The Batten Leadership Program gathered on Wednesday, May 4, for an evening of reflection and celebration of the Fellows Class of 2022. Members of the program and parents of seniors shared dinner and laughter, while listening to senior representatives from each cohort share thoughts about their journey, as they stand on the cusp of the next adventure.
Headmaster Dennis Manning opened the evening with words of welcome and reflections of his own on the stark contrast between first program gathering a decade ago, which included 11 people: six students in the Chesapeake Bay Fellows, two faculty, two Trustees, and a speaker from the Batten School at UVA, to Wednesday's affair with 106 Fellows from five programs and 13 faculty directors.
Mr. Manning noted how much things had changed, and yet marveled at the sustained commitment the program has inspired in talented young people, seeking to make a difference in their communities. He also spent time praising the work of faculty members who who have built innovative programs and continue to inspire the students who enliven them.
The senior reflections that followed were heartfelt and inspirational. Each offered gratitude for the directors and for the relationships built through common purpose, a summary of work accomplished by the cohort, and words of encouragement for the younger Fellows cohorts.
Chesapeake Bay Fellow Jessica Ezieme encouraged the youngest Fellows to “dive in head first and take hold of every opportunity."
She was followed by Ian Fitzgerald from the Global Affairs Fellows, who reminded the returning Fellows that “everyone has their own perspective on different topics, so your voice is just as valuable as the next."
Global Health Fellow Avery Britt focused on the relationships she built, promising our new Fellows, “in the next three years you’ll have both a feeling of satisfaction in what you’ve built and sadness in what you’ll leave behind, but you will never forget the memories you create, and you will always be grateful for the unexpected but lifelong friendships you will make."
Next, EDI Fellow David Smythe talked about the important role that failure plays in developing as a Fellow (and a person) stating, “We EDI Fellows and our directors have created an environment where failures should not be feared, but recognized as just part of the engineering process."
Finally, Literacy Fellow Eliza Blythe (just before her cohort-wide group hug) reminded everyone what the Fellows program is about when she concluded, “After three years in this program the things I care about most are the things that the Literacy Fellows program has fostered in me. And I hope it turns out the same for all of you. The worst people in this world are the apathetic. Let this program teach you how to care, and how to do something about it. Thank you all for everything."