Relief for Harvey

By Ms. Miller’s Journalism Class Fall ’17

Wyoming Seminary, a small private school in Northeastern Pennsylvania, did not let distance prevent them from making a difference for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Although the victims of Hurricane Harvey are hundreds of miles away, Wyoming Seminary faculty and students gathered together to raise funds for the relief efforts.

Community service has always been an integral part of the Sem experience. This is reflected in the school’s handbook which states that community service should “challenge individuals to put others before themselves”. This emphasis on community service was reflected in the most recent Service Day that took place at the Upper School on September 8. After students and faculty returned from performing community service activities across the Wyoming Valley, they listened to many speakers discuss the importance of community service. Mrs. Catie Kersey, Upper School Class of 2019 Dean, is optimistic about the future of service at Sem, saying that “in the last few years we’ve emphasized the importance of service and we’ve emphasized the idea of individuals being part of a larger community”.

The school invited the head of the local chapter of the Red Cross to speak about the relief efforts in Texas after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. After speaking briefly about the efforts of the brave men and women who went down as first responders, students from Sem presented the Red Cross with a check of nearly $4,000. This amount, revealed for the first time at the assembly, earned a rousing round of applause from those in attendance. The check at the assembly was a                                                                      

The efforts began with the boys’ soccer team when they faced off against MMI on September 7. The team decided to donate all of their proceeds from the concession stand to the Red Cross. Despite the rainy weather on that day, the team was not to be deterred, instead, rescheduling the date of the fundraiser. The efforts of Wyoming Seminary students continued when the Community Service Board organized a dress down day that cost $2. Jerry Tang ‘19, a member of the Community Service Board, said that the “kindness, bondedness, and trust of the Sem community was well reflected through our unanimous action”. Tang added that “almost everyone in the school participated” and that many students were willing to donate more than the required fee. With the help of the Baking Club, the Community Service Board was even able to host a bake sale to raise even more funds.

Between a dress down day, added donations, bake sales, and the proceeds from the concession stands, the Sem community was able to demonstrate just how much they care. Although the events in Texas were tragic, the Sem community came together in order to make a difference for those in need.

Irma’s Effect on the Wyoming Seminary Community

By Ms. Miller’s Journalism Class Fall ’17

Although not directly impacted by the wrath of the recent tragedy in Florida, students and alumni of Wyoming Seminary Upper School of Kingston, Pennsylvania, felt the effects of Hurricane Irma on a personal level. Despite the school itself not experiencing any physical damages from the storm, various alumni and current students were impacted. Due to the large alumni database and diverse student body, the Wyoming Seminary community branches beyond the corner of the Keystone State.

John Shafer ‘71, Vice President of Advancement of Wyoming Seminary Upper School said, “We can have close to 1,000 alumni, parents, friends of the school” living in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and the Caribbeans. Even though no alumni were injured, some have lost their property because of the hurricane. One alumnus ‘76 lost about 25% of his house in Florida. Fortunately, the alumnus only spends his winters in the state.

In order to help the people affected by Irma, Shafer believes that monetary contribution is the most effective, because “you truly never know what certain people need as their top priorities,” Shafer stated. Shafer experienced the effects of Hurricane Agnes in 1972 as it caused flood waters to storm Sem, destroying part of the campus.

Daniel Delpo (Rudin) ‘92 was displaced by the wrath of Irma. Traveling over 24 hours to her hometown of Kingston, Pennsylvania, Delpo arrived safely. She journeyed from Florida to Pennsylvania with her husband, 12-year-old son, and dog. When asked about her knowledge of the storm in her area, she replied, “Hurricane Irma was a powerful and catastrophic event. However, this storm could have been a lot worse causing much more devastation had Irma decided not to take a slight NW turn after making landfall on Naples.” After what she had experienced, she says it has changed his view of life. “My takeaway is …. appreciate what you have and live in the moment. Life is too darn short to sweat the small stuff.”

A friend of Delpo’s who is currently in Florida realizes that society is not the same after the devastation. “As time passes, many people seem to be oblivious to others….getting power back and water and not heeding warnings on water usage, etc.  The “good” effect on humanity passes most quickly.”

A current senior at Wyoming Seminary, Sam Sweitzer ‘18, used to live in Puerto Rico. Sweitzer says, “It’s tough to hear that one of the towns where I spent a lot of my childhood has been devastated.” While all of his  friends are okay, Sweitzer feels that it is “just really sad to know that a lot of [his] friends were in a situation where their lives were at risk and there was nothing they could do about it.”

Even the dean of Wyoming Seminary, Mr. Jay Harvey ‘80 anticipated the storm with personal fear. His daughter, Brynn Harvey, currently lives in Tampa, which was just out of the path of the storm. “My daughter’s teaching in Tampa, so we’re keeping a close eye on her, what’s going on it Tampa.”

Despite his worries, Harvey has kept an eye on the alums in a way that was not possible during the flood of 1972. “The Alumni office immediately reached out without trying to be intrusive because obviously some of them are going through… and the last thing they want to do is answer an email while they’re moving and packing, rushing to airports. Facebook has clearly changed the dynamic of tracking alums in terms of how they’re doing.”

As some families are still returning to their homes, the extent of damage to Wyoming Seminary alumni is still unknown. It could take between days and weeks until some find out whether their homes still remain.

A Community vs Crime

By Ms. Miller’s Journalism Class Fall ’17

Wyoming Seminary Upper School’s disciplinary system has been a topic of ardent criticism in recent times. However, this criticism is largely a result of a misunderstanding. Opponents of the disciplinary system criticize its subjectivity, yet this subjectivity is the basis of an effective and personalized discipline system focused on individual growth. The Student Handbook clearly describes the policy as “a case-by-case basis with due regard for both specific circumstances and the welfare of the entire school community.” A community based on trust between teachers and students creates an environment in which students can develop and prosper.

Some cite inconsistency between punishments as a rationale for their criticism of the disciplinary system. However, according to Mrs. Catie Kersey, dean for Wyoming Seminary’s Class of 2019, “we emphasize the process more than the outcome.” This complements the Student Handbook, which vividly states “we [administration] do care about them [students] as maturing members of this community.” Sem’s process-oriented discipline system allows students to grow as a member of a community. While there may be inconsistency between outcomes, the process remains the same. When asked whether a student’s familial background is taken into account during the disciplinary process, Kersey replied “never.” Instead, the disciplinary process takes into account the student’s career at Sem and the circumstances of the offense. “Some students come to the disciplinary process with baggage, such as a past disciplinary history” Kersey notes, “but we weigh all pieces when making decisions”.

Wyoming Seminary isn’t alone in its unique disciplinary process: Phillips Exeter Academy, the number one private high school in America according to Niche, reaffirms the value of a unique, process-oriented system: “The Academy is a private school and, as such, its disciplinary system may differ from public school or official government processes.” Similar to Wyoming Seminary’s disciplinary board, they have a “disciplinary committee” that may lead to different outcomes for varying transgressions.

The alternative objective system would lead to a system that focuses on the punishment, rather than the person. “Wyoming Seminary’s policy focuses on”, Kersey explained, “the full picture.” Sem rejects a one strike policy, choosing instead to look at the whole student and allow them to learn from mistakes. In the words of Nick Ganter ‘19, “we’re given second chances when dealing with mistakes.” Teachers at Wyoming Seminary know that, as Kersey states, “we’re dealing with teenagers who will make mistakes”. A subjective policy can most effectively allow students to learn from transgressions and grow as people. As opposed to an adversarial process, Wyoming Seminary’s process is centered on students and teachers working together to create an outcome that works for each student.