DPN: Building Future Traditions
By Jim Alexandre P’06,’08,’11,’13; Haverford, PA
President, Deerfield Parents Network
One aspect of Deerfield that I’ve come to appreciate as our fourth child to attend enters her senior year is the context the school gives to traditions. There are so many things that link Deerfield students to what has gone before, but the leadership of the institution never stops asking, “What could we do differently—what ‘traditions’ for future members of the Deerfield family will we be glad we initiated today?”
In that context, the school launched a major new initiative, the Deerfield Parents Network, that now enters its second full year. I’d like to urge new parents and “old” ones alike to get involved—it’s a great way to learn more about Deerfield, and also to enhance the sense of community so essential to the Deerfield experience.
Last spring, DPN Executive Committee member Penny Ashford sent a note to existing parents asking if they would like to participate in the First Link, a DPN program that provides a point of welcome over the summer for new Deerfield families. The response was overwhelming! We had matched off each new family with a volunteer contact within days. I know from first-hand experience that the range of needs for new families is very broad—everything from “I have no idea what to expect…” to “Thanks for the call, we’re pretty dialed in on what we’re doing…”
The First Link program is part of a subtle message to parents that you don’t have to “go it alone” when navigating the complex seas of Deerfield. There is a great deal of prior experience that we work to make accessible to all Deerfield parents. For instance, the DPN has helped arrange sessions to inform parents on coping strategies for stress (see “Straight Talk on Student Stress” in this issue)—my own children frequently reminded me that boarding school probably amplifies issues that are prevalent during the high school years in any setting. Deerfield has worked hard, however, to provide abundant help outside the class in many forms, from tutoring to counseling. Kate Upson, a Deerfield parent who edits The Link newsletter, has assembled an archive of articles that address how those resources can be identified and used. Helping Kate think through issues of interest to parents and signing on to write about them is another volunteer opportunity.
I met recently with Dean of Students Amie Creagh and Head of School Margarita Curtis. They challenged the Deerfield Parents Network to be creative regarding the way in which parents can help other parents. We treasure a Deerfield experience for our children that is on a level playing field. Can that shared feeling spur us to think more broadly about the implications for parents as well?
The other element of the DPN’s work is to help with outreach to the local community, specifically following on student-led initiatives in areas like food drives, clothing collections, or book donations to benefit a local school. Along the way, we’ve coordinated parent volunteer activities—such as planting several hundred daffodil bulbs around the campus—to add some emphatic spring colors when the Pioneer Valley winter finally relaxes its grip. Phyllis Powers and Kelly Pasciucco have helped with both those efforts and will be leading another planting brigade on Parents Fall Weekend (see “Parent Weekend Planting Project – Back by Popular Demand”).
So please join us! You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or feel free to follow up with one of us on campus or with the Dean of Students Office.
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