HWS honors the educators who prepared graduates for future success.
Each year during the Commencement ceremony, Hobart and William Smith celebrate the educators from elementary, middle or high school who supported graduates before they arrived at the Colleges.
On Sunday, May 16, during Commencement ceremonies for the Classes of 2021, the Colleges will recognize three outstanding educators and mentors with the Touching the Future Award: Laura Burrell Baxter, Director of College Advising at the Key School in Annapolis, Md.; Dave Trejo, Principal of Environmental Charter Middle School in Gardena, Calif.; and Megan Wright, a high school English teacher at Alexander Central School District in Alexander, N.Y.
“Laura is one of the kindest, most passionate and hardworking people that I have ever met,” writes Edie Falk ’21 in her essay nominating Burrell Baxter. Falk, who found HWS thanks to Burrell Baxter’s guidance, says “the trait about her that I will always appreciate the most is…her unshakeable belief that each and every one of the students she works with has a place that they belong and where they fit, and that she can and will help guide that student to find it.”
Trejo was nominated by Robert Padilla ’21, who was inspired by his former teacher’s mentorship to become a leader himself: “Mr. Trejo always told me, ‘It’s not about what you do, it is the reason why you do what you do. Always ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’” Following Trejo’s advice “to be a role model to my peers,” Padilla became a Resident Assistant at HWS, not only “to develop good relationships” with other students but also to “lead by example,” carrying forward “the influence Dave Trejo had on me while I was his student.”
In Wright’s class on the literature of World War II and the Holocaust, Joshua Hylkema ’21 says he was challenged “to think openly” and taught “how to engage with such a difficult subject,” which “sparked my passion and compelled me to continue learning about the Holocaust and identity politics.” At HWS, he has expanded his understanding through his religious studies coursework and participation in The March: Bearing Witness to Hope program in Germany and Poland. Hylkema is grateful for Wright’s teaching which profoundly “shaped my education at HWS even to this day.”
The Touching the Future Award was established by the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Board of Trustees in 2004. It derives its name from the famous words of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher selected to participate in the space shuttle program who died in the Challenger explosion. McAuliffe expressed the sentiments of many teachers when she said, “I touch the future, I teach.”
The photo above features Edie Falk ’21, Robert Padilla ’21 and Joshua Hylkema ’21.