, a few STEM-oriented Pingry students staved off quarantine boredom by participating in the Delbarton Digital Science Fair. Complete with expert judges, including IRT mentor Dr. Sparrow, the remote fair allowed hundreds of students to show off their research for the year, attend a panel, and even win awards, all without leaving their homes. 

William Li, a Delbarton junior who helped organize the event, explained its inspiration: “last year, we organized our first Delbarton Science Fair,” he says. “When the whole state went into lockdown, we transitioned to a digital platform.” However, Li realized that students at many other schools were unable to exhibit their research. “When we learned that other schools were canceling their physical science fairs,” he added, “we expanded that platform to include all NJ schools. I myself have done high school research, so I know the amount of work and passion that goes into it. We just couldn’t let that type of work go unexhibited and unrecognized.” 

In addition to helping NJ students get recognition for their research, the fair had a positive impact on the broader community. “All the prize money and fair sponsorships have been given directly to charities or as credit to businesses impacted by COVID-19,” Li said. 

With Pingry’s annual Research Exhibit cancelled, the Delbarton Digital Science Fair represented a second chance for Pingry students to practice speaking about their projects and get expert advice. Although many IRT groups had to leave their experiments unfinished, some had collected enough data throughout the year to share their projects. Three IRT projects were presented at the fair: “Shallow Mind”, “Drone-Rover Communication for Pathfinding”, and “The Effect of KIF11 Activity on YAP Localization.” In addition, one Pingry student participated with individual research. 

Overall, Pingry’s experience at the event was overwhelmingly positive. “I was impressed by the breadth and depth of science presented. A number of Pingry students were involved, which was great to see,” Dr. Sparrow noted. Li agreed: “I’m very happy that Pingry participated in the fair this year,” he said. “You guys really have a renowned Research Program, and learning about its successes was a big reason why I decided to found the Research Club at Delbarton. It was really wonderful working with you all on this, and I look forward to more collaborations in the future!”

 

Pingry Discontinues AFS Program

After fifty years of hosting foreign exchange students, Pingry decided to cancel its AFS (American Field Service) program for future years. This news comes alongside the fact that, over Spring Break, the current AFS program was understandably called off due to COVID-19. 

The AFS program allowed a multitude of students from across the world to be a part of the Pingry community. Exchange students would stay with a host family for a year, take classes, and be introduced to a new, Pingry way of life. Through this program, students from Pingry were able to meet people from all around the world. Exchange students could engage in new American experiences, while teaching students from Pingry about their own culture. 

The program also involved Pingry’s AFS Club, a student-led club that hosted welcome parties and birthday parties for exchange students. The club’s main purpose was to help exchange students acclimate with their new community. This year the club was led by Alison Lee (VI) and Massa Godbold (V), both of whom loved being a part of the club. 

“I think it was very rewarding,” Lee mentioned (regarding her experience as a club leader). “This foreign exchange was very valuable to not just me, but the Pingry community. I’m sad to see it go.”

“I will miss my ability to travel abroad without leaving the comfort of the Pingry School,” said Godbold. She’ll really miss getting to know new people and making new friends, “friends that I will not soon forget and will keep in contact with for as long as possible.”

The faculty advisor for the club, Ms. Julia Dunbar, will also miss the program. “In my opinion, the best part of the AFS program is the opportunity to meet and work with students from around the world,” she said. 

Pingry’s cancellation of the program was not an easy decision, and there were multiple factors that ultimately decided the program’s fate. The first was the search for host parents. “When the program began, many families were eager to host exchange students,” Ms. Dunbar remarked. “In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to find families who are able to welcome an exchange student into their homes for an entire school year.” This is the main reason Pingry has decided to cancel the program.

The other factor was the expansion of Pingry’s global programming. AFS was one of Pingry’s first global programs, but now there are many opportunities for students to travel around the world, with immersive trips focused on a variety of subjects. Though programs have had to adapt due to COVID-19, the travel program continues to expand. 

“Despite current conditions, Pingry will continue to build its global programming,” said Ms. Dunbar. “By expanding our global travel programs, global education will continue to become accessible to even more Pingry students.”

The program will be missed by Pingry students. Martine Bigos (IV) said, “I think it’s really amazing that AFS gives us the opportunity to meet incredible people from different places every year.” 

This year’s exchange student was Meina Franzius (V), who came to Pingry from Germany. Even though the program was cancelled early this year, she still took a lot away from it. 

“Everyone at Pingry was really nice; the teachers, the students, everybody,” she commented. She talked to me about her experience at Pingry: “It was a challenge at first, but I really enjoyed the classes. The school was totally different than my school in Germany, but I really miss it.

“We did a lot of great things. I really miss everyone.”

 

Pingry’s Transition to Online Learning

Pingry’s Transition to Online Learning

Image by Andrew Wong (IV)

By Emily Shen (IV)

Since the conclusion of Spring Break, Pingry students and faculty members have adopted remote learning in order to follow the state-mandated social distancing guidelines. By now, they have finished their first two weeks online. Although this transition has not been easy, members of the Pingry community are working hard to resume the quest for knowledge as they try to find peace during this time of uncertainty. 

According to feedback from some students, most of their classes run synchronously or by using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Almost all of the teachers use Google Meet as the platform for “face-to-face” sessions or conversations, and most work is posted via Schoology or sent out through emails. Teachers make themselves available for help during designated time slots or during flexes and conference periods to make sure students can still seek extra help if they need to.

However, although the continuation of block schedules is supposed to help create structure, the switch to remote learning has not been an easy one for the students. Many have reported that remote learning is negatively affecting their productivity, and it often seems like there is less time for students to meet with their teachers for help. Because students and teachers are constantly interacting through their computer screens, some found that online school is more draining than typical school. Many students also report a significant increase in their workload, as well as a lack of motivation to finish it. Moreover, although teachers were guided to cut their 60-minutes periods to 45 minutes, students still spend hours in front of their computers between attending classes and school work.

Students are not alone in having to adjust to virtual classes. Many teachers also find themselves having to alter their usual way of teaching. “The biggest difference for me is that teaching is like acting or stand-up comedy. I respond to the energy of the group. When we are physically all together, I can see and feel so much more. I can tell when you are tired or sad or upset with somebody in the room. I can tell whether you understand or not, so I can adjust my response…Online, it all feels much stiffer.” said Upper School English teacher, Mrs. Grant.

For the last two weeks, teachers reported that they have gotten a little more used to the experience, but they continue to struggle with their lesson plans. “Lesson planning is very different, and it takes a lot longer.  I find myself reaching out to other language teachers, exploring different sources,” said Mr. Benoit, World Languages Department Chair and Upper School French teacher, “The most complex part right now is figuring out what assessments will look like at the end of each unit or theme.” Mr. Grant, a chemistry teacher at Pingry, believes that “if learning isn’t fun, then it will be easily forgotten. We need to help students gain the skills of thinking and reasoning that they will use throughout their lives.” 

When asked how they’ve adjusted to remote learning, teachers listed several examples of how they have had to adapt. “One thing I learned from my first class is that as a teacher, I hate the mute button for my students, and now I have a ‘no mute’ policy,” answered Mr. Grant. Ms. Thuzar, a computer science and math teacher at Pingry, said that she “spends more time planning and making sure that the remote learning experience for the classes is not too different from the actual in-person classes.” Although that is difficult to accomplish, Pingry students and teachers are all trying to find some peace and normalcy during this chaotic time. 

Like their students, some teachers have also found remote learning to be more tiring than a typical school day. “For some reason, this is all so draining,” said Mrs. Grant when asked about her experience, “Instead of gaining energy from being with all of you, I get exhausted. I was talking with some colleagues Friday evening, and they all reported that they wanted to take a nap in between classes.” Many teachers and students end up sitting in front of the computer and barely getting up the whole day. “I feel like all the classes are all lumped together into this continuous-time span where I sit at my desk in front of my computers for hours,” Ms. Thuzar added, “For the days I teach 3 or 4 classes per day, I ended up staying in front of my computers from about 8 AM to 4 PM, excluding lunch.”

Even though the future is filled with uncertainty, spreading positivity and hope has kept us going. Mrs. Grant shared a small anecdote that cheered many of her students up: “On a positive note, since Mr. Grant and I have opposite schedules, there is non-stop teaching going on in my house right now, so my cats are soon going to be ready for college!” Similarly, Mr. Grant shared that “these are definitely strange times. I think that the most important thing that remote learning can try to achieve is our sense of community. We will get through this experience and remember these times for the rest of our lives. With this in mind, I hope we can make some good memories together.”

Please take care of yourselves and continue to spread love and positivity amongst your friends and family! Stay safe!

 

 

Community Service Council Offers At-Home Volunteer Opportunities

By Zara Jacobs (V)

In wake of the devastation of COVID-19, many people have felt a sudden urge to do something, anything to help the community heal. Even though making a thank-you video or completing a Color-A-Smile seems pointless next to the tragedies we face, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention” (Oscar Wilde). The amount of time it takes to post on Instagram is the same amount of time it takes to fill out the form that sends notes of appreciation to the healthcare professionals at Morristown Memorial Hospital. Though we cannot provide a cure, there is no end to the ways we can support the people in our community. 

The Community Service Council has started making Morning Meeting announcements that present volunteer opportunities, including sharing your appreciation, making sleeping mats out of plastic bags, and so many more. We urge you to at least look at the slides, if nothing else, to simply learn about what you can do to help. It can be really easy to feel helpless, especially in the context of community service. All we want to do is hug our neighbors and our friends and those who are not able to attend their loved ones’ funeral, but we can assure you is that even one thank you video will bring a smile to a doctor who has worked around the clock, putting their life at risk for the sake of the community. Calling your grandma or her friends will bring a smile to their face. When we are able to escape quarantine, we think it would be amazing if every student could come back to Pingry knowing they brought a smile to just one person’s face. 

Students Put On Chicago

Students Put On Chicago

By Kyra Li (III)

This year, on February 20, 21, and 22, Pingry’s Drama and Music Departments, under the direction of Mr. Alan Van Antwerp, performed Chicago, the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. With its show-stopping music by John Kander and choreography by Bob Fosse, Chicago has won 6 Tony Awards, 2 Olivier Awards, and a Grammy. Chicago was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, who was influenced by the true stories of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, two women who were suspected of murdering their lovers. The musical follows two women, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, as they commit crimes and find their way to freedom. 

The musical opens with the “Overture” and is directly followed by “All that Jazz.” In this scene, the vaudevillian, Velma Kelly (Nicole Gilbert ‘20), is shown shooting her lover. Moments later, the ambitious Roxie Hart (Nina Srikanth ‘20) is also shown shooting Fred Casely (Zach Burns ‘23), the man she is having an affair with. Roxie’s husband, Amos Hart (Alex Kaplan ‘21), initially takes the blame for Casley’s death. Though, when he discovers that Roxie had lied to him, he tells the police the truth, and Roxie is sent to prison. When Roxie talks to Velma and Matron “Mama” Morton (Ola Weber ‘20) in the Cook County Jail, Roxie realizes that she will need a lawyer in order to be set free. Thus, she finds the best lawyer in Chicago, Billy Flynn (Ore Shote ‘21), who also happens to be Velma’s lawyer. As the story progresses, the characters gradually unfold their true intentions and desires, as the attempt to convince the juries of their innocence. In the end, Roxie and Velma are both freed of their charges, and the show closes with a depiction of their duo Vaudeville act. 

Throughout the performance this year, unlike many past shows, the pit was visible on stage and was even included in some scenes. Conducted by Dr. Andrew Moore, the pit consisted of students, teachers, and hired professionals. In the weeks leading up to the performances, the pit practiced weekly. The cast and pit also came together for a Sitzprobe, a rehearsal dedicated to integrating the singers with the pit. In addition to the cast and pit, the crew also played a vital part in creating the show. With the help of Mr. Joseph Napolitano and Ms. Emma Barakat, the students helped build the set and worked in the booth, where the lighting and sound was controlled. The costumes were also a major element in the production. Stage manager Julia Guagliardo (VI) said, “Finding costumes was really enjoyable. Mr. Napolitano and the costume team worked very hard to find costumes that fit with the time period and that worked well with our set.”

Overall, Chicago was an amazing experience for all of the cast, crew, and teachers involved. Nicole Gilbert, who played Velma, said, “Chicago was my favorite Pingry production. It was a hard show to be in and to direct because there are so many elements to it, but the cast and crew really pulled it off and made it a very rewarding experience.” The show also taught everyone involved many new skills. Guagliardo stated, “The musical taught me a plethora of skills that I will take with me. Working with such a large group of people was challenging at times, but overall showed me how powerful collaboration is. It was so wonderful to be given the opportunity to work hand in hand with both other students and teachers.”

Cal Mahoney (V) Wins LeBow

Cal Mahoney (V) Wins LeBow

By Zoe Wang (IV)

On February 21, 2020, six finalists took part in the annual Lebow Oratorical Competition. The competition was created by classmates of Dr. Robert H. Lebow ‘58 in honor of his passion for public speaking. Dr. Lebow used public speaking to support the global need for healthcare reform while he traveled to developing countries to provide medical services with his wife, Gail. His legacy is celebrated to this day by members of the sophomore and junior class, who write and deliver 4 ½ to 6 ½ minute speeches for his namesake competition. 

The preliminary round took place over two days, where 21 students competed for six spots in the final round. There were two rooms with two judges each, and the top three scores from each room advanced. The speeches, which ranged from persuasive to informative, were judged using a rubric that focused on the flow, organization, and delivery of the overall speech. This year’s finalists were Noah Bergam (V), Cal Mahoney (V), Alex Kaplan (V), Ajuné Richardson (V), Carolyn Coyne (V), and Martine Bigos (IV).

Bigos spoke first with her speech titled “Schlemiel, Schlimazel.” She juxtaposed herself with the character Garry from NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Garry is known as a klutz by his co-workers and is thought of as nothing more than the little mistakes he makes. Bigos looks back on her own experiences, acknowledging that she too has her moments. Nevertheless, she stressed the importance of not being “defined by your worst mistakes.” 

The next speech was Bergam’s “Big Fish in the Pingry Pond,” which he began by discussing students’ lack of participation in September’s Global Climate Strikes and Pingry’s general taboo on politics and debate. He expressed his hope that Pingry students can embrace more timely and less universally agreeable political discussion, in the classroom, clubs, and ultimately, in the LeBow competition itself. Noah suggested that “debate isn’t about winning—it’s about learning . . . disagreement is tiresome and messy, but it’s necessary.” 

Next, Mahoney delivered their speech entitled “Cancelling Cancelling.” They began by relaying a memory of their first minor fender-bender while on their way to school. Mahoney recognizes that “mistakes are inevitable when someone is new to something, but how you respond to them is up to you.” They explain that in today’s society even a small misunderstanding can lead to someone being “cancelled.” Closing the speech, Mahoney affirmed the idea that a person’s mistakes should be treated with kindness in order to help them learn.

Then, Kaplan described how drama became his passion in his speech “The Pursuit of Passion.” It all started in fifth grade when he signed up to act in the Lower School’s rendition of The Wizard of Oz. He emphasized that the older he gets, the harder it is to weave his passion into his schedule, as a result of society’s focus on “non-passions.” Ultimately, Kaplan affirmed that he can have the profession he wants, while also enjoying his passion. 

Richardson’s (V) “The Color of Music,” which highlights her identity as an African-American through her changing taste in music, followed. She grew up listening to artists like John Legend and Ne-Yo. Though, as her music taste started drifting from her family’s roots, her friends and family started calling her “white,” which caused her to struggle with her identity. Now, she is back to listening to the music of her childhood and is proud to embrace her identity as a “young black woman.”

The final speech was Coyne’s “Tell Me About Yourself.” In her speech, she addressed the question “Who are you?” She explained that most people’s usual response includes quick facts about themselves instead of more revealing personal principles. Coyne emphasized the need for everyone, including herself, to be alone sometimes in order to take care of themselves and learn more about who they truly are. 

Ultimately, Mahoney was declared the winner and Ajuné Richardson was made the runner-up. In the end, the Lebow Oratorical Competition is a great tradition at Pingry that continues to provide students not only the opportunity to present their talents in public speaking, but to also spread a message they’re passionate about. 


Model Congress Attends Harvard Conference

Model Congress Attends Harvard Conference

By Mirika Jambudi (III)

On February 20th, Pingry students travelled to Boston, Massachusetts to participate in the Harvard Model Congress (HMC) held at the Boston Sheraton Hotel. HMC, the largest congressional simulation in the world, provides students the opportunity to learn what participating in the United States government is like. 

Each student was assigned a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate to represent while at the conference. Before the event, students researched their roles, learning their delegate’s stance on various issues selected by the conference organizers. 

During the conference, participants from around the country gathered to engage in lively debate, learn how to compromise, and simulate drafting legislation for the passage of bills. “I learned how to work with delegates from the other party to write bipartisan bills and make amends to certain sections of the bill to please both parties. Overall, it was a really great experience,” said Vared Shmuler (III).  Sophomore Sarah Kloss (IV) gave several speeches as Billy Long, a Republican Congressman from Missouri, and was even able to present her bill during a full committee meeting. 

On Friday, students had the opportunity to visit the Harvard University campus during their break. Afterwards, awards for outstanding performance at the event were announced. Ian Larson (VI) was awarded an honorary mention for best delegate in his committee, the National Economic Forum.

 After an educating and engaging weekend, Pingry students are looking forward to returning to Harvard Model Congress next year!

Excerpts from the 2020 LeBow Preliminary Round

On February 3rd and 4th, sophomores and juniors participated in the preliminary round of the 2020 Robert H. Lebow Oratorical Competition. While the student body had the opportunity to watch the six finalists in the all-school assembly, they did not have the chance to hear all of the contestants perform their speeches and listen to their stories. All of the messages presented by the participants are important to the community, and as a result, excerpts from a few first-round speeches have been provided. 

Brian Li: “The Neglect of Humanities in the 21st Century”

The humanities serve as the foundation for human civilization. They teach us how to think critically and creatively. They facilitate empathy and compassion. We communicate more clearly, understand cultural values, and are introduced to new perspectives through the humanities. Humanistic education has been the core of liberal arts since the ancient Greeks, challenging students through art, literature, and politics. The humanities bring clarity to the future by reflecting on the past. Perhaps most importantly, they allow us to explore and understand what it means to be human. We need, now more than ever, to be able to understand the humanity of others. And while STEM is undoubtedly beneficial for humankind, we cannot sustain the neglect of the humanities for much longer without suffering severe consequences. With revolutionary technology like AI and genetic engineering, the humanities are essential to ensure that we progress ethically and morally together. 

Andrew Wong: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

A question many of us in this room have heard in countless interviews, and yet it is a question that can reveal so much about ourselves. So, where will we be in 10 years? In 10 years, we will have found ourselves going through the entire college process and graduating from Pingry. We will go to and then graduate from college. We will have the rest of our lives splayed out in front of us, ready to grasp in our hands, as we enter the real world, ready to be the next generation of business people, engineers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, world leaders, and so much more. That answer seems pretty easy and straightforward, right? In reality, not so much.

Lauren Drzala: “An Uphill Battle”

As time went by, I was falling behind on work because I could not write at all, leaving me frustrated in school. In addition, my mental health was at an all-time low. I began to isolate myself, believing that no one could really understand how I was feeling. It was like I was falling and no one was there to catch me. On top of that, I was told I could not play my sport this winter, nor could I play the piano, an instrument that I have been playing since I was nine. I felt out of control and just had to watch the train wreck happen. I thought my friends had moved on so I tried to as well, but I just felt stuck. Left behind. I was in this mind set for a while, but it wasn’t until I realized that I could not give up on myself and settle for this empty feeling that my life started getting back on track. This triggered an uphill battle to try and climb my way out of the dark. 

Aneesh Karuppur: “Straying from the Tune”

We are always told that “small steps will lead you to your goal” and “you won’t even know how much effort it really takes if you do it one step at a time.” But people forget that for this advice to work, you have to actually be looking at your feet and making sure that every step is in the right direction. Otherwise, you simply aren’t going to notice until you’re too far away from your goal to make a correction.

An Announcement From the Community Service Club

An Announcement From the Community Service Club

In the wake of this devastating COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of people have felt a sudden urge to do something, anything, to help the community heal. Even though making a thank-you video or doing a color-a-smile seems pointless next to the tragedies we face, these initiatives make a difference. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” The amount of time it takes to post on Instagram is the same amount of time it takes to fill out the form that sends notes of appreciation to the healthcare professionals at Morristown Memorial. Though we cannot provide a cure, there is no end to the ways we can support the people in our community. Pingry’s Community Service Council has started making Morning Meeting announcements that present volunteer opportunities from sharing your appreciation to making sleeping mats out of plastic bags. We urge you to at least look at the slides, if nothing else, to learn about what is available. It is easy to feel helpless in this socially distanced time, but we can assure you that even one thank you video will bring a smile to a doctor who has worked around the clock, or calling your grandparents every so often could truly brighten up their day. When we get out of this quarantine, I think it would be amazing if every student could come back to Pingry knowing they brought a smile to just one person’s face.