Joyful Retrospective

Head of School Penny B. Evins takes a look back at the 2019-20 school year.
Dear Collegiate Families,

Since March, I have crafted my communications to you with a clear focus on our future. As promised, updates regarding our plans for a safe return to campus on day one of the 2020-21 school year will be forthcoming in June, July and August. In addition to these upcoming communications, the latest information can be found on our COVID-19 webpage. Rest assured that our planning committees, with internal and external expertise from the medical, educational and space utilization realms, are working to carefully design a safe and excellent plan for our safe return to School. We will communicate our planning updates in an upcoming letter. However, the purpose of this letter is celebratory in nature as we reflect on the 2019-20 school year.

I am excited to shift my perspective and guide you on a nostalgic walk down memory lane, otherwise known as the 2019-20 school year. If there were background music, it would involve deafening applause and the joyful noise of appreciation for our faculty, staff, students, parents alumni and volunteers. These are the people of Collegiate, who make our shared community so invaluable and inspiring, and are helping to preserve our future.  

A New Beginning and New Relationships to Build
As I began as your Head of School just 11 months ago, I was eager to greet new and returning community members and our JK-12th Grade students across the Mooreland Road campus on their (and my) first day of school in August. During the year, I spoke about Collegiate’s core values, memories and more to build bridges and encourage vulnerability and healthy risk taking as a pathway to create a stronger community with our Lower School, Middle School and Upper School students, faculty and staff. I am grateful for the responsive shares of community and the opportunity we all have to know each other more deeply as lifelong learners.

Convocation and Other Celebrations Connect the Cougar Community
Across the School, gatherings such as Convocation, Halloween Parade and Ton of Coins, Diwali and Chinese New Year, brought the learning community together. Through these events, I learned the people and the programs of our School. The inclusive and student-centered environment created palpable and inspiring energy for all in attendance. 

Signature Programs Build Upon Momentum and Experiential Education
From winning the Ethics Bowl to the daily integration of the Powell Institute for Responsible Citizenship programming, ranging from the 4th Grade Capstone, Envision Collegiate; the 8th Grade Capstone, Envision Richmond; and 12th Grade Capstone, Envision Your World (including The River City, TEDxYouth@RVA and IELC); the 9th Grade Community Engagement program and the Kindergarten Shoe Store, our mission delivery is enhanced and our STEAM initiatives took off! Collegiate’s robotics team, TORCH 5804, won the FIRST Chesapeake Robotics District Qualifier in early March before the season came to an abrupt end. Collegiate Upper School students in Dan Bartels' Robotics and Engineering class participated in a Foldit challenge to help researchers design new proteins that might inhibit coronavirus' ability to interact with human cells. Our students eagerly engaged with complex topics and own their learning journey with the skilled facilitation of our excellent faculty and staff.
Performing and Visual Arts Broaden Perspectives and Innovate
Collegiate’s Arts program allowed for neophytes and established artists to showcase individual and group talents through visual and performance-based events for all. Our fall musical, Chicago, the winter play, Orbital Sanity, the 8th Grade play, The Aristocats, and the 1st Grade play, Zoozical the Musical, showcased talents and teaming across the School. Musicians highlighted their skills with numerous concerts and performances including those from the Upper School Viridaur Strings Ensemble and Upper School orchestra and chorus and Middle School chorus. And Collegiate held its first virtual Art Walk to exhibit the work of JK-12th Grade visual artists.

Student-Athletes Succeed for the Green and Gold
No matter the results on the scoreboard, our student-athletes harnessed physical talent and well-being through their participation in our Athletic programs. In February, the Collegiate boys’ indoor track team earned its first-ever VISAA indoor championship. And in November, December and February, 22 student-athletes signed their National Letters of Intent (NLI) or commitment documents to commit to playing athletics in college. As a fan, it was delightful to spectate as our student-athletes grew as young women and men under the tutelage of our talented and supportive coaches, who deliver a holistic education for our Cougars. 

Collegiate Alums Remain Engaged and Connected
Throughout the year, Collegiate alums reached out with their desires to remain connected and serve the School. The Alumni Association launched the networking platform Cougars Connect and worked with alums to mentor rising seniors in the Trailblaze program. In addition, alums returned to campus for Homecoming Weekend and to offer advice to current 11th Graders. Several others, artist Pieter Schoolwerth ‘89actor/dancer Taylor Daniels ’10entrepreneur Harry Wilson ’01; educator Elizabeth Arnold Weiss ’86 and voice actor and comedian Mike Henry ’84, also came back to Collegiate — in person and remotely — to share their gifts and perspectives. Our strong alumni network is a powerful force and a point of pride for our School as they exemplify our core values in the greater world. 

Collegiate Launches Remote Learning
Without time to spare and a great deal of care, we began remote learning on March 23, 2020, for our entire JK-12th Grade student body in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We embody our Portrait of A Teacher and Portrait of A Graduate as we deliver a robust learning experience and keep our Cougars safe and healthy. The clarity in focus and commitment to our students has never been more evident and I am forever grateful for the community’s response to a call to action.

Parents’ Association Events Build Community
Many events hosted by Collegiate’s Parents’ Association — New Families Breakfast, Bingo, Cougar Classic and the annual Village Green Fair — connected and strengthened the Cougar community, in person and remotely. The strength of our community grows, no matter the obstacles, thanks to our incredible volunteers who want what is best for Collegiate and take on a range of roles, no matter how small or large.
Responsible Citizenship in the Widest Sense Through Anonymous Giving
An anonymous donor supported the School, which is reaffirming our commitment to financial assistance, with a gift of $250,000 to create the Collegiate Families Emergency Relief Fund. A clarion call to support from within spurred us to create a fund to support Cougars. Those in our community experiencing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be assisted and cared for. The fund grows and gifts of all sizes demonstrate the power of and belief in our educational community.

Collegiate Honors the Class of 2020
Members of Collegiate’s Upper School faculty and other staff members surprised seniors in the Class of 2020 with yard signs, gift boxes and an assembly, and special messages to honor them. Forever known as the class that did not want to leave, this group of seniors inspired all of us to display resilience, compassion and stay strong. We will carry their positive energy with us for years to come and are confident that these trailblazers will make a positive impact on the greater world and we hope they come back often to see us on campus!

Gratitude and Purpose
Many of you have commented on this as a unique first year for me to join you. I have not looked back with anything other than a full heart for the determination, care, clarity of conviction and enduring support from each of you. I am so proud of our community and were we next to each other, I would give you a celebratory high-five, hug, handshake or congratulatory remark. However, for now, please know my wish for you is that you enjoy health and rejuvenation as we close out our year together with a careful and steady eye on our Collegiate flame. 

We will carry our torch forward into our future with gratitude, bravery, foresight and a newfound resilience. Bravo, Cougars; thank you for providing much material for this joyful retrospective.
Penny B. Evins
Head of School