Parents Association & Parents Council
The Durham Academy Parents Association supports the school's academic, social, fine arts and athletic objectives. Parents Association encourages volunteerism, raises and disperses funds, promotes communication and cooperation, and provides input to the school on issues of concern and interest to parents. All Durham Academy parents are members of the Parents Association.
The Durham Academy Parents Council is the governing board of the Parents Association. This group comprises members of an executive committee; division representatives; members of schoolwide committees on matters such as diversity, wellness and athletics; and parents who organize both community-building and fundraising events. See a list of the parents who serve on Parents Council.
Parents Bulletin Board
Nine Durham Academy seniors were granted membership in the school's Cum Laude Society — the highest academic honor that the school can bestow — on Monday. The distinction is made in recognition of students' grades, strength of academic schedule and contributions to campus intellectual life.
Seniors who were inducted into Cum Laude on Monday were Charlie Berman, Luisa Ferrari, Rowan Gossett, Stephanie Jaffe, Thea Lance, Kiran Nagar, Kyle O’Connor, Bryce Polascik and Rasika Rao.
The new Cum Laude members join fellow seniors Anna Baker, Abby Breitfeld, Ellie Breitfeld, Christopher Camitta, Caroline Ghio, Lexi Kadis, Veronica Kim, Lindsey Molina, Matthew Mosca, Felicity Walston and Eilene Yang, who were inducted in 2015.
From this year forward, only seniors are inducted into Cum Laude, with about 20 percent of each graduating class represented. The timing of the ceremony also differed this year from that of years past, with new members inducted the week of commencement, rather than in March.
"Moving our Cum Laude induction ceremony to May and inducting only seniors was motivated by our desire to put the focus of this honor where it should be — not as a means to an end, but an end in and of itself," Assistant Head of School and Upper School Director Lee Hark explained in his opening remarks at the ceremony. "The standards of Cum Laude are almost impossibly high — they call you to be your best selves — and that is an achievement worth recognizing for sure."
Breitfeld, who will attend Princeton University in the fall, congratulated the inductees on their achievement and echoed some of Hark's sentiments: to appreciate their induction into Cum Laude and other successes for "what they are, not just where they might get you in life."
She recalled an inner conflict as the second semester of her senior year came around. There was a feeling that she could ease her foot off the academic gas pedal a bit — yet she couldn't shake her desire to perform at a high level academically.
"I realized that the reason I was still trying to maintain a relatively high performance is that it is a source of personal pride for me to do my work well. I was already in to college; a lot of you were as well. We could have just stopped, but we didn't," Breitfeld said. "So, because of that, I hope that your incredible academic achievements are a source of pride for you also, not just a means to get into college, or anything else. I encourage you all to go through life with the same amount of excellence you have shown throughout high school, not just to reach the acceptable next step in life, but because you are proud of what you do."
In that vein, another of Breitfeld's pieces of advice was to find internal motivation for success, rather than measuring themselves against other's achievements: "There will always be people smarter than you, faster than you, better than you. If you go through life with the end goal of being the best at everything, you will always, always be unhappy. Use other people as motivation, sure, but at the end of the day, don't base your value on how you compare to anyone else."
Breitfeld said it's a lesson she's working to implement in her own life, noting that she's had lots of practice, growing up with "an incredibly high-achieving twin sister," fellow Cum Laude member Ellie Breitfeld.
Her last piece of advice for fellow Cum Laude members was to work to identify their passions and stick with them. In her time at the Upper School, Breitfeld said she's uncovered two of them — computer science and musicals — and she wants to continue nurturing those interests in the years to come.
"If you can find something that you know you love, whether it be art history or music or biology or writing or frogs, try to invest your time in it moving forward," she said. "You are all widely intelligent and talented people; it would be such a shame to waste your extraordinary efforts on something that you're not invested in."
McNall, who teaches physics and engineering at the Upper School, encouraged the seniors to "live like a scientist" — to enjoy life's experiments, in all their forms. Good scientists ask lots of questions, she said, for they "allow us to organize our thoughts, to pinpoint the weak points of arguments and to win over others without forcing our ideas down their throats."
Experienced scientists also understand that previous experiences have resulted in biases, and they carefully design experiments to avoid tainting them with said preconceptions, McNall said. It's the same throughout life, and it's important to acknowledge one's biases and "push yourself to step outside of the box they try to keep you in.
“To some extent, the inclination toward bias is a protective instinct inside us, trying to keep us from getting hurt," McNall said. "But getting hurt — risking getting hurt — is often how we learn the most about ourselves and life."
Scientists' "real job," she continued, is to explore how the world works. It's important to preserve a sense of wonder and excitement as one moves through life, McNall advised.
"We come to the world with a child’s eyes, not knowing what is happening or why, but simply looking with amazement at the universe," she said. "... In a world that makes a competition of cynicism, refuse to be jaded."