Insight: Creating Connections

By Paul Hagen, Director of Student Well-Being

After a year and a half of mostly remote schooling, many of us felt somewhat unmoored from our EPS community—the ties that link us, while still intact, had been strained. But in the first minutes of the first day of the 2021-2022 school year, students and faculty alike eagerly began to connect and reconnect. There were enthusiastic “hellos” in the hallways, beaming eyes above masks, and excited chatter in every classroom. Students who hadn’t seen each other in person in many months were eager for face-to-face contact, and they wasted no time in jumping into conversation with friends, new and old.

These micro interactions—informal, unplanned moments of connection—are how communities are built and maintained, and, after our time apart, we were all hungry for these points of connection, no matter how small.

While informal connections are a hallmark of a strong school, there must also be a structure in place to support a healthy culture of connection among students. Structured activities like sports, clubs, theatre productions, and Fall Orientations are perhaps more important this year than ever as we recover from the isolation that we faced last year. This year, we are especially diligent in our efforts to repair the social web that makes EPS the interconnected community we cherish through student activities. Fall Orientations, planned by our Experiential Education Coordinator, David Kelly-Hedrick, focused on community building and provided excellent opportunities for students to connect. We programed those two days with orientation activities designed to strengthen community, but we also left room in the schedule for students to just “hang out” and to get to know each other. The Orientations were a success in large part because our students are so committed to sustaining the EPS community through deep, meaningful connections with each other.

Co-curricular programming—arts, activities, and athletics—are another great way for students to connect. This year we are fortunate to welcome Karla Harris as our new Student Life Coordinator. Karla is responsible for clubs and social activities at EPS and is committed to creating unique opportunities for students to stitch their experiences together, to build community, and to connect. These shared experiences will allow students to interact with peers, including with peers who they may not share classes with or see often, and to build genuine connections.

Community is forged through shared experience, and there are lots of ways for students to share experience here at EPS!