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Bullis Spirit Triumphs Throughout the Pandemic

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Bullis Spirit Triumphs Throughout the Pandemic
SGA representatives Class of 2021

From left, SGA co-presidents Roya Ebrahimi-Qajar ’21 and Matt Koff ’21, and secretary Aniya Dyer ’21.

The 2020-21 team of Student Government Association (SGA) executives—co-presidents Matt Koff ’21 and Roya Ebrahimi-Qajar ’21, and secretary Aniya Dyer ’21—led the Upper School student body during pandemic conditions, and came up with creative solutions and new initiatives. Their morning show, Rise Up, Bullis!, in place of Upper School assembly, and Founders’ Festival in place of Homecoming, reached out to not just the Upper School, but the entire community. Bullis Magazine asked them to reflect on this unusual year.


How did you approach SGA leadership this year?

Roya: We hit the ground running, met with Mrs. Kerry Hosmer and the administration and sent out a joint email in support of the Black Lives Matter protest. We also decided on the format for Rise Up, Bullis and other ideas to use in a COVID world. I had been in SGA since Freshman year and knew we needed to be clear in our intentions.

Matt: We started planning in the summer and knew we wanted to accomplish a lot and had logistical challenges to work out. The key to our plan was realizing we had free reign. Unlike other years, there was no box to think inside, so we could dream big and be really creative. Rise Up, Bullis came from a brainstorming session to completely rethink community time this year. At Bullis, we are encouraged to think differently and work outside the comfort zone, which helped. My teachers have taught me the importance of failure and being uncomfortable, two things we were confronted with this year.

Aniya: My approach was largely inspired by my predecessor, Austin Brown '20. His leadership was instrumental—he inspired me to go beyond what was expected and to be more involved and hands-on.


What have you learned about yourself this year?

Roya: I learned that I enjoy advocating for different causes and groups as well as having a space to have those informative conversations.

Matt: I learned how dynamic I can be when plans change quickly. We had to be ready for anything. I think we all did this well. When Homecoming was cancelled, we moved quickly to create a much-needed community event, Founders’ Festival. That came from having to pivot our plans for the year.

Aniya: What surprised me was my creativity. We often had to think outside the box, and I came up with ideas that were actually very useful.


How did you adapt to the challenges of being an SGA exec while physically distant from classmates?

Roya: It was a challenge because I am a people person. It was also difficult to find activities that could be done in person and remotely, and to get people to watch our show on asynchronous Wednesday mornings. We sent out reminders and recorded the episodes. There was a lot of adapting to do, and that needed lots of creativity.

Matt: Staying positive despite the circumstances was a challenge. One thing that helped was encouragement from teachers and the student body, and feedback that helped us improve. Knowing we were leading such a large community helped us stay positive, and a little pressure also facilitated a good year.

Aniya: School spirit and engagement were challenging, and jugging the integration of new students and online students in our activities. Starting new traditions such as Founders’ Festival and Rise Up, Bullis helped us build new spaces for school spirit.


What are you most proud of over the past year?

SGA Rise Up, Bullis pilot episode

Roya Ebrahimi-Qajar broadcasts during the pilot episode of Rise Up, Bullis!

Roya: Creating a place for advocacy and awareness! With Rise Up, Bullis we dedicated shows to heritage months or celebratory days and provided background on the history. This was my favorite part because we could bring awareness and have an open dialogue. I learned a lot through the research and our conversations.

Matt: I’m proud of how we transformed the position as advocates working to help those in our community and around the world. We used Rise Up and our platform to keep the student body informed about important issues and causes. This was super fulfilling, and I hope we set an example for future SGA Execs.

Aniya: I am most proud of Rise Up, Bullis! We all put time and effort into creating this show. Beginning as a way to modify assemblies, it turned into our space to advocate for issues, spotlight outstanding classmates, and simply jam out to music with our community. We heard that the show was fun was to watch and that made it more fun to plan.


How do you think your class will be remembered?

Roya: I think we will be remembered for our perseverance. The expectations for Senior year were very different, and we got all the work with little of the fun—but we made the most of the year, and I am really proud of that.

Matt: Our class will be remembered for how well we responded to this year. We tried to stay positive and work together as a grade to get through the year. I’m proud of our unity and I know this experience has taught us important life lessons.

Aniya: We will be remembered for our struggle and our success. The pandemic took a big toll on the senior experience and college application process. We still created lasting memories and found our dream schools!


What life lessons/wisdom have you gained from this experience?

Roya: I’ve learned so much about the power of a positive attitude and to make the most of every moment. I’ve learned how to rise up and do what needs to be done.

Matt: I’ve learned to be ready for anything life throws at you. Always be ready to adapt and change to the circumstances. Focus on your own actions rather than trying to change the world around you.

Aniya: I think I gained wisdom—I’ve heard that life isn’t fair, yet I understand it now. We may plan for and expect something, but life can come and change it all.


What words of wisdom would you share with the incoming SGA execs?

Roya: Keep doing what you are doing when there is more positive feedback than negative because you will never please everyone. It is better to try rather than think it isn’t possible!

Matt: Think of the bigger picture in everything you do, and don’t take your time at Bullis for granted! It will fly, senior year especially, so make sure you take time to smell the roses.

Aniya: Tenacity is key in this role. Sometimes you will receive negative feedback, but remember that your peers elected you to do a job and you must push through and do it.


What final thoughts do you have to share?

Roya: I am so thankful for Bullis’ adaptability, allowing us to be in person this year. The teachers have gone above and beyond to help students and to create interactive lesson plans.

Matt: We want to thank Ms. Hosmer so much for her incredible guidance and leadership this year, and thank our amazing SGA team and everyone who supported us. Go Dawgs!

Aniya: The Bullis family has taught me, inspired me, and supported me. I stepped out of my comfort zone here. Bullis is truly a place for growth where you can explore your interests, and with support, you can never fail.


Watch the final episode of Rise Up, Bullis!
Episode 18: Rise Up and Goodbye  |  Air Date: May 19, 2021

This article is featured in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Bullis Magazine.

  • Alumni News
  • Bullis Magazine
  • Class of 2021
  • SGA
  • Spring/Summer 2021