Branding, Alcohol and Adolescence by Head of School Bob Henderson
It is astonishing to me how utterly pervasive the effective branding of alcoholic beverages is among any group of American adolescents. Sitting in a recent seminar on chemical dependency among teenagers, I found myself reflecting on this reality and the danger it presents to our students. Let me share an example and some reflections on this topic, especially as students head off on spring break and then return for the final quarter at school with its enhanced social opportunities.
Back in mid-February, Class I student John Beadle made a delightful announcement in assembly in support of the student-directed plays, which were scheduled to open that week. John is a master of these presentations, combining humor and cheerleading to draw students out in support of each other’s activities. In the fall, he generated immense excitement for Milton weekend (while garnering some laughs at the expense of the Head of School and his foibles on skis!).
In this case, he sought to stimulate attention and support for five Class I peers who had worked very hard to stage these plays. He poked good-natured fun at all of them (Maddie Cella, Jack Radley, Kirsten Mulrenan, Lucas O’Brien and Chris Conway) while also emphasizing the hard work they had invested and the excellent entertainment promised by the shows. It was a fantastic announcement, sending everyone out of assembly smiling and feeling great about the Nobles theatre program. However, I make note of this winter assembly highlight not just because of John’s skillful public presence; rather, I was struck by the implications of one of his amusing references.
John caricatured each of the student directors using popular culture icons. The
final play he introduced was that of Chris Conway. He flashed a picture up on the
Lawrence Auditorium screen of Chris in the pose and demeanor of, as John described it,
“the most interesting man in the world.” In case you do not watch much television, this
was a reference to the long-running advertising campaign of Dos Equis beer. If
perchance you haven’t seen them, this entire collection of very funny ads is readily
available on YouTube.
Chris Conway was portrayed as suave, macho, unflappable, uber-competent and fearless, parallel to the character in the ads, “the most interesting man in world.” The students in assembly that morning, and especially Chris’ peers, howled with laughter. This was not at Chris’ expense; instead, they immediately grasped the reference and roared in affirmative and affectionate recognition. I laughed too, because it was clever and very funny, but afterward I stopped to reflect a bit on what had just happened.
The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the 600 students in that audience could
immediately identify the tagline of an advertising campaign for an alcoholic beverage.
The qualities of “the most interesting man in world” are indelibly impressed on all these
adolescents and associated with a beer.
Most advertising for alcoholic beverages on television, or on the Internet, is neither
directed at me, nor, frankly, is it directed at most adults. It is directed at adolescents. Just
thinking about the beer advertisements that permeated the Super Bowl last month, I was
struck by the fact that Budweiser associated its product with affection between a puppy
and a Clydesdale horse. Bud Light was presented with bright blue labels, which were raised
joyously in celebration at a concert.
Watch television advertising for the full range of alcoholic beverages, and I think you would be hard pressed not to conclude that it is almost all directed at young people. My favorite in this respect is Captain Morgan Rum, which is tied with the playful anarchy of being a pirate in the early 18th Caribbean!
Ostensibly, this marketing is directed at people of legal drinking age. The
emotional branding, however, is consciously directed at the impressionable. And it
works, or it would not continue so relentlessly.
Let me be clear that I am not a prude about these things, and my purpose is not to
tilt at windmills by calling for a ban on advertising for alcoholic beverages. Nor do I sell
our students short on discerning sophistication.
Yet I worry that all of them so easily and readily connect alcoholic beverages with qualities presented in advertising that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual product being sold. Alcohol is a powerful drug that happens to be legal (for adults) and pervasive in our culture. It needs to be discussed that way with kids. This should not be done as a scare tactic, but rather to provide accurate information in regard to the risks and realities of alcohol consumption.
This includes drinking and driving, alcoholism, abusive consumption and alcohol-related
health risks, but also just the basic process of deciding whether or not to drink at all, and
under what circumstances. Students will hear some of this at school, but they need to
hear it from parents, in the context of your family values.
The pressures of the general culture should not go unanswered by parents; you do not want producers and advertisers to be the primary purveyors of the information and ethos around drinking. Take responsibility to communicate clearly and openly with your children about alcohol. Strive to ensure they understand that branding is designed to mislead and associate a powerful and dangerous product with emotions and qualities that in most respects are lies.
Character Above All by Head of Upper School Ben Snyder
Many Nobles parents have heard me say that my favorite parenting expression is "we’re only as happy as our unhappiest child." As someone with two children out of college, I can tell you that adage continues to hold true!
It is inevitable that something will not go well for our children. The situation may be a mistake made, a disappointment endured, a personal trial or an unfairness suffered. Our challenge as parents is to figure out how best to help our children persevere and learn from the situation.
In some circumstances, we end up focusing on the impact of the situation on a child’s achievement or happiness; "What impact will this have on Johnny’s college chances?" or "Sue is so unhappy about this–how can we make her feel better?"
These impulses seem natural, and many of us make significant sacrifices so our children can succeed, be happy or achieve their dreams. Unfortunately, I don’t believe this is generally the proper response for us to have.
When we, as adults, look back on our lives and reflect on what situations have taught us the most, it is often when something went wrong that we learned and grew. Often those mistakes or disappointments forced us to look hard at ourselves, our character and what is most important to us.
How did our actions impact others? What did my behavior say about my character–and how might I learn and recover from it? What do I need to do to correct the situation? What are my obligations to my "team"? How might I have handled the situation differently?
The pressures on Nobles students to achieve are real, and we naturally want our kids to do well and be happy. But what our research shows is that our students feel great tension between their achievement goals and their developing character.
Parents and teachers should consider how we interact with our children and students. Instead of an achievement-oriented conversation (“How did you do on the test?”, “Did you get the lead in the play?”, “Did you win today?”), we should engage them in talk around what kind of person we want them to be, (“How did the team/cast feel about how it went today?”, “What was your response to X?”, “What does that situation say about the people involved?”, “Is there anyone you should be reaching out to?”).
Ultimately, we hope to develop young people of character at Nobles who value and understand excellence and take real joy and satisfaction in the process of learning, failing, rebounding and making a positive difference in the world around them.
Approaching the final quarter of the year, we all might do a “gut check” around the kinds of conversations we have with kids and the balance we strike between focusing on their doing well, on their happiness and on their doing good and thinking of others.
Lifelong Lessons by Graduate Affairs Office
Our job in the graduate affairs office is to create opportunities for graduates to stay connected with Nobles throughout their lives. As we wrote in the Parents' Association Newsletter last year, lasting friendships that support and inspire us are gifts that we, as graduates, have all received from Nobles. These friendships are born in the shared experience of the school, and they keep us connected to this place in meaningful ways.
In addition to those lasting friendships, the lifelong connection between us, as graduates, and the school is reflected in the passions we discovered as students and the life lessons that we internalized during our years here.
Here are a few examples of graduates whose careers were undoubtedly shaped by interests that became passions at Nobles:
Henry Singer ’76, an award-winning documentary film producer, recalls: “The seeds [of my future career] were there at Nobles. I remember the English classes I took with Dick Baker. Another superb English teacher was Rob Shapiro. Both were big influences on me. Through them, I learned an excitement about stories and about ideas, how stories can reveal things about oneself and what it means to be human. Documentaries are essentially about good storytelling.”
Henry’s work includes 9/11: The Falling Man, about a man who jumped to his death from the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks and Wootton Bassett–The Town That Remembers, which follows a small English community for one day and meeting those that regularly come together in a ceremony to honour the UK's war dead.
Distinguished Graduate Elizabeth Kopelman Borgwardt '82, whose book A New Deal for the World was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in history and the National Book Award, says that the book originated in John Paine’s history class at Nobles and developed and burgeoned through her undergraduate years at Cambridge University and graduate studies at Harvard and Stanford.
Lindsay Pollack '89, whose experience as art editor of the Nobleman started her on a path that led her from Barnard College to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and then onto a journalistic career at Bloomberg News, the New York Sun, Art & Auction, ARTnews, Art Review and The Art Newspaper. Lindsay is currently the editor-in-chief of Art in America magazine, and she is the author of The Girl with the Gallery.
Ryan Smith '98 received the Class of '98 Prize, the Sydney Lovett Eaton Prize for excellence in performing arts and the Scudder Prize for excellence in fine arts at Nobles, and went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts in theatre arts from Brown University. Ryan co-founded RCJ Dance in Providence, R.I., and is the co-founder and an artistic director of RAWdance in San Francisco. Ryan returned to Nobles in Feb. 2014 to teach a master class in the new dance studio.
Alexa Walls '06 remains in close contact with Head of Upper School Ben Snyder, whose Genocide class at Nobles instilled in her a passion for humanitarian work. Alexa is a project coordinator at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, which provides expertise in public health, medicine, social science, management and other disciplines to promote evidence-based approaches to humanitarian assistance.
Finally, we hear from graduates time and time again that Nobles shaped them in meaningful ways by imparting some of life’s most salient lessons. Putty McDowell '42 came to Nobles in fall 1937 as a Class V student. As a boarder at Nobles, Putty developed close relationships with his teachers, and in particular with Headmaster Charles Wiggins II, who became “like a grandfather” to him. “Being at Nobles in those years made all the difference in the world in my life. I’m just sure of it,” McDowell explains. “I came away from Nobles feeling that I had to give back more than I took from life. Mr. Wiggins never delivered a special message on the subject. He just exuded the idea that we had an obligation to give back, not just to Nobles but to society as a whole.”
Marzuq Muhammad '01, a current member of the Board of Trustees, describes the important lessons that he learned from the Afternoon Program: “Wrestling was huge for me because it teaches self-discipline, and it compels you to take personal ownership of your own success. At the end of the match, there’s no one to point the finger at but yourself. The sport forces you to prepare for success.”
As we look forward to welcoming members of the Class of 2014 into the graduate ranks this spring, we know that they will leave here enriched by friendship, inspired by their passions and educated as both scholars and people. We hope that they will always feel the same bond with this special place that we do!
Brooke Asnis ’90 and Greg Croak ‘06
Class I Parent Reps (from left to right): Hillary Von Schroeter, Addie Swartz, and Beth Schlager
Oh, it was so sweet! Our Class I students thoroughly enjoyed their Valentine's Day dessert bar. Thank you to ALL of our wonderful volunteers! Delicious treats and smiles were in abundance, and it was such a nice lift for our hardworking students.
These winter months are slowly moving into our rearview mirror, and everyone is looking forward to spring break! We wish you and your family a safe and relaxing time together, and we’ll keep you posted of all the fun coming our way in April.
Please continue to check the weekly Class I notes on Friday emails. We will have a surprise lunch in April, planning events for The Way We Were and graduation. There are many opportunities for you to join in on your senior’s final slide into home plate.
Thank you again for your time and generosity!
Hillary von Schroeter
Middle School Parents Reps (from left to right): Lori Giandomenico, Cindy Lawry, Julie Callaghan, and Toni Gordon
Hope you are all managing to stay warm and shoveled out! February was a short but very busy month and with only two weeks of classes, March promises to be the same.
We have come to the end of the winter Afternoon Program, and we are nearing the end of the third academic quarter. On March 3, Class V students will travel to Washington, D.C. for a four-day trip to enrich their civic studies.
In that same week, Class VI students will participate in Identity Week, which will culminate in a trip to Boston to apply new knowledge learned.
Enjoy your March break and THINK SPRING.
Lori Giandomenico, Cindy Lawry, Julie Callaghan, and Toni Gordon
Middle School events in March 2014:
Class V students travel to Washington, D.C. for their annual trip. Class V students (only) are excused from school Friday, March 7.
Class VI students participate in Identity Week activities and will travel to Boston on March 6.
Spring break begins at the end of the academic day on Friday, March 7 and school reopens on Monday, March 24.
Faculty meeting starting at 2 p.m. No afternoon program, student pick up prior to 2 p.m.
Student/advisor meetings: students meet individually with their advisor to discuss third quarter grades and comments. Again no Afternoon Program. Students will be dismissed after their advisor meeting, please check with your student regarding the time of the meeting.
Spring Afternoon Program begins.
Visit Day for newly accepted students.
March is a relatively quiet month for the PA compared to the flurry of activity in February. A huge thank you to all the class reps and parent volunteers who organized surprise class lunches, coffees, and who are planning upcoming spring events.
More than 50 parent volunteers are constantly working behind the scenes to bring us all together for camaraderie, fun and laughter. It is wonderful to see so many parents on campus attending events and strengthening our parent community!
A big thank you also to faculty member Gia Batty, who spoke at our February PA meeting. We had a great time learning more about the Academic Achievement Center at Nobles. Our kids are in great hands with her at the helm!
Due to the break, we will not be having a PA meeting in March. However, mark your calendars for April 10, at 8 a.m., in the Castle Library for our next PA meeting. We are so pleased that Steven Tejada will be our guest speaker.
Steven wears many hats at Nobles since arriving here in 2008. He is the Dean of Diversity Initiatives, an English teacher, and is currently filling in for Provost Bill Bussey, who is on sabbatical this semester. Steven is a terrific, entertaining and engaging speaker. You won’t want to miss this!
We wish you a wonderfully relaxing vacation whether you take it easy at home or somewhere else around the globe.
Rikki Conley and Dana DeAngelis
How Will You Spend Your Summer?
The Noble and Greenough campus is a very busy place during the summer. With the Nobles Day Camp (serving campers from 3.5 years old to entering 9th grade); Achieve (an academic program serving low-income middle school age students) and Upward Bound (an academic program serving low-income or first generation college bound high school students), the Nobles campus accommodates over 1,200 people a day!
This summer, we are also offering specialty programs. These programs are for older campers and offer a concentration in a specific area. These programs include:
• Nobles Basketball Camp for Girls (entering 6th–10th grade)
June 30, July 1, July 2
Alex Gallagher, head coach of the Nobles girls varsity basketball
• Nobles Spotlight Theatre (co-ed; entering 6th–9th grade)
July 7–11 and/or July 14–18
Bill Deschenes, Drama teacher at Milton Public Schools
Jon Bonner, director of technical theatre/design at Nobles
• Nobles Summer Service (co-ed; entering 7th–10th grade)
Sandi Macquinn, coordinator of community service at Nobles
Linda Hurley, coordinator of service activities at Nobles
• Nobles Soccer Camp (co-ed: entering 7th–12th grade)
Mass Premier soccer coaches
Feel free to contact any of the program directors if you have any questions. Contact info is on their website page.
Visit our website if you are interested in learning more about our traditional summer programs for campers ages 3.5 years old–entering 9th grade. You can also contact the Nobles Day Camp office at 781-320-1320 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
We hope to see you this summer!
Director of Nobles Day Camp and Summer Programs
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Family Day at Community Servings Serves a Double Purpose
Nobles often talk about "long term partnerships" when we pull together trips abroad. These schools, hospitals and other care programs have almost become "second families" to the faculty and students of Nobles. But some of the longest and most active partnerships have been forged right here at home; one favorite is a meal provider organization called Community Servings who is now announcing a "Nobles Day" at their kitchen for families like yours!
On the Community Servings website is a short history of why and how the group began: Community Servings was founded in 1989 by a diverse coalition of AIDS activists, faith groups, and community organizations to provide home-delivered meals to individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Over the past 22 years, Community Servings has evolved from a small neighborhood meals program delivering a hot dinner to 30 individuals struggling with HIV/AIDS to a regional nutrition program serving nutritionally tailored meals and providing nutrition education to thousands of people per year across Massachusetts--all of whom are unable to shop or cook for themselves due to a critical illness. As we celebrate 22 years in operation this year, we have served over 4.6 million free meals to the critically ill since 1990, helping those from Boston's most disenfranchised communities fight hunger and illness.
These wonderful people have been in strong connection with Nobles for 15 years, providing our Afternoon Program with a steady site, where educating students about how food can be medicine for the most vulnerable of local people begins and ends our stint there twice a week.
One student who has been volunteering there wrote a letter to them recently:
To everyone at Community Servings,
Thank you so much for everything you have done for my community. Every day, you all make the city I live in a better place. You guys have touched me and many others in ways I cannot explain, and for that, I am truly grateful. Coming from a family where my grandmother has an illness that causes her to rely on other people heavily, I know how hard it can be for family members to provide for their sick loved ones. The work you do inspires me to be a better person and to be grateful for the life that I have. Once again, thank you so much for inviting us in with open arms and for all the work you do at Community Servings.
Now, this vital and fun environment is opening its doors to Nobles families for a day of work on April 10 at the Family Soup-a-Thon. Join us for a night of volunteering with Community Servings! As part of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, Community Servings invites Nobles students and their parents for our first Family Soup-a-Thon on Thursday, April 10.
Volunteers will be treated to a family-style dinner and a unique volunteer experience in the Community Servings’ kitchen, preparing home-delivered meals to help our neighbors suffering from life threatening illnesses.
The event will be held at the Community Servings office at 18 Marbury Terrace in Jamaica Plain from 5:30-8 p.m. Spaces are limited! Please contact Linda Hurley at Linda_Hurley@nobles.edu or Adam Seigal at email@example.com for more information.
Both Linda Hurley and I encourage you, as parents, to find whatever agency in the Boston area that your family could partner with over time in a collaborative and instructional way. But we do want to call your attention to this particular site. They know how to use volunteers well and are already committed to Nobles. Wherever you decide, however, we believe that creating a commitment as a family to helping where you can, around the values you believe in, creates balanced and grateful young people. We can all agree on that!
Sandi MacQuinn, Director of Community Service
Class III Parent Reps - Elizabeth Orgel and Betsy Edie
Dear Class III Parents,
It is hard to believe that March is here already, and warmer weather is hopefully right around the corner!
Plans are well underway for the Head of School Dance on Saturday, April 5 from 6:30–10:30 p.m. Your children have all received an invitation via Paperless Post and it is their responsibility (not yours!) to RSVP, although a gentle nudge might be a good idea!
As a reminder, this is not an optional event since it marks an important transition for the class as a whole, and it will be fun! If you'd like to get involved, please attend our next planning meeting on Monday, March 3 at 8 a.m. in the Castle Lower Dining Room. You can also email one of us if you can't attend but want to help. And don't worry, parents do not chaperone the dance!
Our spring Parent Social will be held on Friday, April 11 in the Lower Castle Dining Room. We are sharing the same night as Class I (they will be in the New Castle Dining Room), which will hopefully simplify things and encourage great attendance. And, we can share stories about the Head of School dance! Look for an invitation soon.
We hope that everyone enjoys a wonderful break and that all your children come back from vacation refreshed and ready to tackle the demands of sophomore spring!
Betsy and Elizabeth
Class II Parent Reps: Nicole Zungoli Stimpson and Karen Conway
Hello, Class II Parents!
This is a busy time for everyone, as students begin the whole college process. The good news is that Class II students have only one quarter left of their junior year and two weeks of vacation to look forward to!
Spring break begins Friday, March 7, and school resumes on Monday, March 24. Only varsity teams will practice on the Monday back from vacation.
Here are our upcoming Class II events:
Please join us for a Parent Coffee on Thursday, April 17. We have opted for a slightly later start time to accommodate all of you who no longer drive to school! The Coffee will be from 8:30–9:30 a.m. in the Castle.
Also, our Class II Parent Social will be held on Friday, May 2, from 6:30–9:30 p.m., so please mark your calendars. This happens to be the same night as the Middle School Social, which may be a bonus for some of you.
Finally, it looks like there will be an opportunity to give our students one more special lunch in May when they might really be in need of a treat. Watch for notices in the upcoming Friday emails for the date announcement and to sign up to help plan that event.
We look forward to seeing you! Please contact us with questions.
Class IV Parent Reps - Polly Maroni and Heidi Raffone
Greetings, Parents and Guardians:
Welcome to March! We have certainly had our fair share of snow this winter. Bring on spring!
Before highlighting the upcoming events, we wanted to thank the Castle staff and especially all the energetic, enthusiastic, amazing volunteers for their hard work and for the wonderful job put forth on the Class IV surprise lunch. Thanks to all who made it special. We could not have done it without everyone’s help.
March is shaping up to be a relatively quiet month before the craziness of spring.
Here are some of the scheduled events for March:
• Monday, March 3, 7–8:30 p.m.: Standardized testing and the college process for parents/guardians of Classes IV, III and II
• Friday, March 7: Last day of classes before break
• March 8–23: Spring Break
• Monday, March 24: School resumes
• Wednesday, March 26: Spring Afternoon Programs begin
Looking ahead, our Class IV Parent Social will be held in the Castle on the evening of
Friday, April 25, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. More details to follow after the break.
As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Polly Maroni and Heidi Raffone
What a winter it has been so far! We hope that you’ve all survived the many storms and the vicious polar vortex and enjoyed the recent much-deserved warmer weather. The “Surf’s Up” surprise lunch that Class III enjoyed last Thursday was much appreciated. It was a wonderful respite from all the hard work of winter quarter and a nice reminder that spring (and, even summer!) will arrive! Thank you to all the parents who helped to organize this fun event.
Since January, all students have been very busy with their many academic commitments, including the U.S. history research project, their involvement in sports, theatre, and other extracurricular activities. We are sure that everyone is looking forward to vacation in order to relax and recharge for the final quarter of the year. To all of those traveling on Nobles spring break trips, we extend our best wishes for a safe and wonderful experience.
Through class meetings, assemblies and other announcements, our students have heard from a variety of study away program representatives over the past two months, and we would like to applaud those who took the time and the risk to apply to study away from Nobles for either a semester or for the entire academic year.
If your child applied to study away, he/she should hear from the different programs by mid-April. If your child is accepted to one or more programs, he/she must make a decision and inform Nobles of this decision by May 1. Your child should inform his/her advisor, Jennifer Hines (dean of enrollment management), as well as the two of us. If you have any questions about this process or about the individual programs, please do not hesitate to contact us.
On Feb. 11, Director of College Counseling Michael Denning offered an engaging and thought-provoking college-process orientation for Class III parents and guardians. Entitled “Searching for a College: A Dynamic 18-Month Process,” the program was designed to introduce Class III parents and guardians to Nobles' college counseling program and philosophy and to help parents and guardians understand a bit more about the college-process calendar, in general, and standardized testing, in particular.
In addition to talking about the various ways in which Nobles hopes to support your child as he/she makes his/her way through the college-admissions experience, Michael offered some tips as to when and how parents and guardians might best engage their children in the college-search process. While a potentially exciting journey of exploration, the college process can also be emotionally and financially challenging and, at times, anxiety-producing.
Indeed, the college process can affect families in ways that are hard to anticipate. Even the best-intentioned parents and guardians can wind up losing sight of some of the most important elements in the college process, namely the well being of their child. Our hope with this presentation was to reinforce this with parents and guardians before the process begins. If you are interested in seeing a copy of the materials that were presented, please let us know.
As you may know, Class III has a special event approaching on Saturday, April 5. To continue with tradition for Class III each year, Head of School Bob Henderson will host the Class III Head of School Dinner & Dance on that evening from 6:30–10:30 p.m.
The Head of School Dinner & Dance is a mandatory event for all Class III students, as it marks the mid-way point of their Upper School career at Nobles. For that reason, if your child cannot attend, we must hear directly from you in order to excuse him/her.
Since this is a special occasion, there is a specific dress code for the evening: boys should wear a jacket, tie and nice pants; girls should wear a skirt with a nice top or a dress. This is not the prom, and your child should not dress as if he or she were going to the prom!
If your child is a boarder at Nobles, the dorm will be open on that evening if he or she would like to stay at Nobles. All boarders will receive an email asking whether they would like to stay that night, so please help your child plan ahead and have him or her respond to that email by Monday, March 17.
An invitation for the dinner and dance has been sent to students via email, and although the event is mandatory, your child must RSVP by Monday, March 17. We would like to thank all of the parents who are working very hard to make this event memorable, and if you are not involved but would like to be, please contact Betsy Edie or Elizabeth Orgel.
We look forward to a strong finish to the year with the Class III students, and we hope to see you on the Nobles campus this spring. We wish you and your family a relaxing and fun-filled March vacation!
Jessica Brennan and Amy Joyce McBrien