At our commencement ceremonies held on Thursday, June 3, we celebrated our 530 graduates and their incredible achievements. We also acknowledged that not everyone could make it; we have loved ones who lost their lives to the unforgiving pandemic. These important people were on our minds and in our hearts during this monumental day.
It is both natural and essential to fully celebrate the important milestone of high school graduation, while also feeling a sense of loss. Loss of a loved one, loss of a traditional school year, loss of social experiences that are so important to our young people. Some of our students experienced substantial loss this year. Others experienced gains in surprising and positive ways.
The members of the Class of 2021 earned significant academic and athletic achievements and were admitted into competitive schools. And, we discovered that this graduating class had another unique quality — collectively, they possess a strong sense of social awareness. Here’s how we know this unique and valuable fact: In Hopkins, we use an instrument called Panorama to measure the health and well-being of our students. Of the millions of students surveyed nationwide, Hopkins graduates scored in the top one percent in social awareness — that is, how well they consider the perspectives of others and empathize with them.
Specifically, 99% of Hopkins seniors surveyed said they get along with students who are different from them. And 96% of those surveyed said that when others disagree with them, they are respectful of their views. Our Hopkins graduates are more empathetic and more socially aware than 99% of other recent graduates surveyed nationwide.
This data about who our students are and how they think is powerful. Perspective-taking and empathy development are critical attributes. The military calls these traits psychological openness. Universities, the military, nonprofits, and Fortune 500s are searching for individuals with these traits — not just smart and hard-working but socially aware and empathetic, a combination of characteristics not easy to find.
Being psychologically open, recognizing and respecting difference, and demonstrating empathy for others are foundational traits that will enable Hopkins students to be difference makers in the world. Hopkins scholars will make a difference in thought leadership, as social media influencers, in solving community and world problems, and as innovators and entrepreneurs.
As we build our classrooms and school learning environments in the upcoming school year, we will incorporate what we learned from the pandemic into what we do next. We know our students and staff are more creative, thoughtful, resilient, and agile than they ever thought themselves to be. Our students told us they want meaningful relationships with their teachers and their peers and flexibility in their learning schedules. Our educators told us they want a voice in the decision-making process and for their expertise to be valued and leveraged. We look forward to the bright future that Hopkins Schools can offer our early learners to adolescent scholars in the coming school year. The future is filled with hope and possibility. Until then — have a relaxing and renewing summer.
Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed
Hopkins Public Schools Superintendent