Sequoyah High School has launched a Stewardship program with separate committees, similar to that at the K–8 campus. Some committees have carried over from the Lower School, like the Student Diversity Leadership Committee, Peer Mediation Committee, and Gryphon Media Company, while others, like Library, Student Activities, and Morning Meeting, are entirely new for the high school.
Governing the Stewardship program for the high school is a Steering Committee, consisting of two co-presidents, one chair from each committee, Director of Social Innovation and Field Studies Alia Kate, and Head of School Josh Brody. The co-presidents were voted in by the whole high school student body early in the school year, while committee chairs were chosen, by various means, by their respective committees.
Committees meet every Friday and can plan other meetings outside of that designated time if needed. The Steering Committee meets every other week for chairs to report on their committees’ progress on their goals and discuss school-wide issues.
1. Morning Meeting
Sophomore Grantland Unterseher, Morning Meeting Committee’s chair, said that Morning Meeting Committee is meant “to develop a safe space where students and faculty feel that they can share about their personal and school lives in front of the school.” Unterseher added that his committee “also facilitates contemplation, announcements, time for students and faculty to share, and, sometimes, time for fun.”
During its designated Stewardship time, Morning Meeting committee decides what role each person in the committee is going to take that week, such as the Contemplation Leader, Reading Organizer, Guest Speaker, Student Showcase and Presentations/Announcements, Unterseher said. Contemplation Leaders lead students and faculty in a meditation ranging from two to 15 minutes during the first twenty minutes of Mondays through Thursdays, which “gives a mental reset for the students and faculty before their day,” Unterseher said.
Reading Organizers arrange “who is going to read a reading,” usually a poem, short story, or student work, to students and faculty. The committee-member tasked with finding a Student Showcase helps arrange “any musical or artistic performances.” The student tasked with the role of Presentations/Announcements is meant to find whether “any other committees or students have presentations they need to present” during that week. Leaders are picked on “a pretty regular rotation,” where “each takes a week and then switches the next week,” Unterseher said.
To try to keep Morning Meetings engaging and fun, the committee “tries to incorporate a fun activity every few weeks, such as Kahoot [an interactive guessing game that tests students on trivia concerning students and faculty members] or a new type of contemplation,” Unterseher said.
While the Morning Meeting Committee tries to keep it fun, Unterseher noted that some contemplation exercises have not been universally popular with students or faculty, “usually ones that make them uncomfortable.” One example, Unterseher said, was “an exercise where you sat on the ground and stared at someone for two minutes.” As a test, the committee is planning on doing “the exercises that make people uncomfortable again to see if the students find the contemplation more or less uncomfortable.”
Anyone may suggest an activity for the Morning Meeting Committee to consider. Short share-outs or announcements can be shared “spontaneously” without having to schedule it with the committee, but Unterseher said longer announcements or presentations should be “scheduled with the committee before hand.”
Unterseher’s committee’s future goals include getting everyone to participate in the contemplation and trying to get “as many people involved in Morning Meeting as possible,” Unterseher said. Unterseher also said the committee is also planning for the upcoming high school expansion, “when we cannot fit all of the students in the current space at the same time.”
The Library committee’s mission is to “expand the Sequoyah School library [and to ensure] that students can check out books with ease,” said Jean-Luc Lesca, chair of the Library Committee. Lesaca added, “we’re still working on the second part and most of the first part.” The library will offer both hard-copy books and, in the future, e-books.
The checkout process will differ from the K–8’s, as there are no full-time librarians at the high school. Instead, Lesaca said, “students will be able to approach either a teacher or member of the Library committee.” That committee member or teacher will then check out the book on the library’s computer in Room 23.
Both teachers and students will be able to check out books. If a student ruins a book, that student may have to replace the book and may have other consequences. “It will vary case-to-case,” Lesaca said. The committee’s chair added that factors playing into that decision would be “the value [of the book] and your history with the Library Committee.”
While committees started in September of 2016, Lesaca said the reason his committee has not yet launched the checkout system is that “there was the need to get a computer and the scanners setup.”
After all those steps were completed, Lesaca said the books “weren’t added to the system.” Students may also request books from the K–8 library, though Lesaca said the system and process for cross-campus lending are still being worked out. Other issues are also being resolved, such as checking out valuable books or have missed multiple due dates.
Books will have due dates or “check-in dates.” Books that are damaged or lost will have to be replaced by the student who neglected the book, but no late fees will be incurred.
The committee’s future goals include “keeping all of the books maintained and well cared for, making sure everyone can check out books with ease, and making sure the school has a functioning library,” Lesaca said.
3. Student Activities
Emery Mann, tenth grader and chair of the Student Activities Committee, said that its goal is to “integrate [the] Sequoyah High [School] into the mix of social events held by other local high schools.” “Because we are a new high school,” she said, “it is important that we reach out and familiarize other schools about our goals. We have been in contact with some stakeholders at schools such as Waldorf, Judson, and Waverly and they are now aware of our mission.”
The committee recently held a dance on Saturday, April 22nd for ninth- and tenth-graders from Sequoyah, Waverly, Judson, Waldorf, and Aveson. The dance took place in the Infinity Room at the K–8 Campus, due to the high school’s campus use hours. Until the school expands, dances will only “include the ninth and tenth grades from the invited communities.”
Arden Thomas, Humanities and Theater teacher at the high school and faculty sponsor for the committee, and Mann came up with the idea for the dance. Prior to the dance Mann said she hoped the Sequoyah dance “would be more interesting than the middle school dances. Our goal is to have a laid back, fun space for teens to just come chill (or dance).”
Ninth-grader Lilly Higgins described the dance as “a little lackluster” and “boring.” She said, “it was made out to be this amazing dance that everyone should attend but it wasn’t really that way. Some of the songs played I think were not appropriate for a school dance.”
Freshman Finley Morrison said, “the dance was enjoyable.” However, Morrison noted that a “bunch of kids [were] on their phones outside” and only a “couple brave ones slightly dancing by moving their arms.”
Mann’s committee has also started a Student Store, an idea that came from the entire group. The store currently “sells basic snacks,” but Mann noted she hopes “to expand into more than just food,” like school merchandise. “The administration will always have the biggest say in the do’s and dont’s for our local ‘business,’” Mann said. Located in either Room 4 or somewhere outside, the student store operates during lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The reason for having a student store, Mann said, was that her committee “concluded that it would benefit the students to have a few treats once and awhile.” Additionally, the committee heard reports that lunches were sometimes forgotten at home, or students “desired a little special something to get them through the day.” Mann said she and her committee hopes “that it would add some extra comfort to our community.”
The Student Activities Committee also is in charge of activities and events that are not planned by the school’s administration. Mann said, “I would enjoy seeing some of the newer Sequoyah students experience my favorite [K–8 Sequoyah traditions] like Teddy Bear Picnic.”
Even though bringing K–8 traditions to the high school was why Mann was “passionate about becoming the chair of the [committee],” events like the Jog-a-Thon, Teddy Bear Picnic, and Hot Lunches have been “mentioned … briefly with the committee, but we have not considered it deeper thus far.”
4. Sustainable Campus
The Sustainable Campus Committee’s mission is to make the Sequoyah High School self-sustaining. Selina Yang, the committee’s second chair of the year, said, “we need to work on how to keep [the campus] green” and recycle as much trash as the school can.
This year the committee has been focusing on recycling and gardening at the high school. Yang noted that they started vertical gardens, a recycling bin, and are working on a raised-bed garden. The group chose vertical gardens “because vertical gardens could use recyclables most widely,” according to Yang. “Each committee-member has a role of taking care of different things,” Yang said. Any high school student “could start a project if they have a teammate that would work with him or her.”
Yang said she believes gardens are not the only thing the school needs to be self-sustaining. Next year the committee will be working on other issues, such as “power and saving power.”
5. Gryphon Media Company
Gryphon Media Company’s stated mission is “to inform, challenge, and entertain Sequoyah and the wider community, with media productions covering ideas and events from the perspective of young people, on campus and beyond.”
Currently, Gryphon Media Company runs two publications, with more in the works. One publication is The Daily Gryphon, the lower school’s humor magazine, which has been around since the fall of 2012. The Daily Gryphon has published three issues this year, with a fourth issue coming soon.
The other publication, The Barefoot Times, is the newspaper for the entire school. With this issue marking their second of the year, The Barefoot Times has published at least two issues each year for the past four years. The Barefoot Times has reported on issues such as the high school when it was first announced, the teacher candy stash, and stolen vans.
New for this year is the Gryphon Media website, located at gryphon.media. The Barefoot Times (bt.gryphon.media) is currently the only publication that has a website, however future publications will have the option to have their own website.
Gryphon Media Company’s future goals include a high school yearbook (with the possibility of expanding to a K-12 yearbook), a YouTube channel, and a literary magazine or journal.
6. Student Diversity Leadership
The Student Diversity Leadership committee’s mission is “inclusion and understanding,” according to India Lewis, the committee’s chair. The committee seeks to include in its celebrations “all nationalities, ethnicities, and people,” Lewis said.
For half the school year, Lewis’ committee worked on a potluck “for all Sequoyah families to attend.” Lewis said she brought the idea to her committee earlier in the school year.
Prior to hosting the potluck, Lewis said the potluck would include “music from different countries, food of course, and a time when people can share about their different heritages,” Lewis said. “We want everyone to feel welcome and accepted.” According to Lewis, 45 people attended the potluck hosted on March 19th at the K–8 campus.
The committee only planned the one event for the school year because, as Lewis said, “I don’t want to bite off too much we cannot chew, so we are taking one event at a time.”
The Peer Mediation Committee was started “to mediate conflicts in the Sequoyah Community if or as they arise and show the importance of mediation in school and in life,” chair Eamon Ennis said.
As with the K–8’s peer mediation program, students have an interpersonal conflict to be mediated should first try to solve the issue on their own, Ennis said. If that doesn’t work, they then may approach a mediator or teacher for help.
If a mediation seems appropriate, an Advisor or peer mediator will set up a time for an official mediation. According to Ennis, there are currently five mediators-in-training “that know the steps and can take on a mediation.”
During a mediation, two peer mediators and a teacher will be in the room. “The teacher will be there to watch but not comment,” Ennis said. The mediators “are taught to be able to handle situations between two or more people in a civilized manner,” he added.
Other schools experiencing “large amounts of fighting (physically and verbally)” that implemented similar programs have seen “a drop in the ‘visits to the nurse’s office,’” as well as an increase in “students turning to other students to help fix their problems,” according to Ennis.