All three of the robots designed by Milton’s Robotics Club qualified for national and state tournaments this year, a testament to the club’s teamwork and collaborative spirit. Students are split into three teams, each competing with its own robot.
Milton Robotics is doing better than ever, says Alexander Shih ’19. “Our biggest success, though, is in our team dynamic,” he says. “We are working together, and the rookies are getting a lot of the experience they’ll need to start leading in the future.”
“The program has become more and more competitive,” says Chris Hales, club advisor and computer programming faculty member. “It takes a lot of time and a decent amount of knowledge. Robotics is an intellectual pursuit, and sometimes it can become a competition to prove how much you know, but that mindset is not accepted here. All ideas are welcome, and these students encourage one another.”
The club participates in VEX Robotics, which challenges students to design robots that will compete against others in a small arena filled with opportunities to earn points: lifting and moving objects, tagging flags, climbing platforms and other tasks. Competitors are judged on individual matches, overall performance, and design.
Each qualifying tournament offers students insight into the functionality of the robots they’ve built and a chance to assess what works and what needs to be improved.
“It’s a challenge to figure out what design we want to use, and we’ve changed it after each tournament,” says Avery Miller ’20. “We have a great time building together and sharing design ideas.”
At a fall competition in Framingham, Massachusetts, two of Milton’s teams paired up in the quarterfinals, where they were seeded sixth, and upset the third-seed team, a match that felt especially victorious to Christy Zheng ’19.
“That was a huge moment, because it showed us that we really are capable of producing robots that are just as competitive as the ones created by kids or schools that dedicate part of every day of their school curriculum to robotics,” Christy says.
Although Milton’s three teams compete individually, they plan and develop together. “There are people who are good at designing, programming, building and driving, and everyone ends up helping each other so that we move forward together,” Christy says.
This year is also the robotics team’s first in its newly expanded and renovated space in the Art and Media Center, which has provided an inclusive home for students who share a passion for robotics, and improved resources for collaborative work, which sometimes goes well into the evenings before competitions.
The students describe the new room as a major upgrade with better lighting and more room to work together, although Alexander does miss an old, dirty, broken-in couch that lived in the former space.
In October during Parents’ Weekend, Milton students, parents and faculty gathered to celebrate the dedication of Berylson Field. The new turf field, located behind Millet and Norris houses, modernizes facilities for field hockey and lacrosse and features a new entrance and masonry seating.
This year, students participated in The Defamation Experience, an interactive theatrical performance and discussion centered on a fictional courtroom drama involving a civil defamation case. Using the context of a legal trial, the cast navigated issues including race, class, gender and religion, culminating in deliberation and a decision in which students participated as jurors. The post-show discussion, led by a facilitator, provided an opportunity to talk about issues of identity, inclusion, justice and our connection as people.
“You get nothing out of being cruel to yourself, and you gain everything by being kind,” Ginny Barrett ’20 says. “It’s a really hard lesson to learn, but once you’re there, it can be transformative. It starts as simply as looking in the mirror and saying, ‘I look good today.’”
This is the message that Ginny and Laura Bailey ’19 hope members take away from the student club Body+ which they cofounded this year: Self-confidence comes from accepting and loving the person you are today. The girls are not just close friends; they’re cousins, and from this lifelong bond they’ve guided each other through the various insecurities that arise in adolescence.
Ginny struggled with her confidence in middle school and found it hard to discuss with others. She felt invalidated when people responded to her concerns with “Stop it, you’re beautiful.”
“Obviously, when people do that, they’re trying to give you a good message and make you feel better, but they’re not really listening,” Ginny says. “Body image comes from so many outside factors pushing on you, whether it’s society, media, family or friends, which makes it harder to talk about, because you never know whether a response is going to boost you up or push you down. I wanted to create a safe environment for people to share their experiences and really listen to others, and realize they’re not alone.”
Each meeting has a focus or activity—such as the body-positive photo shoot that was held with the help of a photography student—that encourages members to love the bodies they have. At the end of each meeting, members give the person next to them a compliment, but also compliment themselves.
It’s ingrained in people to self-criticize, finding fault with everything from their weight to their complexion, from their hair type to their nose shape, Ginny and Laura say. The club is open to students of all genders.
A single issue—examined across academic disciplines in classrooms around Greater Boston—is the launching point for the Humanities Workshop, founded by English department faculty members Alisa Braithwaite and Lisa Baker.
Beginning this fall, Milton students, along with students at four other public and private schools, will focus on questions about economic inequality in their humanities classes, culminating in a May exhibition at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston.
The Humanities Workshop will follow a single social issue throughout an entire academic year, studying it through literature, history, language, philosophy and the arts. The idea sprang from “a desire to reassert the humanities in the age of STEM [science, technology, engineering and math education],” says Alisa.
The inaugural theme is especially relevant to the nearly 1,000 students participating in this pilot year, because Boston was named in 2016 by the Brookings Institution as the city with the highest income inequality in the United States.
“We very deliberately chose this theme because everyone can participate, because everyone is part of this conversation,” Lisa says.
Alisa and Lisa have been developing the program for several years. They learned of the Humanities Action Lab, a consortium of colleges and universities that examine pressing social issues through the lens of the humanities, and connected with that program’s director to discuss scaling it to the high school level. Last June, they met with other high school educators to talk about the idea of a theme-specific project.
At Milton and the other pilot schools this year, participating teachers have agreed to focus on economic inequality. Students’ work will culminate in a visual representation of their studies at the EMK Institute this spring. The other participating schools are the public Boston Latin School; Boston College High School, a Jesuit Catholic boys’ school; and two public charter schools, Boston Collegiate and the Academy of the Pacific Rim.
The public event on May 19 will showcase the Humanities Workshop and feature a curated exhibit of student work and performances, along with a keynote address, opportunities for civic engagement, and a panel of artists, activists, journalists and authors who have studied economic inequality in their fields.
Starting off with a win against Lawrence Academy, the 28-member girls’ cross country team finished the season about even in wins vs. losses and came in sixth in the ISL championships. Ellie Mraz ’21 was a standout this season, undefeated in all but one of her races. She was named a Patriot Ledger All-Scholastic Athlete, a Boston Herald All-Scholastic and a Boston Globe All-Star for the 2018–2019 season.
Ellie says the highlight of her day is practicing after school with both the girls’ and boys’ teams. “There is a great group of new freshmen on both teams, and it is amazing to see everyone get stronger as the weeks go by,” says Ellie. “The girls’ captains are doing a great job and bring so much fun and energy to the team. I used to get extremely nervous before races, but this year I have made it my goal to stay calm and to just enjoy the sport. Running is challenging physically and also mentally.”
Coach Scott Huntoon has coached the girls’ team since 2002 and says this year’s team was a young one, so he is looking forward to the next couple of years to see what they can do.
Two characteristics of learning are fundamental to a Milton education. As graduates can attest, Milton students explore and discover; each finds a distinctive voice and discerns a daring vision. They also forge enduring connections with peers and teachers, transformative bonds across culture, class and country. That’s the power of Milton: the power of the individual mind and the power of a connected community.
These enduring elements of a Milton experience now drive a series of interconnected changes to the core of the Upper School, changes that will affirm the centrality of both shared experience and intellectual exploration. More than ever, the heart of the campus will embody what lies at the heart of a Milton education.
The project begins with an expansion of the Schwarz Student Center, a space that has proven transformative since its opening, in 2004. To underscore the importance of connections, the Office of Multiculturalism and Community Development will move from a basement corner in Wigglesworth Hall to a larger space in the heart of the student center. Now, when students enter the ground floor of the student center, this office will greet them, an unmistakable sign of our commitment to an inclusive school community. Then, to their right, students will see a newly central community engagement office, visible affirmation of Milton’s relationships with those beyond our campus. A three-story expansion on the east side of the building, between a renovated and more open student activities office and the entrance to our admission office, will also provide an additional 4,400 square feet for informal student gatherings and active group study, relieving congestion during the busiest moments of our school day and providing greater flexibility for communal gathering. At other times, including in the evening, this vibrant social space will allow students to interact and learn together in groups. We recognize the value of collaboration around the Harkness table and in the lab; that power should extend beyond our classrooms.
This enlarged student center will provide one enhanced venue for learning, including spaces designed for collaboration. A subsequent move of Milton’s library to Wigglesworth Hall, connected to the student center, will provide another. In this era of constant, lightning-speed information, it is vital that we celebrate all that libraries offer our students. The quiet of a library permits deep reflection, spurring enduring understanding, while each book invites a student to see the world in a new way. Transcendent moments in learning often start with a task that challenges students to become explorers, to discover—on their own—a new world. All who love the act of making meaning—starting in one direction, meeting a dead end, and discerning another direction—find tremendous power in the library, which will now lie at the heart of one of Milton’s iconic academic buildings.
This move will bring a range of programmatic benefits. By pairing Milton’s library with the history department in a single building, the renovation will create a new campus research hub. The integration of discovery and discussion will extend to the English department, too. No longer will Centre Street separate the library’s texts from the Warren Hall classrooms where students examine them. Finally, the renovation will provide the Academic Skills Center, long in the basement of the existing Cox Library, with a new home on the Centre Street level of Wigglesworth Hall. This vital resource, no longer tucked away, will, like the new library, live at the core of the Upper School.
On its own, each of these enhancements reflects Milton’s values: our commitment to community, our belief in individual voices, our faith in our students’ capabilities. Together, they do more. Now they will move seamlessly from one mode of learning to the next. During the academic day, for example, students can move from lively discussion in Warren Hall classrooms to informal conversations between boarding and day students in the student center, from intense exploration of a text to productive, collaborative work. In the evening, students can gather in the student center to prepare a presentation and, that task complete, they can find quiet spots in the adjacent library to craft an essay or conduct research. Day and night, these buildings will hum.
How, then, will we use the newly vacated Cox building? At long last, Milton’s Upper School math department will have its own dedicated space. A thoughtful renovation will allow math to move from the fourth floor of Ware Hall to this highly visible, central space, the kind of space it deserves. Just as the Pritzker Science Center so beautifully displays scientific inquiry, a light-filled, open space will celebrate our students’ exploration of mathematics in group settings and in bright new classrooms. In addition, a new entrance on the west side of the building will allow students to move from Ware and the Art and Media Center to the Kellner Performing Arts Center and Pritzker. Not just a destination for math students, this building will become the bridge connecting all the academic disciplines located on the south side of Centre Street.
Each step in this progression—a sequence that will ultimately create much-needed space for the modern language department and the Middle School in Ware Hall—will allow future generations of students to learn in spaces that reflect the best of Milton, both past and present.
by David Ball ’88, Upper School principal
Milton Academy’s board of trustees has approved a funding plan for these projects to support the transformation of Milton’s campus. Fundraising is a critical component. Alumni, parents and other friends of Milton interested in learning more about how our vision for facilities will reflect the quality of our program should contact Chief Advancement Officer Lisa Winick at 617-898-2305.
Journalist, author and cultural critic Touré ’89 returned to campus as the Sally Bowles ’56 Keynote Speaker for Seminar Day 2018.
“As journalists, our integrity is under assault,” said Touré, who hosts The Touré Show podcast. “Media people are deeply aware of the importance of trust; we are the cornerstones of democracy. Media people are obsessed with getting to the truth. These are people of high integrity and they take their duties seriously.”
Touré discussed his time at Milton and his rising activism at Emory University, where he started a black student newspaper. He told stories about getting his start as an intern at Rolling Stone magazine, eventually becoming a writer for numerous publications covering a wide range of artists from Eminem to Kanye West, Zadie Smith to Jay-Z.
“In my career it’s always been about truth, particularly adding complexity to black people. Giving them a voice to talk about what makes them amazing — their genius and the tactics they took to get ahead in life.”
Not one to shy from controversial topics, Touré, who has hosted various television programs, discussed what is happening in the media today — for example, how Fox News compares to MSNBC.
“The right-wing media give untrue information,” said Touré. “They lie to their audience all the time. This leaves their followers unable to understand reality. These are people pretending to be journalists, but they are propagandists.”
Touré said one fault of mainstream journalists is they don’t want to be perceived as biased or unfair so audiences get “false equivalence,” where two sides of a story are presented as equal, even when they are not. Touré cited news stories on President Obama’s birth certificate, where both sides were given equal play in the media even though only one side — he was born in Hawaii — was a factual truth.
“This is why the mainstream media had trouble covering the rise of President Trump. Even though he was speaking untruths, the media, for a long time, restrained from saying the L word,” Touré said, referring to lies. “They didn’t want to be seen as biased. It’s hard to have your industry denigrated all the time by the president. But the media need to continue to be as dogged as possible to pursue the truth.”
During the Q&A following his talk, students had a range of questions, particularly about the “divide” between liberals and conservatives in the United States, listening to both sides and whether Touré was espousing the “silencing” of one side. Touré answered, “We shouldn’t silence one side and we can’t. It’s not about silencing but reconciling. I would appreciate a more truthful dialogue.”
The Sally Bowles ’56 Keynote Speaker Fund fulfills the wishes of Sally’s family and friends that speakers come to campus who reflect the intellectual curiosity and rigor that marked Sally’s pursuits, as a student and a professional. Sally was focused on big, bold ideas affecting millions of people. She was on the team that developed the Peace Corps; she helped decentralize New York City public schools; she was the director of Medicaid; and ran Connecticut’s welfare programs. Over time, and thanks to this Fund, students listen to varying perspectives on issues critical to the health of society in the United States and around the world.
Twenty-two other experts and activists followed the keynote address, covering a wide range of publicly debated domestic and international issues. Among many topics, students could choose to learn about progress and challenges in pediatric cancer care; democracy in the Middle East; children living in homelessness; the plight of young immigrants; the value of investing in social progress; and the placebo effect in genetics. Many Milton Academy graduates and several parents were among the guest speakers, stimulating great questions and discussions.
Called the Keyes Seminar Day, this lively event has been one of Milton’s most important traditions since 1977. It is named in honor of its founder, former faculty member Peter Keyes, a legendary promoter of student interest in the political process as well as public and governmental affairs and service. In the Milton spirit of developing students’ confidence and competence to live by our motto, “Dare to be true,” Seminar Day brings to campus individuals who have made compelling choices. They are scholars, business people, scientists, educators, writers, political leaders and artists making a difference in the world.