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Yesterday, after the last day of classes, our BUA family gathered in the gym for a celebration of the year. It was filled with smiles and the traditional shenanigans, including pies in administrators’ and teachers’ faces (I’ve learned the hard way that whipped cream acts as a particularly effective but malodorous hair gel). It also gave me a chance to share with the students my reflections on the year that was.

We all know the challenges. The pandemic not only reshaped the classroom and our social interactions, but also led to a steady hum of anxiety and health concerns. We experienced a contentious election and post-election upheaval. We’ve seen a continuing erosion of civil discourse, both around domestic politics and, more recently, international affairs. Students are inheriting a worsening climate crisis. And while this year’s renewed drive for racial justice has been productive, it has also revealed fault lines in our society.

What impressed me most about these students is that they did not for a moment step into a victim stance. They did not linger in the negative.

Instead, they took action. Driven by a desire to be in school and inspired to be a model for our country, they embraced the new protocols and supported one another — rightly proud that we have lost no school days to the pandemic. Students modeled civil discourse, both in the lead-up to the election in a wonderful debate around police funding and more recently in a thoughtful conversation about Israel and Hamas. The Green Team began an audit of our office spaces, and students are committing themselves to greening our campus through independent projects. They pushed our community forward on racial justice, both through the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and through Student Council. Many took that further — beyond our walls — volunteering as tutors at Alexander Twilight Academy and finding other ways to make their communities more inclusive.

Our students embraced this year’s challenges not by blaming their circumstances, but by taking action to make things better. That is perhaps counter cultural. But it’s also what we expect. I often invoke the biblical idea with our students: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” All of our students — regardless of background — are the beneficiaries of a remarkable educational opportunity. Our charge for them is to use that opportunity to improve the lives of people around them, and in doing so, find purpose. This year, they did just that.

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