Every spring, I have lunch with each Senior advisory group during the final months of school, a chance to check in with them with care and real interest in their experiences of this most unusual year in their lives.
For students, Senior year is one of significant and high-impact community leadership in all areas of school life, from athletics teams, performing arts, clubs and activities, to activism and affinity groups. The experience is made all the more profound by the intensity of the college process, by high academic expectations and by the ever-present awareness that they are about to take their first steps beyond their childhood homes and beyond the AFS community. It is a year like no other in their lives, previously or ahead of them. It starts with an almost existential uncertainty about where they will be a year from now, participating in a competitive process over which they have limited control. And it ends in a flurry of traditions and celebrations that both honor their time at AFS and send them forth with love, aspiration and great hopes.
What I am seeing of this Senior class this year is deeply heartening. They are leading the Upper School and setting an example throughout the community of warm, generous, inclusive and highly skilled leadership. They have welcomed younger students into teams, clubs and activities with encouragement and the invitation of true friendship and care from older students they look up to. Each morning, seniors run morning assembly with myriad announcements for events and projects. They have led groups of peers to remarkable accomplishments, like this year’s stunning Black Excellence Night and a joyful and exceptionally well-run Spring Jam music festival earlier this month. And each afternoon, I see Seniors on the Robotics team in the Stewart Lobby, managing a diverse and talented team of student engineers and coders as they have made their way through a winning season to qualify for the World Championship, placing among the top 15% of teams nationally. The list could go on as we see similar examples in the arts, athletics, activism and equity work. Through it all, they have set a culture where students are enriched by each other’s talents and accomplishments rather than diminished by them. It’s an ethos I’d love to see writ large in our wider culture.
This group of seniors is remarkably reflective and deeply appreciative of their AFS experience. This is a class whose every previous year of high school has been affected by the constraints of the pandemic. This year, they are reveling in the freedoms of community life fully renewed, enjoying the chance to choose from a wide slate of electives that they have found motivating and engaging despite the added weight of the college process. And they express profound appreciation, above all else, for their teachers. They tell me that their teachers are fully invested in their success, that they inspire by their example of lives of meaning and deep interests richly shared with them, and with whom they feel seen as whole human beings.
Finally, they are appreciative of each other, particularly at this point in their journey. They know each other, admire and make room for each other. And so, I leave these lunch conversations inspired and gratified by what is being shared. Families should know that in this culminating experience of Senior year, their children are sharing their gifts beautifully with one another, their teachers and the community. It’s everything I would hope for them before we send them off to their next steps. I look forward to all that we will experience together in the many celebratory events and traditions in the final months of the 2022-2023 school year.