The yearlong series of “Road to Well-Being” speakers continued throughout the winter and early spring, featuring panelists and individual guest speakers from our alumni body, as well as current and past parents. Intriguing discussion topics and spirited discourse were a common aspect of the series.
In December, D-E welcomed back to campus alumna Daphne Oz ’04, co-host of ABC’s hit daytime show The Chew and author of best-selling cookbook Relish. Oz joined Middle/Upper School chef Luke Kuchavik and Lower School chef Ricardo Alvarez from D-E’s Flik Dining Services team for an educational and entertaining panel discussion. Titled “The Chew & You: Healthful, Tasty Nutrition,” the presentation included a display on the Schenck Auditorium stage of representative “smart” and “not-so-smart” lunch, dinner, and snack plates.
The speakers also discussed topics such as how nutrition can be used to deal with stress and low energy; how students and adults both can make eating decisions in thoughtful (but not overly sacrificial!) ways, particularly after a long day at school; and how chefs and professional nutritionists make decisions on what they themselves should eat. Both children and adults asked a variety of thought-provoking questions including how to avoid “the freshman 15” when starting college; what types of foods are best for healthy living (think whole grains and beans); and why eating a Snickers bar is essentially the same as eating a bagel, in terms of carbohydrates.
In January, D-E hosted Dr. Wendy Chung, a molecular geneticist and D-E parent (Rudy ’20 and Johnny ’27). Chung directs the clinical genetics program at Columbia University, where she is responsible for managing NIH-funded research programs in human genetics of obesity, breast cancer, pulmonary hypertension, and birth defects. She also leads the Simons VIP study characterizing genetic forms of autism and tests novel treatments for autism in clinical trials. For her presentation to D-E students, Chung provided a fascinating overview on the impact of genetics on myriad aspects of people’s identity — such as eye color and the condition of color blindness — and how those in the field of genetics today are helping medical professionals to better understand chronic conditions, congenital diseases, and more.
Also in January, psychologist Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair provided a series of presentations for students, faculty, and parents/guardians, on the topic of “The Sustainable Family: Principles for Strengthening Family Connections in the Digital Age.” The author of The Big Disconnect, Steiner-Adair discussed the idea that while technology can be complicated, “deciding that we want the healthiest, most meaningful and sustainable lives for our children and families isn’t complicated at all.” Dr. Steiner-Adair also offered practical perspective on the reality that connectedness will look different “as technology continues to shape-shift before our eyes: The parenting paradox of the moment is that as much as technology enables us to connect to our families more than ever, it also can contribute to our losing touch with those we love in some essential ways.” Her presentations demonstrated how talking realistically about technology can help families to support their children and educate them for both social and emotional intelligence.
Award-winning poet Joshua Bennett provided an inspiring spoken word performance centered on the importance and empowerment fueled by self-expression. At both the Middle and Upper School assemblies on February 19, the Yonkers, NY, native read from his new collection, Algorithm & Blues, as well as other poems and a work-in-progress manuscript. A 2010 University of Pennsylvania graduate, Bennett is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at Princeton University and has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, The Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University, and the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. Winner of the 2014 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, Bennett has had poems published in publications such as Anti-, Callaloo, and Women & Performance. Bennett has recited his original work at events such as the Sundance Film Festival, the NAACP Image Awards, and President Obama’s Evening of Poetry and Music at The White House. He is also the founding editor of Kinfolks: a journal of black expression.
D-E parents and alumni came together for a February evening panel discussion on “Happy, Healthy Living: The Basics & Beyond.” Coming from very different areas of expertise, the guest speakers had lively debates on a number of topics. Panelist Kimberly Agresta ’81, who has a master’s degree in clinical social work and is a co-founder of Women’s Wellness, brought to bear her more than 14 years of experience in the mental health profession, specializing in anxiety disorders, relationship counseling, women’s issues, and family and group therapy.
Panelist Laurence M. Milgrim, M.D. ’81, has been in private practice for more than 20 years, specializing in facial plastic surgery, both reconstructive and cosmetic, and non-surgical rejuvenation of the aging face. Panelist Heidi Skolnik ‘79, who is a certified dietary manager and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, is considered a thought leader in nutrition. She has advised professional sports teams (including the New York Giants and Knicks) and influenced millions through her media work on national news, writing, and thriving consulting business. The three ensured that the program was a fantastic opportunity to hear varying, expert insights on how diet, exercise, stress and anxiety can affect one’s skin, body, mind, and overall sense of well-being.
The “Road to Well-Being” series wrapped up with two events in April. A “Keeping Healthy Kids Healthy” session was held in partnership with the D-E Parents’ Association parent education committee, featuring Sarah Burrill with the Freedom from Chemical Dependency educational organization. Burrill met with D-E students in grades 6–12 and then followed up with an evening session for parents and guardians for intensive, thought-provoking conversations about healthy decision making and substance use. Also in April, “The Pursuit of Happiness” was the topic of a daytime assembly program for students in grades 5–12 and an evening panel presentation for adults, both presented by certified professional coach Allison Holzer and educator Deb Park of the nonprofit organization Pursuit of Happiness. The experts talked about how individuals can develop a new mindset of happiness to help deal with everyday and long-term challenges and, ultimately, impact identity and self-confidence.