Beginning in 1999, the School’s annual celebration has kicked off each year with warm energy.
Our years are marked by traditions, both large and small. The annual return to a beloved event helps us cultivate the collective spirit of a moment. The calendar changes, and we change and grow with it, but like a light post our traditions remind us who we are and where we’re going. They allow us to recalibrate ourselves by both looking back reflectively and forward confidently.
So as the entire student body — including Kindergartners holding hands with and sitting atop their Senior buddies’ shoulders — moved cheerfully onto Grover Jones Field for Convocation, the 25th in the School’s history, Collegiate officially kicked off the new academic year, together, continuing a tradition that began with former Head of School Keith Evans, back in 1999.
Passionate, booming, emblazoned with green-and-gold spirit, Convocation began with Lower Schoolers Vivian Caceres ’32 and James Gilman ’32 introducing Upper School SCA co-president Heidi Albecht ’24, who spoke about what makes Collegiate such a special learning environment. Upon reflection, she could “visualize my 5th and 6th Grade years of daily morning and afternoon treks across the bridge with my fellow faculty kid friends.” She thought of her teachers and coaches and the enthusiasm with which they approached education and competition. She thought of the many hours spent playing four square during Middle School recess, the walks she would take around campus with friends.
For Heidi, the common thread running through all these warm memories is a feeling that the people here make her feel at home. “Home is not the space, but the people you share it with,” she said. “It’s more than the beautiful big brick buildings and fancy amenities. It’s the emotions that live inside. What makes being a Collegiate Cougar so special are the people you meet along the way.”
Following performances from the Upper School orchestra and chorus, Middle School Council co-chairs Savannah Harris ’28 and James Ferry ’28 took the stage to deliver remarks about Collegiate.
When Savannah thinks about the School, she continues to return to the idea of community. Every one of us on this field has a relationship with Collegiate in some way,” she told the crowd. “Our own relationships with each other make us a community. The stronger our relationships are, the closer our community is. To me, not only is Collegiate a community, but it’s also a family.” Savannah reminded the crowd that the little daily moments of connection — checking on friends, showing appreciation — are what create a strong community.
During James’s remarks, he challenged those in the audience to step outside their comfort zones, confront challenges and embrace differences. “Here at Collegiate, our community is made up of all kinds of people,” he said. “Altogether, we make a joyful sound. This community is so fantastic, and this school year, I encourage all of you to try to get to know many of the very talented people with interests and abilities that are different from your own. Join a team, participate in a club, volunteer — do anything possible to better get to know the people around you who make different, yet joyful sounds.”
SCA co-president Andrew Ascoli ’24 addressed the audience next and echoed the sentiments about the warmth and support he feels at the School.
“It’s become clear to me that everybody at Collegiate wants you to succeed in and out of the classroom,” he said. “Collegiate’s faculty are committed to our excellence both here and in the future, which has been proven to me time and time again. With academic, leadership and sports opportunities, Collegiate allows us all to pursue our passions in challenging, yet fulfilling ways. If you haven’t already, you will soon begin to realize how lucky you are to be a Collegiate Cougar, just as I have.”
Interim Head of School Billy Peebles, facing the student body from the podium below the field’s bleachers, spoke of presence and the simple yet profound act of showing up, of being there for one another.
“For me, being really present to one another is the same as trying to be a good friend to one another,” he said. “It means saying and really meaning please and thank you. It means helping a fellow student with a book bag or an assignment or helping that student find something that is lost. It means actively reaching out to and welcoming the new members of our community. It means calling a schoolmate whom you know has had a bad day and simply saying, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about you today.’”
Peebles concluded Convocation with this charge for the Seniors and everyone in attendance as they embark on a new year together: “May we have a wonderful year together. A year full of growth and learning for us all; a year full of the constant search for what is true, right and good; a year full of our expressing our mutual and fundamental care and gratitude for one another in this place; a year full of our striving always to be present to one another.”