By Sean Edwards
I love driving into Provo and seeing “Welcome Home” upon entering city limits. I moved to Provo in 2006 to attend college at BYU. Immediately, Provo became my home. I remember preparing for graduation and thinking, “Where do I want to move?” With my career as an educator, I could literally go anywhere. But, everywhere I wanted to be and build my life was right here in Provo. Provo is home.
We have three high schools in Provo including Provo, Timpview, and Independence. I have been so fortunate to have the opportunity to work as a teacher and administrator in Provo City School District. In 2017, I learned the true meaning of “Welcome Home”.
Laura (pseudonym), a 16-year-old junior (11th grade), approached me one day and expressed that our school needed to be more intentional about how we approach new students at the school. She shared ideas about how she wanted to see each new student receive a personal welcome upon enrolling at the school. Although Laura was involved in multiple athletic programs, Student Government, advanced courses, and more, she kindly offered to lead this inclusivity initiative. Laura designed an incredible system where each week, she would get a list of all new students. Then, she scheduled a time to meet with the student. She introduced herself to the new student as their friend and showed them around the school. She let the student know important tips for “how to do school” such as following the school’s Instagram and provided a list of different clubs and activities to get involved in. She also put together a “welcome bag” for students which included a drawstring bag, school supplies, a school shirt, important documents (maps, contact information, etc.), and other school swag (lanyard, flashlight keychain, etc.). Every new student I talked to was so appreciative of the warm welcome Laura provided them.
Laura continued this through her senior (12th grade) year and enlisted more people to help her, forming a New Student Welcome Committee. Now, our new student welcome program has transformed to be a larger part of our school-wide outreach efforts. This all happened because one person had the vision to improve kindness within our school’s culture.
I am so grateful to Laura for teaching me what “welcome home” truly means. “Welcome home” is more than just a physical sign. “Welcome home” is embodied by kind individuals that are intentional and deliberate about letting you know that you belong here, you have a place with us, your contribution is needed, and because of your differences, we need you.
As you seek to apply a “welcome home” mindset, consider the following reflective questions:
1. Who are the individuals or groups that I can show kindness and be welcoming towards?
2. Who in my community needs to feel welcomed the most?
3. What does being welcoming look like in authentic and genuine ways?
4. How will I remind myself to be welcoming?
5. What are my motives for being kind and welcoming?
6. Who else can I invite to have a “welcome home” perspective? How can I partner with others?
Sean Edwards is currently in his fourth year as an Assistant Principal at Timpview High School. Prior to his administrative assignment, he was an instructional coach and special education teacher. He is also in his second year in a doctorate program at The University of Utah. Sean enjoys being around friends and family (cousin game nights!), traveling, spending time with his husband, and eating a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream every night. :)