At the beginning of their final semester, Director of Alumni David Minder met with Student Council President Abe R. ’21, Student Council Vice President Georgia G. ’21, and Packer Anti-Racism Council (PARC) Student Representative and Brothers and Sisters (BĀS) co-leader Amadi W. ’21 to talk about their experiences at Packer, how the community has handled unprecedented events, and what’s coming next.
What defines your Packer experience?
Georgia: I didn’t expect to leave my middle school, but then I visited, took a student tour, and fell in love. I knew that I had to come here for Ninth Grade. The most crucial moment in my life was my choice to come to Packer. It has completely changed my personal trajectory, changing how I see myself, and impacted my development. It’s when my life really started.
The thing that differentiates us from other independent schools is the rich and tight-knit community. The relationships that I have been able to form with both students and teachers are truly remarkable, and those are relationships that I think will last. Even over the summer, we keep in contact with one another. I believe that my teachers know me as a person, and they have learned how I think and feel, and that has made a difference in my life.
Abe: I came to Packer in Fifth Grade, and I had been looking at different schools. When I met with the Admissions team, even when I was applying, I felt like a member of the community even. That’s something special that I don’t hear about anywhere else.
Amadi: This community is invaluable, and I have made so many important connections. The students truly care for one another. I know I’ve made lifetime friendships with some people, and I know that I will keep in touch with them after graduating. In fact, I already remain close to students who have already graduated. When I came to Packer, it offered me opportunities other schools wouldn’t, in terms of academic freedom, my choice of college, but overall, Packer was something that I wanted to be a part of — especially as I saw how the diversity increased as you got older. The school also offers you a chance to participate in a community, to become a leader, and help you learn how to advocate for yourself.
What is a single memory that stands out?
Georgia: I think of our Peer Support leaders’ camping trip, which unfortunately we couldn't do this year. That was my favorite memory at Packer ever. There was a “compliment circle” where people would tell stories about that person and shower them with positive things. It was the most pure and wholesome moment. There was so much kindness and trust in that awesome space.
Abe: A moment when I think our community truly came together was after the Parkland, FL, school shooting, when we were freshmen. I found myself in a position to lead a big rally where we all joined together. Everyone supported one another with hope and love when it was needed. It hit hard for a lot of people, especially thinking that it could have been us in that situation. We had so many Middle Schoolers who joined us as well. That moment of community is something that I won't forget.
Amadi: It’s difficult to name a single moment, but now I’m thinking of how my exhibit of portraits of Black Packer fathers has gotten attention, and people are trying to digest the information I have put out. The exhibit crosses divisions and tries to bring in community members that have been unheard and unseen. I’m not the type of person who likes attention; I want the pieces to speak for themselves and to drive conversations into what may not be comfortable. It is so inspiring to see people talk about important issues and see people rally around different ideas. It’s impressive to see these conversations happening at Packer that may not be happening in other schools. That’s something that I have valued.
What is your take on the present moment, as we have settled in with hybrid learning and begun to tackle issues related to racism in the community?
Georgia: So much has been happening in the world with so many tragedies. Everything seems to be falling apart. I would say that Packer is holding it together pretty well. Since George Floyd’s murder, since Covid-19, and the update to our sexual misconduct and boundaries policy, there’s been a lot more transparency between the administration and Student Council. Student Council has helped bridge the gap between all the different facets of the Packer community so that everyone feels supported. Overall, as a community we want to be there for one another, to understand where everyone is coming from. We hope to enact change while dealing with this moment, and looking to establish ways we’ll move forward better than before.
Abe: I talk about how we have two pandemics. We have the actual pandemic and we have racial injustice in the Packer community. We have had multiple forums where students have led discussions about racial justice in the community and talked about how we can make a difference. While we may not yet be at the age where we can make all the decisions, we can certainly make our voices heard.
Georgia: Additionally, each grade held group meetings, helped raise money with a matching campaign, and hosted an Instagram Live about race-related topics. Students have been very active in current events. A student-led committee working to incorporate anti-racist approaches into Packer’s curriculum was created in the Upper School.
How have recent events outside of Packer impacted you?
Abe: It connects to racial injustice. We saw people being arrested while protesting police brutality and then saw people storming the Capitol with weapons — with the intent to kill multiple politicians — and they went untouched. The Packer community has taken note of that. January 6th was supposed to be the day of highs, votes were supposed to be certified, and people saw what happened. The whole election has been bittersweet and reminds us that we have a lot of work to do to make sure our democracy stays intact. We have to stay organized to fight for racial justice, health care, and a bunch of different issues. We have to keep our feet on the pedal.
Georgia: Packer students are very politically motivated, and some see Joe Biden’s electoral win as a big win. Yet this is an opportunity to create change, not the actual change. This is where it begins.
Amadi: There’s been so much going on. There are helicopters outside right now. With Covid-19, I have been mostly inside my home. I wasn’t able to go outside due to the pandemic and wasn’t able to join some of the Black Lives Matter protests. I have been using this time to express myself through art and other ways. I’m feeling relieved now, as my parents, my grandmother, and more of my teachers are able to get the vaccine.
This was my first year as a voter too. I was nervous because I’ve heard about voter suppression, including the experiences of members of my family. Yet this was the first time I was old enough to experience it. I had so many hurdles to vote, which ended with me on the phone for hours to fix problems with my registration. There was an incredible lack of communication and service. Though this year we had an impressive number of young people voting, but it brings up issues related to younger voters not having access to driver’s licenses, computers, and printers, which are sometimes necessary.
After [the election was called], it was great to see all the people celebrating. After that, there was the Capitol insurrection, when I began worrying about what would happen around the country. As for the inauguration, I was happy to see the increase in diverse representation, which means so much to so many people.
You all have met with the Alumni Board, and you have had various interactions with alumni. What did you take away from those interactions?
Georgia: Meeting with the Alumni Board is awesome. I’m grateful to be able to meet with them and help make introductions to various affinity and student groups. It’s another way of bridging that gap and increasing communication. It’s great to have current and past students learn from one another based on shared experiences. The Alumni Board has opened themselves up to students to help offer guidance when asked, and that’s the coolest part.
Abe: During the meeting when the student leaders of Brothers and Sisters joined to speak about their experiences as a Black students, we then heard from Alumni Board members who had also been part of Brothers and Sisters. It was a valuable and important dialogue and experience. Overall, I think we should work to expand the student collaboration with the Alumni Board. We should look for ways to increase our chances to talk to one another, share experiences, and help each other out personally and professionally.
Amadi: I previously was part of the Class of 2020, so I am very close to them. I have stayed in touch with most of them, and have been hearing about their Covid college experiences. I find that shared experience informative and helpful. It’s also been nice to connect with alumni from 2018 and 2019, and have the chance to ask questions about colleges, transferring, or really about anything. There were also a lot of discussion forums over the summer, where I met a lot of great alumni. I truly appreciate those bonds we made. I am so appreciative of their willingness to give back and participate, including in the art that I have been working on.
At the Alumni Board Meeting, and at the Packer Anti-Racism Council (PARC), many of the alumni are also Packer parents, so it’s a double whammy. You get to talk about their experiences at Packer, while working together to figure out how we can improve things at the school.
What are your thoughts about leaving Packer?
Georgia: With Covid, it’s been over a year since our class was together at the same time, which is so sad. It just doesn’t feel real. There’s an end in sight: it’s the second semester, and senioritis is kicking in. Yet it feels like there’s nothing marking the change in time. Everything just feels less definite, and it seems like things will just flow into the next part of life.
Thinking ahead to college and the broader future, I’m excited that I have built so many friendships and bonds at Packer. I feel more confident because I have those relationships that have formed. I am not worried about straying too far or losing anything, because I have this awesome community to fall back on.
Abe: It feels like you’re reading a book and it ends on a cliffhanger. I’m like, “Now what?” It’s been such a weird year. I don’t think anyone would have ever believed that we wouldn’t see each other for a year.
In the end though, Packer has shaped us. I have been able to find who I am as a person, and figure out the kind of things I want to do. And I am thankful for that, even if the ending of our Packer years may be unsatisfying.
Amadi: This wasn’t the way I thought my senior year would look. I experienced traditions when I was in Kindergarten and now they’re not happening. Packer has been able to shift some of it virtually of course, but I think there’s a sense of hurt within the community.
A lot of us are in different places and have different approaches to what we think is right for the community. I’m on a lot of different committees and task forces to solve issues. I think the inclusion of alumni, family members, and students [in these efforts] is very important. I have been working to leave my mark as I reach the home stretch of my time at Packer, and I hope that whatever work I can do will continue to benefit the community.
What are your thoughts on being a Packer alumnus?
Georgia: It’s a pivotal moment. There is burgeoning change at Packer, and I want to see where that goes. There are a lot of conversations about holding one another accountable in the community, and a way I can remain involved is by staying connected and participating in that accountability. Even if I’m not directly connected with Packer anymore, I hope to stay informed. And the school develops and grows and becomes more cognizant of its good and bad aspects, and so, I really want to watch Packer’s progress.
Abe: A lot of student groups are open to hearing advice, especially from more recent alumni, which I think would be powerful. We need to strengthen our lines of communication as students start the college process and graduate, to figure out what advice Packer alumni have for students. I think that is something I would like to take on as an alum.
Amadi: I regularly see alumni come back to campus who knew me when I was in Lower School. I look through yearbooks and I see alumni at events, and their photos up in the hallway [for Reunion]. I fondly remember the Valentine’s cards that we sent to some of our alumni. Being here for 14 years, I’ve also seen students who I remember in diapers going on to college, and I see their personal growth. I do have a sense that I’m joining a community, and that there’s a network with opportunities that are invaluable. It’s definitely exciting, but it’s also weird, because alumni are the people I used to just see in photos. It seems unreal to become one.