HYPE 2019

This year, the annual HYPE Conference hosted by Souhegan High School’s Ethics Forum will be held on March 14th at the Hamel Student Recreation Center at UNH Durham. HYPE stands for “Hosting Young Philosophy Enthusiasts” and was founded by Souhegan seniors in 2009 as an opportunity for high school students to have meaningful philosophical discussions centered on philosophical topics centered on ethics and civil discourse. HYPE is unique because it is an authentic high school student conference created, designed and led by high school students for high school students. The HYPE project and its affiliated program SPEL or “Students Practicing Ethical Leadership” under the guidance of St. Anselm College’s Center for Ethics in Business and Governance, provides students from all over the greater New England region, the chance to have discussions at large and small student-led conferences at a number of venues in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Based on the educational tenets of Souhegan High School, the great tradition of socratic dialogue endorsed by the University of New Hampshire Durham’s department of philosophy and the directives of St. Anselm College’s ethics and leadership training, students discuss important issues and topics not only with their peers but also with experts who help to shape their ideas and perspectives.


When this program began in 2010 at Souhegan High School, Amherst, NH, the HYPE conference had approximately 120 students in attendance. As we enter our 10th year in 2019, over 1100 student are expected to attend. Over the past 9 years, HYPE has been acknowledged and supported by a number of institutions and organizations including Merrimack College, North Andover, MA, St. Anselm College, Manchester, NH, Granite State College, Concord, NH, the University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, the University of New Hampshire, Manchester, NH and the University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH. As part of the HYPE program’s development, six years ago, HYPE was awarded a renewable prestigious RGSCP (Responsible Governance and Sustainability Citizenship Project) Grant from UNH Durham to fund HYPE. This grant has led to the UNH philosophy department endorsement of the Ethics Forum, the generous support of UNH Durham’s COLA (College of Liberal Arts) and the use of the UNH Durham campus each year for this flagship event. As a result of HYPE’s ongoing success, the Souhegan Ethics Forum was awarded the 2014 Granite State Award by the NH University System for the group’s “dedication to creating an academically rich environment for New Hampshire students to connect through philosophical discussions” through the HYPE program. In 2017, HYPE was given a commendation from the UNH Innovations Division.


The HYPE program includes a number of schools who are involved in helping Souhegan High School students with the leadership decisions and the carrying out of important tasks that must be accomplished in order to make March 14th successful. Student leaders from Spaulding High School in Rochester, NH, Manchester Central High School in Manchester, NH, Derryfield Academy in Manchester, NH, Gilford High School in Gilford, NH, and Oyster River in Durham, NH, are actively involved, functioning as facilitation leaders for small group discussions during HYPE. 


This year, the topic of the HYPE Conference will be media and society. The essential question for the day will be “What role does/should our media play in our society?” The day will begin with an introduction and charge given by Trent Spiner, Executive Editor of The Manchester Union Leader. Registration begins at 8:00 with the conference commencing at 9:00. Sessions for students and educators will be ongoing throughout the morning centered on the issue of the day as well as suggestions on how to formulate effective student leadership groups that have at their core philosophical inquiry, ethical responsibility and civic action. Any schools interested in this program should contact Christopher Brooks, coordinator of the HYPE/SPEL program, through the following e-mail: cbrooks@sprise.com.