Prefects encourage community building at first virtual convocation

James Hess and Karen Wu

As the community united to watch the eighth annual all-school convocation over Vimeo livestream Sunday, Head Prefects Jonathan Cosgrove ’21 and Cleo Maloney ’21 encouraged students to make the best of distance learning.

Cosgrove compared his feelings of discomfort from the COVID-19 pandemic to his first day at the school, when he wore blue in a crowd of black and red at convocation. He then told the story of how he initially didn’t get into Jazz Band for trumpet but was accepted into the ensemble after performing arts teacher Starr Wayne offered him a spot to play valve trombone. Through the experience, Cosgrove said he learned how to take hardship in stride, which armed him for the similar anxieties he feels today.

At the end of his speech, Cosgrove gave advice to each grade, encouraging them to try new things and invest in relationships.

“We each have the tools to bend the future in a positive direction,” Cosgrove said. “We can make this year meaningful by using our unique abilities to start repairing the world.”

Maloney discussed her sense of loss in regards to the community with the fall semester beginning virtually and the class of 2020 graduating. However, she said the student body should not eulogize the loss of in-person learning.

“You still have what makes Harvard-Westlake worthy of appreciation,” Maloney said. “Our community doesn’t exist because of our campuses; it exists because of the people in it.”

President Rick Commons opened the virtual ceremony by reminiscing on previous in-person convocations and encouraging collective goodwill. He introduced the new Chaplain, Reverend Anne Gardner, who welcomed students to the 2020-21 school year.

Head of Middle School Jon Wimbish, Head of Upper School Beth Slattery and Head of Athletics Terry Barnum also spoke during the event. Commons conducted the traditional robing ceremony with the senior prefects and their faculty sponsors, who all stood outside and wore masks.

“It was a good experience watching a Harvard-Westlake tradition from my home and seeing all the emotions of the staff as they welcomed us from a distance,” Kieran Chung ’23 said.

After the Head Prefects spoke, Associate Head of School Laura Ross closed the ceremony by encouraging students, faculty and staff to focus on introspective development.

“We all owe it to each other to grow as people this year,” Ross said. “Because if all of us can work on our capacity for empathy, our interest in the stories and lives of others and the welfare of our community as a whole, we will come out of this year a stronger and better Harvard-Westlake. We are a place where people do hard things, and our team needs each and everyone of you. We are ready to grow together.”