Michael D. Reed '03 learned at a young age that Princeton Day School would be an important place in his life. Not only because he is a PDS “lifer” who attended the school from PreK-12th Grade, but because his mother, Gwen Reed, was the first ever diversity coordinator for a consortium of independent schools in the Princeton area. Over her 20 years at Princeton Day School, she personally mentored countless students, especially children of color, first generation and low-income students from the Greater Trenton area. Her support and guidance in their lives helped lead to personal and academic success, with many of these students attending the finest universities in the world, including all eight Ivy League institutions.
Reed, too, felt the positive effects of those strong relationships with faculty. “I feel like I spent more time in the halls of PDS than I did in my own home,” Reed recalled. “When you spend so much time making connections with teachers from such a young age, it’s natural to look up to those teachers as parental figures. My situation was unique because of my mother’s position at the school, which made these educators her peers. All of the teachers I interacted with through academics, summer camps and enrichment programs have made strong impacts on my life.” After he graduated from PDS, Reed also went on to a top postsecondary destination, Georgetown University. Following his graduation from Georgetown, Reed pursued an impressive career path into politics that included policy analytics for the Black Caucus of State Legislators and Chief of Staff to Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15). He currently serves as the Senior Advisor and Director of Member Services at the Office of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this work, especially when I worked for New Jersey members of the House of Representatives, is interfacing with PDS folks. When I worked in different offices, I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with PDS class trips when they came to Washington D.C. and to touch base with my former teachers and classmates.” On the power of meeting fellow PDS alums in so many different places, Reed stated, “It only goes to demonstrate the interesting and extensive reach that PDS has around the world.”
He would continue strengthening PDS student connections when he participated in the School’s Black History Month Celebration in February 2021 as the keynote speaker.
When asked about his initial reaction to receiving the invitation to act as the keynote speaker, Reed said he was “very surprised, humbled and honored” to speak with the PDS community during the School’s culminating event of Black History Month.
“While I am proud of my career path and accomplishments, it was always my greatest priority to honor my mother during the keynote address. Her singular presence in the history and legacy of PDS when it came to supporting not only students of color, but students with all kinds of needs, is unparalleled. Her ability to see students for who they were as people and seeing that all kinds of children really do belong at PDS is a legacy that is continued today not only through the School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, but throughout the entire faculty and staff.”
Since last summer, building on decades of DEI efforts, the PDS community has passionately continued to work to transform the school environment and become the inclusive community they aspire to be. After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, it has been the main goal and mission of the School to ensure that all community members will be able to experience authentic inclusion within PDS through the eradication of any forms of marginalization or inequity in the culture and program. Through a series of town halls and affinity-based sessions for community members, broad and deep professional development work, DEI resourcing and seven working groups tasked to help identify and achieve DEI goals across every aspect of the program, PDS has updated its mission for all students as a school that “aspires to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive community in which all members are seen, challenged, affirmed, respected and valued.”
Reed’s experience as a Black student has inspired him and his fellow alums to revisit the PDS community. “I thought it was very important for us as Black alums to re-engage with the community as best we could to provide support for those students who sometimes feel isolated. I understand those feelings of isolation because, regardless of whether or not I felt I belonged at PDS, being just one of four black students in my graduating class made those feelings of isolation inevitable.”
It was in remembering those feelings that Reed recalled the lasting effect his mother had on so many students during her time at PDS. “Like my mother before me, I wanted to support PDS students in finding their voices. I wanted to support them in making the School a better place for everyone.”
Reed and his fellow alums attended PDS town halls and DEI sessions, and through those experiences, he reaffirmed his belief that PDS excels in facilitating student-led learning, skill building and sustained opportunities across an extraordinary array of disciplines and interests. He wants all PDS students to embrace the truth that they are capable of achieving anything: “What PDS is preparing students for is to take leadership in the world, whether that’s leadership and responsibility over oneself or a business. When those opportunities emerge for students at PDS, I want them to know that they have been well prepared to embrace those moments.”