Dear Haverford: Signing Off For the Last Time


Sophia Khan, Editor-in-Chief

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My hand slipped off my camera. I wiped the sweat on my jeans, watching six seniors stuff barbecue-slick wings into their mouths. 500 pairs of eyes seemed to prick my skin, even though they were most likely staring at the mesmerizingly disgusting scenes of the Wing Bowl. My back pressed firmly against the walls of the risers leading up to the auditorium stage. The framed image in my viewfinder of a senior whose brilliant hair matched the red barbecue sauce he was licking from his fingers shook when a hand abruptly nudged my shoulder. I turned around, already shifting out of the way for a new round of wings to be carried with much pomp onto the stage, but was faced with a woman who reminded me of warm honey spun on a dipper. 

“You’re allowed on the stage, you know,” Ms. Crispin said. I cautiously climbed the steps, feeling my stomach clench every time I put my foot down, sure I was going to slip. I paused at the top, my back brushing the curtains bundled on the edge of the stage.

My hands found my camera and settled into the familiar grip, bringing it to my eyes. Closer to the action, I was able to see the concentration on each contestant’s face, the elation of the winner, and the resignation of the losers. 

This year, I told my friend that I don’t think the girl who I was last year would recognize me now. He paused and then said, “No, I don’t think so.” He continued, explaining that the traits that I have developed are not entirely new; rather, they had been brought into the light through opportunities that allowed me to thrive and grow.

I can recall standing around after my first Fordian meeting, backpack on, physically ready to leave, but unable to stop talking with Gina Ngo, Liz Wolfe, and Mrs. Fish. We talked for hours about article ideas, and, above all else, printing The Fordian. I would be in school so long on those Fridays that I’d stop by the band room, where the marching band was arriving for the football game. There was something about that creative passion in the room that grabbed me, and kept me returning month after month, showing up to events and interviews. 

My eighth grade teachers were concerned about my writing. I often accidentally omitted articles (the, a, an, etc) and I simply had no understanding of independent and dependent clauses. My spelling was atrocious and my analysis was even worse. 

I wrote seven articles my freshman year. 

And, if I do say so myself (and I do), most of them are fairly decent articles. I didn’t even mean to be a writer for The Fordian — I just wanted to take pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I have taken plenty of pictures. 76 articles with my photos and graphics, to be exact. But I wasn’t expecting to gain the skills to write 16 published articles. I certainly couldn’t have predicted that I would attain such an understanding of grammatical rules, clauses, dangling participles, and news reporting-specific rules to teach and edit others. 

Then again, there’s a lot I couldn’t have predicted in these four years. 

Photographing people allows me to get to know them on a deeper level than engaging in small talk, particularly when I take candids. Through sports photography, I’ve learned peoples’ rhythms and habits, learned to expect and look for them. Although the action is important, photos of human reactions are the ones that will remain immortal. I look for the moment after a home run or a missed touchdown when people forget about the camera. Lifting the camera to my eyes makes everything slow down and isolates the subject, allowing me to recognize and appreciate peoples’ differences. Each person reacts to things differently even when feeling the same emotion. I may have learned to emphasize emotion through athletics, but now I’m able to capture the content pause between jokes among friends and the fierce look of concentration on a musician’s face. I’m also able to capture bittersweet tears, solemn marchers at rallies, and the frustrated grimace at the loss of a game point. In short, I secure the raw authenticity of the moment. 

My eyes dart around the computer screen, skimming over the edges of my Photoshop selection. Right index finger flexing on the mouse, I draw one of the edges closer to the subject. The AP Art Show poster starts to bloom on the small artboard when my phone buzzes, the lock screen lighting up the dark room. I finish my selection and glance over. “Hey, tomorrow at 5:30 pm we are doing a “Media Day” for the girls basketball game, as a way…” and the message cuts off. I spun my attention back to the project at hand, but turned the request over in my head. Yes, for a brief two hours and ten minutes, I debated not doing that media day. But I did. And by god, everything in my life changed at 7:28 pm on February 15th, 2022. 

That first media day was a mess (ask anyone on the girls’ basketball team). I stayed because of the passion, the creativity, the problem-solving, and if I didn’t, Mason Baylis probably would’ve quit The Fordian. I stayed because of the incredible opportunity to advance my photography. I stayed for the remarkable people who have shaped the person I am today.Haverford Sports Media has been one of the most important experiences in my life and easily one of the most unforgettable. 

The people whom I have met within the club have shaped my rhythms and habits, the way I flip my keys in my hand, the way I say certain words, the way I gesture with my body. They have influenced my perspectives in each of their incredibly unique ways. The people outside of the club, from the coaches to the players to the parents, have shown unparalleled support and appreciation. 

Perhaps it is the program’s novelty, but I think it’s simply the Haverford way. There is something so special about seeing the relationships that build, from the joy of a win and the grief of a season-ending loss that is reflected in the broadcasters’ faces to Caroline Dotsey’s dad coming up to the broadcasting table after a game and saying that Caroline was hoping to hit her 1000th point at a home game, so that we could be able to call it. It’s the moments when I see each person in HSM getting the recognition that they deserve, and that everyone should experience in their life. So many parts of HSM are surreal, like publishing 100 broadcasts in under one year, expanding the members by almost 10x, and broadcasting everywhere from the Haverford School for swim meets to the Liacouras Center for the district championship. It has been my absolute honor to be a part of a club so indescribable as Haverford Sports Media. 

Mr. Decina likes to joke that the role of the Executive Director for HSM is also the HR department. I truly don’t believe anything has pushed my growth more than learning how to handle social and peer relationship issues and managing professionalism within that club. It has taught me empathy, it has taught me to understand the different ways in which people respond best to criticism, and it has taught me that leading with a firm, but empathetic attitude is infinitely better than with a detached mindset. 

As I was looking through my old photos, from freshman year, I happened across a photo I took of Caroline. The photo is zoomed out, she’s mid-air attempting a lay-up situation, her face obscured by her arm, the basketball most likely not going to make it through the net. I went searching for a recent photo to compare the two, and found a perfect one. Caroline, in all her talent and glory, mid-air over a Perkiomen Valley defender, her face that of concentration, the basketball firmly in her hand, against the backdrop of the Liacouras Center. 


Sophia Khan


These photos, side-by-side, struck me in two different ways. One, Caroline’s improvement as a player, even with the talent to be a varsity freshman, and this improvement as a reflection of the senior class’ development. In the last four years, honing our skills and talents to push our class to be one of record-setting and history-making. The other way was my personal development as a photographer. That first photo was shot with my kit lens, probably shot in AUTO, with no clear subject focus, sloppy colors, and an angle that indicates I was way behind the team bench. The second photo was taken with my telephoto lens, shot manual, with a crisp and dynamic subject, a gorgeous angle, and, above all else, a composition and a moment that tells a story. If there is any way to capture the last four years in such stark contrast, it would be these photos. 

Let’s not pretend it’s been easy — I mean, c’mon, there was a global pandemic. The Class of 2023 is the last class to have already been in high school when COVID-19 hit. It was an adjustment for everyone to switch to online, learn to manage time, and adapt to entirely new methods of learning. Outside of the classroom is one of the best places to learn and grow for the so-called “real world.” Mrs. Fish, Ms. Crispin, Liz, and I had to teach ourselves how to run a newspaper from home. What do you write about when there’s no school events? How do you motivate people to write when they barely get out of bed for class? And then, when things go back to some semblance of normalcy, how do you avoid making every article a “_____ Returns?”

Tapping my feet against the hardwood of the risers on the side of the stage, I gaze over the slowly-filling auditorium, my camera held loose in my hands. The steady thrum of teenage voices rises as a sea of red, yellow, blue, and green pours into the room, summoned by the lunch-ending bell. I push myself up, scoop my camera bag in one hand and my phone in the other, down the steps onto the pressed carpet. The auditorium is alive in anticipation, their voices swooping loud and soft with expectation and the thrill of the annual wing-eating competition, amplified by the prospect of a Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win. Over the roar, the numerous variations of my name make their way to my ears. 

“Sophia K Media!” A wave and a flash of my camera.

“Big Boss!” A laugh and a flash of my camera.

“Sophia!” The call comes from behind me and I glance over. A mop of curly brown hair, iconic blonde, and short dreadlocks meets my eye as Brian, Tommy, and Gorman lean out the music wing door, over each other. A grin and a flash of my camera. 

The lights dim and Mr. Mullen takes the microphone and the spotlight. 

During the Wing Bowl, I darted around the room, sitting at the bottom of the stage as the competitors and their entourages sprinted down, striding up the aisle to turn and get full photo of the stage, and, of course, taking those previously-dreaded steps up the side of the stage. My feet falter, for just a second, at the top of those steps. 

I found my footing.

Crossing behind the table, nearly behind the low-hanging projector, I glance left, to the auditorium seats. My feet still, like the period at the end of a long, long sentence, and I look, fully look, at the moment in front of me. A night sky of the unlit audience waving their flashlights as the background of the teacher’s gobbling down wings and Best Buddies volunteers running around behind them. I take a deep breath, and allow myself to flash back to four years before. My hands find my camera and settled into the familiar grip, bringing it to my eyes. 


Thank you, Haverford. 


Sophia Khan, Ford for Life


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