By Maddie Aitken ’19
Each year, self-selecting juniors go through the Prefect election process, which includes a speech and a Q & A session for the students running and two rounds of voting for the entire school. After two weeks, the eight Prefects, including one Head Prefect, for the 2019-20 school year have been elected and announced. They are Reed Dolph ‘20, Juliette Gaggini ‘20, Marley Berano ‘20, Nick O’Brien ‘20, Nathaniel Ince ‘20, Corinne Bolding ‘20, Andrew Byrne-King ‘20 and the Head Prefect, Jimmy Rayhill ‘20.
Although the election process is always difficult with so many qualified and passionate candidates, this year was especially competitive. 35 juniors ran, as opposed to last year’s 24. All 35 candidates delivered speeches to the entire student and faculty body over two days, and then voting opened. In the first round, everyone is able to vote for up to eight candidates, and the 12 candidates who received the most votes move onto the second round. This year, however, there was a tie between twelfth and thirteenth, so 13 candidates moved on to become finalists.
The 13 finalists had to answer questions in a Q & A session for the whole school, which Nick participated in via video because he was at home with a concussion. Questions included “How do you plan on handling any conflict that may arise in the Prefect group?;” “Describe your idea of interacting with and incorporating our incoming freshmen into the community;” “What do you want to do as a prefect that a senior without the title cannot do?;” and “Is there one aspect of the Gunnery that you think needs work or you would like to improve upon while being a prefect?” There was also a student-only Q & A session where students were able to ask their own questions of the finalists. After a second round of voting, the eight Prefects were announced, and then the Head Prefect was voted in.
The group of Prefect-elects represents a diverse range of interests and experiences on campus. They hail from a variety of states: four from Connecticut, two from New York, one from Vermont and one from Colorado. Four are three-year juniors, two are two-year juniors and two are first-years. Their common traits are a love for our school and a desire to serve, which will be essential for their success as Prefects.
The commonalities amongst the Prefects shone through in their speeches, with most of them being about, in some sense, how the community has helped them grow and change and how they hope to be able to do that for other students in the role of Prefect. Some examples of these kind of speeches were Andrew’s, Nick’s, Juliette’s and Marley’s.
In Andrew’s speech, he directly referenced the way two of last year’s Prefects, Gabby Lescadre ‘18 and Christian Kummer ‘18, helped him find his place here as a new sophomore. “I kept thinking, what if I wouldn’t fit in?…Walking back from Convocation, still feeling this way, I stopped, took a deep breath, and told myself that this wasn’t why I came here. I came here to find who I was, to be the person I wanted to be. I didn’t know who that was, or how it was going to happen, but it sparked a drive in me to do something about it. I had decided that I was going to go the FBLA meeting being held that week, I wanted to be involved in something, anything,” said Andrew in his speech.
Andrew talked about going to the meeting, despite not knowing anything about FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). At the end of the meeting, when Ms. Hart asked if there was anyone who wanted to run for leadership roles, Andrew surprised himself by running for president and vice president with Gwen Brown ‘20. They were running against Christian and Gabby – seniors who were also Prefects, had been in FBLA for years, gone to the conferences, waited their turns. Despite running mostly for fun, Andrew and Gwen won.
Andrew said he was nervous Christian and Gabby would be angry because two sophomores, one brand new, had taken their positions. However, “there was no resentment or ill will, only support” said Andrew. According to Andrew, Gabby and Christian’s actions showed him what it means to be a Prefect, and made him want to be a Prefect too.
“They showed me that being a prefect is about allowing everyone to be able to make the most out of our fleeting time here. It is about supporting, and pushing everyone to do the best that they can do. Christian and Gabby, along with the rest of the prefects of that year, allowed me to see what I could do and what was possible in the future. I want to be able to allow everyone in this room, and for those to come, to be able to find who they are and what they’re meant to do here. To have the opportunity to do something new, something brave, and something bold. Because the Gunnery isn’t a place where you should have to fit in, it’s a place where you can explore and find who you are,” said Andrew.
Like Andrew, Nick addressed self-doubt in his speech. He explained how his time here has helped him to come out of his shell, and how he wants to hold the position of Prefect to help other students like him. “When I arrived on campus over two and a half years ago, my life was controlled by doubt. I didn’t believe in myself at all… I truly thought I would live in a shadow during my time here at The Gunnery, and perhaps even afterwards. I would rarely talk to anybody outside my group of six friends I had established at the start of freshman year. Mainly because I figured nobody outside of this group cared about who I was. I was constantly thinking about how others perceived me, and I hated myself for it. I felt like I was a coward for caring too much,” said Nick in his speech.
Nick attributes his changes in attitude and personality to the students and faculty here. “I would not have been able to climb out of this hole in any other community. The support I received from everyone, either directly or indirectly, saved me. I sincerely thank all of the faculty who I have had the pleasure of being taught by. Constantly pushing me to engage more in class and being my best self has given me the most valuable possession in life: confidence. Confidence in my ideas, my actions, and myself in general,” Nick said.
Nick hopes to use his understanding of being a quiet, introverted person to his benefit in the role of Prefect. “I represent a small demographic of students here at school. I am an introvert. It has been a key cornerstone of my personality for as long as I can remember…I understand, at a very deep level, how terrifying high school can be for people like myself.”
In Juliette’s speech, she also talked about support, and how it helped her gain confidence and leadership skills. As a freshman, Juliette started crew as a boys’ coxswain. She said she was nervous to be with experienced rowers, and told the story of a race in which she told her boat to stop rowing far before the finish line, when was there were still 500 meters left in the race.
“Before I could send an email to Mr. Marich about switching to field hockey, my teammates surprised me. Rather than tear me down for my mistake, they told me everything was okay, and helped me improve my skills and build my confidence back up,” Juliette said in her speech.
She then talked about how the support she received from her team helped her in other aspects of her life. “As I gained confidence within my sport, I began feeling comfortable outside of rowing to continue to push myself beyond my comfort zone and to engage with people and in activities that I may not have otherwise. I started joining, and creating, clubs on campus, branching out, making new friends and getting myself more involved within the community as a whole,” said Juliette.
As Juliette explained, such support helped her become who she is today, and said it was the “driving factor” in her decision to run for Prefect. “As Prefect, one of my main goals would be to help inspire other students to step out of their comfort zones, feel confident having a voice on campus and feel safe knowing that they are constantly surrounded by our supportive second family here at The Gunnery,” Juliette said.
Marley used her speech to talk about love – the love she has for our school and its students – and how she looks up to her namesake Bob Marley to spread that love. “Love is a consistent exchange that can easily go unnoticed, but when you reflect on how you interact with others, I believe that it doesn’t matter whether or whether or not your effort does goes unnoticed. Unspoken commitment shines through the most in those people you know you can turn to. The reliable people who lift you up when you are down, the reliable people who help you out, and the reliable people you learn from the most. In a family like ours, I believe the Prefects are those reliable people,” Marley said in her speech.
She believes the role of Prefect is about, in her words, being a “lighthouse of love,” and being present for everyone on campus. Marley said she’s committed to being a bright light for everyone, and hopes that message can spread through our student body.
All the speeches were well done and representative of the wide range of opinions and experiences amongst the Prefect group. Since the election, the 2019-20 Prefect group has started attending the 2018-19 group’s weekly meetings to gain an understanding of the work the Prefects do, as well as meeting on their own to begin discussing their plans for next year. All the Prefects, currents and elects, went on a camping trip after Heads Weekend that included outdoor team building activities, an afternoon at a high ropes course and kayaking and camping at Lake Waramaug.