Prepare to Be Wowed

Words of Wisdom (WOW) is a new speaker series at CHS with the mission to enlighten both the student body and community with lectures from the Clayton School District staff.

“This speaker series will provide students with the unique opportunity to hear faculty members including teachers, who have been mentors and inspirations in their lives, talk about what they are most passionate about,” said the founder of WOW, senior Zach Praiss.

Set to begin in late October and open to the entire Clayton community, the series will host one speaker each month for a total of eight speakers during this school year. The eight individuals invited to speak will be chosen in three ways: two to three speakers will be selected through a student Facebook poll, two to three more will be nominated by staff, and the final speakers will be staff members who plan to retire at the end of the school year. The last speaker of the year will likely be a retiring staff member.

Each speaker will be given a podium, the option of a slideshow, and approximately 30 minutes for his or her presentation. Lectures will take place in the Black Box Theater, but may move to the auditorium once renovations are complete.

“We believe that it’s essential that the speakers have complete freedom in choosing what to talk about in their presentation whether it be their greatest inspiration, passion, or lesson learned in life so long as they share some meaningful insight, their words of wisdom, with the audience,” Praiss said. “Thus, Words of Wisdom is the perfect name for this new speaker series at CHS.”
Praiss said the idea to create the lecture series came from several aspects of his life.

“My inspiration for WOW came from the culmination of reading Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture in middle school, watching TED talks last year in biology, and this year, realizing that I, as a senior, will be leaving CHS and this wonderful community of teachers and faculty in less than a year,” Praiss said. “In many respects, WOW serves as a tribute to the incredible faculty of CHS.”

Principal Louis Losos and Interim Superintendent Sharmon Wilkinson will serve as the sponsors of the WOW series.

“We wanted a sponsor from the administration who would be familiar with the faculty at the high school and in the School District, and, thus, helpful in promoting a balanced selection process for the speakers,” Praiss said. “As a result, we reached out to Dr. Losos and Dr. Wilkinson as this would not only be a unique way for them to interact with the student body and faculty, but it would also foster a sense of community at the high school.”

In addition, a WOW student committee of about ten students will be formed to organize, publicize, and guide the direction of the series. Comprising the committee will be two sophomores, three juniors, and four seniors. Each spring, two freshmen, one sophomore, and one junior will be added to the group to begin planning for the following school year. These students will be selected through an application process.

Losos said she is not aware of anything like WOW ever existing at CHS in past years.

“I think this is a special idea and could quickly become part of the fabric of CHS,” Losos said. “I love the concept, to have a teacher, or administrator, or anyone that works for Clayton talk about what is important to them, to impart their wisdom and truth. I can hardly wait to attend.”

Losos also said that WOW is important to her because it expands the idea of what a school is.

“Clayton High School is about more than just the grades and classes you attend,” Losos said. “It is about building a community that respects each other and cares about all the individuals within. It is about who we are as a family. To have folks share a piece of themselves only adds depth and layers to the community we have built.”

To students, the speaker series could be valuable simply because it provides them with an opportunity to hear their teachers speak on subjects outside of the class curriculum.

“I hope that students will be excited to go the WOW Speaker Series to see a different, more personal side of the faculty that cannot be fully seen in the classroom setting,” Praiss said. “It will be a powerful experience to hear their stories and their words of wisdom.”