In a recent initiative dubbed “Be Worthy,” Dean of Students Kevin Kelly has been organizing a program to help upperclassmen build lasting connections with 9th graders. Mr. Kelly invited all upperclassmen to participate in December and currently has 165 juniors and seniors engaging in the program.
The program was prompted by a serious drug incident in the fall term that resulted in five students being dismissed from the Academy.
“It was potentially, for some kids, life-threatening,” Mr. Kelly recalled. “From that, there were three different groups of upperclassmen who were very concerned about the fallout. They wanted to know what we could do to make a difference throughout campus. To me, that was one of the highest levels of leadership, … empowerment that came from the students.”
Mr. Kelly has allowed student leaders to lead the initiative, aiming to connect 9th graders with trusted older students who can advise them and guide them on a path away from drugs and alcohol.
“We are trying to foster strong relationships between freshmen and upperclassmen, using our own experiences at Deerfield to help guide [them],” stated Garrett Alexander ’19.
Hanna Deringer ’20, an underclassman, stated, “I hope to enforce smart decision making amongst my peers and to utilize the example set by upperclassmen role models in providing a safe and close community for everyone.”
In the program, upperclassmen who have volunteered to participate are paired with underclassmen at their sit-down meal tables. Now, having talked with their pairings for several weeks, upperclassmen are planning to try to meet their newly made friends in a social setting.
“Having a relationship with older students is a crucial aspect of Deerfield life,” explained Luke Terry ’20, another underclassman participant within the program. “It really is essential for older students to help younger students out. … They can really help you find your step and lead on the right path.”
So far, the program has produced positive results.
“It is great to … notice the will in these kids to build character that will lead them towards what is best,” said Christophe Cote ’18, a PG student leader.
Upperclassmen mentors in the program received green bracelets emblazoned with “Be Worthy” as a symbol of solidarity.
“I have been convinced that … there is an overwhelming number of students on this campus who want a drug and alcohol free campus,” Mr. Kelly elaborated. “When you see others on campus wearing the bracelet, you become aware that there are many community members, students and adults, who support the initiative.”
Mr. Kelly stated he will extend the current sit-down table rotation a week later than it would otherwise be to provide students with more time to connect. After this table rotation, sit-down meal seating will return to normal. The hope is that the newly-formed relationships will continue and blossom organically.
Student leader Chris Camelio ’18 summarized, “At the end of the day, if we can get through to even just one kid, and ultimately make them think twice about their actions on campus, then I believe our goal will have been achieved.”