As I write this note, many of our students are making their way home for the holidays, and those who are still on campus are enjoying a Kwanzaa lunch today. Shep is festive with the new tastes and smells from new foods and there is a buzz of discovery in the excited conversations. I am so thankful for our community, and for the ways in which our faculty and staff are all standing ready as mentors and guides to our wonderful students.
“Everyone is a teacher” is something we say often, and it is never truer than now when we have so many challenges in the news, in our lives, in facing realities, and yet such a caring, supportive community.
The holidays are a time of community connection for all of us. And as I look back on the beginning of this academic year, I am so grateful our students, faculty, staff, and alumni could make such strong connections this year. There is a feeling of joyful playfulness on campus. Last year our students needed to wear masks inside and outside. While vital for our safety and health, masks are a barrier to connection. We can’t see a student’s beautiful smile. Laughter is muffled. And last year social distancing kept students from sitting together on a bench, never mind offering each other a comforting hug. This year we’ve been able to relax some of our mitigation efforts and students can walk outside arm-in-arm, masks down—sometimes even dancing their way down Long Walk! This is joy.
And this year we’ve returned to athletic competition as a force to be reckoned with. Last season there wasn’t league play and we pieced together a few games here and there. This year has been so exciting! Both our girls and boys varsity soccer teams made it to the NEPSAC championship rounds and returned to campus with well-earned finalist trophies. I traveled to see the boys win their semi-final match in a nail-biting shootout. We also hosted 275 mountain bikers for the Northern New England High School Mountain Bike Championships, with crowds filling Alumni field at the thrilling, slippery finish line. Our basketball players are loading into busses for tournaments near and far. And now our boys and girls hockey teams are charging opponents on the ice and winning, with the girls recently taking home the Exeter Championship Trophy. I drove to the girls’ varsity hockey game last night at NMH and was so proud of our fearless skaters! They were a force, and they shut down their opponents 3-0. This is joy.
Connections are taking place between alumni once again. While we have still needed to postpone reunion, we’re welcoming past graduates as they visit campus while traveling past. Last month we had two alumni, Corina Belle-Isle ’80 and Casey Cota’ 89, P’ 14, ’17, ’18, join our new entrepreneurship class to discuss their substantial business success. To see them sitting in the Great Room sharing their experience as Vermont Academy students and as adults in life – this is joy.
As we are stepping off into our holiday break, I want to share how tremendous the Candlelight Celebration was last Sunday evening. The candle dance itself, the ensemble performances, the choral pieces, and readings all made for a meaningful celebration of our multi-talented students and faculty. I am so grateful for our entire community and the ways in which we gather in these important moments to celebrate Vermont Academy traditions, each other, and the joy of being human – no matter what is happening around us.
I wish you the happiest, healthiest, and safest holidays!