What’s That Smell…?


Jared Winston, Contributing Writer

Here at Poly Prep, we don’t look at the future and flinch. Change is inevitable and we know that. We brace ourselves for the horizon and think about how we get there together. When you look out onto that horizon, what do you see? What does the future here at Poly look like to you?


This year has smelled magical on campus. You smell it too, right? We call it “Poly Spirit.” Poly Spirit is the foundation we need to fuel our fire. It is what will help us work together as we construct a more affirming and understanding community. Change takes time, but it has to start somewhere.


Poly Spirit reminds us to recognize our mutual connection and establish norms of reciprocity. To center empathy, grace, and generosity. To empower one another to drive positive change, both individually and collectively. To build each other up and create a better world in the process.


Here in Dyker Heights, we root ourselves in the belief that students must make a difference within our school community. As educators, we are tasked not only with teaching content, but also with developing agency among our student body and instilling a “can-do” attitude. I dream of a school culture that constantly breathes life into student ideas — one whose reflex is to say, “Of course we can. What support do you need? How can we do this together?” If we know this world requires thoughtful action, we need to help students develop the confidence needed to take initiative. We need to say “Yes” to students now.


Maya Angelou reminds us, “When you do nothing you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.” The idea of creating change can feel so overwhelming, though. Climate change, racial justice, wealth inequality, bodily sovereignty, food insecurity, carceral reform? Where do we start? Where would you start? Every time my mind turns to these systemic issues, I am reminded of the saying, “Think globally and act locally.” Let’s focus on what we can do. Here. Together. Now.


If I could snap my fingers and have my way, we would share a school community where female-identifying students always feel safe and valued. Where students of color always feel heard and accepted. Where LGBTQ+ students can always express who they are, free of fear or shame. Where students struggling with their mental health know they are not alone and have support. How do we continue to create that school? How would we foster that community? How would you? How should we?


We are united in these missions, just as we are united in Poly Spirit. We have a shared responsibility to work together until these aspirations — right here at Poly — are realized. Progress is a choice. We have to remind ourselves constantly of the school and the world we hope to create together and choose to act on those intentions in our decisions and behaviors here on campus. We have to choose to advocate for ourselves and others so that we might all feel like we belong.


Progress is not inevitable, though. Newton’s First Law of Motion asserts that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. I encourage us all to be that outside force. To keep coming forward with ideas that manifest our goals and create a greater sense of belonging here at Poly.


We are extensions of, and heirs to, history’s risk-takers and change agents; those who have examined the world and thought to themselves, “This must be better and I can do something about it.” Just as we continue to write the story of our school, we continue to write the story of our world.