HYPE 2018

A little under 1,000 students from all over New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, attended a philosophy conference at UNH on March 14th, focusing on democracy and society. This was the 8th annual HYPE (Hosting Young Philosophy Enthusiasts) event that the Ethics Forum has put on. The event is planned and put together by the Souhegan Ethics Forum in collaboration with the Spaulding and Bedford leadership groups.

Souhegan emcee, Kate Lindsey, introduces the keynote speakers.

The day started off by gathering all students in the Hamel Rec Center for a breakfast provided by UNH, registration, and the distribution of t-shirts and bags (all which were designed by Souhegan students). Once everyone got settled, the two keynote speakers, Andrea Bruce and David Wood. Andrea Bruce is an award-winning documentary photographer whose work focuses on people living in the aftermath of war, a 2016 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and the winner of many impressive awards. David Wood is also a photojournalist and has been since 1970. He has worked for Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Newhouse News Service and The Baltimore Sun, following the military, foreign affairs, and combat operations. His work has led him to be a Pulitzer Prize finalist many times and the winner of the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Defense Reporting.

Souhegan Ethics Forum students greeting students at the registration table.

However, everyone’s favorite part of the day is the student-led discussions. The true purpose of HYPE is to allows students to participate in discussions where they usually would not get a voice and allow for students from diverse backgrounds to discuss their different perspectives on issues that affect their society. This year the EQ focused on democracy, asking students “What does democracy look like?” Students were left in groups of five to ten to discuss this question for two hours, and many groups reported back great success and successful conversation.

This year’s bags included a folder with discussion materials, stickers, bracelets, sunglasses, tumblers, pens, and more!

What makes this conversation so important and different than the usual ones held in school was the diversity and the small groups. The groups had only five to ten students which allowed for students who are typically more quiet to grow comfortable with their groups and feel like their voice could be shared. This allowed for many unique perspectives to mix together. HYPE pulls students from all over New England bringing students who had moved from other countries, students who lived in poverty, students who had lived in the same community their entire lives, and students from every background together to show each other how democracy fits into and affects everyone’s life no matter where they come from.

Souhegan senior, Scott Masters, facilitates a discussion.

Finally, the most impressive thing about HYPE is the fact that it is all put together through the work of students. This year’s HYPE had been in the planning since September, and all of the ideas that made it work came from students. They had been working on everything from the big picture to the final details. They planned everything from the EQ to the t-shirt colors. Everything from what was in the bags, to the way students were split into discussion groups, to the itinerary of the day, the logos on the folder. The first HYPE took place eight years ago. Without the work of the students and the Ethics Forum Leaders, Chris Brooks and Kelli Braley, holding eight HYPEs and growing the program from 100 students to nearly 1,000 would never have been possible. Yet, the work for this year’s Ethics Forum does not stop here. They have two mini-conferences before the end of the year and a four-day HYPE summit in mid-July, and don’t forget, it’s almost time to start planning for next years HYPE.