Quinn-Ferguson Students Experience The Atlantic Festival

For two days last week, the classroom for students in Mercersburg’s Quinn-Ferguson Honors Seminar shifted to Washington, D.C., and included conversations with and presentations by sitting U.S. senators; a former U.S. secretary of state, senator, and presidential candidate; the editor of a major newsmagazine; and thought leaders in the worlds of government, politics, technology, food, medicine, and more.
The students attended The Atlantic Festival October 3-4 in Washington, where they heard from the likes of Senators Lindsey Graham and Kamala Harris; John Kerry, former U.S. secretary of state, senator, and presidential candidate; Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic; James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic and former chief speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter; and José Andrés, a world-renowned chef and social-justice activist who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

“This is a way of really treating our students as thinkers,” says faculty member Allison Stephens, who teaches the course. “In the class, we discuss global issues that are prominent in the 21st century. It was an incredible opportunity and experience for all of us and will definitely feed into the discussions we’ll be having throughout the year.”

The Quinn-Ferguson Honors Seminar is named in honor of emeriti faculty members Jay Quinn and John Ferguson and is open to 11th- and 12th-grade students by application. The course is broad in scope and interdisciplinary in nature; participants analyze major political, economic, social, and cultural developments that have shaped the past two decades and that will likely impact the coming decades.

“As high-school students, we’re normally around people our own age—and at The Atlantic Festival, we were surrounded by different groups of people and different viewpoints,” said Quinn-Ferguson student Riley Wick ’20. “We got to hear from people who make a living off their opinions.”

“It’s important for us to be here as the next generation and to focus on these topics, especially with the type of political climate we’re in right now,” Quinn-Ferguson student Sophie Krasny ’20 said. “It may be cliché to describe the experience we had as ‘amazing,’ but this experience will help us understand so much of what we know.”

The Atlantic Festival, an annual event organized in partnership with the Aspen Institute, was known as the Washington Ideas Forum for nine years before changing its name prior to 2018. The trip (and the course itself) was endowed by Mercersburg’s Quinn-Ferguson Honors Seminar Fund.

Founded in 1893 in the heart of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic, Mercersburg is a private, coed, college preparatory boarding school with approximately 435 students (15 percent are day), grades 9-12 and postgraduate.
We offer 170 courses, including AP and Honors, more than $7 million in financial aid, 26 varsity sports, and a state-of-the-art performing and visual arts center.
Located 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and within easy driving distance of New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
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