Ben Rosenfeld '23: Creating a Caring Community

Ben Rosenfeld '23: Creating a Caring Community

By Ben Rosenfeld ’23, CGSA President

I feel like I’ve been a part of Catlin since before preschool, as my two older sisters were also lifers. Catlin has been our family’s home-away-from home and primary community. My parents have been active volunteers with the school and my sisters – Claire ’17 and Layton ’19 – took on large leadership roles and cared deeply about the school and its larger community. There were certain things that were instilled in me at a young age: the importance of a good education and the importance of being a part of caring community with a deep purpose and a set of shared traditions and values. I feel that I now have an opportunity and responsibility to make our Catlin community even better.

Catlin students are under so much pressure now with college, Covid, and expectations to be both good citizens and leaders in whatever fields or communities we end up joining. Some of my Upper School classmates are so busy with homework, playing sports, leading school activities, and working jobs that at times it can seem like too much. I feel compelled to help alleviate some of that pressure. I’d like to do what I can to help us all remember to occasionally take a deep collective breath, keep the big picture in focus, and I hope share in a bit more fun. Our student government is trying to work with both teachers and students to manage the workload and student expectations and maybe reset some of the standards. The CGSA is starting to facilitate some of those discussions. We are also trying to let the administration know when students might be showing signs of reaching a breaking point from internal and external pressures and to consider offering occasional no-homework weekends or mental health days. In general, there may be times when everyone could try to demonstrate a bit more empathy.

That’s probably the biggest thing we can do right now as student leaders: help alleviate some of the pressure and create avenues for students to have a more enjoyable experience. We’re working to bring back more fun activities and traditions that may have got dropped or forgotten during Covid and, by doing so, create a deeper sense of community and stronger bonds across grades and friend groups. Recently, we've organized more fun activities like costume contests and school spirit days and other things that can make the Catlin experience more memorable and enjoyable.

As CGSA president, I've tried to focus on fostering cross-grade and cross-divisional relationships, such as the senior-first grade buddies. For younger students, it can mean a lot to have an older friend and mentor on campus; you can see – and usually hear! – their excitement when they run into an older buddy who has taken an interest in them. And for older students, it's a wonderful feeling to know you’re having an impact on a younger buddy. I’ve also worked to bring back the WINGS program, where seniors can choose to mentor ninth graders throughout the year and go on the ninth-grade class trip.

As a PK-12 school with teachers and parents who care deeply about community and citizenship, Catlin is in a unique position to do more across grade levels and school divisions to promote greater school spirit and a greater sense of community. The premise is, if learning and school experiences can occur within a community built on meaningful relationships, a shared sense of purpose, and more opportunities for fun and play, then the unavoidable pressures of school and life might become more manageable. Who knows, maybe some of the fun community-building activities we’re trying and testing this year will become traditions. Even if they don’t, at least we’ll have had fun trying.

One of the best things about Catlin is its adaptability. The school is constantly changing and evolving for the better. I know the school’s administrators are eager to try and test new approaches and initiatives. If they're not changing, they're not doing their job. And students, as well, have really been at the forefront of significant changes over the past few years. Together, we can ensure Catlin remains a welcoming, cohesive, and intellectually and socially vibrant community where continuous learning and improvement occurs.