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Headmaster’s Weekly Message

Thoughts from Chapel, the Academy’s morning assembly in historic Fuller Hall

"This Is What We Believe; Therefore, This Is What You Will See."

When we typically use the term "Golden Age", we are referring to an idyllic imaginary time of prosperity and happiness in our past. In this period in our history, people performed their skills and achieved success at peak levels, and most of the time, we only realize we have lived through a Golden Age once it has passed. However, the events that we celebrated in Fuller Hall last Monday provided too much evidence for us to ignore the fact that we are living in a Golden Age of Academy student performances.

Consider these achievements that we celebrated that morning:

1. Our FIRST Robotics team won their New England district competition as part of an alliance with schools from Rhode Island and Connecticut. In doing so, they needed to figure out how to rig their robot so that it could still perform its tasks despite having key parts that were broken earlier in the competition.

2. Our Science Olympiad Team won the Vermont State Championship, earning them the first back-to-back trips to the national competition in school history.

3. Our Math Team placed four students in the MathCON finals and five more as alternates, and they will head to compete in Chicago for the first time in school history.

4. Our Girls' Basketball Team won back-to-back Division 1 State Championships for the first time in school history, and senior captain Sadie Stetson won Gatorade Player of the Year for the third year in a row—another historic first for our school.

5. Our Boys' Alpine Ski Team presented their trophy as back-to-back Division 1 State Champions for the first time in school history, and the boys' and girls' teams presented our first-ever Combined Alpine Division 1 State Championship trophy.

These accomplishments are part of an impressive array of student performances this winter. Our Girls’ Indoor Track Team won its fifth consecutive Division 1 State Championship (another historic first), and we have had a number of individual champions in wrestling and track and field. In fact, repeat weight-throw champion Dillon Ryan was the only Vermont athlete to compete in the national competition in New York City. Our Boys’ Basketball Team had continued the winning streak by handily winning their quarterfinal game. In addition, our Boys’ Indoor Track team missed repeating as champions by just one point, and our girls, gymnastics team only lost their championship by two points. Outside of athletics, Sam Bulpin moved on to the Poetry Out Loud finals, Jianing Wu advanced in the Rotary Speech Contest, and Olivia Robinson and Anzhelika Nastashchuk won national Scholastic Art and Writing awards for their creative writing and photography, respectively.

Also in the room celebrating this wide array of winter winners were fall athletes who had won our school's first-ever field hockey championship and who had represented our school in back-to-back Division 1 Soccer Championships for the first time in our history. They were joined by the cast and crew of Legally Blonde, by all accounts one the finest musical productions in the history of Academy Theatre. Unbeknown to all of us, they were to be joined by two other groups of history-making winners this weekend: the cast and crew of Just So Stories, the first play directed by Chef Gerry Prevost to move on to the state finals of the annual Vermont One-Act Festival, and our Boys' Basketball Team who won the Division 1 State Championship, marking the first time in school history that both the boys' and girls' teams have won the Division 1 Championships in the same year.

Suffice it to say that a large percentage of those gathered in Fuller Hall had experienced (or would soon experience) what it feels like to perform at one's peak at some point already this year. When I added in the excellence of Senior Capstone Day, other playoff teams, Scholastics Arts Awards, Presidential Scholars, National Merit Scholars, AP Scholars, and any number of other personal triumphs, I was blown away by the achievements of this student body—and it is only March!

In reflecting on how we got to this place, I went back to the fall of 2008. In August of that year, Assistant Head for Campus Life Beth Choiniere introduced the idea of "core covenants". These covenants are more than promises or mottos; they are value-based bonds between people that say, "this is what we believe; therefore, this is what you will see." We adopted three core covenants for our athletic program: Commitment, Competiveness, and Classiness. We pledged—no matter where we were or who we were with or what we were doing—to be committed to our team, compete to improve and win, and show respect, sportsmanship, and appreciation to all. Every year, at every Meet the Coaches Night and in every orientation and leadership meeting, we refer to these core covenants. They have become, over the past decade, defining traits for our school. This definition of excellence has empowered students in all areas to dream big and not only imagine themselves as champions but also to see a pathway towards that goal.

I am sure we will have even more successes in the coming months. Our AP test scores are annually top in the state, our math and robotics teams are participating in further competitions, our SkillsUSA students take home numerous medals at the state and national level, we have another Senior Capstone Day coming up, and I am sure our spring teams will be in the mix at playoff time in their various sports. Amidst all of this success, it is important to remember that some students might never get celebrated in Fuller Hall or raise a championship trophy; for some it is a victory to get to school and complete their work. But I believe if they too adopt the core covenants—being committed to the people around them and to the task at hand, striving to do their best and always improve, and treating others with respect, fairness, and appreciation—they too will achieve great things. This is what we believe; therefore, this is what you will see.