The past two weeks have been busy. I traveled to Portland to a Student Life Conference on Inclusivity with a team from Campus Life, visited alums in DC, and helped host a conference on learning differences in New Hampshire. In between, I came back to a school overflowing with good news and good people. On the various drives and flights to my external obligations, I had a chance to reflect on how thankful I am for the gifts that are everyday occurrences within this community.
Among my reflections were the following:
- The enthusiasm and talent of the cast and crew of “Peter Pan” and the number of faculty helping behind the scenes and in the pit band;
- The success of the football team and the dedication of the coaching staff and the parents who hosted a banquet to honor the team’s achievements;
- The continued success of our cross-country runners as they continue to compete and represent our school well beyond Vermont and the high-school season and the continued commitment of Coach Chip Langmaid;
- The third straight victory of our Culinary team in the New England Culinary Institute’s annual challenge, which displayed not only culinary arts talents, but teamwork, efficiency, and the professionalism of our Culinary Arts teaching staff;
- The class and eloquence of seniors Jay Tilden and Sydney Benjamin (both stars of “Peter Pan” as well) as they were honored as the runner-up and winner of the 2014 Calvin Prize for Vermont Youth at the Metropolitan Club in New York, and the genuine pride evident in their teacher, Jenny Mackenzie, and their mothers at the event;
- The compassion, commitment, and generosity of our student body in helping to organize, and then participating in, a huge Futsal Tournament to benefit the Hawa Abdi School in Somalia in support of Lauren Gillott's Senior Capstone project.
- The generosity of the entire school community in another successful blood drive, Thanksgiving basket food drive, and Santa Fund Toy Drive, all benefiting hundreds of community members
- Planning for the annual trip to serve Thanksgiving dinner to homeless youth at Covenant House in New York, toward which funds were raised through a Variety Day;
- Basketball scrimmaging to raise money for the Transportation Fund at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center;
- The support of students, teachers, and faculty mentors to Seniors requesting help in the planning and execution of their Capstone projects.
Among the many events that reaffirmed my love for this place, I also reflected, perhaps most of all, on the words of a recent visitor from UMaine:
I was incredibly impressed with your school. It is unlike any high school that I have seen before. Your commitment to "Character, Inquiry, and Community" is so clear. I noticed a clear environment of respect beginning with morning chapel and continuing throughout the day. I was greeted with smiles and "hello" as we walked around campus…. The chance to watch Bill Vinton explain types of forces to his Physics students was impressive to be sure, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet all of you.
These words stuck with me not only because the spontaneous praise of outsiders often opens my eyes to the goodness around me, but also because the comments combined character, inquiry, and community, praised both faculty and students, and focused my attention on the part of the Academy for which I am most grateful—its people.
William Bennett wrote, “If we are not grateful for our gifts and opportunities, we are not likely to value them, and if we do not value them, we are not likely to work hard to preserve and improve them.” During this season of giving thanks, I hope you can find many of your own reasons to be thankful for belonging to this Academy community. I also hope you will continue to work with us to preserve and improve the gifts and opportunities we are so fortunate to enjoy.