Each year, on the second day of school, GFA students from the Middle and Upper Schools meet in the Coyle Gym to hear from class leaders, the musicians among them, and our school’s administrators. A longstanding school tradition, Convocation marks the official start of the academic year with humor, spirit, and speeches that set the tone for the months to come.
Middle School Student Council co-chairs Jayden Jackson and Felix Chermayeff bravely took to the podium and called for their schoolmates to engage wholeheartedly in community service during the 2022-2023 school year. "Looking back over the last two years there are many things we have missed out on that we are excited to incorporate back into the school year this year,” they said. "One of the many things we missed out on was giving back to our community," they remarked, noting that while several initiatives still happened many of the student-led community service initiatives have been on hold during the pandemic. They explained the positive impact these activities have on students' empathy - a GFA core value.
"Our goal this year is to encourage not just the Middle School but also the Upper and Lower School divisions to find as many opportunities as they can to help others,” they said, committing that the Student Council will be a place where student voice is heard.
Following the Middle School Student Council leaders, seniors Elizabeth Jones and Chloe Whelan sang a gorgeous version of “Oh, Hey” by the Lumineers a song that Assistant Head of School Sue Teyan said was about partnership at its core.
Upper School Student Council Chair Annie Dizon described a recent interaction with Mr. Abel where she asked him what he makes of the neat acronym our school’s core values create: “P(for passion), I(for integrity), E(for empathy), C(for curiosity) and E(for excellence).” She was “baffled” when he said that the acronym didn’t really have a meaning and that more had not been done with this theme – so she took the opportunity to dive in. “When we show up every day, we come together as a group of individuals, a mass of parts to put together the GFA community,” she explained. “And every time we do this,” she continued, “we give a little piece of ourselves to this community. This commitment that we make to each other – I see it everywhere.”
She beautifully described how every Dragon can instill core values by participating. “Our ability to care for each other, to connect with each other, is something done not out of obligation nor out of duty. We do it because we are humans and as humans we are passionate, we have integrity, we are deeply empathetic, endlessly curious, and because of all of those things - excellent. There is no core value you must live up to every day at GFA. By showing up and giving a little piece of yourself you embody them all without even trying,” Dizon said.
Next up the Upper School musicians Peter Adams, Steven Burrell, Jr., Elizabeth Jones, Luke Laferriere, Katerin Pineda, Andrew Roth, Joe Stoerzinger, and Ella Woodbury played a beautiful rendition of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen and Eleni Valbuena performed "All I Ask" by Adele.
Head of School Bob Whelan then took the mic and encouraged students in grades 5 - 12 to consider their “superpower” curiosity every day. “To sit back and wonder why. If you show up with that posture every day you will learn and grow and you will move much closer to what the best version of yourself is going to be.”
“In the song “Hallelujah” this line shows up: the minor fall and the major lift. I want to tell you at the outset of the year that the things you have just seen here now, that kids demonstrated for you, they make it look like magic but it is not. It takes practice. It requires failure and struggle. You will struggle. In life not all of the calls are going to go your way, it is the choices we make when we get in those moments that matter,” Whelan said. “There will be falls but the beautiful thing is you are in a community - this is where Each for All comes in - that will pick you up.”
Finally, Whelan unveiled a lifesize cut-out of now senior Charlie LaFreniere ‘23 when he was 20 months old and 36 inches tall. He described the toddler's enthusiastic smile and confident gait even though, as his mom had shared, he fell more than other children did, or seemed to. Young people are “filled with wonder and joy each day,” he said, making the connection to the youngest GFA students. “Each of us has a confident, curious little kid inside of us,” he said calling LaFerniere to the front of the room and humorously comparing the height of the senior and his younger cut-out.
In closing, he encouraged students to use every day to build relationships with one another, with ideas, to be creative, and not to leave here without having left it all on the court, on the stage, in the art studios, and in our classrooms. “I want GFA students when they leave to have tried everything. Those opportunities get harder and harder down the field when you leave this laboratory,” he said before wishing everyone a great 2022-2023 school year.”
It is a good one to be a Dragon.