Most Emery/Weiner students remember their freshman year trip to Big Bend National Park and the seniors who came with them. Those seniors, madrichim (Hebrew for “youth leader”), would lead the hikes, act as a hype squad, and be a friendly resource on how to navigate freshman year. But, that was the extent of the original madrichim responsibilities.
Upper School Director of Student Life Brittney Ford and history teacher James Galleher have decided to revamp the program and add more leadership opportunities to the agenda. New madrichim will undertake a much larger commitment than ever before. Not only will seniors accompany the class of 2025 on the Big Bend trip, but they will also take part in most freshman experiences throughout the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year.
The madrichim application, due on Mar. 12, contained deep and thought-provoking questions to better understand each applicant. Potential madrichim had to reveal which animal best fits their personality, what they consider to be the equivalent of their car gas pedal and brake, and their top-four priorities. The questionnaire also asked about previous leadership experience, and then asked why the applicant wanted to become a madrichah.
The next part of the application process was interviews, taking place from March 21 through March 26. Applicants were interviewed in front of a team of teachers and students. Ford and Galleher led the conversation with Spanish teacher Tanya Meineke, Director of Jewish Life Rabbi Laura Sheinkopf, and Upper School Head Joseph Weinstein-Sears. The students involved in the interview process were all senior leaders, either involved in the big five clubs, a fine art, or a sport. The goal was to involve students that come from many different parts of the Emery experience.
There were 35 junior applicants for 12 spots in the program. Ford and Galleher were excited and encouraged by the number of applicants. The two had a vision for this program and with the influx of applicants, knew they would find the perfect team.
Ford wants to find students who can connect with and lead the freshman class. She says she is seeking a group of seniors who have leadership potential, are good role models, and are passionate about their diverse interests at Emery. By expanding this program, the madrichim have an opportunity to make a greater impact on the class of 2025.
The impetus behind the change was Ford and Galleher seeing the potential for leadership and growth go untapped after the trip to Big Bend. They realized that the seniors had the opportunity to be year-round mentors to the freshman class.
Selected madrichim will attend the freshman pizza party, Shabbaton, orientation, and Big Bend. The group will learn leadership skills and plan upcoming events in a first-semester class taught by Ford and Gallaher. These 12 seniors will ensure a positive and welcoming experience to incoming freshmen.
This group of Madrichim from the class of 2022 will be the first of their kind. This expanded program is a way to promote leadership, integrity, and the values of the school, and Ford is excited to see where this program will go.