In a ceremony on January 31 at Pinckney Boathouse, 11 Brewster students were inducted into the John Brewster Chapter of the National Honor Society (NHS). They are
Levi Brekke ’22 of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Katie Carey ’22 of Greenfield, N.H.
Reid Demain ’21 of Wolfeboro
Henry Dumont ’22 of Wolfeboro Falls
Lila Glanville ’22 of Newton, Mass.
Libby Harris ’22 of Wolfeboro
Axel Keller ’22 of Barrington, R.I.
Jaila Richard ’22 of Teaneck, N.J.
Reese Richmond ’21 of Greensboro, N.C.
Anders Wang ’22 of Yinchuan, China
Michael Yang ’22 of Beijing, China
The ceremony was livestreamed so that families near and far could watch their students be inducted from the comfort and safety of home. The small group in attendance—new members, the NHS officers, and select faculty—were carefully seated six feet apart.
NHS Faculty Advisor Maria Found said she and her faculty peers have an extra layer of pride in this group of students. “As we all know, the restrictions of the pandemic have affected students across the board, whether they are trying to navigate learning from home or being held to an incredibly high standard of COVID protocols to be able to safely learn in person, as we are doing at Brewster. The tenacity and resilience of these students cannot be overstated,” she said.
At the ceremony, Found thanked the five faculty council members (Bret Barnett, Matt Butcher, Laura Duffy, Jen Dumont, and Rob O’Blenis) for reviewing the applications and selecting members for induction. The council reviewed the applicants through the lens of the students’ exemplary work in the four pillars of the NHS: scholarship, character, leadership, and service.
On that last pillar, Found, who is also Brewster’s Director of Community Service, noted that despite the hurdles of COVID blocking many of Brewster’s normal community service projects out and about in the Wolfeboro area, this year’s NHS group has managed to set up tutoring opportunities to help fellow students.
NHS President Lilly Grace then introduced the event’s student-selected speaker: Bret Barnett. Barnett, who began as a member of the math faculty and is now the Assistant Head of School for Campus Affairs, first acknowledged people who could not be at the event in person—parents, friends, family, mentors—thanking them for “sharing this amazing group of students with us.” He pondered aloud how in writing his speech for the event, he questioned what “pithy advice could I offer students who have already exhibited such immense excellence?” He landed on the concept of masks...the masks we have been wearing physically for our safety and the safety of others, and the metaphorical masks we all wear in our lives. “Being a high school student is hard enough, never mind with the addition of COVID,” he said. “You all have managed to overcome this obstacle. In spite of social distancing and masks, you’ve used your voice and actions to both lead and serve. If you can lead and serve and achieve academic success under these conditions, what you are capable of is boundless.”
Barnett then shared a very personal reflection on the masks he has worn in his life, noting that as a gay man, he still fears acceptance. He described being Catholic and yet rarely “leading with his faith,” saying that at times he hides this part of himself, not wanting to answer questions of how he navigates being a gay person and being a Catholic. He then lifted his hand from the podium, exposing the tremor he deals with, and admitted feeling self conscious about his physical appearance. Finally, he shared that when people compliment him on his speaking ability, he is reminded of difficult years in speech therapy as a child.
Barnett, in this raw account of the masks he has worn in his life, told the students to see this not as a “woe is me” moment, but rather a moment to feel empowered. “We all wear masks,” he continued, some for self protection, some because of fear, shame, and angst. “It’s difficult to be fully you all of the time, and while I admit that I am not fully me all of the time either, I urge you to consider this: You all have achieved excellence wearing masks. Imagine how much more impactful your actions could be, how much louder your voice could be, how much more significant your academic accomplishments could be, if only you allowed yourself to shed your masks.”
Encouraging the students to consider dropping their metaphorical masks and use their voices powerfully in the future, Barnett said, “I cannot wait to see where your maskless journey takes you.”
Each of the four NHS officers for 2020-21—Lilly Grace ’21 (president) of Needham, Mass., Chris Webb ’21 (vice president) of Durham N.H., Hunter Divirgilio ’21 (secretary) of Lynn, Mass., and Mitchell Coope ’21 (treasurer) of Wolfeboro—then read a statement on each of the Society’s four pillars, lighting a candle for each important theme. Next, the new members lined up to receive a candle (symbolic of a torch), pin, certificate, and the gold tassel they will wear at graduation. After reciting the National Honor Society pledge, each new inductee held a gold rose and dedicated it to someone who has made an impact on them and helped them achieve what they have thus far in their lives. Many students thanked parents, siblings, and grandparents for their support and love, specifically sharing their gratitude for the opportunities their families have given them.
Senior Reid Demain dedicated his rose to teacher Michelle Rafalowski. “I am honored to dedicate my golden rose to Mrs. Raf,” the Curvey Scholar said, “Not only has she helped me get through my most difficult days as my advisor, but she inspired me to further my education with a career path in the biomedical field. Thank you for helping me become who I am and who I want to be.”
Junior Anders Wang first thanked his family, and then thanked his teachers, saying, “Teachers always have two roles: Fill this young man with knowledge. But more importantly, give this young man a compass so that I don’t waste my knowledge.”
See event photos here.
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