Unleash Potential

Joshua Neudel, Head of Upper School

The following remarks were delivered to The Middle and Upper School Community during Opening Convocation:
At Brimmer and May, your voices are valued, and we hope that you will be active participants in the learning process. The School’s guiding principles are full of phrases like “we inspire students to be active learners, confident problem-solvers, and critical thinkers”, “we encourage students to engage their curiosity…develop their voices”, and “we empower students to…lead in the global community.”  The adults in our community have big hopes for you, and we work hard to help you achieve your goals.
Now I want you to imagine that you attended a different type of school. How might it affect your education if you were not allowed to learn the same standard topics that were taught at other schools? What if you were penalized when you asked questions to gain clarity or deeper understanding? What if, when you tried to write an Op-Ed in the Gator criticizing the school or government, you received threats warning you to stop or else? What if asking questions and raising your voice against inequity caused you and your family to have to leave their home and flee out of fear for your safety?
This, of course, is part of the story of Malala Yousafzai, which some of us read as part of our summer reading. Malala lived our theme for the year— Imagine. Question. Create. through her courageous activism. She questioned the oppressive norms imposed by the Taliban, passionately imagined a world where girls could attend school without fear and took bold steps to create change through her advocacy.
Malala’s story is a reminder that when we stand up for what we believe in, we can create positive change around us. While her story is incredible, not all change needs to be of the magnitude of Malala’s to make a significant impact.
We have students here in our community who have already identified a problem, imagined a way to improve the concern, and created a new solution. Here are just a few of the many ways Upper Schoolers have already lived out our theme:
Last year, Eli Lewis ’25, noticed that the children he was teaching in a makerspace class had trouble tearing tape from a roll, and designed and created a new tape dispenser that was easier for children and people with hand mobility issues to use. This summer, Baden Howard ’24 and Rowida Kassim ’24 wanted to redesign some of the camp activities for the Class of 2024 to encourage more active connections. They successfully planned out a great first night with their classmates that was filled with laughter and smiles. Giulia Laurenza ‘25 is a teen leader with Cradles to Crayons, working to raise awareness for the cause and organizing collections drives.
You see, I believe in the power of this year’s theme. Whether you focus on improving yourself as a learner or improving the conditions around you, your voice matters and you can create change.
Malala said, “I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” My hope for you this year is that you find a way for your voice to be heard in a way that may make a positive impact on our school and the world beyond Brimmer’s walls.
As an inclusive private school community, Brimmer welcomes students who will increase the diversity of our school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or any other characteristic protected from discrimination under state or federal law, in the administration of our educational policies, admissions practices, financial aid decisions, and athletic and other school-administered programs.