In just six days, the class of 2018 will graduate and leave the hallways of Brooks School as students forever. Their thoughts, advice and wisdom will remain, however, through the Polaroid Project.
A display of photos of students with brief notes on the mathematics bulletin board in the hallway of the classroom building, the student-led project has become an annual tradition that gives classmates a way to share a bit of themselves with the rest of the student body.
This year, only sixth-formers were invited to respond to the prompt, "What would you say to your younger self?" and pose for an instant photo, which was stapled up late last week on the bulletin board, where it will remain through the next school year.
"It's cool to see what seniors are thinking about this time of year," said Diane Lee '18, who has organized the annual project with Cindy Liu '18 since Erinn Lee '16 passed down ownership of the initiative to them when she graduated.
Originally created by Christine Shin '15, and open to students in all grades, the prompt for the past three years has been, "Before I graduate from Brooks I want to..." But with feedback from classmates that they wanted something new, Lee and Liu decided to change things up this spring with a new prompt and the smaller group of participants.
After inviting everyone in the sixth-form to share, the duo managed to snap roughly 61 Polaroids — representing 75 of the 105 members of the graduating class — with the help of Alissa Wong '19 and Jennifer Mills '20, who will take over the initiative next year.
"This project helped me to get to know more people I wasn't close with before," said Liu, who agreed with Lee that, "it's been interesting to see what my classmates reflect on looking back."
"I think this is a great way for people to share a glimpse of who they are," said Alissa Wong of the Polaroid Project.
Advice that students shared ranges from the practical ("Don't be afraid to use the stir fry") to the motivational ("You're exactly where you're supposed to be"), with many ideas in between.
"A lot of people said something along the lines of 'embrace or enjoy every moment,'" said Lee. "I think that's a sentiment common among seniors this time of year when you think about the number of days and hours you have left at school."
Indeed, the inspiration for the "What would you say to your younger self?" question came from talking about senior legacy projects in Self in Community class this year. "I thought it was a cool idea," said Lee. "This lets our faces be up there so people won't forget us when we're gone, and it fits our definition of what community is. Even sixth-formers, after they graduate, will still have a presence on campus and leave behind something for other students."
"Some of the pictures gave me a quick laugh or smile as I waited for my class to start and I had always liked having them there," said Jennifer Mills of past Polaroid Projects.
Thinking about departing Brooks herself with the class of 2018, Lee admitted, "It's weird to think about how we'll be leaving, and that we're giving advice, when just yesterday, it was us looking for guidance."
In the future, Mills hopes to extend even more varied prompts to students, while still sticking with the theme of passing experience along to others. "Right now, students new and old to Brooks can look at that board and find one thing that inspires them," she said. "I think this can be so important because having advice from older students can help them make the most out of their Brooks experience."
Participating in the project has not only helped Lee enjoy her time on campus, it's given her the opportunity to make an impact. "I'm proud of it," she said. "When I see people looking at the photos and laughing at some of the responses, it makes me smile. And I feel like I'm contributing something to the community. It feels really nice to be in charge of something that might brighten someone's day!"
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