Collegiate’s 23rd Convocation Brings the Community Together

The School’s annual celebration to kick off the year marked a significant gathering for all Cougars.
North Mooreland Road was emblazoned in green and gold this morning as Collegiate School’s entire student body — including Kindergartners holding hands with and sitting atop their Senior buddies’ shoulders — processed class by class onto Grover Jones Field for Convocation, the School’s annual celebration to kick off the year. The event marked the first time since 2019 that the entire School gathered together in one place, with parents of Seniors and Kindergarten buddies joining the festivities. 

After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, Associate Head of School Courtney Martin, participating in her first Convocation, spoke about the warm welcome she received. The community joined her in a welcoming round of applause for all new Cougars.

She then introduced alumni Ben Donohue and Lauren Cricchi, Presidents of the Class of 2010, who had the then-Kindergartners of the Class of 2022 as their buddies. It was a special moment that served as a reminder of the everlasting bond between Seniors and their Kindergarten buddies. 

Donohue spoke about the strength of the Collegiate community. “Look around at your classmates in this audience — and to all the Cougars nationwide watching live — and think of your lifelong Collegiate family,” he said. “Whether they are your best friend now or not, whether you sit with them at lunch or not, the bond we all share as Cougars is lifelong.” 

Cricchi echoed those sentiments by referencing a segment of the speech she gave during Collegiate’s 2009 Convocation that highlighted the benefits of the School’s education. “Everything we do here at Collegiate is to prepare us for success in life,” she said. “As we go into this new school year, Kindergartners and Seniors and faculty and everyone alike, remember that and do what you can to make your days worthwhile. I’m sure everyone hears this a lot already, but we really are very, very fortunate to be in such an amazing and thriving community.”

One of the many remarkable aspects of Convocation is that the event incorporates and engages the entire student body, from our youngest to oldest Cougars, symbolizing the unity energizing  the School. Throughout the ceremony, Lower School students spread Collegiate spirit with their colorful homemade Cougar paws and the Upper School Jazz Band, String Ensemble and Chorus performed “September” and Hail Collegiate. Middle School Council co-chairs Carter Quigley and Kayla Williams took the stage following the remarks of Donohue and Cricchi to introduce the two Senior Class Presidents, Molly Woods and Ian Quindoza. 

Woods commented on her inclination to look too eagerly ahead to the future and the importance of appreciating the present moment — an appreciation, she said, that has taught her to truly love Collegiate. “I didn’t realize how much I valued what I already had until I had already moved on to the next stage,” she said. “I encourage all of you to be present and appreciate what you have now…. This community has had such a profound impact on my life, one I truly can not put into words and I know it will continue to when I become an alumna.”

Quindoza addressed the audience next and spoke about Collegiate’s values and how they are woven into all aspects of the School’s approach to education. Those values, Quindoza said, have encouraged and supported him during his time at Collegiate. “The respect we have for each other, and the sense of community we have created together, have gotten me through every difficult situation I have come across as a student. After I graduate from Collegiate, I hope to take these values with me and implement them to the best of my ability into whatever new community I find myself in.” 

When Head of School Penny Evins came to the podium to deliver her remarks, she paused and looked out at the gathering before her. “My heart is full of gratitude for you, the Cougars who make our green and gold community feel so warm, wonderful and spirited,” she said. “Today is about you, individually and collectively. We hold a mirror up to inspire you and help you see that being together as One Collegiate invites a world of opportunity for discovery and positivity.”

Mrs. Evins continued, saying how this moment of gathering together offers a time of inspiration and restoration as we embark on the new school year. 

The School, Mrs. Evins said, also functions as a support system and instills in each of us a feeling of warmth and belonging. Mrs. Evins compared this sensation to that of loving a stuffed animal. “Missing a place is really about missing a feeling and feelings come from the people with whom we interact,” she remarked. “We hold the memories tight, like a stuffed animal, wherever we go. You, our students and faculty, make these feelings and memories for those who see you and experience the splendor of our daily learning journey at Collegiate.” 

Cougie, Collegiate’s mascot, embodies the Cougar spirit of the School, and, during Mrs. Evins’s remarks, Cougie made an appearance on Grover Jones Field to surprise the students and demonstrate that tremendous strength of character. “In many ways, Collegiate is Cougie, and the positive energy we create when we come together on Convocation and as a community creates the stuff — or stuffing — that is inside of Cougie,” Mrs. Evins said. “This is the heart, the green and gold magic of Collegiate.”

Mrs. Evins then charged the oldest students of each division — Grades 4th, 8th and 12th — to serve as leaders and focus their efforts on the year ahead, challenging them to embark on their discoveries with courage and curiosity.  

Following these remarks, Mrs. Evins continued celebrating the unique qualities of Collegiate’s Cougars by recognizing two respected alumni with awards, presenting Dr. Leroy B. Vaughan Jr. ’97 with the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award and the 2021 Alex Smith Service Award to Frank Mountcastle III ’83.  

To mark the month of the School’s founding 106 years ago, Mrs. Evins announced that there would be cupcakes for all students, faculty and staff at lunch, giving the day a sweet conclusion. 

Each school year begins with this honorary moment, but this year felt particularly like a celebration — a celebration of our students’ accomplishments, our educators’ persistence and Collegiate’s unity.