Russell Shaw: From Where I Stand
Outside my window, on the plaza in front of our new building, our youngest students are painting pumpkins, crafting, bowling, and playing bingo, squeals of laughter echoing through the crisp fall air. It is Fall Fest for our youngest students in grades PK-2. High School students have walked across the street to serve as bingo callers, help reset bowling pins, and in other ways participate in and support the festivities. And this is new. And it is wonderful. For years, we have dreamt of the possibility of One GDS, of the chance to forge connections between Hoppers of different ages. The geography of our two separate campuses, of course, made the logistics too daunting to take on, except on rare occasions. This school year, we are beginning to experience the richness that comes from having buildings that are hundreds of feet apart rather than several miles.
Perhaps the first and most memorable such moment fell on the afternoon of September 29, when we held our first-ever in-person all-school assembly. Students from PK-12th grade gathered on our new field, where they enjoyed a dramatic visit from our Hopper mascot, danced in an all-school Cha-Cha Slide, batted beach balls in the air, and saw what our full school community looked like in one place. The assembly concluded with our seniors forming a tunnel using pool noodles, and our Lower School students joyfully running through it with music blaring and accompanied by cheers from their older schoolmates. There is a magic that comes from a seven-year-old seeing a seventeen-year-old and thinking, “Some day, that’s going to be me.”
While the assembly was big and flashy, it’s in countless smaller moments that I’ve noticed the impact of One GDS. Each morning, High School volunteers open car doors, helping to expedite the dropoff of our youngest students. At a varsity soccer game, Middle School students cheer loudly for the team that they hope to join in a few short years. Our buddy program has taken off this year, with hundreds of students from all three divisions participating in an initiative which matches Lower School students with mentors from Middle or High School. Our younger students adore their older buddies. The “big kids” feel pride in serving as role models and guides.
And this is just the beginning. Plans are underway for High School students to visit Lower School classes and read aloud to our youngest readers. The arts, athletics, language learning, and more will benefit from cross-divisional partnership. Faculty and staff who previously worked on separate campuses are forming new relationships through spontaneous encounters at the coffee urn or in the lunch line. These relationships are planting seeds of collaboration that will strengthen our community for years to come.
At our best, GDS is a vibrant, mission-driven learning community. Being together means that our community is more expansive, more connected, more alive with promise and possibility. The early days of One GDS are thrilling. I can’t wait to see what’s yet to come.
Head of School