by Michelle Sonsino
In September, students at GFS will be welcomed back by a new face as Director of Upper School, although one that is familiar to many within the community. Matthew Young comes to Philadelphia from African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa, where GFS students, teachers, and staff have visited over the past two years as part of the Global Studies program. At ALA, Young served as Associate Dean for Learning and Innovation where he collaborated with global educators to support the development of the next generation of African leaders.
He said he is eager to begin at GFS.
“I find great joy in helping to build strong young people,” Young said. “I want each student to develop problem solving skills for the intellectual and inter-relational challenges they face Success in today’s world requires creativity and innovation, and what attracted me to Germantown Friends School is a community that seeks to cultivate that in each student.”
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Young has been immersed in schools and youth programs as an educator and administrator in the U.S. and abroad for more than 30 years, including roles at the Hawken School in Cleveland, Laurel and Old Trail schools in Ohio, National Cathedral School in Washington, DC. and NOVA International Schools in Skopje, Macedonia. He has also held leadership roles with residential summer camps in Massachusetts and Ohio, which reflect his ongoing commitment to experiential outdoor programs.
Young graduated from Hampshire College with a dual degree in Field Biology and French and earned a Master’s in Biology from Binghamton University. He and his wife Sara have three children Sally, 27, Oliver, 23, and Cloe, 20. He is an avid cyclist and looks forward to Philadelphia’s frequent riding events.
Young’s educational philosophy aligns with that of GFS, promoting independent thought, critical thinking and dialogue.
“No two students are the same,” he said. “My role as an administrator is to develop systems and strategies that can encourage each student’s unique path, helping to identify when we need to push, stretch, or support.”
Young also believes in the importance of students learning from one another while working alongside the community to face and challenge complex issues.
“I am inspired by the school’s Strategy Through Inquiry strategic visioning process and thrilled to support the goals of this school and neighborhood collaboration,” He said, reflecting on opportunities ahead for the Upper School and overall GFS community. “Over the next few years, our work will build on an educational experience and campus culture that exemplifies a commitment to the Quaker testimonies; that place a child’s well-being and whole person at the center of our work; that models excellence in teaching and learning; that believes in building a just and equitable community; and that prototypes true public-private collaboration.”
GFS Head of School Dana Weeks said she was glad to have Young join the school.
“We are excited to welcome a new innovator to campus, who will build on the tremendous leadership and mentorship in the Upper School,” she said. “Matthew’s experience as a global educator with experiential learning expertise will help our students develop as informed and inquisitive citizens and will support GFS as we bring our new strategic vision to life.”
Michelle Sonsino is Communications and Media Relations Specialist at Germantown Friends School