Haverford’s commitment to keeping the student body on campus for in-person learning throughout the pandemic has provided us with the best possible school experience over the past two years. We barely missed a beat transitioning in and out of virtual learning when it was necessary, and at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, our teachers were on campus, working to adjust their courses to fit the new educational landscape.
Despite the invaluable experience Haverford has given us, we’ve missed out on one experience that is not part of a normal school day but that can be the highlight of a day, week, month, or even year: outside speakers and lecturers.
Although the absence of speakers may have gone unnoticed by many in the past year, their return in April 2022 took the Upper School by storm. Our first in-person speaker, Reverend Bill Golderer of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia, shared his stories, thoughts, and advice at the Cox Leadership Symposium. Just four days later, the Service Board brought in speakers from The Steven Cohen Clinic to discuss veterans’ mental health. This emotional topic, prefaced by personal connections from Sixth Former Colin Stewart, and combined with the horrifying war stories of the two speakers compelled the upper school student body to give a standing ovation.
These first two lectures, both of which shared lessons and stories, tasked us with taking action for the good of the world and our futures. For the first time in the school year, we had been given a mission by people outside of our community and an opportunity to better ourselves and the world we inhabit. This is the true beauty of hearing from speakers — they bring us a perspective from the world outside of our school bubble of classes, tests, projects, and essays. They draw us in, make us think from the mindset of someone in a field we may pursue and inspire us to champion an issue that we connect with. They help us understand the world around us and start asking questions as simple yet impactful as, “So, how can I help?”
After the first two speakers, the departmental speaker series picked up with the Gwinn Science Lecture on April 14 from squid biologist Dr. Sarah McAnulty. Her engaging and informative lecture began a sequence of other departmental speaker series including Yale Professor Timothy Snyder, author and former Haverford English teacher Elias Rodriques, and Haverford alum and architect Mr. Eric Fischer.
Each speaker that Haverford brought for us shared one thing in common: they all asked us to look ahead, whether in career considerations or calling upon us to make a change in the world.
Once again, these speakers made us question our role in society. Professor Snyder’s lecture about the Russian-Ukrainian War was followed by an extensive question-and-answer session, in which, much like the speakers from the Cohen Clinic, he was asked, “How can we, as high school students, make a difference?” Dr. Rodriques’ stories of the free lunch line and food insecurity in his childhood, all from a man who could easily have been our teacher, connected each of us to the struggles of a life devoid of the privileges that we enjoy. Mr. Fischer’s description of his work and lifestyle brought a fresh perspective into the thought processes of the upper school student body, many of whom have begun to ponder future careers.
Each speaker that Haverford brought for us shared one thing in common: they all asked us to look ahead, whether in career considerations or calling upon us to make a change in the world. Haverford’s reintroduction of in-person speakers has had a great impact on the student body, bringing us fresh perspectives, inspiring challenging thoughts, and compelling us to consider ourselves, our futures, and the world in new ways.
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