Outside Speakers Address Community Virtually

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Zoe Kaplan, Senior Writer

Every year, the School brings in outside experts to speak to students about drug and alcohol awareness, sex education, and for the annual Bissell Grogan Humanities Symposium. However, some of these events look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the pandemic posing additional challenges this year, the School’s top priority has been maintaining a high quality education for students. The School decided that the annual symposium would be held virtually this year to provide a safe environment for students to hear from outside resources and focus on this year’s theme, Building an Equitable Community.

In an effort to ensure students hear from a range of speakers and are able to take part in the symposium this year, several changes were made to the traditional schedule.

Instead of having all of the speakers on one day, they are spread out across a few weeks—beginning with Keynote Speaker Lawrence Alexander and Raúl the Third last month.

Additionally, students did not select which workshops they wished to take part in as in years past. According to Upper School Head Joshua Neudel, the changes ensure that students and community members have the opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers, while also adapting the speaker series to suit this year’s hybrid learning schedule.

Students who are learning remotely join Zoom meetings to hear from each speaker, and students on campus watch the speeches through projectors in classrooms.

As the Bissell Grogan speaker series is continuing virtually, Neudel shared that the School is working to accommodate wellness programming as well.

“The curriculum in our classes is very important, but we also have a responsibility to teach students in other ways,” Neudel said. “This is why Health and Wellness is part of Brimmer’s Strategic Priorities.”

Over the past few years, Founder of Wellness Collaborative Will Slotnick has spoken to students about drug and alcohol awareness. This year, Slotnick will speak to students virtually.

These sessions will be held during class time, which has already been significantly impacted by pandemic-related schedule changes.

“In a normal year, I’m rather a tyrant about students missing class, and I hate students missing class, but in the 2020-2021 academic year, we have all learned how to be more flexible,” English teacher Kenley Smith said.

Slotnick is scheduled to speak to Upper School students over the course of this week via Zoom.

Neudel hopes that sex education programming will also be able to take place virtually.

“Anytime I have a question about why are we choosing to do something, I go back to Brimmer’s mission statement, which is essentially our value statement and what we are aspiring to do as a School,” Neudel said.

Neudel shared that is important for students to be knowledgable about a variety of topics, including mental health and wellbeing.