I’m writing to you from Camp Burgess, where our 9th and 10th graders have enjoyed several days of ropes courses, rock climbing, kayaking, swimming, cards, board games, and bonding. This year promises a return to normalcy we have not experienced since the start of the pandemic, including the revival of traditions like this one. It is heartwarming to see the smiles on our students’ faces, to hear them laugh, and to watch the spark of lifelong friendships. 

On our first night here, students gathered in an outdoor amphitheater for a bonfire and s’mores. Mr. Stone called for an impromptu talent show, inviting students – individually or in groups – to volunteer to come down to the stage/fire pit areas and share a talent before getting their s’mores. What started as a crowd control measure to make sure we didn’t have dozens of teenagers roasting marshmallows at the same time turned into something really special. Students sang everything from Don Maclean’s American Pie to classical Chinese opera; Taylor Swift to Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. We heard knock-knock jokes, saw back flips, witnessed a revival of the Macarena, enjoyed original rap songs, and much more. What struck me most is how these kids supported one another. The applause was riotous, no matter the performance. They encouraged one another to get up there. They created a space where everybody felt comfortable acting silly, being vulnerable, and sharing a piece of themselves. That is remarkable in any setting, let alone one where half of the students are new to the community. I feel very lucky to be part of a place that fosters that kind of belonging; that’s rare in the broader world, but it’s the expectation here. AndI’m proud of that. We are off to a very good start.

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