When Elizabeth Esteves ’23 joined the St. Paul’s School community as a Third Former in fall 2019, there were challenges and opportunities she was looking forward to: invigorating academics, the chance to pursue her interest in photography, and a school community where both she and her twin sister, Catherine ’23, could nurture their distinct identities in a way that hadn’t been possible at the tiny K-8 charter school they had attended in New Jersey.
One challenge she hadn’t counted on was trying to keep a fourth grader engaged in a 45-minute virtual meeting every week. “It’s hard,” she says with a laugh. “Forty-five minutes on Zoom is really, really long with a 10-year-old.” During the 2021-22 school year Esteves served as the Fifth Form peer leader for the Concord Friends Program’s Youth Mentoring Program, which pairs SPS Fifth and Sixth Formers with elementary schoolers at Concord’s public Broken Ground School. As the head mentor for her form, she communicated directly with the adults at the Friends Program. She also met weekly with her own mentee — over Zoom — playing virtual chess, completing Harry Potter trivia quizzes and otherwise following the lead of the shy girl with whom she was matched in the fall.
“It’s something I wanted to do starting as a Third Former,” Esteves says of serving as a mentor, explaining that she was inspired by a close friend, a senior, who would bring her mentee to the Upper for dinner as part of their two-hour mentoring session every week. “It was just so cute, and it seemed so fun.”
The program was suspended in spring 2020 because of COVID-19, and shifted to an online format when it restarted. Esteves is hopeful that she and her mentee will be able to meet in person when the program resumes in the new school year. “There’s a lot of things that make in-person easier,” she says, “but I think one of the most important things is that the program is focused on students who have difficulties at home or need additional support for whatever reason, and being able to bring them [to SPS] where they can be around high school students gives them a vision of something different, what opportunity can look like.”
Esteves also hopes her Sixth Form year will give her the chance to bring to life an initiative she started with Audrey Biles ’22 and Dru Strand ’22: the Self-love Club, aimed at promoting self-care among her fellow students — something she believes is needed at a school as academically rigorous as SPS. “I think it can get a little overwhelming sometimes and when students focus on their homework or their community responsibilities or their athletics, then they don’t devote any time to their own needs,” she explains. “It doesn’t have to be big things; we’re thinking goody bags with self-care products, emails with self-care tips, maybe small-group de-stressing events like meditation and yoga.”
Esteves has a busy year ahead. In addition to continuing as a peer leader for the Friends Program, she will be a prefect in Ford House (her sister will be a prefect in Conover Twenty), extend her leadership role with the Saturday Night Life club, and do photography for both Humans of SPS and the yearbook — a passion she’s pursued through a range of classes in the SPS Art Department and may try to continue in college. Her goal with the Self-love Club is to establish a routine and a format that will allow it to continue after she graduates from SPS.
“It’s so easy here to get caught up in the workload and the expectations you set for yourself — I’ve done that myself,” she says. “What we really wanted with this club was to remind students that it’s always okay to take care of yourself.”