Looking Ahead to 2021-22
It was recently announced that Head of School Tori Jueds will step down at the close of the 2020-2021 school year. Tori will be moving on to serve as the Director of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a nursery through grade 12 day school. We wish her well as she moves on to her next adventure! In the event that you have not seen the announcement about her departure, please see excerpts of the email to all constituents from Martha B. Bryans ’68, Clerk of the Board of Trustees, and Tori Jueds below, and you may read the entirety of this communication here.
Martha B. Bryans writes:
As the Clerk of the Board of Trustees, I write to announce that Tori Jueds will step down as Head of School at the close of the 2020-21 school year. Tori has accepted the opportunity to lead the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a Nursery through Grade 12 day school founded by progressive educator John Dewey. I would like to convey our deep gratitude for Tori’s passion for Westtown’s mission, strategic thinking, and deep commitment to respect, equity, and inclusion. We wish her the very best in this exciting new endeavor.
Tori Jueds writes:
Since 2017, it has been my honor and joy to serve as Westtown’s Head of School. It is bittersweet to share the news that on June 30, 2021, I will lay down my work at our wonderful school to prepare for a new career adventure… It has been an extraordinary privilege and pleasure to serve as Head of School. From the bottom of my heart, friends, thank you for the kindness and support you have given me in this role. I am proud and glad to be a Westonian.
The Board of Trustees has begun the discernment process for the timetable and search for the next Head of School, and they have invited Associate Head of School Chris Benbow ’90 to serve as Interim Head of School beginning on July 1, 2021. Chris has had a long relationship with Westtown and has served in myriad leadership roles including Upper School Principal and Dean of Students, in addition to his teaching and leadership experience at other institutions. We are fortunate that Chris, with his deep understanding of our culture, Quaker values, and mission, has agreed to serve in this capacity. “I’m sincerely grateful to be able to serve Westtown as Interim Head as we seek and transition to our community’s next long-term Head of School. I’ve been a part of the Westtown community—and this community has been a part of me—since I enrolled as a sixth grader in 1983,” reflects Chris. “I care deeply about this community, believe strongly in its aspirations, and am committed to doing my part to help us come as close as we possibly can to realizing our individual and collective potential together.”
Update from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion
By Marissa Colston, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion
As spring begins to unfold, ABAR community work across the divisions also continues to unfurl and deepen.
In the Lower School, optional affinity groups are going well for 4th and 5th grade students. The white awareness and accountability group and the BIPOC affinity group meet monthly. Student participants are excited to be connecting with one another and talking about their unique identities and how this impacts their experiences. In the white awareness and accountability group, students have learned more about systemic racism and important moments in history that were designed to create inequality. In the BIPOC affinity group, students celebrated and honored their heroes and heroines through a fun trivia game and sharing their favorites as well. In Lower School classrooms, students continue to engage in conversations and learning about stereotypes, bias, race, and gender identity. Learning about these topics is important so students can better understand the world they live in and also be able to engage across varying cultural and identity-based experiences. Fifth grade students created short videos talking about their own unique identities and why this is important to them.
In the Middle School, students are building their foundation in understanding how race and other intersections of identity inform their experiences and their peers. Many students in the Middle School also had the opportunity to attend virtual diversity conferences. After attending the conferences, they shared their learning with their peers and are leaders in equity and social justice conversations and actions.
In the Upper School, student leaders have engaged the student body in a few town hall meetings to discuss important current events and topics related to equity and justice. Students have used that opportunity to share their experiences, concerns, and also to call into action their peers to be more involved as accomplices in ABAR community work. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., students engaged in programming where they learned about aspects of Dr.King’s work. They considered the quote by King, “A riot is the language of the unheard,“ and “In the end we will remember not the words of our friends but the silence of our enemies.” They used these quotes to lead a discussion on the impact of their silence as well as their words and actions.
Families for Multicultural Community (FMC) has hosted events engaging families across the school as well. In the last few months there have been game nights, a Black History Month trivia afternoon, a “Divine 9” event to learn more about Black fraternities and sororities, and conversations to talk more about how ABAR community work intersects with Westtown’s mission. FMC is a BIPOC parent/guardian led affinity group that hosts community-wide events for all families.
Among faculty and staff, the BIPOC affinity group meets regularly and white faculty and staff have been gathering for a monthly discussion group and workshop centered around the New York Times 1619 Project podcast.
These are just some of the highlights of how Westtown students and adults continue to be engaged in ABAR community work and learning. We encourage you to visit the ABAR pages on our website to learn more and to subscribe to the ABAR blog to receive updates when new material is posted.
Untitled Speaker Series
Senior Toby Zuckerberg has a lot of energy, is an eager learner, and was hungry for “education outside the classroom.” He believed other students were, too. So he set about creating additional opportunities to learn about things not covered in the classroom. Zuckerberg says he was inspired by The Society of Skeptics, the popular speaker series at Blair Academy, and contacted the teacher at Blair who created their series back in the 90s. Out of this conversation, his idea to start a speaker series here at Westtown took shape. “We have the Shoemakers — and they’re great — but that’s four speakers a year at most,” he says. He felt certain that students would be interested in more frequent guest speakers, and that there were interesting things for students to learn from alums. “Everybody has a cool story to tell,” says Zuckerberg, “and I wanted to have a series where students could learn from other, older people who have lived in the same place we do, who’ve been where we are.” He was also sure that alums could impart lessons about their own career paths.
Armed with a list of alums who’d previously indicated interest in being involved with current students, unbounded enthusiasm, and encouragement and tips from from Domi Waldron, the new Director of Alumni/ae/x Engagement, he began to reach out to alums to gauge their interest in speaking to current students. Waldron suggested that Zuckerberg use LinkedIn as a vehicle for contact so that he could learn how to use its networking power. Zuckerberg says he’d never heard of LinkedIn before Waldron suggested it, but took her advice and began messaging alums and inviting them to speak. One by one the replies began to come in, and the Untitled Speaker Series was born.
Although this series was not created as a result of the pandemic — Zuckerberg has been thinking about this idea for some time and had tried to get the series off the ground in his junior year — it turned out to be an advantage to not have to secure a location and for speakers not to be required to travel. The whole process became easier when speakers could be engaged over Zoom, and recordings could be made available to the school community afterwards.
The series launched with Shayne Mackey ’91, in an interview entitled “Designing Woman: a discussion on entrepreneurship, design, and brand cultivation.” So far, the weekly series that meets on Wednesday evenings has featured ‘’David Borton ’61 in “A Sustainable Life: A discussion of one man’s journey with renewable energy;” Matt Briselli ’10 in “Engineering Your Future – Finding what you want to do in a busy world;” the Band Joy Again, featuring Arthur Shea ’15, in “The Next Melody: A discussion of creativity and artistic success;” and, Carmen Niethammer ’89 in “Redefining the Boundaries: A discussion on gender inclusion and the global economy,” whose interview you can watch, below. The series will resume after spring break and continue through the end of the school year.
Attendance has been robust with 40-60 people at each event, and both Zuckerberg and Waldron have been excited by the turnout of students, faculty, and staff. Although attendance is not required (which makes those student numbers all the more impressive), some teachers have been giving extra credit to students for attending when the topic is related to their courses. For example, when David Borton spoke, students in the Environmental Science course who attended were given extra credit.
As Zuckerberg continues to line up speakers for the series, he is also working on enlisting a junior or sophomore to take over after he graduates, and says there are several students interested in keeping the series alive.
Waldron has been thrilled to see the success of the series and is impressed with Zuckerberg’s energy. She hopes that the series showcases for both students and alums how collaborative partnerships can emerge between them. She says, “This is a way the Alum Office can be of help to students. We’re not just here for alums, we’re also here to serve students and connect them with alums as they are thinking about college, or next steps, or internship options. We encourage them to be in touch with us!” She also emphasizes the power of Westtown’s alum network and using social tools to connect with them and for them to connect with each other.
When asked what the most interesting or important thing he’s learned through this process, Zuckerberg says it is, “how interesting people are! Regardless of what they do for a living, all these people know so much and have taken interesting, sometimes unexpected paths.” And, he adds, “The more you listen, the more you can learn about the world, too.”
Farm + Forest = Fun
With more than 600 acres on which to explore, observe, and learn, Westtown’s campus is the perfect setting for a nature-centered curriculum for young Westonians. The Farm + Forest Program is an outdoor, place-based science program at Westtown for students in pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade. Envisioned and created by Chris Henwood-Costa, Director of Outdoor Education, and Tim Mountz, Sustainable Agriculture Teacher, the program is designed to help students develop a connection to, and relationship with, the natural world. Henwood-Costa explains, “This [connection and relationship] is accomplished through hands-on experiential education and the development of careful observation skills and increased sensory awareness. Our young naturalists are invited to explore, discover, question, and to go off the trail and into the creeks! Through these direct experiences of nature, students cultivate curiosity, connection, and a desire to know more. The combination of direct experience, strong observational skills, genuine curiosity, and problem-solving serve as the foundation for future scientific discovery.”
This program continues throughout the year — rain or snow or shine! — and a variety of topics are covered each season. Some examples: The fall season includes lessons on tree identification, tree life cycles, and their habitat; the study of moss, lichen, and fungus; deer tracking; Three Sisters planting; and composting, to name just a few. In the winter, students learn about animal survival tactics in winter; maple sugaring; winter gardening in the high house and tunnel; and animal track identification. When spring arrives, the lessons shift to studying the life cycles of frogs, insects, and dandelions; pollinators; planting, harvesting, and tasting a spring garden; and water cycles, vernal pools, and water critters, among other topics.
“One of our main goals is to spend as much time as we can out exploring,” says Henwood-Costa. “Our curriculum is both inquiry based, with investigations that arise from what is most compelling out on the trail, and also directed, with investigations that follow the arc of the seasonal rhythms. Experiential learning is so important. We encourage students to actively engage with the environment by picking up leaves, walking in the creek, and digging in the dirt. It is through this direct contact that students learn that nature is not ‘out there’ but rather, a community that we are all a part of.”
The Farm + Forest program was featured in the latest issue of Chester County Life, and you can read more about this wonderful program here (article begins on page 30). And you can enjoy some photos of our little naturalists, below!
Model United Nations
Like many traditional student activities this year, the Model United Nations (MUN) Conferences have been virtual. Model UN helps students develop research, problem-solving, writing, speaking, negotiation, and conflict-resolution skills, all of which can be practiced even in an online setting. In February, the MUN Club students ― Dotun Adedokun ’22, Alexa Bird ’24, Patrick O’Rourke ’23, Abdullah Sabir ’24, Ben Shaman ’22, and Donny Webster ’23— attended the virtual Princeton Model United Nations Conference. Leading up to the conference, the students devoted themselves to preparation and practice for the conference, giving up good portions of their weekends. Model UN advisor Dan Burger-Lenehan says, “In preparation for the Princeton conference, they even organized a mock conference over Zoom on a Saturday, in which 11 club members, each representing a different country, discussed and debated the situation in Hong Kong. It was an amazing thing to see!”
At the conference itself, the Westtown delegates did well, and Ben Shaman and Alexa Bird won Verbal Commendations for excellent speeches on SPECPOL! Shaman, who is one of the MUN club heads, shared his reflections on participating virtually this year. “While Zoom is more difficult for most things, it was much easier to organize all our materials online. My partner and I were able to speak a lot due to the smaller committee size, and our speeches definitely had an impact on the course of debate. I was very proud that the two of us won an award. The main downside of the virtual conference experience is that you don’t get to meet as many people or spend time with them outside of committee sessions. Even though this is the case, we still got to know a few delegations from other schools pretty well by connecting independently over Zoom (and texting).”
Burger-Lenehan, who is new to advising the MUN Club, says, “I quickly saw how passionate the members of the club were about it and how much energy, creativity, and (often) wit they brought to their speeches in our mock sessions and the conferences themselves. This year, we’ve had to change how we approach Model UN. All of our meetings have been on Zoom, and the conferences that we’ve attended (one organized by Moorestown Friends in the fall and the Princeton conference in February) were entirely virtual. Despite these changes and the challenges of doing Model UN remotely, I’ve been so impressed with how the students have adapted and embraced the virtual format.”
Shaman, a junior, originally got involved with MUN as a freshman. “All I knew about it was that there was debate on international issues. While this certainly lies at the core of the MUN experience, I really became passionate about the club after my first conference, when I realized that MUN is also about cooperation, social navigation, and problem solving at a macro level. At our most recent conference, my partner and I got to represent France, debating the Palestinian refugee crisis in the Israel/Palestine region. I was extremely interested to hear all of the other country positions, especially Bahrain and the UAE, Arab Nations which recently normalized ties with Israel. I think the conference went exceptionally well.”
Our congratulations to all the dedicated, hard-working Model UN delegates from Westtown, and kudos to Ben Shaman and Alexa Bird for their special awards!
We are thrilled to share that four students in the Upper School Instrumental Program were selected by the PA Music Educators Association (PMEA) for the highly competitive District 12 Honors Ensembles. The honorees are: Jake Richards ’22 (clarinet, Concert Band/Orchestra); Melanie Flynn ’23 (trombone, Concert Band); Milo Salvucci ’23 (percussion, Concert Band/Orchestra), and Zoe Malavolta ’23 (violin, Orchestra). Additionally, Jake Richards and Milo Salvucci advanced to the All State Wind Ensemble, which is the top tier group for wind/brass/percussionists. Please join us in congratulating these talented musicians!
On a Cellular Level
Teacher Bill Monahan’s sixth-grade science students created plant or animal cell models and keys as part of their life science unit. The models detailed how organelles work together to create proteins, divide, and perform functions that contribute to living organisms. Seventh and eighth graders, many of whom completed this project when they were in sixth grade, voted on the cells in a number of categories including most accurate cell, most effective key, most colorful cell, and most creative cell. Here are just a few samples of students’ cell models!
MathWorks Modeling Challenge
Recently, two teams of Westtown students participated in the M3 Challenge, a 14-hour math modeling project. The challenge, which students receive at the outset of the 14 hours, was called “Defeating the Digital Divide: Internet Costs, Needs, and Optimal Planning.” Student teams submit a significant paper at the end of the contest window which is read by external judges. One of Westtown’s teams made the first cut in judging! The MathWorks judges shared, “We are pleased to inform you that your team has been chosen to advance to the second round and remains a contender for a team prize of between $1,000 and $22,500. Congratulations! Only 100 of the 535 teams that submitted viable solution papers — about 19% — were selected to advance to the second round of judging.” Please join us in congratulating the all-senior team of David Feng, Sam Hu, Kevin Huynh, Yolande Yan, and Emily Zhang (see below!) and Teacher Nate Venditta. It will be a few weeks until we know whether this group is going any further in the competition, but making the first cut in this highly competitive challenge is very exciting! Join us in congratulating this team!
Meals on Wheels: Partnership in Pandemic
Congratulations are in order for our Work Program students, kitchen staff, and Work Program Coordinator Mitch Bernstein! They have continued to prepare and package meals for Meals on Wheels throughout the pandemic. In 2020, they provided 4,916 meals! The Westtown team was recognized by Meals on Wheels recently for its contributions to our local community. Thank you, Mitch and team!
National Merit Scholarship Finalists
Congratulations to our National Merit Scholarship Finalists: (clockwise from left): Allen Gift, Kavi Gandhi, Max Penders, Lindsay Turner, and Charles Shen.
The Year of the Ox!
The International Student Organization (ISO) wasn’t going to let a pandemic get in the way of our community celebration of the Lunar New Year. As Cindy Zhang, one of the ISO student leaders writes, “Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays for many Asian countries and is celebrated by people of Asian heritage all over the world. During this holiday, people spend time with their families and make a festival feast. In previous years, the annual Westtown Lunar New Year celebration has been one of the most-loved Westtown traditions among students, faculty, staff, and parents. Some of the highlights of this festival include colorful new year cultural decorations in the Dining Room, a fantabulous dinner prepared by our Asian students, marvelous student performances and fun games during dinner, and a variety of student-led cultural stations for the community to experience afterward.”
This year, the ISO student leaders Cindy Zhang, Emily Zhang, and Kevin Huynh, along with faculty advisor Bei Zhang, teamed up from around the world to create a different kind of celebration. They solicited videos from students and faculty and made this wonderful community celebration of the Year of the Ox. Please enjoy the video and thank you to the International Student Organization for this creative alternative to our beloved tradition!
Creating art, theater, music, and performances during the pandemic isn’t easy, but our students and teachers keep creative expression flowing nonetheless! From the first live dance concert in a year, to creation of theater over Zoom, to innovative home projects in Painting and Digital Arts courses, student talent shone. Too see more amazing student work, check out the Arts Showcase on our website and follow the Art Department on Instagram @westtownschoolarts.
What do health and theater have in common? In a showcase of original performances, the artists of Westtown’s Advanced Theater course features Healthful Narratives. Under the direction of McLear guest artist Shanaé Burch, who developed the Healthful Narratives framework, students created one-person digital performances about community representation, health equity, helpful collaborations, ethical storytelling, and historical memory. A short talkback with Burch and Theater Director Alex Ates followed. You can watch this showcase here!
The winter season here at Westtown gave us many memorable moments and highlights. Our varsity ESports team continues to compete at a high level while growing our student-gamer community online, and our varsity swim teams competed in their first virtual race. We give special recognition to the seniors on all teams for their tireless dedication and commitment to their sport, team, and the athletic program.
We’d also like to recognize and congratulate our winter sport senior athletes: Alpha Bangura ’21 – Basketball; Lexi Brooks ’21 – Basketball; Kavi Gandhi ’21 – Indoor Track; Stephanie Hanchak ’21 – Indoor Track; NyMire Little ’21 – Basketball; Nzingha Rothmiller ’21 – Basketball; Jalen Warley ’21 – Basketball; and Nelson Zhang ’21 – Indoor Track!
Here are some highlights of what was, all things considered, an incredible winter season for athletics.
- The boys basketball team went 19-5.
- Jalen Warley became the 15th 1000 point scorer in school history. Congratulations, Jalen!
- Girls varsity basketball team went 7-1 on the season.
- Lexi Brooks became the 14th 1000 point scorer in school history. Congratulations, Lexi!
- The boys & girls varsity swim teams held five virtual meets during the season, with a highlight win over Fountain Valley School in Colorado Springs.
- Individual highlights include Max Schuster swimming the fastest 50 free time in the FSL this season! Congratulations to all of our swimmers who made great strides during our first-ever virtual season.
- The boys & girls indoor track and field team had a stellar winter season with strong individual performances by many:
- Steph Hanchak ’21 placed 2nd in the 3000M at the PTFCA Indoor Track Carnival.
- Will Nagy ’22 placed 3rd in the 800M at the PTFCA Indoor Track Carnival.
- Kavi Gandhi ’21 had two top-three finishes in the 3000M at the Track and Field Coaches Association of Greater PA Indoor track meets this season.
Join us for a conversation with television and feature writer Leila Cohan!
Thursday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. EDT
Westtown’s Director of Theater Alex Ates will moderate a discussion with Leila about her extensive career, which includes writer for Netflix’s Bridgerton, BET Plus’ First Wives Club, and co-executive producer on the Emmy-nominated Netlfix comedy Special. There also will be an opportunity for Q&A.
We hope you’ll join us for this exciting opportunity!
Kindly RSVP no later than April 9 to Megan Schlickmann at email@example.com or (610) 399-7858.All registered guests will receive an email with the link prior to the event.
Living Authentically: Finding Your Space in the World by Exploring Your Values
Apr 16-18, 2021 via Zoom
Do you know Friends School teenagers or Young Friends who are hungry to connect with other teens and explore what it means to live authentically?
Westtown’s Quaker Leadership Program and Pendle Hill have teamed up to organize a conference in April for and by teens called Living Authentically: Finding Your Space in the World by Exploring Your Values.
We hope you will spread the word and consider bringing some students! You can learn more about the conference and register here. Questions? Contact Lina Blount, Pendle Hill Education Coordinator or Jonathan Ogle, religion teacher at Westtown School.
Parent Speaker Series
In case you missed it, the latest episode of our Parent Speaker Series was entitled, “Supporting our Children’s Mental Health and Well-being in 2021.” Moderated by Upper School Counseling Psychologist Maria Alonso, this session featured Dr. Janet Sasson Edgette and Dr. Albert Freedman who discussed how to support children’s overall well-being and answer parents’ questions.
Making a Difference: Financial Aid
An independent school education is a significant investment. Westtown is deeply committed to making our program financially feasible for families and to attracting talented, well-qualified students, regardless of their families’ economic circumstances.
Financial Aid “makes the impossible possible for so many students,” says Associate Director of Admissions, Carrie Brodsky. “Without the generous support of our donors, some of our most impressive young people would not be able to call themselves Westonians.”
Last year, Westtown provided nearly $10.5 million in merit and need-based financial aid. As robust as our financial aid program is, it does not meet all of the needs of our students. The Kaesemeyer Full Access Fund provides grants to students in all three divisions for whom 85% or more of tuition is met through financial aid. The Fund provides these students with school and athletic supplies, tutoring, field trips, workshops, conferences, and music lessons, just to name a few.
The need for financial aid continues to grow. At this time when so many people are struggling, it is critical that we support the elevated needs of our families. Full Access co-founder and administrator Jay Farrow ’75 says, “When we intentionally create equal paths for our students, we gain the opportunity for many of our kids to feel a sense of inclusion and know that they belong. The Full Access Program unlocks a door for students, empowering them to dream big like every other kid on campus.”
One Upper School family puts it this way: “Our children are aware of their aid and strive to be good stewards. Financial assistance has given them an independence and responsibility to themselves and to others that has been a joy to observe and will undoubtedly shape their very bright futures. Our family is very grateful for the generous donors that have made our years at Westtown a reality.”
From all of us at Westtown – THANK YOU for your generous gifts supporting financial aid that assist our current and future Westtown students and foster a community that is reflective of the world around us.
Join your Westtown classmates virtually on Thursday, May 13 – Sunday, May 16 for perhaps your most unique reunion
Though our gathering will be remote, we are excited to share memories, celebrate, and see familiar faces on our screens. Our exciting events include a virtual open-mic night, Meeting for Worship, social meetups, and opportunities to connect with your classmates during class reunions.
We will kick off the weekend with the Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 13 at 7:00 p.m. EDT., hosted by the Westtown Alumni Association Board.
Class reunion celebrations will take place on Saturday, May 15 at 4:00 p.m. EST.
Plans for class reunions are underway. Our reunion volunteers are valued partners in our efforts to build a meaningful experience for you and your classmates, and we look forward to working with our volunteers in the months ahead. If you would like to help with planning, contact Domi Waldron, Director of Alumni/ae/x Engagement. For more information about the Advancement Office, ways to get involved, or upcoming alum events, visit our website.