Convocation marks the official start of the academic year at New Hampton School. Following arrival days and orientation weekend, our community gathered in front of Meservey Hall at the start of the school’s 201st year on Sunday, September 5.
Cum Laude Society Induction
Head of School Joe Williams opened the 201st Convocation, followed by Cum Laude society inductions of eight new students. Setting the tone for academic excellence, the Cum Laude society signifies the opportunity and drive to excel in our classrooms. Five students were recognized including Charlie Truesdale ’22, Hadley Rossignol ’22, Talia Shirley ’22, Cat Vu Nguyen ’22, Mucheng Max Ma ’22, Haozhan Harry Lu ’22, Sophia Hausberger ’22, and Alexander Boriss ’22.
Reflecting on our school theme
Mr. Williams shared some of his thoughts on this year’s school theme, Together Again. The qualities of the theme are similar to our core values and our hopes for the new year ahead. He reminds us that our daily actions are what help us to realize individual and community goals. And, perhaps more importantly, embracing the mindset of appreciating that we “get to” be together, that we “get to” attend classes and games together, is a positive outlook we should all aspire to hold onto. Mr. Williams went on to explain some of the ways we can help each other.
We will have a special year together if we each think about how we might make somebody else’s life better every day. Do something nice for a friend. Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know yet. Invite someone to join your peer group for an activity. Help someone dealing with homesickness. You get the idea. How you do it is up to you. It is a new year, a clean slate, an opportunity to try new things, and to think of others as we come together again.
Student Body Co-President Jo Tattersall ’22 reflected on Convocation as an important call to action in rebuilding the community for a new year. At the start of her fourth year at New Hampton School, Jo shared reflections on the journey to this place in time and her belief in how “your experience is what you make of it.” She went on to share, “The opportunities are endless if you choose to utilize them. Support from your teachers and fellow classmates will always be there to help you succeed but most importantly evolve. […] As we begin this new year, I want you all to think about the choices you can make to build the close-knit community you would like to call home. It’s up to you.”
Create space and grace
Ms. Siliciano began her speech with gratitude to be together in person, experiencing the moment as a community. Now in her third year at New Hampton School, she remarked about how two unconventional years make her wonder if “it might really feel like [her] first.” Remembering personal experiences during the early days of the pandemic, during periods of isolation and a quiet, closed campus, juxtaposed to a joyful summer, Ms. Siciliano also acknowledged that all of our experiences have not been equal. Our community reaches around the world, and the world has experienced many different things. “You all are coming to this space with your own story, your own challenges, that have shaped who you are and led you to this moment.”
If there is one message you hear today, let it be this, please be patient and kind with each other. Don’t presume to understand someone else’s experience, you can’t, it is uniquely their own. You can ask questions, you can listen, share your unique lens with others, and model vulnerability. Create space and grace for honest and difficult dialogue, because those are the moments and opportunities for meaningful growth.
Learning from ourselves and our heroes
Referencing last year’s “Stop the Stigma” video, Ms. Siciliano reminded students of many of their own words. They were asked, “what would you say to someone who is hesitant to ask for help?” The responses shared included many thoughtful, hopeful, and supportive words.
“There is nothing wrong with asking for help,” “It’s okay to ask for help,” and “You are not alone.” Collectively your responses were profound. I was reminded how proud I am to be a part of this community, one that is committed to supporting the mental health of our community, because your story matters, your mental health matters.
Ms. Siciliano also discussed how mental health inspiration also came across in the media in many ways this summer. Athletes including Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka found “their voice to share their story, their challenges, their raw moments of anguish.” Through all of their work, and all of the time a world of fans and critics were watching them, several athletes made decisions to pause for their mental health. And what followed their vulnerability was an outpouring of support for these athletes.
On this crazy beautiful journey, know that you are not alone. As you strive to manage your expectations and consider your priorities remember to prioritize self-care and your needs. This is your opportunity to define yourself in a way that aligns with the hopes and dreams you have for yourself and your future. I hope this school year you feel healthy, strong, and brave. That you feel supported and yet challenged and that you remember there is an entire community here to support you through the beautiful, the rough, and all the in between. We are one Husky Nation, and we are together again.
A hub for opportunities
Student Body Co-President Charlie Truesdale ’22 had the honor of following Ms. Siciliano in the day’s ceremony. Charlie instilled the idea of opportunity throughout his reflection. From trying out for the soccer team as a freshman, Charlie learned about the possibilities of stepping out of one’s comfort zone. “I so vividly remember my parents telling me ‘You’ve got nothing to lose.’ However, what they didn’t tell me was that I had everything to win.”
At New Hampton School, everybody has the opportunity to try new things, to step out of their comfort zone. To everyone coming into their first year, try something new and push yourself, hard. Whether you think of yourself as a student, artist, or athlete, or whether you don’t know yet … be open to becoming more. While the world is still enduring the pandemic that disrupted our last two years, we should take advantage of every opportunity this place offers us. We are fortunate to be here.
As a community, we can move through this by bolstering each other, by sharing a collective resilience.
Charlie also reminded us that we, as a community, are “beginning a new century of New Hampton School history, and it’s a new start for everyone. It’s up to each of us to make this the best one yet.” With delayed celebrations continuing around the School’s bicentennial, it is important to remember that this is the start of our third century as an institution.
While we look forward to all the activities that fall has to offer, including some in-person events, Convocation offered a welcomed view on hope for the year ahead. With excellent student leadership, thoughtful preparation, and an enthusiastic group of students, we look forward to this time we are able to spend together again.