44th Persky Awards Celebrate Student Writers
A lifelong love for writing and storytelling, stoked by English classes at Milton, propelled Neha Wadekar ’07 into a career in freelance journalism, she told students at the recent 44th Annual Laurence S. Persky Memorial Awards.
“I joined Milton in seventh grade, and I remember coming back for my revisit day and Ms. Simon was teaching Pride and Prejudice,” Ms. Wadekar recalled at the ceremony, which honors the best in student-published writing and artwork. “I was blown away by the level of back and forth discussion that the students were having about the meaning of the novel and the specific intentions of certain passages and the construction of particular sentences.”
Today, Ms. Wadekar is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya, where she reports on issues of climate, gender, crisis and conflict, and human rights. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, PBS NewsHour, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, CNN, and others.
John Avlon ’91 to Speak at 2023 Graduation
This year’s Graduation speaker is John Avlon, Milton Academy Class of 1991. John is an award-winning journalist and author of six books, including Lincoln & the Fight for Peace and Washington’s Farewell. He is a CNN senior political analyst and anchor, known for his “Reality Check” segments across the network. Previously, he was the editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and chief speechwriter for the mayor of New York City during the attacks of September 11, 2001. He lives in New York with his wife, Margaret Hoover, and their two children, Jack and Toula Lou.
Humanities Workshop Hosts Student Conference on Public Health
On Sunday, May 21, Milton Academy students participated in the Humanities Workshop’s Student Conference on Public Health hosted at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The goal of the Humanities Workshop is to show students how key themes prominent in humanities studies—in particular, the importance of empathy and compassion—can be instrumental in working to solve the world’s complex problems.
Urged by a COVID pandemic that has raised immediate concern about the safety and well-being of our school communities and forced us to consider the intersection of health and justice, the Humanities Workshop chose PUBLIC HEALTH/GLOBAL HEALTH as this year’s theme.
Head Over Heels Sets a Classic Story to an 80s Soundtrack
The spring musical, Head Over Heels, reimagines a 16th-century royal love tale—told mostly in iambic pentameter—and features the music of the 1980s rock band The Go-Gos. Its mash-up of music, visuals, and script work, however, to tell a story as old as time.
“It’s a great mix of elements,” said director and Performing Arts Department faculty member Peter Parisi. “It feels like they’re in this Shakespearean world and the characters are in a modified Elizabethan wardrobe, using the music of The Go-Gos, but it makes sense. They’re talking about issues that are both timeless and contemporary.”
The musical adapts the plot of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Philip Sidney, which was written in the late 1500s. It tells the story of the royal family in a kingdom, Arcadia, whose future depends on the family avoiding four predictions by an oracle. Set to some of The Go-Gos’ most recognizable hits as well as their lesser-known songs, the show is magical, dramatic, and fun.
“The theme is love,” Mr. Parisi said. “It’s about loving who you want to love, status, power, responsibility, duty to family, duty to your country, duty to yourself. In the end, the message is that love is love is love is love, and no matter who you are, you deserve love.”
Spring 1212 Play, Things You Can Do, Opened Thursday
The spring’s 1212 play, Things You Can Do by playwright Kristen Palmer, opened last Thursday in the Studio Theater at the Kellner Performing Arts Center.
Things You Can Do tells the story of an over-achieving graduate student on a visit to her hometown, where her mother and sister are grappling with anxiety and isolation.
“It’s a play I’ve always loved, and I’m so excited that we’re doing it,” said Performing Arts Department faculty member Eleza Kort, who is directing. “It explores the question of what we can do—on a broad level, while facing global problems like climate change, and on a personal level to help the people in our lives.”
One Year Later: Remembering Kendall Chun
Eliot Hack ’24 arrived at the base of Mount Katahdin last summer ready to complete a technical climb in memory of beloved Milton Academy teacher Kendall Chun. Mother Nature had other plans.
Rain forced Eliot to ditch his plans for a technical ascent—using rock climbing gear and heading up a steep path to the summit—and he instead hiked the mountain on foot, completing his first effort to raise money for access to public lands and celebrating the massive influence Mr. Chun had on Milton’s adventure-seeking students.
“Mr. Chun did so much for our community and for me, personally. I really wanted to honor him,” Eliot said. “He was focused on getting people out there and breaking down any kinds of barriers to the outdoors.”
Mr. Chun, who died April 26, 2022 after a recurrence of cancer, ran the school’s Outdoor Program in addition to his work as a computer science teacher and role as a Robbins House faculty advisor. His love for outdoor adventures was infectious as he introduced students to hiking, rock and ice climbing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, and more—regardless of their prior experience or skill level.
TextLess, Live More: Merritt Levitan’s ’13 Legacy Continues
Just a few weeks after graduating from Milton Academy, Merritt Levitan ’13 was on a bicycle trip across the United States when a driver, who was distracted by texting, hit and killed her.
Merritt, a passionate and active young woman who loved the outdoors and spending time with family and friends, left a legacy of adventure, humor, and love that continues today at Milton and well beyond.
Several of Merritt’s Milton friends—Emeline Atwood ’14, Abigail Lebovitz ’14, Kaitlin Gately ’14, and Erika Lamere ’15—joined with her family to form TextLess Live More, a nonprofit whose mission is to end distracted driving and, over time, has evolved and expanded to promote digital wellness. The national awareness campaign, which has a chapter at Milton Academy, educates people about the effects of digital distraction, including the safety risks of distracted driving along with the overall impact of digital habits on physical and mental health.
“Merritt set an example for all of us to live life to the fullest and to be present for others and ourselves in everything we do,” said Head of School Todd Bland. “A decade after she was taken—far too soon—from her beloved family and friends, we can still find inspiration in her joy, excitement for life, and her deep care for others.”
Multimillion-Dollar Gift Supports Math Education
As the parents of two Upper School students, trustee Shadi and Omid Farokhzad P ’23 ’25 know the importance of having a space that inspires a modern approach to teaching and learning. That is why they made a multimillion-dollar commitment to create a new home for math at Milton. The new Farokhzad Math Center will move the Math Department from the cramped attic of Ware Hall to a modern, light-filled, renovated building currently occupied by Cox Library—which is moving to Wigglesworth Hall this year.
Humanities Workshop Panel Details Key Roles of Empathy, Community Connections in Public Health
Welcoming experts in public health, two Milton Academy faculty members recently convened a forum to examine challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of supporting mental health—particularly among young people in our communities.
The Feb. 6 panel discussion, hosted by Boston College High School, was the latest event in the Humanities Workshop series. A collaborative initiative connecting public, private, and charter schools, each biennial program explores a single social justice issue through the lens of the humanities—the academic disciplines including arts, literature, languages, history, society, and culture. Created in 2018 by Milton faculty members Lisa Baker and Alisa Braithwaite, the initiative currently involves hundreds of students and faculty across eight area high schools.
The goal of the Humanities Workshop is to show students how key themes prominent in humanities studies—in particular, the importance of empathy and compassion—can be instrumental in working to solve the world’s complex problems.
Awareness is Key to Racial Literacy, Says Dr. Howard Stevenson
“Racial stress is observable and resolvable because we can see it,” Dr. Howard Stevenson told Milton students recently. “And if we can see it, we can do something about it, but only if we face it in our own racial stories. Courage is in how much we ask about what we don’t know.”
Stevenson, the first of Milton’s 2023 Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) speakers, gave Upper and Middle School students racial literacy strategies to handle the inevitable discomfort of situations involving racial stress and threat present in our everyday lives. When people are prepared with tools—including reading and recasting scenarios, locating where stress manifests in our bodies, communicating with ourselves and others, and deploying calming breathing techniques—they are better prepared to make just decisions.
When people encounter conflicts related to race, they’re not just facing the facts of the moment: They’re bringing in a lifetime of internal and external factors that may influence their reactions, so awareness is necessary for a good resolution, Stevenson said.