senior class co-Presidents Welcome
"This is our hope for the year: that we think deeply about what it means to be the Penn Charter community."
Co-Presidents of the Class of 2017, Amira Martin and Joshua Patton, addressed students in grades 1 through 12 at the annual All-School Assembly on Sept. 8. Their remarks, which they gave side by side, alternating throughout and, at the end, as one voice, are below.
Good Morning Penn Charter. I’m Joshua Patton and serve as the Senior Class President.
I’m Amira Martin and I also serve as the Senior Class President.
You may be wondering why there are two class presidents this year instead of one. The reason for this is because no matter how many times the candidates were ranked, both of our names always rose to the top. It was decided that since the grade wanted both candidates so strongly, it only made sense to have both of us become class presidents. This type of outcome would probably never happen in a national election, because compromise is something that rarely happens in a society that does not emphasize Quaker consensus.
Quaker Consensus is when a group of people can collectively make a decision, despite the fact that not all members of the group are in agreement; it’s not necessarily important that everyone thinks as one, but that everyone feels that his or her voice was heard and valued. This happens after discussion and reflection, when a sense of the meeting becomes clear, and people are led to let the decision move forward. This concept strongly relates to this year’s theme, which is community. While it is true that we are all members of Penn Charter’s community by default, we must work together to ensure that we are not just a community by definition, but by practice. By performing random acts of kindness, like holding the door for someone and saying hello to someone who you normally don’t talk to, Penn Charter can become a home away from home, where hundreds of honorary siblings and parents can support and learn from one another. This familial atmosphere is what will ultimately ensure that we do not forget this year’s theme, and it is also this atmosphere that makes consensus possible.
Although we have the ability at Penn Charter to reach a consensus and have co-class presidents, our national government does not seem to benefit from that ability. Now, while avoiding the gruesome debate of politics, the idea that consensus can not and does not play a key role in the national election directly affects all of us. While Josh and I can lead our senior class together (maybe with differing opinions), we have the ability to use two minds and make choices that affect our school. We all know the saying, “Two heads are better than one.” Even with the decisions that Josh and I will make this year, we will have to come to a consensus and be willing to compromise our own ideas and agendas in order to benefit the Penn Charter community.
The connection between consensus and community is the need for a strong, powerful, and willing community to reach a consensus. Consensus involves compromise, and to achieve a compromise everyone has to be willing to let go of something individually in order to benefit the greater good. That’s what community is all about: working cohesively with understanding and compassion to everyone’s benefit.
In closing, I would like to share my first experience of community here at Penn Charter. I’ve been enrolled at Penn Charter since 5th grade and the transition here from my old elementary school was almost a complete 180. On the first day of school we had recess. For everyone that has heard of my old school or knows of my past experiences, I never had the opportunity to have recess so at the time I wasn’t completely sure what to do. Being the shy person that I was, I was standing off to the side watching the other kids play. I knew what recess was, but I never had the chance to partake in one. So, as I’m standing there, a classmate and still a good friend of mine to this day walked up to me and invited me to play with her. Even that small gesture is a display of community. Community is making someone’s day a little brighter with a passing smile. Community is the willingness to be present for classmates who may need someone with ears to listen. Community is simply being there for others.
My experiences at Penn Charter slightly differ from Amira’s, because I’m what many refer to as a lifer. I remember making my self portrait in Kindergarten, going on the sixth grade canoe trip, receiving a poker chip to commemorate my seventh grade camping trip, and writing vignettes in eighth grade that I presented to members of my class. The common thread that connects all of these seemingly random moments in my life is that they were all enjoyed with members of the Penn Charter community, and that they all contributed to my growth as a person. I was encouraged by my kindergarten teachers to paint my self portrait, so that I could embrace and accept myself for who I was. I got into a canoe in sixth grade, despite my fear of water, because my friends were also willing to go on the trip. I rode a zipline on the seventh grade camping trip, despite my fear of heights, because my classmates proved to me that I would be safe. And I felt comfortable telling others about myself through vignettes, because I trusted that my classmates wouldn’t judge the aspects of myself that I chose to share with them. As we think about community this year, it is our hope that students will answer the questions on the banners around campus: What does my community give to me? What do I give to my community? And what does my community give to the world?
JOSH AND AMIRA
This is our hope for the year: that we think deeply about what it means to be the Penn Charter community. Thank you.