Before graduation, we sat down with Archie Caride ’19, Sacha Sloan ’19, and Noelle Parks ’19 of the Upper School Student Council to get their perspective on their experiences at Packer, what Packer meant to them, and how they see their future. Incidentally, that day they each wore the shirts of their accepted colleges!
What do you think defines Packer as an institution?
I had conversations with the Director of Diversity and Equity Semeka Smith-Williams and talked about issues regarding diversity here. Packer has problems just like any institution, but when I go to diversity conferences, and I hear about what happens at others schools, how situations are handled at other schools, it makes me feel so incredibly lucky to go to Packer. Where these things are handled in a much better way, where people are actively trying to make things better.
What do you think you'll take away from Packer? How will you look back at this time?
I'm leaving Packer stronger than when I came. I've had to push the administration sometimes, and that has made me way stronger than when I walked into this place. I learned how to take in what people say and try to figure out how to work with people. People don't want to say no to you, and if they're saying no, there's a reason behind it. If you work with them, there's probably a way to make things happen.
What are you looking forward to as you leave Packer?
I really haven't thought of leaving Packer except in the past two weeks. I came to Packer in the 5th Grade, and I remember spending months and months without knowing where to go. I thought this place looked like Hogwarts, and I thought I would get lost in every hallway. Now it's the opposite. I know every nook and cranny, the best places to do work, the best places to hang out. I know where to go to get free food, I know where to go if I need anything, and I will be losing that when I leave. I'm excited to [graduate], I just know that I’m losing a sense of comfort. This has been my school for eight years now.
What do you think defines Packer as an institution?
I've been here since the 3rd Grade, so I have had time to think about this. In some ways we're similar to Saint Ann's and Berkeley Carroll, and I have friends that go to those schools. I've talked to them, I've reached out to them sometimes. I honestly believe that the faculty and staff at Packer are on another level in caring for students. They are actively trying to make their curriculum and activities better for students. I've met so many amazing teachers here, and kids come and go, and there are teachers that have been here for so long. Yet they're not staying static, they're changing to adapt to what society needs them to be for the students. That change and the way that Packer is dynamic is a really important and unique part of Packer. We are always trying to change, and even in the time I've been here it's changed a lot for the better. I really respect that about the culture and ethos of the school and its administrators.
What will you take away from Packer?
The main thing I learned is that if you are yourself, people will respect you for it. There are so many teachers and students, who are younger and older than me, who are highly regarded by the community. There's this junior, Liv, that everyone agrees is super cool, right? She does all these interesting things, but she doesn't fit a type. There's no one type of person that everyone idolizes. If you are yourself and are unapologetic about it, if you're into your thing, you bring that into everything you do at Packer. Then you are respected and are awarded for it. That's a really good place be in your formative years because it shows that you need to be yourself and I'm grateful for that.
What was your perception of Packer alumni, after meeting members of the Alumni Board?
I was struck by how different everyone was, and all the things they've done in their lives. How they keep a passion, a passion I hope was fostered at Packer. When you're in a place in your formative years, no matter the type of person you become, that experience is part of you. It's not like Packer made the people, but it's a part of them. [The members of the Alumni Board] were articulate and smart, and they took their time to come back to their high school 30 or 40 years after they graduated and talk to others who they may not have met otherwise. It felt very surreal to know that I will be that person. That's not a maybe, I will be one of those people. It was cool to see them wanting to come back to Packer.
What defines Packer?
It's always been the kids and students here. They are part of my family and they are what's made it so incredible. Just the feeling of walking into the Student Center in the morning, seeing their faces turn to look at you, and there's all this energy and conversation happening, and people are continuously bonding. As a senior, I have taken this feeling for granted. This feeling of walking into a school where these kids are like my brothers and sisters and I love them like a family. Academically, I think that people are interested and passionate about personal growth. It's a competitive school at times, but for the most part people get so excited when other people are excited about what they're doing. Whether that's a club that they're leading, or a big event they show up for their friends or even those who aren't really their friends. That's been an inspiring part of my time.
What will you take away from Packer? How will you look back at this time?
I will leave here with a better sense of myself and my voice. I have been continually pushing for things. When I was touring Packer in the 8th Grade, there was an open door policy if you ever needed help. It's all within the student's power to self-advocate, and that idea of self advocating is something that has been fostered here. If I'm struggling with something, now I think, “How am I going to solve this? Will I do this on my own? What are the resources that I need?” That's not something I did as a freshman. Now I have the confidence to say, “I'm going to ask for help” and find that vulnerability to say I don't know how to do this, but I'm going to go tell someone that I need help. I will take away this idea of self-advocating and having a voice.
What do you think about your future and leaving Packer?
There's a weird combination of indescribable excitement and apprehension. It's not like I don't want to go forward, but I'm nervous about the ambiguity of what awaits me. I haven't had a summer for four or five years, where I wasn't coming back to Packer and looking forward to seeing the people I know. This is a new emotion for me, and it's not something that I conceived before. I'm excited about what that may hold, but I'm still nervous.