Hello everyone! My name is Leela Rosaz Shariyf and I’m proud to be your Student Head of School for the 2020-2021 school year.
I want to start by thanking everyone who helped make this school year possible. The faculty members, the administrators, and the staff who worked so hard to allow many of us to return to campus and all of us to continue to receive a quality education. I’m grateful for their work and I’m hopeful that the student body can match it by following the safety rules and staying engaged in classes.
Going to Porter’s is a privilege, especially now. I know I’m lucky to attend a school with such a thorough COVID response plan, when so many schools back home in New York City and in so many other places are struggling to make plans and communicate them with parents. We all need to acknowledge how lucky we are. But going here is also a responsibility. Our ability to have a successful year depends on our all-school theme of being informed. We need to know our new safety rules in order to keep our community healthy and hopefully COVID-free, and we need to know how to respect the diverse range of backgrounds and identities represented in our community in order to make everyone feel welcome.
Porter’s is what you make of it. It’s up to you to take advantage of the opportunities here. If you only get to know people who share your race, nationality, or any other identity, you won’t benefit from the diversity of our community. If you choose not to engage with any alliances or DEI events, you miss out on opportunities to learn how to engage with people who are different from you. If you’re an on-campus learner and you make risky choices like not social distancing or attending unsafe in-person events, you could endanger on-campus learning not just for yourself, but for everyone else too. At the end of the day, your choices dictate a lot about your experience here and you’re the only one who can shoulder that responsibility.
As your Student Head of School, I have the additional responsibility of helping to lead our student body during these challenging times. I take this very seriously because I want each of us to have the opportunity to thrive this year. That means making sure to include day students and distance learners in our community and regularly checking in with them to see how we can do better. That means helping us adapt our favorite traditions so everyone can still enjoy them. That means doing everything I can to make you feel seen and heard. If you need anything, all you have to do is ask.
I’d like to end with some reassurance. According to Miss Porter’s School: A History, Porter’s students have sewed socks for soldiers Little Women style, donated money after a flood devastated Farmington, and served their communities in countless other ways for over 175 years. With this legacy, I know we have the strength and maturity to take the necessary steps to stay safe during this pandemic. On top of that, I’ve seen our community change so much over the past three years. Remember having a FirstClass email address, not having a block schedule, or seeing the campus without Macomber? Whether you experienced these things or not, you’re part of a community that has weathered lots of change. After all, our school is really, really old. So we can do this. We can make the most of this unusual school year. All we have to do is stay informed and stay responsible.
Thank you for listening. Enjoy the rest of Convocation and have a wonderful first day of class!