TURN TO THE LIGHT
“This winter, during the darkest days of the year, our wish for all Westonians is encapsulated in our motto, “Turn to the Light.” Let us first of all be heartened by glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel we have been traveling through the pandemic. More importantly, we hope that the Light in each of us shines brightly, and that near or far, we may all find ways to reflect that Light back to each other, sharing in the radiance of this loving and caring community. In that spirit, please enjoy the uplifting message shared by our Upper School Student Body Presidents in this Westtown holiday video. We wish you all a safe and joyful holiday season, and a peaceful, healthy new year!”
~Tori Jueds, Head of School
DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI/AE/X ENGAGEMENT APPOINTED
We are thrilled to announce that Dominique “Domi” Waldron has been named Westtown’s new Director of Alumni/ae/x Engagement!
Domi has more than 10 years of experience in education, including in student affairs, alumni engagement, communications, diversity and inclusion education, major gift fundraising, and more. Most recently, Domi was the Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement at the University of Delaware. She began her career at her high school alma mater, the Purnell School, where she worked in alumnae engagement, communications, and residential life. After Purnell, Domi continued her career in student affairs at Vassar College and then at Bard College. She is currently a reunion and admissions volunteer at Smith College, where she earned her undergraduate degree in economics. Domi also holds an MS in Higher Education Administration from Drexel.
Domi’s vision and enthusiasm for alumni/ae/x engagement is thoughtful, strategic, entrepreneurial, and compelling, and will help move our program forward. Domi shares, “As a boarding school alumna, I chose Westtown because I want to be a part of an immersive, thriving community. I look forward to the opportunity to eventually attend Westtown events with all of you. For now, I will experience all of what Westtown has to offer virtually, learn more about Quakerism, and what it means to be a part of this community. I am very excited to begin my journey at Westtown as Director of Alumni/ae/x Engagement and welcome the change and growth it will bring!”
Please join us in extending Domi a warm Westtown welcome! You may reach Domi by email or by phone at 610-399-7913.
THE WESTONIAN AND ANNUAL REPORT
We hope you have received your copy of the last Westonian, the Summer/Fall issue. If you have not seen it yet, you can also read it here. Because of the constraints the pandemic has imposed upon us, we will not publish a Winter Westonian this year. The next issue will be published in the summer of 2021. In the meantime, stay tuned to these seasonal eCollections in which we will continue to share news and glimpses of school life as we make our way through these challenging circumstances.
In years past, we have included the Annual Report in our Winter Westonian. This year the Annual Report will be published as a stand-alone piece. In alignment with our sustainability mission, we will produce and email digital copies. We will print a small run of hard copies. We look forward to thanking our thousands of generous donors who made gifts during our last fiscal year in the FY ’20 Annual Report! Look for the Annual Report in March 2021.
CONGRATULATIONS, OUTSTANDING VISUAL ARTS COMMUNITY!
Our Visual and Performing Arts Department has received an Outstanding Visual Arts Community endorsement from the Pennsylvania Art Education Association! This endorsement is given to schools that demonstrated the importance of their visual arts programs during the 2019-2020 school year. Westtown School is one of only 26 schools selected across Pennsylvania to receive the 2020 OVAC endorsement. The PAEA notes that the criteria for this recognition were:
- Rigorous and inclusive programs that demonstrated rigor using standards-based curriculum taught at every level by highly qualified and certified art educators;
- Highly accessible programs that were offered to all students at every level of education with a sustainable budget for the visual arts; and
- Highly visible programs that identified their programmatic accomplishments, curriculum for all levels, art staff, mission statements, and arts events using their school websites and social media.
Chris Wills, Co-Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department and Artist in Residence Coordinator, shares, “The department is especially excited about this designation because it recognizes the work we have been doing over the years to update the program to reflect the school in this particular moment. Our program across all divisions is incredibly student-centered. We empower our students to think and work like artists. Choice-making and risk-taking are at the center of our approach and allow our students to explore their interests, identities, and passions in authentic and meaningful ways.
“Even in the midst of the pandemic, our visual arts teachers have sought to rethink our pedagogical approach to ensure that those skills are at the heart of our classes. We’ve used this as an opportunity to gauge the strengths of our program and identify new scaffolds and supports to allow our students to engage in the creative process. We’ve been able to slow down our practice, and really emphasize experimentation, research, and iteration that are essential to the development of strong final pieces and works. For example, in Upper School ceramics courses, Joyce Nagata switched the materials of the class from clay to paper. We knew that having students work with clay in Westtown Distance Learning would be a challenge and produce unsuccessful results. In response, Joyce decided to keep the focus of the class on material investigation and the form and function of vessels. Over the past few months, students have been working with all types of paper, builder’s paper, toilet paper, newspaper, papier mache, and more, to create vessels that respond to this moment and speak to student’s lived experiences. The forms and work that students have designed represent the core of our 3D program despite a change in the materials. In Westtown’s visual art program, students come to understand that materials and processes are interchangeable and that artists must adapt to circumstances in order to make choices that best reflect their ideas and intent.” Thanks and congratulations to our arts teachers who continue to offer vibrant, engaging, and meaningful programming to our students!
NO SMALL ACT
Middle School students Jamila ’27 and Sofia ’25 Burgos are active in their Quaker Meeting, Providence Monthly Meeting, which has been part of the immigrants’ rights movement in Pennsylvania. After learning about detention centers and the treatment of undocumented immigrants, Jamila and Sofia wanted to take action. They teamed up with fellow Middle School students William Bradley ’25 and Auden Vosburgh ’25, members of West Chester Monthly Meeting, and presented to the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting about their desire to organize a march to protest detention centers and to advocate for undocumented immigrants’ rights.
Participating in the march were members of Providence Monthly Meeting and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in support of MILPA (Movement of Immigrant Leaders in Pennsylvania), an organization that, among other initiatives, is working to help pass House Bill 2835 that allows undocumented workers to obtain driver’s licences.
In late October, a group comprising MILPA members, AFSC representatives, members of Providence Meeting, and some Westtown students and families gathered on the steps of the Delaware County Courthouse. Students carried posters made by Westtown’s student MOOSE group (Many Optimistic Open-minded Supporters of Equity), and Jamila and Sofia took to the microphone to speak to the crowd about the needs of immigrants and conditions in the detention centers. Speaking in both Spanish and English, the sisters were in powerful company, sharing the microphone with MILPA and AFSC leaders as well as political leaders such as State Senator Tim Kearney, U.S. Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, and Delaware County Council President Brian Zidek also spoke. From the courthouse, the crowd marched to the Providence Monthly Meeting in Media.
When asked why they are passionate about immigrants’ rights, Jamila says, “I’m interested in immigrant rights because I am part of a family of immigrants.” Sofia adds, “You hear stories about people separated from their families and getting put in conditions that we wouldn’t live in ourselves and that makes me really angry. This is my way of doing something.” Reflecting on the experience, each sister agrees that although they were nervous to speak in front of a crowd, it was rewarding to take action. “I felt like we’d been moving slowly because we kept saying we were going to march and it would get pushed,” says Sofia. “It felt good to finally do it.” Jamila says that, “it was a great feeling to be standing there after working toward this for so long.”
One of the most important aspects for both girls was seeing immigrant families and children at the march, which cemented their feelings that they were doing the right thing. “I was speaking to someone from the MILPA community at the march and they were so happy that this group of kids was trying to do something, to stand up for them, says Sofia. “I learned that even if you’re doing something very small, it’s still going to make an impact on someone. Whether it actually changes policy or not, they were happy that we were there.” Jamila adds that she was happy to learn that people do fight for causes that are important to them and agrees, “even small actions can make a difference.”
Spanish teacher and Middle School Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Alejandra Navarro-Benbow, who was present at the march, pushes back against the notion that the students’ actions were small. “What they pulled off is significant! They were speaking alongside local and government officials, and their voices carried weight. If anything, as young activists their voices stood out more than the politicians’. What they worked hard to do was not small at all!” Jamila and Sofia say that they will continue to advocate for immigrants’ rights and will do more to bring the issues to light among their classmates.
CAN’T STOP THE MASK MAKING!
Mask making has a long tradition in Lower School, and usually students’ creations are celebrated at the Halloween Parade in the gym with our families as well as faculty and staff from other divisions (who also look forward to this annual fun) in the audience. This year, we were unable to gather together as usual, but we were still able to parade and celebrate virtually. Students on campus created their masks in their cohorted classrooms while wearing protective masks; remote students followed their art teachers’ video instructions to create their own from home. Sarah Sullivan, Director of Theater Design and Production and Theater Manager, visited Teacher Jeanne Watson-Smith and grades 2-5 over the course of four weeks to capture their process and products on video, while Teacher Jeff Waring captured the Primary Wing’s creativity. Sullivan edited all footage into seven grade-specific short videos and one extended Lower School compilation, which we share here. Many thanks to our art teachers, to the parents who support their children creating at home, and to Teacher Sarah for her editing skills. Enjoy the creativity of our smallest Westonians!
NEW STUDENT ORIENTATION
While it may have been the oddest opening of the school year ever, our students were still able to create a series of activities and events to offer a warm welcome for new students during New Student Orientation. The Student Body Presidents — seniors Kavi Gandhi, Sam Hu, and Alexis Rogers —along with enthusiastic student leaders and video editor Jhan Setthachayanon ’22 also created videos to introduce leaders and give a tour of the school. They were so warm and welcoming, we thought you’d like to see them, too! View the student leader introduction here, and the campus tour video here. New Student Orientation is just one example of how students maintained connection with one another and continued to foster community. Throughout the fall semester, clubs and affinity groups met, and traditions like Joint Collection, Class Collection, and Meeting for Worship continued via Zoom.
NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP SEMI-FINALISTS
Please join us in congratulating these seniors, all National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists!
Top, from left: Allen Gift, Sam Hu, Kavi Gandhi, Cindy Jiang,
Bottom: Emily Zhang, Max Penders, Charles Shen, Lindsey Turner.
Please also congratulate the National Merit Scholarship Commended students Deion Hammond ’21 and Nelson Zhang ’21!
NAIS STUDENT DIVERSITY LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
Six students participated in the recent NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC), which is part of the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference. Jalynn Brooks-Perkins ’22, Camden Chin ’22, Avery Elliott ’24, Penny Han ’22, Sajel Surati ’21, and Meliah Van-Otoo ’22 represented Westtown at this year’s SDLC. The conference theme was Keeping It Real in Independent Schools: Bringing Our Real Selves. Connecting in Real Time. Making Real Change.
SDLC is one of the most well known diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) conferences for independent school students. There are highly competitive processes for schools to apply to send students and for Westtown students to apply to attend. This year’s Westtown contingent represents current and emerging student leaders in affinity groups, athletics, grade level initiatives, residential life, and other areas of student life. We look forward to them sharing what they learned with the school and with their peers along with their various contributions, including the school’s ongoing ABAR initiatives.
Because this year’s conference was entirely virtual, our students participated from campus as well as from their homes. You can read more about the conference here.
WHEN SPANISH CLASS MEETS SERVICE
The Lower School continued its partnership with La Comunidad Hispana in Kennett Square, Jennersville, and Oxford, Pennsylvania, supporting their annual Warm Wishes Coat Drive. After the coats were collected, the fifth grade spanish classes, led by teacher Renée Burgos ’96, sorted and made an inventory of the donations in Spanish. The coat drive was a success! Spanish teacher Amy Liermann says, “Westtown families have been VERY generous in their donations this year! Last year I had the pleasure of serving at the distribution and helping kids at La Comunidad Hispana pick out coats. The donations make a big impact on families in our county.” Thank you to all the Lower School families who participated!
MIDDLE SCHOOL MAP PROJECT
Westtown’s history and campus are rife with learning opportunities, and Middle School history teacher Angie Cook used them as the basis for her sixth-grade geography unit by creating the Westtown Map Project. Archivist Mary Brooks provided students with a map of campus c. 1795, before it was Westtown School. This map depicts a section of campus that includes what is now the Farmhouse (once known as the “Mansion House”), the Spring House (now faculty housing), and the surrounding fields. On a lovely fall day, Teacher Angie and her students went to the fields behind the Science Center. Students took spots on the hill where they could see the Farmhouse and the Spring House. They were instructed to study the 1795 map, observe their surroundings, then create their own map with those houses as reference points. She asked students to note everything they could see.
Back in the classroom, students worked on drafts of their maps adding details, such as the tents serving as classrooms, trees, athletic fields, and compass roses and keys. They then compared their maps with the 1795 map noting differences, and wrote journal entries to chronicle happenings in their lives in the moment and detail what life is like in 2020. Together they discussed and considered the life and times of the cartographer who created the 1795 map. Although the project wasn’t initially created to be about recording the pandemic, the maps and journal entries of the sixth graders will be kept in the Archives and will serve as records of Westtown during the pandemic of 2020 for future students.
This project is bookended by a larger consideration of maps, map-making, and historical records and context. This geography unit began with students exploring a variety of map projections: Mercator, Mollweide, Peterson, and Robinson. The students analyzed these projections, exploring how each represents a different viewpoint or mindset and a different distortion of the world —and why Euro-centric distortions are more familiar to us than others. The importance of understanding these distortions is in the power it has to bring attention to unfair biases, to the marginalization which results from these biases, and to restore a view of the world that is more equity based and accurate. The next project will build on this map-making project. “We will relate this map project back to the first project by considering the perspective that each student had when they created their individual maps,” says Teacher Angie. “For example, one student might have included the tents in the Lower School and another student might have emphasized the trees more or the soccer fields more. I’ll make this connection as a way of reminding students that every map brings with it a particular bias; that map makers get to decide what is important and worth including, and what is less important. We are going to then talk with [Archivist] Mary Brooks to trace Westtown’s campus back through all of the people who have owned the land—including William Penn—so that we eventually discover and learn more about the Lenape who were here originally. This will help us as we begin our Native American Unit.”
On the left: a student’s campus map; on the right: map from 1795 used in the project.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…TheaterTHING
If you didn’t see this gem on our social media channels, check out the work of students in Teacher Alex Ates’ theater co-curricular. They explored the question of How do you make theater for the Zoom brain? which resulted in TheaterTHING, a 20-minute, wildly original performance that consisted of two acts: “Names. Locations, Moments” and “Experiments to the Moon.”
Co-Curriculars at Westtown School looked a little different this fall given the challenges that Covid-19 has presented. Although we were unable to host interscholastic competitions and the Friends Schools League canceled formal league-wide play, our coaches and student-athletes came together for six weeks of practice and training on campus, which provided a great opportunity to be physically active, connect in person with peers and teammates, and get back on campus to enjoy our beautiful grounds and facilities. For our students who could not participate in person, each co-curricular offered a virtual option as well. It is important to note that all coaches and students who participated in the co-curricular program did a fantastic job of upholding our COVID-19 safety protocols to help keep our community safe while engaging in these wonderful activities.
Some highlights from our fall programs include:
- Soccer, tennis, cross country, and field hockey teams practiced three times per week during the fall season, ensuring that student-athletes and varsity programs continue to build and practice skills even without competition. Each varsity team held a culminating event at the end of the season, providing the opportunity to celebrate our senior student-athletes and their contributions to their teams and school. Thank you, seniors!
- Our co-curricular activities were a beacon of light for our community this fall, offering classes such as Yoga, Strength & Conditioning, Dance, Theater, Scenic Art Design, Farming, and Outdoor Leadership.
- The boys and girls cross country teams competed in a “Virtual Pi K (3.1415 K) Race” against some of our peer schools in the FSL. Even though the competition wasn’t in person, it was great to see our students compete against other schools in a virtual capacity.
- Our Westtown E-Sports Team launched their inaugural season and competed in two interscholastic leagues this fall. Westtown has joined PlayerVs, which is the preeminent high school E-Sports organization and sponsored by the National Federation of State High School Association. Westtown students from around the globe came together online to form our varsity and JV Rocket League and League of Legends Teams! Our League of Legends team is ranked 26th out of 170 teams. Our JV Rocket league is 26th out of 441. Our Varsity Rocket League team is currently ranked 11th out of 441 teams! You can watch live streams of their games by following our Twitch Account.
- We are thrilled to celebrate the following students who signed their NLI and made commitments to their future universities! We look forward to sharing more good news from our seniors as we move through the school year.
- Lexi Brooks – Women’s Basketball – University of Massachusetts
- Emily Ellis – Women’s Crew – Drexel University
- Charlie Herlocher – Men’s Lacrosse – Rhodes College
- Hakim Hicks – Men’s Lacrosse – Johns Hopkins University
- Oneniotekowa Maracle – Men’s Lacrosse – Lafayette
- Lauren Stewart – Women’s Soccer – Lafayette College
- Mike Tayloe – Men’s Lacrosse – Long Island University
- Whitney Tracy – Women’s Soccer – Virginia Military Institute
- Jalen Warley – Men’s Basketball – Florida State University
OUTSTANDING EDUCATOR AWARD
Congratulations to Susan Waterhouse who is a recipient of the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award! Susan, a math teacher, was nominated by former student Tianxin Wang ’20 who wrote, “To my favorite teacher at Westtown: thank you for all you have done! You understood my needs, my feelings, and my worries about life. You turned an easily intimidating subject into a comprehensible and exciting topic. Thank you for always being open to student suggestions, respectful of our opinions, and willing to offer us help. You made the challenging math classes at Westtown enjoyable for me, and I am grateful to have been your student.” James Nondorf, Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago, explains that, “Contributions to the academic and personal development of young people are most deserving of recognition. For over thirty years, the University of Chicago has asked incoming students to recommend their outstanding educators–individuals who challenged them intellectually for the first time, opened new vistas of discovery, or channeled their interests into paths for intellectual growth.” Once again, congratulations to Susan Waterhouse on this wonderful recognition!
CATCH UP ON OUR BLOG!
Our faculty and staff are regular contributors to our Well-Lit Path blog. Consider subscribing to read pieces by our experts!
PARENT SPEAKER SERIES
This fall our Parent Speaker Series featured a three-part video series with our school counselors in which they focused on various aspects social-emotional health of students and families during the pandemic and the holiday season. You can watch the first episode in the series below. Watch episode two here; watch the third episode here. Thank you to members of our Student Support Team — Maria Alonso, Clinical Psychologist, Elizabeth Reilly, School Counselor, and Jessica Morley, School Psychologist — and to Ellen Songle, Director of Outreach Initiatives and moderator of this series.
ALUMNI WEEKEND 2021
You might be wondering about how we are planning to celebrate with Alumni/ae/x this spring. While uncertainties remain that make it difficult to predict exactly how and when we will celebrate in the spring of 2021, we suspect we will need to be virtual, and we will send you more information and dates in January. We know this is not ideal, but we will gather in community one way or another.
Programming will include our Annual Meeting, Meeting for Worship, webinars, lectures, and presentations and opportunities to interact with faculty, staff, and students. Other events will be designed for individual class years, including Zoom-based class get-togethers. Even if we are online, we look forward to bringing you “back” to Westtown School! Stay tuned for more!
Daniel Mays ’02 and his work were recently featured in this “Kitchen Vignettes for PBS” piece, which also features his book The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm. We encourage you to also check out the video that accompanies this piece!
ALUM VISITS HIROSHIMA TO 9/11 CLASS
Current parent and alum Chris Saenger ’97 visited history teacher Dan Burger-Lenehan’s Hiroshima to 9/11 class in November. Saenger is the program director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Colombia. “Since the class is generally about the United States’ role in the world,” says Burger-Lenehan, “I thought it would be a good opportunity for the students to hear from someone who works in the foreign service and has real-world experience in executing U.S. foreign policy.” Here’s a glimpse at Saenger’s presentation to the students.
Would you like to connect with students? Do you have news to share? Would you like to submit a Class Note for The Westonian? Please contact the Alumni/ae/x Engagement Office!