Parting All-School Presidents Offer Advice

Maggie Ottenbreit ’20, a four-year Senior from New York City and Luke Kalaydjian ’20, a two-year Senior from Montreal, have been leading our Hotchkiss student body as All-School Presidents for the year 2019-20. Maggie and Luke have put in their strongest efforts to help and sustain the community over the course of the school year. Below, they offer parting advice as they pass on the torch to our new All-School Presidents, Keren Mikanda ’21 and Cyrus Farman-Farmaian ’21. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.


How do you think your experiences as All-School Presidents have shaped you?

Ottenbreit: Over the past year, I’ve definitely learned that you really can’t please everyone. Luke and I worked so hard this year and what I’ve really learned is to trust… ourselves and to ignore some of the negativity. I think that has shaped me as a person, because I am definitely a people pleaser; I want to please everyone and I want everyone to be happy. But it is almost impossible to do that when dealing with about 600 students. 

Kalaydjian: One thing I learned is that there is a lot of love and care that is needed to pull off even the smallest events. And it is really incredible to see how much effort the faculty and administration really put into events for students. So I am hoping some more students will help out with those things and appreciate them. 


What goals have you achieved during your time as All-School Presidents?

Ottenbreit: One thing that Luke and I realized throughout the year is that there isn’t much organization within Hotchkiss student government. So that is one thing we really worked on. In fact, next week we will send out the revised student government constitution, which outlines every single role. We also held the Terry Fox Run in the beginning of the year, and we’ve done Fun Fridays every week, which I absolutely loved.

Kalaydjian: I personally think a weakness of Hotchkiss is how leadership positions at every level whether it be Student Body Presidents or Club Heads, have a lack of passing on the mantle and a lack of information in those new positions. For us, the first month or so, we had no idea what we were doing, since no one told us anything and we had no one to help us out. So one thing we are working on and soon going to send out to Keren Mikanda ’21 and Cyrus Farman-Farmaian ’21 is a guidebook, which says, “here is how to do: something,” such as if you want to get cookies for StuFac, here is who to go to, and a reminder that there is a big speech the first week of school that you might want to write over the summer (since Maggie and I wrote that in 24 hours). We want to make sure that the student body presidents know what is coming instead of it being so spontaneous and on the run just to make sure they can accomplish more than we did perhaps. 

And we had ideas for the spring as well: we were hoping to finally finish the sleepover policy and actually go through a trial period with some of the proctors. Obviously, we weren’t on campus, so unfortunately we couldn’t get around to that. But we are sharing all the information with Cyrus and Keren, so hopefully they can make something out of it next year.


Looking back, what are your favorite memories as All-School Presidents?

Ottenbreit: I would say my favorite memory was when Luke and I were FaceTiming the night before one of the Fun Fridays. It was at 10:50 p.m., and our Oreo challenge got vetoed, since we weren’t allowed to have food in the auditorium. I was sitting in my room when I saw a hockey stick, and I was like, “Let’s do limbo,” and I remember that auditorium was my favorite auditorium all year, because it was the silliest Fun Friday challenge and the easiest one we could have done. Everyone was on their feet screaming, and if you’ve ever been on the stage in the Walker auditorium, just hearing students laugh and getting excited about something is the best feeling in the world. Limbo, definitely, and even the Ping Pong challenge when people were excited – that made me feel happy.

Kalaydjian: What I loved was that there were students who came up to me with ideas, and some of them were really cool, constructive ideas. I loved talking about them. Someone also came up to me and was like, “I feel like if we came together as a school, we could rob a bank.” That was hilarious. Some kid that I don’t know comes up to me and says that ridiculous idea. It was really cool that people felt cool enough that they could come up to me and pitch these ideas, some of them being actual genuine good ideas that we incorporated into Fun Friday but also these goofy jokes. I really liked that part of being student body president.


What do you wish you could have done better?

Ottenbreit: I wish that we could have been able to start on some goals for the year, like the sleepover policy, earlier, because I think we spent the first month or two trying to figure everything out. 

Kalaydjian: I wish that we knew what we were doing in the beginning of the year. When it came to writing constitutions or who to work with, we were kind of lost. We were lucky for Mrs. Marcie Wistar, director of student activities, because she really helped us out and same with Ms. Brown and other people who were supportive of us. There was a lot Maggie and I needed to do on our own, and we didn’t know how to do a lot without help. We wish we had time with Dan Pai ’19 and Caitlyn Reilly ’19 to go over that stuff the end of last year or over the summer, but we never got around to it and maybe we could have launched the year differently. We could have had a more solid start, so we could have been in a different place further along the year.


What is your advice to our new All-School Presidents?

Ottenbreit: I would say to have fun with everything. Being All-School Presidents is a lot of work, but whenever Luke and I would meet up to write even a one-minute speech, it would take us two hours, because we would be joking around half the time about our days. I always loved doing that. So have fun with it so it doesn’t feel like work, because it never felt like work when I was trying to do it with Luke.

Kalaydjian: When people offer support, say yes, because you’re dealing with a lot. It is also great to get students and members of the community who want to help out, involved. Cyrus and Keren: when people come to you with those ideas, help the students accomplish them. It will be really cool to see what the student body can do.


For what is your parting advice for the current student body? 

Ottenbreit: If you have an idea, you can make a proposal. You can have a big impact on the school, even if you’re not an All-School President. This year, Luke and I had the Terry Fox Run; really, any student could have done that. It was easier for us to do, because we already had the platform, but any student can do it if they go up to Ms. Wistar with the idea. So just encourage other students to do that as well. 

Kalaydjian: I would just say to have fun with everything. Everyone at school is trying to balance a million different things at once. We all have sports teams, academics, and so on. And everyone is going through the experience in a million different ways. So have fun with it, be kind to each other, be supportive, and be passionate. That’s how you can get by at Hotchkiss.