The Land of Opportunity

At long last, the 2004-2005 school year is drawing to a close, with students thinking only of the sunny days of summer. However, there is much more that can be thought about as this year comes to a end. My own thoughts focus on the experiences that I have had over the past two years, meeting people from all walks of life and learning about the wide and varied world around me. The most important thing that I can say that I have learned over the past two years does not come from any textbook or classroom, as much as I do love my classes. Instead, the most important thing that I have learned is that we all strive to be the best at something, and if you give a person an opportunity to do something special, then he will try to take full advantage of it. What do I mean by “special?” Coming to PA is a special opportunity, as we all know. There are a variety of activities to pursue and there is strong faculty support for students pursuing their passions to the highest echelon. This Academy has the distinct honor of putting forth the best and the brightest members of our nation, the leaders of tomorrow in business, politics, the arts, mathematics…I could really keep going here. The point is that with the approval of the Strategic Plan by the Board of Trustees two weeks ago, there will be a much greater emphasis on providing financial aid to students and recruiting students from underrepresented areas like the Midwest and the South. Both of these things are important to the future of the school, and the administration and faculty must work to ensure that the Strategic Plan is carried out to perfection. Phillips Academy has always led the way in trying to nurture the potential of students from a variety of ethnic and geographical backgrounds. One hundred thirty-nine years ago, Richard Greener, Class of 1865, was the first African-American to graduate from Phillips Academy. Greener would go on to become the first African-American to graduate from Harvard University as well, graduating with a degree in 1870. These were two very distinct honors, especially for someone who lost his father as a nine-year-old child and who was forced to leave high school for a time at the age of 14 to support his mother. Andover saw the talent and determination in this boy, and was determined to make him into a man by fostering these talents to a point of excellence. Andover’s choice to accept Greener changed his life forever, something that few things have the power to do. It is notable that Andover had an African-American graduate before Harvard did, and proves that Andover has always led the way in bringing youth from every quarter to excel in the pursuit of academics, athletics, music and other interesting and varied activities. As someone who has been able to take advantage of the opportunities that the Academy provides, I can say unequivocally that any student who has the distinction of attending this Academy will have a great start to succeeding in life. It does not matter what that person pursues: Phillips Academy will build the foundation of character and skillwork necessary for students to succeed in their desired careers, and more importantly, to enjoy the benefits of life. Now, the administration and the Board of Trustees have made a commitment to bringing in students from all parts of the world, regardless of geography or financial status. This will be a tough goal to accomplish, but the potential rewards that this goal’s success could reap for the students of the Academy are boundless. First off, those students with a poor financial background who are accepted and are able to attend with proper financial backing from the school will be able to pursue their dreams, with the support of a caring faculty and large amounts of resources. These students will be able to try new things, like playing an instrument or writing for The Phillipian. These students might even get onto the boards of various clubs, learning valuable leadership skills such as organization that will be used repeatedly in life and will bring success in the long run. However, there is another unseen benefit from bringing in students from different geographic and financial backgrounds. Students from different walks of life will be able to meet and will be able to learn about each others’ experiences. Someone who has lived in Manhattan for their entire lives, accustomed to an urbane, city lifestyle, can experience the life of someone from a farm community in the Midwest. These differences in lifestyle are valuable for people to understand, and by bringing in people from different walks of life, the Academy would do all students a great good by exposing students to something beyond their own bubble. The Academy has made a great commitment with the passing of the Strategic Plan, and the entire Academy must work together to ensure that the benefits of the success of the plan are fully reaped in the future.