Michael Gary Speaks

It is remarkable how much life can change in a short period of time.

Here we are, having responded to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic with a successfully implemented distance learning platform without having to shut down the school to make the transition. Our dynamic online learning module, iSelectLearning, has allowed Friends Select to advance our ability to deliver the quality of education for which we are known. We truly reimagined our unparalleled educational program while simultaneously enabling our commitment to excellence in teaching and learning—both objectives of our strategic plan which we were able to realize in the virtual world.

We were also reminded of the importance of Friends Select’s commitment to inclusion, social justice, and respect for others. As an African American man who has experienced systemic racism firsthand, I was both angered and heartbroken by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor,  George Floyd, and others. In the wake of protests in response to police brutality and racial injustices in Philadelphia and across the country, our mission as a Quaker school feels more relevant now than ever. Friends Select supports calls for change within our city and country, continues to foster an environment of anti-racism and inclusion, and pledges to create a school culture that is more accepting of students, faculty, and staff of color.

Although these events have produced contradictory feelings, they remind me that it is the people—faculty, staff, students, and families—who make Friends Select School happen, whether face-to-face or from afar.
With the resources our talented faculty and supportive families provide, we are taking the best of who we are as a Quaker school in the city and leveraging it for the good of our community.

It feels as if we’ve experienced two pandemics at once. The sense of isolation and uncertainty from the mandated quarantine during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic paired with the frustration and pain caused by continued racial injustices have been challenging to handle at the same time. Friends Select’s long-standing promise to extend our values beyond the school community fills me with hope that together, we will come out of these experiences stronger than before.