Students and Families Reunite on Campus for Family Weekend

Bundled up in coats and jackets, families swarmed into the Smith Center on Friday night for the formal registration of Family Weekend. For many students and families, this weekend marked their first time reconvening since school started in September.

“One of the things that I love to see is [while] just standing at the registration area, you can see the [students] walk in and their parents and kind of that first connection…you can actually see how much they [missed] each other,” said Karleigh Antista, Coordinator of Family Weekend and Coordinator of Alumni Engagement.

Many programs were organized for families throughout the weekend. Family members had the opportunity to sit through their students’ classes, talk to teachers and go to a version of All School Meeting (ASM) in which Head of School John Palfrey gave a speech.

Family members could also attend special events such as Grasshopper Night, Music Department Concert, Dance Demonstration, as well as the first Andover’s Parents’ Book Club meeting, which was a new addition made by the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library to the program.

For Kenneth Masotti, father of Courtney Masotti ’17, going to his daughter’s classes and meeting with her teachers was his favorite part of the weekend. “They’re really all pretty amazing teachers, and hearing what the kids are doing, it frankly reminds me of college, one of my experiences—they’re that good,” said Masotti.

Tony Pagano, father of Alexa Pagano ’16, was also impressed by the college-like education students received at Andover.

“I think that they do a wonderful job in coordinating many different parents and many different events… I don’t think there’s much that you can possibly improve, I mean, understanding that we’re on a high school campus, not a college campus. So, this is impressive on its own right,” said Tony Pagano. Pagano especially liked how families got to see the kind of learning environment their children were immersed in.

“The moment that we all share together as parents to see our children in such a learning environment is kind of overwhelming in many cases. Especially for me since I’m a father of a Senior, to watch how fast four years went by and the experience that Alexa had actually received here, at [Andover], is overwhelming to all of us,” said Tony Pagano.

During the book club meeting, families discussed the book “It’s Complicated” by Danah Boyd. The book was sent out to students’ families earlier this year and it focuses on topics such as identity, privacy, bullying and the digital lives of teenagers.

“We shared the book with parents because we think it offers insights that help provide better understanding, and perhaps more importantly, mentorship in this new environment…and those parents now need the toolset to provide good counsel.” wrote Michael Barker, the Director of Academy Research, Information and Library Services, in an email to The Phillipian.

This year’s changes featured new additions to the weekend, including the Tang Institute’s Open House and the registration office’s use of a new web-based registration system,

Antista, despite being new to coordinating Family Weekend, found that this year’s events and feedback helped her get a better sense of the potential improvements she could make for next year’s events.

“Our office has handled it for a long time, but this was kind of the first time I oversaw it. So I think we kept a lot of things pretty much the same and it gave me the opportunity to see and I’ll be able to go back and reevaluate, maybe make some changes for next year,” said Antista.

The planning for Family Weekend started in the summer. Coordinators communicated with faculty members to discuss potential programs that they could host, forming a preliminary schedule that was later revised as logistics were worked out.

“[The planning was] busy… Adding that other layer onto the workload for everyone [was] a little challenging. But everyone [pulled] through and it [was] such a great weekend for the students the families, teachers, faculty and staff… Everyone kind of [came] together,” said Antista.

Next year, Antista looks to adjust the structure of the weekend, refine the printed name tags and change the way student families receive information.

“We may be looking into other ways to reach parents to make sure that everyone has the [weekend’s schedule] information before they arrive if they need. There are different ways that people hear about it through their students, but I think now I have better overview of the weekend and so I think we’ll be able to communicate the information a little differently,” said Antista.