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Blair Academy is proud to recognize two of the School’s most iconic former coaches and two undefeated, untied teams in the Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2021. This year’s inductees include former field hockey, girls’ basketball and softball coach Jan Hutchinson and former wrestling coach Tom Hutchinson, as well as the 1954-1955 football team and the 1987-1988 softball team.

Established in 2016, the Blair Athletic Hall of Fame celebrates the athletic achievements of Buccaneer alumni, coaches and teams. Director of Athletics Paul Clavel ’88, Hall of Fame committee chair, is excited to recognize the Hall’s newest members. “During their Blair tenures, coach Jan Hutchinson and coach Tom Hutchinson were instrumental in building a tradition of excellence that has been carried through many years in our athletes and teams,” he said. “The 1954 football team and 1988 softball team exhibited grit and determination throughout their undefeated seasons. These inductees truly represent the excellence of the Blair Academy athletic program.” 

Congratulations to the exceptional Buccaneers in the Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2021!

Jan Hutchinson
The founding coach of girls’ athletics at Blair in the 1970s, Jan Hutchinson went on to achieve legendary status at the college level as the winningest field hockey coach in NCAA history and the winningest softball coach in NCAA Division II history. Ms. Hutchinson came to Blair in 1971, following her graduation from East Stroudsburg University, and taught a full schedule of physical education classes, served as housemaster in Locke Hall, and established the Buccaneer field hockey, girls’ basketball and softball programs. As head coach of each of these teams during her six-year tenure, she instituted a tradition of excellence in these sports and inspired students with her dedication. Ms. Hutchinson received the 2002 Citation of Merit, Blair’s highest honor, in recognition of her significant contributions as the School reestablished coeducation.

In 1978, Ms. Hutchinson joined the coaching staff at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, where, as head field hockey coach for 32 years and head softball coach for 33 years, she guided the Huskies to unparalleled success. Under her leadership, Bloomsburg’s field hockey team won 16 national championships—including four straight from 1996 to 1999 and an additional four straight from 2006 to 2009—and 16 conference titles. With an overall record of 591-75-20, Ms. Hutchinson became the winningest coach in NCAA field hockey history and the only coach with more than 500 victories. She was named national Division II field hockey coach of the year seven times, 105 of her players achieved All-American status and 12 Huskies were named national player of the year, the most of any Division II coach.

Ms. Hutchinson’s softball teams posted an overall record of 1,215-288-2 and set an NCAA record by competing in 28 consecutive NCAA championship tournaments. When she retired in 2010, Ms. Hutchinson had amassed the most softball wins of any NCAA Division II coach in history, and she was sixth on the all-time win list regardless of division. During her tenure, the Huskies won 16 NCAA Division II individual, team or championship records, one national championship and 16 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) titles, and 32 players won 53 All-American awards.

With over 1,500 wins in field hockey and softball combined, Ms. Hutchinson was the fourth NCAA coach and first woman to achieve this total number of victories in combined sports. She has been inducted into the athletic halls of fame for Newton (New Jersey) High School, Sussex County (New Jersey), Luzerne County (Pennsylvania), East Stroudsburg University and Bloomsburg University, in addition to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and National Field Hockey Coaches Association halls of fame. Ms. Hutchinson was also honored with the 2006 United States Sports Academy’s C. Vivian Stringer Award, presented annually to outstanding coaches in women’s sports, and the 2012 PSAC Award of Merit, the organization’s highest honor.

 

Tom Hutchinson
During his tenure at Blair from 1972 to 1982, Tom Hutchinson served as a math and science teacher and head varsity wrestling coach. He is credited with developing a college-level competition schedule for Blair, which provided opportunities for both non-postgraduate and postgraduate wrestlers to compete against area undergraduate wrestlers, most notably the Lehigh University and West Point junior varsity teams. Under his leadership, the Bucs won their first-ever national prep team championship in 1974 and subsequent national prep titles in 1981 and 1982. Mr. Hutchinson coached Blair wrestlers to 21 national prep championships, and many of them went on to win awards at the collegiate level and beyond, including 12 NCAA Division I All-American honors, four NCAA Division I titles and one Olympic gold.
 
Mr. Hutchinson’s success at Blair earned him national coach of the year accolades from Wrestling USA and the United States Wrestling Federation (now USA Wrestling). During time at Blair, he served as state chairman of the United States Wrestling Federation for five years and established the Blair wrestling clinic in the late 1970s, which drew more than 100 wrestlers each week.
 
In 1983, Mr. Hutchinson returned to Lehigh University, his alma mater, where he had been a two-time Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) champion and a 1971 All-American. He served as assistant wrestling coach under coaching legend Thad Turner for six years, and then as Lehigh’s head coach until 1994. He developed four NCAA Division 1 champions, five EIWA champions and seven All-Americans during his tenure, and served on the USA Wrestling Freestyle Committee, the NCAA Rules Committee and as president of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Coaches Association.
 
Mr. Hutchinson returned to coaching and teaching at the high school level in 1994, and for a time, he served as director of the New Jersey Junior Freestyle training camps. He was inducted into the New Jersey Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016 and received the organization’s Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award. At Blair Academy, the coaches’ locker rooms in Hardwick Hall are named for Mr. Hutchinson to honor and celebrate the profound impact he had in shaping the lives of each of the students he taught, coached and interacted with as a member of Blair’s faculty.

1954-55 Football Team
In the fall of 1954, Blair’s football team became the third in School history to go undefeated and untied. During their season, the Bucs won matchups against four heavily favored prep-school rivals, The Pennington School, The Lawrenceville School, The Hill School and The Peddie School, and two colleges, East Stroudsburg State Teachers College and Princeton University’s freshman “B” team. Blair posted four shutouts and allowed only two teams, Pennington and Peddie, to score one touchdown apiece.

Longtime football coach Steve Kuk, who taught history at Blair from 1942 to 1960, led the squad that included just two returning varsity players. According to the 1955 ACTA, Coach Kuk “formed his group of new boys into a highly specialized organization, highly specialized, that is, in winning.”

Among the standout players were team captains Richard A. (Dick) Fairchild ’55 and Phillip (Phil) Petrisky ’55. In addition, senior class members Col. Robert M. Novogratz, USA Ret. ’55, Anthony J. (Tony) Maltese Jr. ’55, Neil O. Reichard ’55, Max W. Rush ’55, Terry A. Michael ’55, Gustave R. (Gus) Fox Jr. ’55, David W. (Dave) Davis ’55 and Robert T. Canevari ’55 were instrumental to the team’s success.

1987-1988 Softball Team
Blair’s softball team achieved a perfect 15-0 record in the spring of 1988, ending the season with the New Jersey prep “B” title by crushing Villa Walsh in the championship game, 18-4. Although the team was “generally young and inexperienced,” according to an article in the April 1988 Blair Breeze by Ed Satkowski ’88, many players turned in outstanding performances during the season. Among them were Janine P. Clifford ’90, Rebecca L. (Becky) Selengut ’88, Sandra C. Tedeschi ’88, Maria Kurtz ’89, Amy S. Loder '90 and team captain Nicole Helmstetter ’89.
 
The team was led by now-Dean of Campus Life and Director of Leadership Programs Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79, who was in her fourth year at the helm of Blair softball in 1988. She earned accolades as the 1988 New Jersey Herald Area Softball Coach of the Year in recognition of her team’s achievements. As noted in the spring 1988 Blair Bulletin, Mrs. Conforti-Browse was most proud of the sportsmanship shown by all her players, as well as their supportiveness of one another.


Learn more about the Athletic Hall of Fame selection process and view bios of Athletic Hall of Fame inductees here.

Suggest nominees for the Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2022 here by December 31, 2021.
 

Rob Smith

U.S. Army veteran and political activist Rob Smith will join the Society of Skeptics on March 9 to discuss the use of voice in the fight for freedom. The event, moderated by history department chair and Skeptics coordinator Jason Beck, will begin at 7 p.m., and Mr. Beck will share a link to the private webinar that morning. A recording will be posted publicly on Blair’s website the following day.

Mr. Smith served for five years in the U.S. Army, including two tours in the Middle East. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge. An activist in the movement to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which barred open service by lesbian, gay and bisexual soldiers, he was the subject of a 2018 Daily Mail profile in which he came out as a conservative.

Based in Florida, Mr. Smith is a contributor for the nonprofit Turning Point USA (TPUSA), and he promotes TPUSA’s values of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government. As a political commentator, he has appeared on Fox News, NBC News, CNN, HLN and more. He has spoken about politics and current events at Yale University, Google, Deutsche Bank, Vanderbilt University, and dozens of other colleges, universities and companies across the country. He is also the author of the 2020 book Always a Soldier: Service, Sacrifice, and Coming Out as America's Favorite Black, Gay Republican. Mr. Smith holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. 

Mr. Smith’s talk will center on the new conservative movement and expansion of the Republican party. He believes that regardless of one’s background, all Americans deserve to have their voices heard. “For the movement to survive and evolve, we need to attract different groups,” he said. “We need to let people of different ages, races and backgrounds know that conservatism is for everyone.”

He hopes the audience takes away a better understanding of what it means to be conservative in 2021, and that although forging your own path can be difficult at times, it's always worth it in the end.

History of Skeptics

The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

Caroline Chamberlain

When science teacher Caroline Chamberlain came to Blair Academy in 2018, she brought with her a fascination and passion for science. This year, she introduced a new course for students who share her love of the subject and who want to expand their knowledge of the human body. The course, anatomy and physiology, is a full-year science elective that currently has 25 students enrolled across two class blocks.

Anatomy and physiology explores the inner workings of the human body and focuses on a basic understanding of anatomical and medical terminology. This course is the perfect foundation for students wishing to explore a career in health or medical science after they graduate from Blair.

“I have always enjoyed learning how the body works, and I think kids these days are also of that mindset,” Ms. Chamberlain said when asked about her inspiration for the course. “It's also a great thing for them to have a basic understanding of medicine so they can better advocate for themselves in the future.”

So far, students have learned about medical terminology, tissue types, the skeletal system, the muscular system and nerves. They will continue with the nervous system (complete with a brain dissection!) and the remaining body systems, including digestive, endocrine, reproductive and cardiovascular. Ms. Chamberlain noted that for the next semester she will allow students to choose what they will learn next, and in what order, so it best makes sense for them.

To understand physiology, she knew it was important for the class to understand anatomy in tandem. Courses like these are typically seen in a college setting, but she recognized the importance of studying the subject in high school, as well.

When asked about her favorite part of the course, she described in detail the labs in which students regularly participate and their importance. These hands-on opportunities are her favorite way to teach, with students discovering concepts for themselves, rather than just reading about them in textbooks. Students are also learning critical thinking and scientific problem-solving skills as they work in the lab.

“We autopsied a pickle, built bone models of clay, and dissected a chicken wing and a cat this semester—which I can’t say was for everyone,” she said. “When kids are actually using their hands and you give them independence, they are far more engaged and will pick up material faster.”

At the end of the year, Ms. Chamberlain hopes students will take away a continued fascination with how the body works. 

“These kids are so gifted that any one of them would be a treasure to have in the medical field, and I hope they continue their studies down the road,” she said. “We focus a lot on case studies to form their self-advocacy skills, so they will know how to research health conditions for themselves or their loved ones. I’m optimistic that what they are learning will extend far past the classroom.”

 

 

The Ones Spared play

Amid Cold War tension in 1970s Washington, D.C., the Department of Defense secretly contracts four scientists to develop a supercomputer. Work ensues—as does subliminal manipulation—and as the project nears completion, the scientists begin to question the federal government’s motives and worry that the computer may not be used in the best interest of humanity.

To find out what happens next, plan to attend or view an early March world-premiere performance of The Ones Spared, a political thriller written and directed by Carson Honor ’21. Carson was inspired by the works of dystopian fiction he studied in English 2—including Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House—to make his first foray into playwriting. The result is a drama in which he offers a new perspective on history and explores the vital need to question everything that is presented to us.

Carson began writing the play when he was 16, and it took nearly the entire summer of 2019 to complete the 80-page rough draft. “There were days when I would write 2,000 words and others when I would write 200,” he said, reflecting on the playwriting experience. “The most important thing I realized is that you can’t force good writing; it must come naturally. If there are days when you’re not feeling it, close the laptop and try again tomorrow.”

He approached English and theatre teacher Craig Evans that fall with the possibility of bringing the play from the page to the stage, and, as he put it, “A year-and-a-half later, we’re finally getting it done. It wouldn’t have happened without Mr. Evans—he has provided much-needed support for me and ensured that I have all the tools I need to direct the production.”

Carson conducted auditions over Google Meet last fall, and the cast of six—including himself—rehearsed via the online platform during Blair’s period of virtual learning in December and January. Doing so was not as challenging as Carson thought it might be. “With an exemplary cast like this, rehearsals have been a breeze, and it’s been a joy to be a part of them,” he observed.

He describes cast members Alex Schamberger ’22, Michael Richardson ’21 and Grant Breckenridge ’24 as “perfect in their respective roles,” and expressed gratitude for their willingness to audition. Carson is also grateful to English department chair James Moore and English teacher Cally Queally, veteran actors who “didn’t hesitate for a second” when he asked them to audition, and who are bringing experience and expertise to the young cast. 

Ms. Queally, who minored in theatre at Hamilton College, is excited to return to the stage in The Ones Spared. “Carson continually impressed me with his strong writing, interesting ideas and energetic spirit last semester in my narrative writing class, and now I’ve had the opportunity to see his screenwriting talent, too,” she said. “Participating in The Ones Spared has been an amazing experience! Carson is a great director, filled with the same energy he brought to class and eager to work with the actors to produce the best product possible. The student actors are likewise fantastic. This production is going to be something really special.”

Mr. Evans is also excited to work on an original, student-written and -directed play, noting that Carson was remarkable in his stage debut with the Blair Academy Players last fall, when he acted in Once Upon a Midnight Dreary. “I think audiences will be impressed with Carson’s breadth of knowledge exhibited in the script and in the way that actors are breathing life into the characters,” he said.

Health-and-safety protocols permitting, on-campus members of the Blair community will be able to attend a live production of The Ones Spared, on March 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ Wean Theatre. The performance on March 4 will be broadcast live via YouTube here for virtual audiences, and it will be filmed for later viewing, as well.

Carson encourages students and faculty to consider seeing The Ones Spared, whether they do so in person or virtually. “Fifty years after the time in which the play is set, the world still sees similar issues present in geonational politics,” he said. “I hope the play really makes audience members think about that.”

And, for those who are unable to catch a performance of this play, know that Carson is already at work on his next projects. “After I finished The Ones Spared, I was completely enamored with writing, whether that be playwriting or screenwriting,” he said. “So, I started writing a few episodes for a TV show and a screenplay about another historical figure. This is what I want to do—I want to tell stories.”
 

YAS

Blair’s annual Young Alumni Skeptics has become one of the most-anticipated events of the year, as recent graduates are invited to share their experiences as collegians and young professionals. On March 2, project manager for KIND Jenna Catalano ’10, bioastronautics doctoral candidate Annika Rollick ’14,  Navy Lt. Stephen Pantane ’09 and investment banking analyst William Pemberton ’16 joined the Blair community virtually via Zoom for the 2021 Young Alumni Skeptics. To watch the presentation, please click below:

The Blair community enjoyed welcoming these Young Alumni Skeptics panelists:

 

Jenna Catalano ’10:

During her four years at Blair, Jenna Catalano ’10 was a member of the girls’ varsity swim team, co-captain of the girls’ varsity crew team, a leader of her class council for three years and a senior prefect. She continued on to graduate early from Villanova University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. At Villanova, she was involved in Greek life as a sister of Alpha Chi Omega, and she is still a lover of all things Villanova basketball. During the summer of her junior year, Jenna was a congressional intern in Washington, D.C., where she roomed with a fellow Blair grad who was also interning on the Hill.

After living briefly in New York City, Jenna took a leap of faith and moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a congressional staff assistant before moving on to one of the top consulting firms in the area, Booz Allen Hamilton.

At Booz Allen, she translated her constituent work on the Hill into consulting in the military health space, working to optimize the Department of Defense healthcare system in areas of patient safety and continuity of care. It was here that she found her love for project management, and, in her last year, she served as deputy project manager for a $30 million, 35-person contract. She studied for and completed her Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate in  2017. 

In mid-2018, Jenna moved back to New York City to focus on family and true project management. Through networking and a stroke of luck, she landed a project manager job at snack bar company KIND, where she has since launched 12 new products across 11 product lines.

Jenna lives in New York City with her boyfriend, Sean, and is very much looking forward to the reopening of indoor restaurant dining.

“Blair did a fantastic job of preparing me for college and giving me a strong sense of independence, because, at the age of 13, I was already living away from home in the dorms, in charge of managing my schedule, doing my schoolwork, and on my own to make friends,” Jenna said. “By the time freshman year of college came around, I was already ahead of my classmates, and, later in life, I had the confidence and independence to take the leap of faith to move on my own and make my own way. All of this I attribute to my Blair experience.”

 

Annika Rollick ’14:

Annika Rollick ’14 came to Blair as a boarding student from Sussex County, New Jersey. Interested in science, history and English, she was a member of the crew team and competed at the national level with Blair all four years. Annika continued rowing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and chose to study aerospace engineering. While at MIT, she also minored in creative writing with a concentration in literature. 

Annika is currently enrolled at the University of Colorado, Boulder, studying bioastronautics, one of the institution’s specialties. She received her Master of Science in May 2020 and hopes to complete her doctorate in 2023. Her work centers on changing the design of space habitats, like the International Space Station, to update them with cutting-edge technology. 

In her spare time, Annika dedicates time to the community and serves on the national board of Women of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The organization works to advance gender equity in aerospace with programming aimed at providing resources and outreach to minorities nationwide at local school chapters. Annika also helped start the first international chapter in India this past year after a student in Bangalore contacted the organization. She also enjoys trail running, cycling and snowboarding. 

“Blair contributed to my success in a lot of ways,” Annika said. “I think the benefit of learning time management can’t be overstated, so the structure of having school, sports practice, dinner and study hall prepared me well for college. I also had a fantastic advisor, science teacher Michael “Doc” Sayers, and other teachers who didn’t let me talk myself out of applying to my reach schools. MIT is a school that attracts a certain character—contrary to public image, it has a rebellious and really creative culture—and I’m glad I had mentors who saw the fit even when I had doubts about myself.”

 

Stephen Patane ’09:

Stephen Patane ’09 was a member of the swim and crew teams at Blair. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he studied economics and rowed for another four years. Following graduation, he received his commission in the Navy and was selected for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) training. Through this intensive course, he learned to locate, identify, render safe and explosively dispose of foreign and domestic ordnance, including conventional, chemical, biological, nuclear, underwater and terrorist-type devices to enable access across a wide range of military operations.

Following EOD training, Stephen was stationed in Virginia Beach at EOD Mobile Unit Twelve, where he served as a platoon commander. He led platoons in Bahrain and Somalia, and spent time across the Middle East. He and his team were responsible for all EOD and counter-improvised explosive device operations in East Africa. He is currently planning to separate from the Navy this summer to join the private sector.

“Blair contributed to my success by constantly pushing me outside of my comfort zone, not only academically and athletically, but also through its tremendous community,” Stephen said. “Blair's everyday dynamic and inclusive environment exposed me to a wide range of opportunities and challenges that helped shape me into the person I am today.”

 

William Pemberton ’16:

Since graduating from Blair Academy in 2016, William Pemberton ’16’s desire to be a jack-of-all-trades has nurtured his trajectory in all areas of his life. As an investment banking analyst at Citigroup, he specializes in providing best-in-class strategic advisory to the largest companies in the world in everything from mergers and acquisitions to capital raising. As a student at Lehigh University, where he received his bachelor's degree in finance with a minor in political science, he was elected president of the class of 2020, worked as a peer writing tutor, served as chairman of the minority business alliance and oversaw operations at Taylor Gymnasium on campus. At Blair, he was a two-year boys’ varsity squash captain, and he also served as co-manager of the boys’ varsity basketball team. Outside of Hardwick Hall, Will was a member of the Blair Academy Players’ tech crew each spring. 

An aspiring world-changer, Will approaches each day as if it is his last and seeks to make the most of every opportunity, with the intention to never settle. He knows that these traits are required of those who seek to become leading strategic advisors on Wall Street, working with the corporations and institutions responsible for keeping the global economic machine churning. They are the same traits that are essential to navigating an enriching personal and professional journey, one in which no two days are the same.

“When I arrived at Blair, I had never been outside of the state of Illinois for an extended period of time, and my first roommate was from South Korea,” Will said. “Blair was initially a culture shock, as I was surrounded by a diverse representation of people along with continuous opportunities to be enlightened by their unique walks of life. Over the course of my four years, my cultural awareness and embrace of diversity's power grew; they are pillars of developing a strong community and amplifying change. My Blair experience motivated me to think and act boldly for the greater good and has contributed to continued success in all areas of my life.”

 

 

Black History Month

 
February marks the celebration of Black History Month in the United States, and, this year, Blair community members are commemorating the event during the week of February 21 by participating in a wide range of student-crafted and student-led seminars. The seminars are designed to provide students with experiences that acknowledge the richness and importance of stories of being Black in America—the struggles as well as the successes, resilience and joy—in order to deepen community understanding of our nation’s history.
 
Associate Dean of Students Andee Ryerson, history teacher Hannah Higgin, PhD, and Director of Counseling Ally Thomas, each of whom serves on Blair’s Inclusivity Committee, are coordinating the Black History Month seminars. The three faculty members co-taught a J-term course on creating Black History Month seminars and continued to work with students into the first weeks of February to help them develop their topics and hone their facilitation skills. With titles ranging from “A Journey Up ‘The Hill We Climb’ by Amanda Gorman” to “When Frederick Douglass Was Wrong,” each of the 25 seminars on offer will provide participants with a small-group, discussion-based experience.
 
Dr. Higgin “couldn’t say enough good things” about teaming up with Mrs. Ryerson and Mrs. Thomas to launch Blair’s new Black History Month programming. “Andee and I have worked on MLK Seminars together for a number of years, and her energy and zeal for coordinating students, and my expertise on race and American identity from a historical perspective—the topic of my doctoral work and much of my classroom work—always served us well,” she said. “Having Ally in the mix this year has been a boon, not least because of her training in diversity, equity and inclusion from a social emotional learning standpoint. All of us are passionate about empowering students, elevating their voices, and fostering curiosity and learning around social justice. The subject is central for each of us in our own lives.”
 
Students Teaching Students
The coordinators agree that it is important to celebrate Black History Month at Blair through student-led seminars. Mrs. Ryerson, who frequently organizes student programming on campus, appreciates this format because it gives students the opportunity to learn from one another and helps ensure that the topics are interesting to teens. “As adults, we may think we know what will interest our kids, but no one knows that better than their friends and peers,” she said. “Having students lead the program affirms among peers the importance of celebrating Black history and gives our students valuable experience facilitating conversations that can sometimes be challenging.”
 
“Peer-to-peer education can be so powerful,” agreed Mrs. Thomas, whose background in counseling and clinical social work have informed her passion and approach to this year’s Black History Month seminars. “We're fortunate that we have so many students who value Black experiences and contributions and want to share their knowledge with their peers and to simultaneously learn from their peers. These seminars aren't meant to be lectures; they're intentionally designed by our students to be interactive spaces where they can really learn together.”
 
“Teachers know preparing to teach a subject is a particularly effective and intensive mode of learning, and that’s the case for our student leaders, too,” Dr. Higgin observed. “Their learning about the topics they have chosen to present gets thrown into overdrive as they think through the needs and questions of their audiences. There’s also a power in students seeing their peers’ passion for the subject rather than hearing from a teacher. They already hear from us in ‘teaching mode’ six days a week!”
 
Deepening Knowledge of Black History & Campus Connections
As students participate in their two chosen Black History Month seminars next week, Mrs. Ryerson hopes they will gain a greater awareness of the depth and joy of Black history in the United States, as well as a greater appreciation for their peers and their perspectives. “Students may also come away with more knowledge about topics they’ve never explored, interest in something new or an appreciation for how much information is out there if they just take the time to look for it,” she said. In addition, she hopes that the seminars provide increased connection among peers, especially since they will take place just after students return to campus for the spring semester.
 
Increased connection among students is important to Mrs. Thomas, as well. “I hope they walk away from this experience feeling more connected and really valuing the diversity and humanity of all,” she said, adding, “I want our students to know that their voices are powerful.”
 

Anthony D’Amato ’06

A decade into his career as a singer, songwriter and musician, Anthony D’Amato ’06 shared thoughts on “A Life of Music” at the Society of Skeptics on February 23. To view his presentatin, please click below:

Playing music professionally has been a lifelong dream for Mr. D’Amato, even though he says it “didn’t seem like a particularly realistic or practical path” as he grew up in Blairstown. Undeterred, he began pursuing his dream during his student days at Blair, playing French horn in the Wind Ensemble and working as a freelance music journalist for local New Jersey publications. He continued writing online pieces for Paste, SPIN and Rolling Stone as an undergraduate at Princeton University and took a job as a music publicist when he graduated.

Interviews and show reviews were not the only things Mr. D’Amato was working on during those years—he was also writing and recording his own music and songs. His first two albums, “Down Wires” (2010) and “Paper Back Bones” (2012), both home recorded, caught the attention of NPR, The New York Times, American Songwriter and the BBC. In 2014, he signed with New West Records, and with this record deal, Mr. D’Amato was able to start playing music full time. 

He emerged to international acclaim with his 2014 release of “The Shipwreck from the Shore,” an album that was inspired, in part, by his Princeton studies with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon. Among the rave reviews for this work, NPR noted that Mr. D’Amato “writes in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen or Josh Ritter.” His 2016 release, Mike Mogis-produced “Cold Snap,” resulted in his first national TV appearance and recognition from Rolling Stone for his “folk music raised on New Jersey grit.”

Having performed throughout the U.S., Europe and Australia during his career, with artists ranging from Ben Folds and Ziggy Marley to Valerie June and Shawn Colvin, Mr. D’Amato says touring is probably his favorite aspect of his work in music. “I’ve met so many wonderful people and seen so many incredible things around the world thanks to music,” he said. “But, honestly, I enjoy it all—the challenge of writing, the creative freedom of recording and the human connection of performing live.”

Mr. D’Amato released the extended play, “Five Songs from New Orleans,” in early 2020 and recorded several singles during the coronavirus pandemic, including “Merry Christmas, I Guess,” a song for everyone who spent Christmas 2020 on their own. He currently has a new record that he is hoping will be released later this year, and he “can’t wait to get back on the road” when the pandemic is over.

“The pandemic has upended pretty much every aspect of the music industry, so it’s hard to make any kind of predictions at the moment as to when I’ll be able to resume touring,” he said. “But I’ve got my fingers crossed that music will see the light of day soon, and I’ll be able to start playing live again.”

In the meantime, Mr. D’Amato looked forward to sharing some of his work with the Blair community at Skeptics and talked about about his life in music with students. “If I can serve as an example of a non-traditional career path that's available to students who perhaps don't feel like they fit the mold, that would be a wonderful thing,” he said.

Read more about Mr. D’Amato here.

History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

(Photo by Matthijs van der Ven)
 

Former New Jersey Senator & Port Authority Executive Bill Baroni Speaks at Skeptics

Bill Baroni served in a number of roles during his years in public service, including as a New Jersey Assemblyman, State Senator and as Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey under former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. While at the Port Authority, his involvement in “Bridgegate” led to federal conviction, incarceration and, finally, a reversal of his conviction by the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Baroni spoke about lessons learned during his political and legal journeys when he joined the Society of Skeptics virtually on February 9.

Having grown up in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, Mr. Baroni’s interest in politics stems from his teenage years, when he worked on the re-election campaign of U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ-4). After earning his undergraduate degree in history from The George Washington University and JD from the University of Virginia School of Law, he worked as an attorney and adjunct professor at the Seton Hall University School of Law for several years, while keeping active on the New Jersey political scene.

Mr. Baroni served two terms in the New Jersey General Assembly representing the 14th legislative district from 2003 to 2007 and was subsequently elected as that district’s State Senator in 2007. Three years into Mr. Baroni’s senate term, then-Governor Chris Christie appointed him Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a position he assumed in March 2010. While at the Port Authority, Mr. Baroni oversaw six New York area airports, including Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, and Kennedy airports; the PATH train system; the six Hudson River vehicular crossings, including the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels; the third-largest seaport in the nation; the world’s busiest bus terminal; and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

Mr. Baroni was removed from his role at the Port Authority in December 2013 following Bridgegate, a political scandal over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. In November 2016, he and co-defendant Bridget Anne Kelly were convicted in federal court. In March 2018, Mr. Baroni was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, one year of probation and 500 hours community service. In June 2019, after serving three months in federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, the United States Supreme Court announced it was reviewing Mr. Baroni’s conviction. Mr. Baroni was immediately released from prison, 15 months early, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court process. In May of 2020, a unanimous United States Supreme Court overturned Mr. Baroni’s conviction, saying that he was wrongfully prosecuted and convicted. 

During his Skeptics presentation, Mr. Baroni trace his journey from a young person starting out in government, law and politics through his years as an elected official and at the Port Authority. He also shared the story of his time in the criminal justice system, as well as the lessons he learned while in federal prison and how those lessons can benefit all of us.

Mr. Baroni is currently assisting people who are awaiting their time in prison, who are incarcerated or who have recently been released from prison, using his experience to help them navigate the challenges they are facing. Working with the singer Jewel, he recently led the successful effort to get clemency for a father of six children who had served more than 12 years in prison for a white-collar offense—his original sentence was more than 30 years—one of the longest in American history. Mr. Baroni hopes that by sharing his experiences—good and bad—with the Blair community, he will help provide a lesson in things to do and to avoid doing, as well as a reminder that people can overcome difficulties and tough times.

“Finally,” he added, “I hope that my new friends at Blair took away from our time together, especially through questions and healthy dialogue, that life will come at you with many challenges; but a life in public service and law is still worth it.”

History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.
 

Front entrance

Two students wondered why Blair Academy didn’t have a club for women interested in business, so they started one.  

Katie Schultz ’22 and Megan Donaghy ’22 were inspired to create the Blair Women in Business Club after realizing the benefits a women-based business club would provide for students on campus.

“I think a small group is really a strong place for girls to lean on each other and open up to others,” Katie explained. “I have been passionate about business since I was a little girl, and I wanted to create an opportunity for all of the girls at Blair to learn more and be open to that environment.”

The pair suggested the idea of a business club for women to Associate Dean of Admission and college counselor Caroline Wilson, who agreed that this type of resource would benefit Blair students. The new club was approved for the 2020-21 school year, and, since September, the 35 club members have convened virtually for regular meetings.

Over the course of the fall semester, the Women in Business Club welcomed several guest speakers, including Karen Heath-Wade, senior vice president and head of global client services at American Century Investments, April Vandervort, vice president of life and annuity at Nationwide, and Candi Carter, executive producer of the Tamron Hall Show. According to Katie, each speaker brought her own unique point of view about how to run a business successfully, and club members enjoyed hearing their stories and advice, and asking questions.

Looking to the spring semester, the club plans to organize and run fundraising events to support the nonprofits headed up by some of their guests, including a clothing drive to support Bottomless Closet, a nonprofit brought to the club’s attention by Ms. Heath-Wade.

“It’s important to our club members to give back to others in the community,” Katie said. “Following up on the discussions we’ve had with such incredible women is inspiring. A goal of our club is to give back what we have learned from these accomplished women. I can’t wait for Blair to become involved with these great organizations.”

Ms. Wilson noted that Katie and Megan are doing 99 percent of the work running the Women in Business Club, including contacting speakers, setting up the meetings, creating plans and maintaining all contact with the club members. “I am simply helping with a few logistics,” she said. “I am so impressed with everything Katie and Megan have done to bring female empowerment to our student body.” 

“The Women in Business Club is truly a place where students at Blair can hear from women who have succeeded in different areas of the business world and gain the knowledge and confidence they need to succeed in their own ways,” Katie said. “Although this is only our first year, we are excited to continue to grow, and we look forward to seeing the future impact of our club at Blair.”

Faculty Members Share Expertise in Social & Emotional Learning with Colleagues & Students

Social and emotional learning (SEL) has intrigued Blair faculty member Sharon Merrifield since the start of her decades-long career in education. Over the years, she has delved into the topic through graduate coursework in school counseling, as a certified K-5 public school teacher, and, more recently, through a yearlong course in mindfulness and a weeklong course in emotional intelligence. As a language, health and wellness, and mindfulness teacher and a freshman academic monitor, Ms. Merrifield is incorporating what she has learned into her work with students and faculty colleagues at Blair.

“SEL is an approach that takes into account the whole of a person’s development, not just the intellectual,” Ms. Merrifield said, pointing to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) for the formal definition of SEL. “It starts with self-awareness and self-management, including goal setting and decision making. It moves out from there into developing healthy relationships with others and with the wider world, including the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with people who are different from us.”

The value of taking such an approach, she says, is that it gets at the relationship and connection between cognition and emotion. “Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Ms. Merrifield explained. “How we are feeling at any given moment very much impacts the degree to which we are able to effectively learn and engage with the material being presented, particularly if the topic evokes strong emotion, is controversial, potentially triggering, and/or challenges our assumptions and beliefs.” An understanding of all of this stands to benefit both students and teachers in their day-to-day work of teaching and learning, which is why she is infusing SEL in her classroom and beyond.

In her French classes, Ms. Merrifield will often begin with a brief, mindful breathing exercise that invites students to come into the present moment and give their full attention to what is in front of them, leaving behind the previous class, conversation or Snapchat video. “Teaching students to check in with themselves, to identify their feelings and where those feelings might be showing up in their bodies is a powerful tool,” she said. “For many of us, including me, it’s far easier—and safer—to stay in an intellectual space, but learning to identify and be curious about our emotions and bodily sensations leads to greater self-awareness and, in turn, a better understanding of our patterns of relating to people places and things. A simple pause can help regulate our nervous system and empower us to choose how we want to show up. This can be especially helpful before giving a presentation or engaging in potentially controversial or difficult discussion.”

Another of her strategies is aimed at helping students identify their inner critic and learn that they are not their thoughts. She asks them to draw a simple image on their test before handing it in, depicting how they feel they performed. “Their perception and the reality are often quite different, and this exercise is a very concrete way to address that,” Ms. Merrifield said. In addition, she infuses her classroom and speech with “growth mindset” phrases, introducing these empowering words on her syllabus at the start of the year and reminding students of them in moments when they encounter challenging material or feel stuck. 

In her work as a freshman class monitor, Ms. Merrifield has collaborated with Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni and Director of Academic Support Alison Leddy to develop a program that supports ninth graders as they adjust to the rigors of high school academics. “The freshman planner and freshman study hall—while not particularly popular with students—have proven to be beneficial to them in many ways,” she said. “Since we know that the brain is not fully developed until the age of 25 or 26, it’s no surprise that providing tools and scaffolding to assist teens with executive function leads to better performance and fewer problems earlier on in their Blair career.”

Ms. Merrifield has also put together an SEL toolbox for her faculty colleagues, a list of resources that they can easily access. “My sincere hope is that faculty begin to see the educational value of intentionally incorporating some SEL strategies into the classroom,” she said. “We focus so much on content and outcomes; students learn best when they can be fully present, regulate their emotions and interact with one another and their teachers in positive, healthy ways. SEL isn’t just ‘caught,’ it can be taught and modeled. As teachers, we create the classroom container in which our students learn. The more aware we are of our students’ needs and of our own ways of interacting and managing ourselves and our students,  the more intentional we can become in creating an optimal learning environment—one in which students feel safe to self-reflect, take risks, make mistakes and fail forward.”

As faculty members prepared to return to teaching following winter break, Ms. Merrifield presented a workshop on mindfulness to her colleagues as part of a Lunch & Learn professional development seminar series offered by Blair’s Inclusivity Committee and arranged by Committee members Director of Counseling Ally Thomas, Associate Dean of Students Andee Ryerson and history teacher Dr. Hannah Higgin. Mrs. Thomas has also been a strong proponent of SEL practices at Blair, and the Lunch & Learn sessions were designed to help teachers facilitate discussions on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion using the five guiding principles of SEL. By sharing this information with teachers, Mrs. Thomas and the Inclusivity Committee hoped to augment faculty members’ toolkits for supporting students through uncomfortable conversations.

For her part, Ms. Merrifield will continue to promote SEL and infuse its tenets into her work at Blair, in the hope that students find tools to learn more effectively and the courage to show up as their authentic selves. “I was drawn to education because of my lifelong interest in and curiosity about human development,” she said, reflecting on her passion for the SEL approach. “My own educational experiences—for better and for worse—have had a profound impact in shaping my personhood. The teacher-student relationship, the classroom environment and school communities as a whole offer incredible potential for walking alongside and positively influencing young people in the formative stages of life. SEL practices align with the way I’ve always framed the question of learning—for myself, my children and my students—first, it is about who we are, and subsequently what we choose to do as a result.”

League_of_Women_Voter

On February 2, the Society of Skeptics was excited to welcome speakers from The League of Women Voters Berkeley Heights, New Providence & Summit (LWV-BHNPS). Their presentation centered on the importance of song in the Women's Suffrage movement, as well as the need for continued scholarship around women's suffrage and how young people can be part of securing broader voting rights for all. To view their presentation, please click below:

According to Susan Ferris, past -president of LWV-BHNPS, the organization has spent the past two years chronicling the history of American feminism through song to commemorate the upcoming centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. League members and local high school and college interns have researched and written a 60-page book with the working title of Songs of the Suffragists: Lyrics of American Feminism from 1850 to 2020.

“Our goal in creating the Songs of the Suffragists is to educate the public about the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the cultural change represented by the selected feminist songs,” Ms. Ferris said. “Some of the song lyrics included in the book are only available from the Library of Congress or local historical society archives, so by publishing this book we would assist with the preservation of this important part of American history.”

Based in Union County, the LWV-BHNPS is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization devoted to educating voters and supporting public participation in politics. This includes facilitating state and local candidates’ forums, organizing and sponsoring educational events, running voter registration drives and performing other similar services in Union County. Members also regularly moderate debates so that voters can become better informed about their choices.

Along with the state and national LWV, the chapter assists in the VOTE411 program and in summarizing referenda. Ms. Ferris explained that the LWV-BHNPS is a grassroots organization, primarily funded by member dues and gifts. The revenue provided by sales of this book will assist the chapter in its mission to empower voters and defend democracy. Projects like Songs of the Suffragists are a key component of that mission.

“In its broadest terms, our overall presentation was about the role of culture in effecting political change,” said Laura Engelhardt, project manager of the Songs of the Suffragists project. “We discussed the history of American feminism through song lyrics, focusing on the critical need to persuade people, and not merely to change laws.”

Ms. Engelhardt noted that the presentation included snippets of pre-1920’s songs, including, “Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be” and “Eliza Jane,” as well as songs from after women won the right to vote, including “Four Women,” “The Pill” and “Liar,” presenting them in the context of the feminist movement.

“We hope people took away an understanding of how closely contested the fight for gender equality has been, an appreciation for the tremendous progress made toward that goal, and the awareness that they can make a difference going forward,” Ms. Engelhardt said.

The History of Skeptics

The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

 

Dominique Darius ’21 & Olivia Miles ’21

In an unprecedented year, senior class members Dominique Darius ’21 and Olivia Miles ’21 enrolled in college early and will play on the national stage this college basketball season at UCLA and Notre Dame, respectively. Due to the pandemic affecting the number of athletes on team rosters all across college basketball, and both student-athletes accumulating enough credits to graduate, both Dom and Olivia are able to begin their college basketball careers.

Dom has already played four games for the UCLA Bruins, averaging 2.5 points per game. Olivia will begin playing for Notre Dame on January 31, when the Fighting Irish take on Syracuse. Both Bucs leave Blair as 1,000-point scorers, three-time Mid-Atlantic Prep League champions and two-time NJISAA prep “A” state champions.

“Each on their own has been one of the most impactful players in the history of our program and has elevated our team and our national stature to new heights,” said head varsity girls’ basketball coach Quint Clarke ’87 of Dom and Olivia. “It is improbable to have two such talented and selfless players enter the program at the same time, and all of us at Blair are grateful for their contributions on and off the court.”

The Blair community wishes Dom and Olivia the best as they embark on their college careers as student-athletes.  
 

Welcome Back!

Blair’s spring semester opens with virtual learning on February 1, and plans are in place to welcome students back to campus later in the month, when they will once again live and learn together. In preparation for students’ return to Blairstown, Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto sent the following communication to families on January 27:

Dear Blair parents,

We are excited to welcome students back to campus in late February and continue the experience of living and learning together on our beautiful hilltop. Much like the fall, masks will be ubiquitous, and we will remain attentive to keeping distance and not gathering in close quarters. At the same time, we will enjoy the opportunity for play, for practice, for making art and for making music together. We will debate in person and conduct science labs, and get Gourmet Gallery and Frank’s Pizza with advisors. After weeks of planning virtual events, our student life team is excited to make the in-person weekends this spring even better than the fall. Of course, that will include some events typically held in the winter, including The Game and the real Headmasters’ Societies Games, as well as the prospect of a spring athletic season.

The protocols and protective behaviors that were in place at the beginning of the fall semester will be the standard expectation. The main difference from the fall is that COVID-19 positivity rates are significantly higher than they were at any point between late August and November, and our protective measures such as masks, distance and hand washing are more important now than ever. 

The first few weeks of March may not be easy, but as the vaccine rollout continues, as COVID-19 cases hopefully begin to decrease and as warmer weather begins to come our way, we anticipate that the situation will improve throughout the spring. We need to do our part to protect the most vulnerable in our community and to protect our Blairstown neighbors and all the local first responders and healthcare providers who have worked tirelessly over the course of the last 11 months.

Our faculty and staff members are working hard to create another safe re-entry to campus that will be much like the fall, and we thank you for doing your part to support those efforts. To hopefully simplify what students and parents need to do before arriving in Blairstown and once they are on campus, here is a checklist. You can find more detailed information on our spring-semester protocols website (linked below or you can enter the URL www.blair.edu/spring-semester). 

Before getting to campus:

  • Review our detailed spring-semester protocols on Blair’s website.
  • Refamiliarize yourself with the Buccaneer Pledge every member of our community signed at the beginning of the school year.
  • Self-quarantine for 10 days. 
  • Submit a negative PCR test result to the Health Center at healthcenter@blair.edu within three days of coming to campus.
  • If your child has had COVID-19, complete this form & submit it to the Health Center.
  • Complete this brief but important Google Form that includes information about your child’s arrival.

As I close, I will underscore the vital importance that students keep a strict quarantine for the 10 days in advance of their arrival at Blair. It is non-negotiable, and any indication that a student is not abiding by the expectations will be individually addressed. We can only do this by understanding our collective commitment to each other.

Warm regards,

Ryan Pagotto
Associate Head of School
 

Coding

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects computer science research jobs will grow 19 percent by 2026. Yet, women only earn 18 percent of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the United States.

During the 2019-2020 school year, computer science teacher Michael Garrant introduced a cybersecurity competition for his students sponsored by Girls Go CyberStart. This school year, a number of competitors, including Lucy Clayton ’21, Beverly DaCosta ’21 and Seleena Desai ’23, were inspired to start their own club dedicated to coding.

Girls Go CyberStart is a national organization which gives students the opportunity to discover if they have an interest in cybersecurity or computer science through a fun suite of challenges, tools and games. 

“After Mr. Garrant had us compete, we formed the Blair Girls’ Coding Club last year to further explore coding and computer science,” Lucy said. “We chose to expand the chapter to teach coding to the community.”   

Mr. Garrant noted that he has very little involvement with running the club, aside from helping manage the club’s activities. “This year I have only offered encouragement and logistical support, I’m not even invited to club meetings, which is a good thing that demonstrates students’ leadership, comfort, and confidence in moving forward on their own,” he said.

The club is student-led by Lucy, Beverly, and Seleena, and it meets every other week for a one- to two-hour session. During the sessions, club members explore the core concepts of computer science, such as coding for websites, app development and robotics, through virtual courses. The club also provides girls with ongoing challenges and learning opportunities to support continuing skills development and open doors to future career options, education, and personal interests.

The Blair Girls’ Coding Club additionally provides members with a safe and supportive environment in which to learn more about coding and other computer sciences. Although meetings have been virtual, club members have been taking full advantage of their meeting time. 

Mr. Garrant noted that club members will be participating in the CyberStart America competition this spring, in which they will compete against students across the country. This competition is used to teach students about the intricacies of cybersecurity, and students complete challenges and find flags to advance within the competitions. All in all, he said, it's a fun event to test their creativity and expand their coding knowledge.  

Beverly noted there are around 11 girls in the club, depending on everyone's busy Blair schedules. Students have been building websites and teaching HTML, the coding language used in most websites.   

“We really wanted to create a space where people could learn coding and build ideas off each other,” Beverly said. “We wanted the club to give people who knew how to code a place to work on projects and also to teach people completely new to coding and the opportunity it brings.”    

The girls are looking to pass down their knowledge and skills to younger students, in hopes that girls will feel empowered and confident in male-dominated STEM fields.

“Personally, I have enjoyed learning about coding with everyone else,” Lucy said. “I went into this knowing very little about coding, and it has been so much fun learning, exploring and researching alongside the other members of the club.”

 

Blair Connects logo

Blair community members around the globe have a new opportunity to come together virtually every month through the Blair Connects speaker series! Join us for these exciting Thursday evening events, when Bucs of all ages will enjoy conversation, networking and camaraderie around engaging topics and specific professional industries.

During each session, one or more expert speakers will lead alumni, parents, students, faculty and friends in lively dialogue about the subject at hand. Veteran English teacher Bob Brandwood opens the series on Thursday, January 28, with a reading and discussion of Shakespeare’s sonnets. To register for this event and learn more about upcoming Blair Connects sessions, click here

Director of Alumni Relations Shaunna Murphy is looking forward to creating new relationships and renewing old friendships among Blair family members through Blair Connects. “Until we can safely be together again, this virtual speaker series offers a wonderful opportunity for the Blair community to come together around many interesting topics,” she said. “Blair Connects is an exciting new way to keep everyone connected to the School and to each other.”