The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

14 Years Later

Looking back on my time in the embryonic democracy
14+Years+Later
Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

Right now it’s the last full Saturday of my high school career. At this time next week, I’ll have been handed a diploma by Dr. Frank and be officially graduated from Parker. Final drafts for this issue of “The Weekly” were due two days ago. Our wonderful faculty advisors will probably be upset that I’m turning this in late… to those two, sorry.

There’s a reason that I’m writing this article late, I’ve been struggling to accept the reality that my 14 cherished years inside the embryonic democracy are coming to a close. Somehow, I thought that by putting off writing this reflection of my time as a Colonel, it would also make my very much numbered days at Parker longer. Shockingly, it didn’t.

In reflecting on my time at Parker, I felt it necessary to share some regrets. My greatest regret this year was not spending more time writing for “The Weekly.” To those who know what my Google Calendar looks like (where basically my whole life exists), you will think this is funny, due to the immense number of meetings and time I’ve dedicated to this publication. Sadly, this is the first article I’m publishing this year. Doesn’t it set a horrible example that an Editor-in-Chief of this newspaper hasn’t written an article this year? Yeah, it does, and I’ve been constantly reminded of this by my fellow editors, trust me.

So why haven’t I written much? As the self-certified member of the class of 2024 who applied to the most colleges, I’m completely and totally burned out. Since the middle of junior year, I’ve been pining to be done with Parker. Not because I hate the institution, the administration, or my classmates, but rather because these past two years have felt like I’m being pushed to the brink of my abilities. For these two years, I’ve been more consumed with never sleeping, answering a million emails, changing portal assignments from blue to green than savoring my final years as a Colonel. Unfortunately, this is simply the behemoth that is the college application process, and in retrospect, I wish it had gone differently, but I cannot get that time back. I wish I had spent less time applying to colleges and more writing for this publication I hold so dearly. One other thing: I always wanted to participate on the Berkowitz Committee and never got involved, just wanted to voice that here!

On the senior retreat in beautiful Galena, Illinois Joe Bruno held a tub of white envelopes in his hands. When I saw this, while sitting under the tent overlooking some body of water, my brain started to wonder what he was about to hand out. Was this like the letters from the junior retreat where everyone’s parents wrote about us? Were these kind notes from our advisors? Was he going to violate FERPA and give us our college letters of recommendation? I had no clue. After what felt like hours of waiting for him to explain the activitiy (it was actually only five minutes), he shared that he was giving us letters we wrote to ourselves during freshman year. I didn’t remember writing one of these, but surely I had done it, right? When Mr. Bruno and the other chaperones began passing out these notes, I saw that at the bottom of Bruno’s stack was a letter with twelve different types of sports stickers keeping it sealed. In that moment, I remembered sealing the letter in Ms. Zeller’s classroom four years ago and making a sincere effort to ensure nobody read the contents of that letter. Looking back, that really wasn’t necessary. There wasn’t anything particularly sensitive in that note, but I just didn’t like the idea of somebody reading it. In my letter, the one detail that stuck out to me was declaring then and there that one day I wanted to be Editor-in-Chief of this paper. As I sat there in the folding chair at Eagle Ridge Resort, I was shocked that I had written that and been right. I certainly didn’t predict having three different advisors during my four years in high school, but I was right about one thing, at least.

This year has been an absolute joy for me with my Weekly work. From sending assorted texts at 3 a.m. and immediately getting a response from Harry Lowitz to editing articles written by enthusiastic freshmen to our spirited Ed Board meetings (aka gossip sessions), I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve had the honor of making much of the humorous content this year and wanted to take a moment to thank those who’ve allowed me to make fun of them. First and foremost – Sarah Matthews. Sarah, as much as I make fun of you for SG being boring or standing behind a podium, you’ve done an excellent job at the helm of Student Government this year, and I appreciate your good sense of humor. I would also like to show gratitude to Ms. Zeller for being a good sport about all of the memes about her.

After having written five paragraphs of this article, I’m starting to feel like I’ve told readers nothing they didn’t already know, similar to one of Dr. Frank’s beloved Principal’s Vantage Point emails. So, let’s get some solid advice and interesting content here.

To those students who still have time left at FWP, savor every moment of it in these halls. I know that the traditions can sometimes seem goofy, but for Parker to truly flourish, you all need to believe that everyone has a piece of the house. I’ve only recently started to have full appreciation for the value of the Parker traditions, when discussing with my friends from Latin and other schools about how their time at school was coming to a close. No other school has the kind of special and genuine traditions that we have.

The bond between Parker alumni of different generations is stronger than any other school or organization I’ve ever seen. Last summer, I was at a political event downtown and unknowingly happened upon a group of Parker alumni. Within thirty seconds of identifying myself as a Colonel, we were talking about Morning Exs, Parker sports, and the Big Siblings program. This group of alumni, including US Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley ’92, was eager to learn if we were going to beat Latin in soccer this year and which of their teachers were still at Parker. This event was when I realized that once someone is a Colonel, they always stay a Colonel.

When someone who doesn’t go here asks what our mascot is, don’t be embarrassed to share that we are the Colonels. Be unapologetic. We are not the Eagles. Certainly, not the Romans. Not the Maroons. There’s just something about our school and traditions that are so sacred. Even some of my closest friends who went to Parker but didn’t start in JK, question why I care so much about all of these traditions. I’m not fully sure, but something Dr. Frank has read to start school for these past fourteen years comes to mind. “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, “that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not any eye, I do not belong to the body,” (Corinthians 12:14-26).

I wanted to also thank some of the people and organizations at Parker that have made my time at Clark and Webster special:

Jewish Student Connection: Three years ago when I approached Ms. Olt about starting this group, I never thought it would become a reality. After many meetings with Ms. Olt and Leo Auerbach, I was shocked to see that we gathered 30+ people at our first meeting. This year having almost every member of our community, students, faculty and staff crowd into a small science classroom after the October 7 attacks showed me how strong our community is. Seeing the meaningful connections that students have made with each other through this important group has been extraordinary for me, and in a year where it’s been needed more than ever, I’m proud that our community shows up for each other in our times of greatest need. Never stop being proud of who you are. Ever. I cannot wait to see the incredible heights this group reaches in future years and am proud to leave this group as my legacy at Parker.

The Parker Weekly: This whole article has basically been a love letter to “The Weekly,” but to the organization that has forced me to stay up far later than I’ve ever wanted to meet print deadlines and caused me to explode Hanna Bilgin’s inbox with calendar invites, thank you for the ride. As a side note, as I always say to Hanna, “Google Calendar the meeting, or it’s not real.” When my older brother Sammy ‘19 became Weekly editor during my seventh grade year, I had no idea the kind of commitment required for this job, but after a year of doing it, I can for certain say that this is the hardest and most rewarding student position at Parker. Being the second Kagan to serve as Editor-in-Chief, and the third to help lead “The Weekly” (my mom, Ali ‘87 was Managing Editor), I can confidently share that I’ve had no greater honor than helping to run this paper in its 113th year.

Parker Boys Soccer Team: Although making it through pre-season every year tested whether I truly wanted to play on this team, I’m happy I did. This unique group of guys worked hard these past four years to keep improving our abilities and the success of the program. I’m glad we could put another Regional Champions plaque on the wall outside of the Big Gym.

Mahany’s Room Lunch Group: How can I even begin to summarize this group of people? You all have made these two past difficult years fun. Somehow we can turn something that is totally random into the funniest thing in the world. This group of very different people, somehow brought together by a 70-year-old legend, feels to me like the best example of Parker’s strong sense of community. Whenever I was feeling down from a bad test, college rejection, or just general exhaustion, you were the group of people that motivated me to keep going. Let’s all stay in touch, and I know every single one of you will thrive in the years to come.

Parker Basketball Scorer’s Table: These past eight years as The Voice of the Colonels has been so much fun for me. Thanks to all of the adults who would crack jokes with me and keep the games lively by guessing point spreads at each quarter. And to the players whose names I got to say for many years, thanks for scoring points and committing fouls. You gave me something to do for many hours after school and kept the middle of winter an enjoyable time for me.

Mr. Michael James Mahany: I’m glad you decided to become an English teacher instead of a priest. Thank you for being the best advisor anyone could ask for. Ever since I met you at the scorer’s table, I wondered what somebody had to do to become part of Mahany’s clique. Drink lots of Mountain Dew? Constantly get injured and hang out in Nurse Anne’s office? I can now say that I have absolutely no idea how one makes it to the inner circle, but I’m excited that I was randomly placed into your junior year American Lit class. You’re an amazing person, and I couldn’t have asked for a better support system in high school. You’re the best.

Ms. Wendy Olt: Although you’ve never taught me, I feel like you know every facet of my life better than any other person at Parker. Your support of JSC from the very beginning is what pushed me to pursue it and bring it to fruition. You give terrific advice, and I firmly believe that everyone at Parker deserves to have an adult who believes in them as much as you do with your students. Everyone who hangs out in your room can attest that you bring unquantifiable good vibes to every situation. Thanks for always responding promptly to my midnight emails and for being the best role model I could ever ask for.

Mr. Greenstone: I know better than to write this with your first name or to address you as just “Greenstone.” I’ve learned that lesson already. Your history class freshman year was one of the only things that kept me showing up to my Zoom classes. The five semesters of class we’ve had together have undoubtedly changed my life. It is largely because of you that I want to pursue a career in government and politics. Keep being inspirational. Your creative and fun way of teaching complex topics does an incredible job of keeping students engaged and invested in learning. America Adrift and Creating Historical Documentaries were my two favorite classes in high school, so thanks for making these incredible opportunities happen. And remember: Stories have characters. Characters have moments. Moments make stories.

To everyone at Parker, whether our paths have crossed or not, thank you for continuing to make Parker the special place that it is. Never be a stranger.

 

Always a Colonel,

Benjamin

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About the Contributor
Benjamin Kagan
Benjamin Kagan, Editor-in-Chief
Benjamin Kagan is a senior who is absolutely elated to be on the staff of "The Weekly" for his fourth year and to serve as Editor-in-Chief. He has previously served as Online Editor, Copy Editor, Political Liaison, and Brief Writer. Although Benjamin is no longer Online Editor, he will continue to incessantly check the backend of this website for software updates, analytics, new features and remain in constant communication with his pals at SNO support. Outside of "The Weekly," Benjamin is President of the Jewish Student Connection Affinity Group, Head of Parker Politics Club, he serves as North East Region Coordinator for the IHSA Student Advisory Committee, is a Working Group Chair on the Chicago Mayor's Youth Commission, and enjoys playing varsity soccer and varsity baseball. Additionally, Benjamin assists in the school's hiring process through his role on the Student Interview and Recommendation Board, is Founder of the highly acclaimed Chicago Vaccine Angels and serves on the Board of Commissioners for The Illinois Governor's Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. When he is not working on layout or fervently editing articles, you can find Benjamin asleep on the couch in the Publications Office. He is also a huge fan of The Office and untoasted Potbelly turkey sandwiches.