August is a gradual transition between the long quiet days of summer and the murmur of a new school year. As students slowly return to campus for pre-season athletics, college counseling application workshops, and Touring Tiger orientation, we reshape and refine our Upper School community by inviting a new grade-level into the fold.
The Upper School has welcomed the Class of 2023 through programs such as orientation, the Grade 9 Family Dinner, and the Grade 9 Adventure. This initial programming is intentional, functioning not only as a chance for the ninth grade to bond as a class but also to receive them into the Upper School community and to provide a better sense of what the next four years will bring.
The Grade 9 Adventure is held annually at the Ligonier Camp and Conference Center. While the outing predates my tenure as Head of Upper School, the goals of the overnight are continually reshaped to provide an experience that is remembered fondly by the class and the classes who have preceded them. Having attended the adventure several times, I can easily state that it is one of my favorite trips that we take at Ellis.
As an Upper School, we believe strongly in fostering a strong sense of community and support within and across grade-levels. In addition, our “challenge by choice” philosophy offers opportunities for low-level risk-taking and seeds the idea of iteration; students have a chance to try something, fail, and try again. Our ninth grade orientation programming and overnight trip provide bonding and team-building opportunities for new and returning Ellis students. The measure of their success is often most noticeable on the return bus ride; after driving to Ligonier in relative silence, the return bus is abuzz with chatter and laughter as returning friendships are rekindled and new friendships are formed.
Being a part of the Upper School community requires productive, positive teamwork and collaboration. Through their cyclical classes and their Integrated Studies programming, students realize that, although challenging at times, group work often yields a more dynamic result than individual work can. I love to hear students discuss and debrief, where one of the phrases you will hear most often is “to go off of what she said...” Ideas are borne and reshaped in this community, where students learn just as much about themselves as they do their peers.
I’m delighted to finally be back in the swing of the school year. While the summer months can go by too quickly, seeing all of the students together again is one of the most rewarding and joyful aspects of my role at Ellis. I am pleased to welcome the Class of 2023 and to watch the seniors step into their new roles as leaders of the division, and I look forward to seeing the growth that will inevitably occur for the juniors and sophomores as well. I am confident that the Upper School community is ready for a great year ahead!