The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Fall 2016

Building a Community of Care

Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
This year’s school-wide focus on making a positive difference has illuminated the many ways our students and faculty serve one another on a daily basis.
The charge to make a positive difference has always been at the heart of Fay’s service learning program as students in all three divisions participate in service opportunities throughout the year. However, this year’s school-wide focus on making a positive difference has also illuminated the many ways our students and faculty serve one another on a daily basis, making a positive difference within our own school community. Whether it’s a seventh grader giving up a study hall to help with a Kindergarten P.E. class, eighth graders volunteering to revive the campus recycling program, a Lower Schooler sticking up for a classmate at recess, or a second grader holding the door open for a teacher without being asked—kindness, helpfulness, and inclusivity have always been central to the Fay spirit.
While we celebrate all the ways that members of our community are already working daily to make a positive difference in campus life, this year’s theme is also a call to do more, to seek out opportunities, to do something great. “That’s what we mean when we talk about making a positive difference,” says Head of Primary School Teri Lawrence, “to do something great for someone, be a role model, be a hero.”
One of the most visible manifestations of this initiative has been the conscious increase in cross-divisional learning within the academic program. This fall, Upper Schoolers in our English Language Program (ELP) worked with Kindergarteners to write stories; the Antler Club, Fay’s student philanthropic club, read stories with grade two students; and seventh graders shared lessons about environmental stewardship with second graders during their service week. “It’s about learning and creating a community together,” says Director of the Educational Program Julie Porrazzo, “and doing something, whether alone or in a group, to make everything more positive.”
Modeling Kindness
Early in the fall, French teacher Danny Chin did a presentation in Lower School Morning Meeting on what it means to be an unsung hero, treating others the way you would like to be treated without any expectation of acknowl-edgment. That concept grew into the “Kindness Board,” a bulletin board outside Danny and Kara Mertz’s classrooms where students can put up sticky notes anonymously acknowledging random acts of kindness.
Unlike the official commendation board down the hall where faculty members call out exemplary student conduct, the kindness board is special because, “it’s kids noticing kids,” says Head of lower School Lainie Schuster. “They are recognizing the good without any expectation of credit, just because it’s the right thing to do.” Some of the stickies acknowledge small moments, like a student holding a door or helping to clean up a lunch table. Other notes recognize moments where it can be harder to do the right thing, like standing up for a friend at recess.
By acknowledging these efforts, large and small, the hope is that it will encourage others to focus on positivity and make kindness a habit. In Kara Mertz’s homevisory, her fifth and sixth grade advisees participate in an exercise where they each bring in an object that is important to them, and the other students make a positive comment about how the item reflects on its owner. “It’s a nice way for kids to practice talking about each other in a positive way,” says Kara. These are lessons that Lower Schoolers will carry forward into Upper School. “Character matters here, and what we do in Lower School is foundational,” says Danny. “As these students grow into Upper School and are joined by an influx of new students, they will be tasked with conveying that culture.”
Everyone Has Something To Give
Across campus, the Primary School has a robust volunteer program, where Upper Schoolers volunteer one or more of their study hall periods per rotation to help out in art, music, language, and P.E. In Heidi Qua’s P.E. class, Upper School volunteers help set up equipment, tie shoes, play games with the students, and take them on water breaks. Heidi makes it a point to tell her P.E. students when their Upper School helper has an athletic game so that they can wish them luck. “It’s great to bridge that gap between the Upper School and Primary students,” she says, noting that it’s a relationship where both sides benefit equally. Says P.E. Helper Emma Reynolds ’19, “volunteering in the Primary School helps me understand the lives of the younger members of our community and helps me to connect with them. It makes my day a little brighter.”
Tech-savvy students had the opportunity to volunteer for Director of Technology Joe Adu’s Tech Helper team this fall. A new program this year, the Tech Helpers came to be during orientation as a way to augment staffing in the Tech Tent, where students resolve hardware and network issues. Ten students volunteered to help fellow students with their technology issues, logging a whopping 80 technology requests in just the first few days of school. Much of the assistance they provided was particularly valuable because it was student-to-student. “Who knows the website and online academic tools better than a fellow student?” says Joe. The program was so successful that Joe decided to deploy the Tech Helpers for other projects, such as setting up new iMacs in the Reinke music lab and Chromebook carts for Lower School students. “These are small things, but I know that I am helping the students and faculty here on campus,” says Tech Helper Jeremy Lu ’17.
With so many volunteer opportunities seeding campus life, eventually it produces organic results. Noticing that nobody had taken responsibility for recycling this year, Nisha Pedda ’18 and Julia Laquerre ’18 came to Julie Porrazzo and asked if they could organize the program. Nisha and Julia made an educational video about the recycling program and showed it at Upper School morning meeting. When they sent out a form offering students the chance to sign up, they received 35 volunteers!
Similarly, Kevin Zhou ’17 and Scout Zhou ’17 noticed that detritus left from Upper School morning snack was littering the usually pristine halls. Kevin and Scout formed a snack helpers group, and every morning after snack they take a pass through the halls with dustpans and brushes, restoring the community space to cleanliness. “I think the students are energized by all these opportunities,” says Service learning Coordinator Emily McCauley. “They see that if there’s something they’re passionate about they can go out and change the world—and right now, this is their world.”
A Community of Support
Students also make a positive difference in the ways that they support one another on a daily basis. In the dorms and day student population, ninth grade proctors act as leaders and positive role models. A highly sought-after position within the student body, each proctor is selected after a written application and faculty interview. Unlike other leadership opportunities, proctors are special because the selection is based not on grades or athletic skill but on strength of character. In the dorms, the proctors are there to give peer advice and foster relationships. They also assist the dorm parents with tasks like getting student technology turned in at night. It’s also a way for older students to give back to the community and pay forward the support that they received. “I remember being new in the seventh grade and feeling hesitant to interact with others,” says dorm proctor Rama Moy ’17. “My proctors were the ones who encouraged me to become part of the community. I love that I'm now able to do the same for other students.”
Students also support one another through Community Connections, a student-led, faculty- advised workshop group whose goal is to encourage awareness and respect for people’s differences and similarities within the community. The group meets regularly to discuss issues related to student identity, communication, diversity, and inclusion. Topics in recent years have included bullying, cybersafety, and issues surrounding race and ethnicity; in their first workshop this year, the Community Connections group discussed family composition and identity.
The support that students provide each other is visible in class, at lunch, in the dorm, and on the playing fields, but also at special events where the community comes together to celebrate one another. Once a semester, Upper School students have the opportunity to participate in an Open Mic night. Students perform music acts, comedy routines, and magic shows, and regardless of their abilities, they are met with genuine support and appreciation. “It’s a special time for our community,” says Dean of Residential life Courtney Sargent. “To see these kids put themselves out there—and to see the positive community response—is just unbelievable.”
This year, the theme of Making a Positive Difference is prompting ongoing conversations about what makes Fay unique and how we can continue to build on our strengths as a community. As our students move on, they leave their mark at Fay, and they carry what they have learned here forward. “When they go off to secondary school, you hear how invested and committed Fay graduates are to their school communities,” says Head of Upper School Matt Heard. “It’s clear that they grew up in a community of care and support.”
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