From Where I Stand

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From Where I Stand
Russell Shaw, Head of School

I had my first summer job when I was ten years old. My big brother (who was 12) and I got the idea that we wanted to open a store. We reached out to a local day camp and they agreed to let us set up a cart outside the entrance where we sold sodas, candy, chips and fruit. Our family had visited Washington, DC the summer before and, inspired by what we had seen, my brother and I decided to name our enterprise, “The Smithsonian Snack Shop.”

I have vivid memories from that summer: taking the bus from my house to the camp each morning; retrieving our supplies from a storage closet and wheeling them out to our sales location on our skateboards; negotiating with a camper’s parent over the price of a peach; breaking my arm while trying to jump my skateboard off the curb when business was slow.

Most of all, I remember a sense of purpose. Although my brother and I were just kids, we tracked our supplies, ensured that our drinks stayed cool, managed our cash box, and provided what seemed to be a valued service for campers and their families. We felt remarkably accomplished at the end of the summer when we deposited several hundred dollars of earnings into our newly opened bank accounts.

Georgetown Day School has always been about purpose. We believe in young people and know that when they are invested in something that they care about, learning is a joyful, engaging act rather than a chore. Each year, our first grade authors read their carefully crafted books at Authors’ Brunch, owning the spotlight with confidence and pride. Our eighth graders study constitutional issues and demonstrate their knowledge in meetings with experts on Hill Day. Our High School students construct sets for plays, run countless student organizations, direct a cappella groups, captain sports teams and more. GDS students are invested in what they’re doing because their work is authentically theirs, and it matters to them.

A longitudinal study from the Stanford Center on Adolescence found that young people who feel a sense of purpose are happier, have better relationships, learn more deeply and can more effectively manage their stress. Bill Damon, the Center’s Director, says that “People don't worry about the right things. The biggest problem growing up today is not actually stress; it's meaninglessness….Working hard for something they didn't choose themselves, and don't believe in, is counterproductive to long-term health and fulfillment. It is simply not sustainable. A purposeful life, by contrast, can unleash tremendous energy, creativity, exhilaration and a deep satisfaction with efforts and accomplishments.”

In this issue of Georgetown Days, you will read stories of purpose. Hoppers who are performing service through our Community Engagement and Experiential Learning (CEEL) program. Students who are interning with GDS alumni, or pitching social ventures through our Hopper Tank. Curriculum and special programming that resonates with students through its deep connection to our founding mission. Faculty who extend their mission-driven work through volunteerism outside of school.

One way that GDS community members demonstrate purpose is through their philanthropy. Each year, I’m inspired by the generosity of our community. Current parents, parents of alumni, alumni, grandparents, faculty and staff, and even students contribute their own resources to GDS, supporting financial aid, faculty innovation, programmatic growth and more. This issue of the magazine includes our Report on Philanthropy, in which we celebrate the breadth and depth of GDS community members supporting our school and ensuring that we have what we need to thrive.

The world needs the purposeful engagement of our young people. It is through their creativity, their activism, their collaboration, and their commitment to building a better world, that our School’s mission is made manifest and our deepest hopes are realized. We are fortunate to be a community of purpose. May our shared work continue to engage and inspire the students in our care. 

 

Eat At Joe's (credit Kaiden Yu '23)

Eat at Joe's a cappella group

First Grade Author's Brunch

First Grade Author's Brunch

First Grade Author's Brunch

First Grade Author's Brunch

Hill Day

During Hill Day, members of the environmental justice group participate in an interview with Samuel Bagenstos, General Counsel for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Associate General Counsel Aaron Schuham (parent of Gracie '25 and Isaiah '20).

Zeze Grace interviews the Associate General Counsel for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services

Zeze Grace interviews the Associate General Counsel for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services

From Where I Stand
  • Head of School