Batten Leadership Program Caps the Year with Heartfelt Speeches from Seniors

The Batten Leadership Program wrapped up a year of research, experiential learning, and service with a formal dinner and speeches from seniors in the five Fellows programs.
 
Throughout the year, the Fellows have pursued collaborative projects and research during an academic bell in the school day, and they have often worked after school and on weekends, as well as during the summer months, to continue their efforts. The evening provided an overview of the work and, in a larger sense, underscored the deep impact that sustained research and experiential learning have had on the graduating seniors.
 
The faculty directors of the Fellows programs spoke only briefly, inviting the seniors in each of the five cohorts to the podium for recognition. Each group of seniors had chosen a representative to speak on behalf of the assembled group; that senior not only provided a review of research and ongoing projects, but also offered emotional testimonials of the impact of the program on the students’ sense of purpose, perspectives on the world, and compassion shaped by the friendships forged with peers and faculty, as they worked side by side on real world problems.
 
“We have adventured together and forged special bonds,” said Madeleine Munn ’19 of the Global Health Fellows. “It has given us each other and a new lens to see ourselves.”
 
Several students touched on the confidence they had gained through pursuing challenging work that is fulfilling in and of itself; students in the Batten Leadership Program do not receive academic credit or benefit for the work they do. “You are a part of something visionary, something that will last long after you leave this wonderful place where it started,” said Emma Somers ’19 of the Literacy Fellows. “Use the voice the program has given you and let it launch you into the world.”
 
The Batten Leadership Program allows students to pursue their work in five distinct areas:
 
Chesapeake Bay Fellows work to effect the restoration and conservation of the Bay. Kate Furr ’19 reviewed the work of the year, which included study of menhaden, striped bass, and oysters; the group also sponsors an annual Oyster Roast for the Upper School, which educates and raises awareness. “It has made us each discover a passion for the Bay and a desire to make change,” Furr said. The Class of 2019 cohort also includes Jack Limroth and Michael Smith.
 
Global Health Fellows study global health interventions, particularly in resource-limited settings, in order to understand acute health issues around the globe and work to find solutions. Munn reviewed the group’s work, including efforts in Belize, under the guidance of staff at GPSA, which was founded by professors from Duke and Johns Hopkins; the students conduct needs assessments and provide health services and education. The Class of 2019 cohort also includes Ingrid Benkovitz, James Hood, Andrew Thetford, Ray Fitzgerald, and Kara Kaufman.
 
Global Affairs Fellows investigate the conflicts and challenges created by globalization, such as social justice, sustainable development, and cultural preservation, in order to help build a more just society. Ellie Thornton ’19 provided a review, which included outreach to refugees in Hampton Roads and migrant farmers on the Eastern Shore, as well as work with indigenous populations in Peru. The Class of 2019 cohort also includes Lawrence Bernert, Arman Shekarriz, Brammy Rajakumar, and Daniel Moscoso.
 
Literacy Fellows work to advance literacy as a way to break cycles of poverty in Hampton Roads and beyond, seeking to empower other citizens to greater levels of literacy, education, and economic opportunity. Emma Somers noted that the year’s work included publication of two books, Men of Their Word, a collaboration with Kiptopeke Elementary School and a book to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Boys and Girls Club, which runs the aftercare program at Tidewater Park Elementary.The Class of 2019 cohort also includes Windsor Warlick, Straeten Avery, Chelsea Worthy, Emme Pike, and Jacob Knapp.
 
Engineering, Design and Innovation (EDI) Fellows seek to develop innovative, sustainable solutions to challenges through the lens of engineering and technology. Patrick McElroy ’19 provided a review of the newest Fellows program, including work on a garden and a wrist brace and the development of skills in CAD-based computer design and the woodshop. The Class of 2019 cohort also includes Frances Harrington, Kevin Smedley, Sebastian Singh, Nathan Williams, and Connor Holland.
 
Sean Wetmore ’86 is director of the Batten Leadership Program; Price Massey Hall ’02 is assistant director.
 
Faculty leadership of the Fellows programs:
 
Chesapeake Bay: Chris Nelson, director; Catherine McCallum, assistant director
 
Global Health Fellows: Sarah Goodson, director;  Price Hall, assistant director; Yonne Nasimiyu, associate director
 
Global Affairs Fellows: Dr. Natasha Naujoks, co-director; Jack Gibson, co-director
 
Engineering, Design, and Innovation: Dr. Robert Call, co-director; Dr. Tenaya Vallery, co-director
 
Literacy Fellows: Elizabeth Johnson, co-director; Dr. David Kidd, co-director
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