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

Cate’s Call

A Final Call: Farewell Francis W. Parker
Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

This past Friday, as I stood on the stage before Fifthenham, a lucky big sib to the knights, spies, and blacksmiths about to matriculate up to Parker’s Middle School, it felt viscerally real that my time at Parker was over—or just about to be. From inside the Diane and David B Heller Auditorium, the same place where I will graduate in just a matter of days, the audience and I watched clips of the class of 2031’s trip to Lorado Taft: the blind hike, orienteering, and folk songs around the campfire. Everything had come full circle. I had reached the finish line: 14-year experience complete.

Parker has easily been the most special place in my life thus far. I’ve spent more time here than I have anywhere else (besides maybe my bed), and I don’t think I will ever spend so much time in the same place ever again. But I don’t just see Parker as a second home—it’s more than that. Parker has literally been my school, the place where I’ve learned everything from algebra to the alphabet, but it’s also the community that’s nurtured me as a complete human—eyes, ears, legs, and toes. Parker has helped me become a better friend, a better athlete, a better leader, a better thinker, and just an all-around better being. 

At the same time, Parker is obviously imperfect, and I see now the institution has opportunities for growth. As students here, we’ve been pushed to think critically about all aspects of the world, and therefore we all raise our fair share of criticisms and complaints about our school. Most of my own issues with Parker I could and should have probably written full columns on (apologies HBH) and are specific issues no longer relevant, at least to me. I do hope choir and, well, the whole athletics program improve, though. I will share some of my concerns in the bigger picture. 

As someone who took on a number of leadership roles during high school, I worry that as time progresses many of the long-standing, thoughtfully-planned, interesting clubs will die out if Parker holds onto their philosophy of letting every person create their new club. With the college process being different these days, many students are willing to give up on pre-existing clubs to create something new just for the aesthetics. In my time, I have witnessed groups like Model UN and “The Weekly,” for example, struggle as they get less and less excitement and participation from the student body. I worry that the robust extracurricular array that Parker boasts will lose most if not all its substance and depth over time if this pattern continues. 

Parker also continues to struggle with its identity as a school. Outside of Webster walls, Parker students, just like students down the street, are often referred to as “entitled” and “bratty,” and at times I have definitely seen myself and others live up to this reputation. During sports games, when our teams have been either way up or down, I’ve seen behavior that is not just unsportsmanlike but that paints Parker, a predominantly white and largely privileged institution, poorly, especially against opponent teams with fellow athletes that match our skill level but don’t benefit from the same resources as Parker student-athletes. In addition, as Parker strives to better fulfill its ideals of diversity and connection to the greater world, I think the school still struggles with performativity. In writing this column, I was reminded of an MX alumni panelist who came in a few years ago and who spoke pretty boldly and openly regarding how he felt that conversations specifically around divisive subjects at Parker are sometimes silenced or become impossible because the school is so sensitive about having the correct look or the correct language. Especially when it comes to “open dialogues,” “conversations,” and alleged “work to be done,” I worry that attempts to achieve the “Parker mission” will become increasingly counterproductive. Change won’t be enacted and necessary lessons won’t be taught if teachers and staff especially are afraid of repercussions within the community. 

While Parker is a bubble with its many flaws—it has also been, at least for me, a great community. As I bid farewell to the place I’ve called school, home, bagel breakfast, practice, and many other things for the past 14 (technically 13) years, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the people and things that have had the most impact on me.

As part of the Student Interview and Recommendation Board throughout all four years of high school (a committee that I would by the way 100% recommend joining), I’ve been asked many times by prospective teachers, “What stands out most about Parker?” The most common answer we give (in short): the teachers. But, at least in my opinion, you can’t really define the Parker teacher. 

I’m so thankful to Sra. V, Sr. Amo, and Ms. Mathews—thank you for being the teachers who led through love and who made your classes communities that I loved to return to. To Ms. Abood, thank you for making your classroom a safe space. Thank you for making your role as “English teacher” more like “life teacher” and for being a companion through all the challenges of these last four years. To Ms. Barr, Ms. Gibson, and Mr. Greenstone, thank you for being teachers who led through deep passion and interest in following the complex. Thank you for making me think in ways I had never before. Lastly, if I haven’t said it enough, thank you Mr. Bigelow for being a model teacher, a model advisor, and a model human. Thank you for the most incredible four years. 

Thank you to my many many teachers. From Ms. Aymar and Ms. Taylor all the way to Ms. Masters, Mr. Fuder, and Coaches Madi, Maddy, Reilly, and Carrie. The teachers are Parker’s greatest gifts. From my early years, a special thank you to Ms. Berin, Mr. Stone, and Mr. O’Connor (the O’Connor M&M popcorn is still the only way). I’m so thankful to have had your continued support all throughout my time at Parker. 

Of course, it’s not only the teachers that have marked my Parker experience: the students and community I have found here are beyond anything I could have asked for. This year especially, it has been surreal to come to terms with the growth I’ve witnessed—especially around some of my classmates (Jack, Josh, Kumiko, Paul, Zachary, and others)—who I’ve known since before we even entered kindergarten. I have such a deep love for the class of 2024, and boy have we been through a lot. I love how we have shown up for one another, and I’ll remember many of our memories, from Paul’s senior night hockey game to 12 Days to the Senior Retreat, for a long long time. 

I just recently realized, while looking back on my last few years of activity on the app, Strava, that it’s because of my time in Parker’s Field Hockey program that I’ve developed a love for running. Though it seems like something small, this simple habit is something that has changed me and made me a stronger and happier person, and without Coach Geller and Parker’s program, I would have never found what will forever be an amazing outlet in my life. Parker shapes you in ways you’d never expect.

To SCOUT, to the past student editors, Ms. Zeller, and Mr. Laufer who stepped in this year, it was in this publication that I developed confidence in my ability to find and share my own words. This year especially, in the midst of college applications, it became so apparent that SCOUT helped me bridge the gap between what was up in my head and what was down on my paper. SCOUT showed me that there is a way to write meaningfully and well in light of being a high school student.

So, back to the beginning: my senior year and official time at Parker is quickly coming to a close. But, unshockingly, I’m still left wondering what exactly all of this means. Parker is a home, a bubble, a turf field, and a Japanese garden. Parker is some bagpipes, walls full of tiles, and a great big auditorium. 

For those of you who will still go here in the fall, I hope you take all that Parker—the versatile place it is—has to offer. With whatever time you have left, I hope you connect with teachers who really teach you what it means to learn, but I also hope you race your classmates on the bouncy houses at County Fair, visit Thailand for Model UN conferences, or sing your heart out in whatever Middle School musical Mr. Denien drums up next. Parker has so much to offer, so long as you open up and show up. 

Parker is where I will have gone to school—but it’s also a way to think and a way to live. So, maybe this is goodbye, but my brother is here, so I’ll certainly be back (at the very least to get a bagel from Kendra and Keisha in the caf). More than likely, this isn’t the end of me and Parker, nor the end of the forever friendships the school has given me. My Parker upbringing will stick with me as I move on to new places where I will find more room and opportunity to grow. 

Of course, I will miss the traditions. I will miss 12 Days, County Fairs, Medieval Days, and Greek Plays. But, at the same time, I feel content knowing that as I leave Parker and its unique quirks behind I have successfully tied the knot on my Parker experience: from the dubbed to the dubber, the little sis to the big. I will be gone, but rest assured, I will always remember. 


Thank you, Parker. So long and farewell. 



“And how are we to stay here

When there’s no room left to play here

Or to grow

Don’t you know? Don’t you know?”


-Orion, 5th Grade Folk Song by James Zimmerman

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About the Contributor
Cate O'Connor
Cate O'Connor, Columnist
New to "The Weekly," Cate O'Connor joins the staff this year as a columnist eager to share her calls on all things Parker and beyond. When busy typing up her most exciting thoughts for said column, you'll likely find her sipping either a blue la croix, green tea, or strawberry lemonade. During the rest of her time, Cate enjoys playing field hockey and softball with her teammates, crafting layouts for SCOUT, interviewing candidates with SIRB, or taking to the podium gavel in-hand.