The Reintroduction of Oasis Society

Lila Daniels, Contributing Writer

The oldest known student organization at Poly Prep, the Oasis Society, honors a select group of students who demonstrate the utmost levels of citizenship. The visions and goals of the Oasis Society have evolved over its long history at Poly Prep. In past years, the commencement ceremony in June recognized graduates for excellence in athletics, academics, and arts. This 2022-2023 school year will be the first year in Poly Prep history that Poly acknowledges seniors with extraordinary levels of citizenship: students who treat others with dignity and respect, who have a passion for caring and strengthening the community on campus, and who act with integrity.

 This year, students in the classes of ’23 and ’24 were invited to fill out a form if they desired to be part of the Oasis Society during their senior year. Students in the class of ’23 are still able to be a part of the Oasis Society and will be recognized during commencement. The Society’s committee, including Director of Student Life Jared Winston, Head of Upper School Sarah Bates, Assistant Head of School, Academics Michal Hershkovitz, and Chair of DEIB Erica Freeman, will analyze these applications, and only a handful of students will be officially admitted into the Oasis Society. The number of students accepted is not determined until the applications are reviewed. Winston said, “[the number of members] totally depends on how many applications we get, and how many of those applications speak to us on a real level as far as what we’re hoping the Oasis Society reflects in our student body.” In addition, faculty members were asked to scope out students who exhibit the highest amounts of citizenship and request them to submit applications. Decisions from the committee will be made in May, and will be communicated to the student body at the end-of-the-year major awards ceremony.

Oasis Society members may be called upon to do a variety of things, like speak at chapel about school initiatives and talk in dean cohort meetings, and be a group upon which the student body can rely. Winston said that a member of the Oasis Society should be “somebody that has a strong moral compass, who is willing to not only do the work but communicate why the work is important.” 

Another goal of the Oasis Society is to help faculty and administration improve Poly’s community. Winston said the Oasis Society will try to answer the question: “What do we need to focus on as administration to continue to build students, create students, foster an environment where students act with integrity, treat others with dignity, and speak with honesty?” 

The Oasis Society was reinvented over the past years. “I was surprised when Mr. Winston sent out the Oasis Society application form email because it hasn’t been talked about for a while,” said freshman Anna Brandmeyer. A group of administrators came together to discuss the comeback of the Oasis Society. Winston said, “It was a group decision to bring back the Oasis Society.” In the process of the Oasis Society being reintroduced at Poly, a committee of administrators assembled to iron out what the upcoming Oasis Society would stand for and, according to Winston, reimagine how Oasis Society fits our current culture.” Since the Oasis Society was founded in 1954, the administration felt it was necessary to consider how the updated society would play out in modern day life at Poly. 

Historically, members of the Oasis Society would come together and select a charitable organization for the annual Oasis Night. Oasis Night originated from a tribute paid to a young man who died of polio by his classmates. The goal was to give to a charitable organization. The highly advertised evening brought electric school spirit and fun to campus. According to Freeman, “Oasis Night was historically an opportunity for members of Oasis Society to pick a charitable organization of their choice and raise money for that charitable organization,” while consecutively honoring students with high levels of citizenship.

Although the actions of the Oasis Society have drastically evolved, the core remained the same. Freeman said that the Oasis Society represents the “quintessential Poly student,” and “that person that we truly want to see crossing the stage, and that person also cared enough about their community to give to it.”