Dear Flint Hill School Families,
One of the fun and exciting things that the holiday season brings is the opportunity to connect with alumni when they return for a visit. Many of the college students came back home for the holidays at the end of last year and made a point to stop right here at Flint Hill to see old friends and to visit with faculty and staff. It truly is a second home for them.
Our alumni play a pivotal role in our community, and we have an ongoing focus on continuing what we hope to be a lifelong relationship between School and each student. When we say, “Once a husky, always a husky,” we mean it. We take being a part of the school family very seriously, and it doesn’t end with graduation. It is our hope that it will go throughout someone’s life.
As an outgrowth of our Strategic Plan, our Alumni Office now has two people working diligently throughout the year to lead us all in our efforts to ensure that our alumni remain actively engaged with Flint Hill beyond Commencement.They are Director of Alumni Relations Maria Taylor and Alumni Relations Coordinator Justin Fitzgerald. They both have been working tirelessly to find ways to connect our alumni with the school. So far this year, the Office has hosted eight college dinners on campuses throughout the United States, and there are 10 to 12 more events that are scheduled for later this winter and into the spring. Maria and Justin are visiting colleges everywhere, including schools in Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, just to mention a few.
Just last weekend, an alumnus who is finishing his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech came to talk to our Upper School students about digital citizenship. And on Wednesday, January 4, we hosted our annual Alumni College Panel, which began with a dinner for alumni and faculty and staff. Ten of our youngest alumni, either in their freshman or sophomore years of college, stayed to participate in the panel. The schools they represented included McGill University in Montreal; University of California, Santa Barbara (with an upcoming move to James Madison University); Drexel; Middlebury; Furman; Ithaca; The University of Oklahoma; University of Virginia; American University; and Claremont McKenna College. Some had been with us since Junior Kindergarten, others had joined us in the Upper School. Each of them came prepared to share their college experiences and a number of them reported that they have already declared or will soon declare double majors.
Some of the students have already been involved in a number of school activities, including track, rugby, triathlon, debate, women’s lacrosse, and volunteering as a fireman, to name just a few. The whole focus of that evening was a Q & A session for the parents and current students. We don’t tell the students what to say, but I am consistently impressed by the poise, maturity and humble confidence demonstrated by these amazing young people.
There were some takeaways that seemed loud and clear from the group this year, and I would like to share them with you:
- They were very prepared academically. In fact, they feel that they were far more advanced in a variety of areas than their new college classmates. They were even shocked to learn that some of their major universities offer remedial preparation to their college freshmen in areas such as preparing to write a paragraph. They, on the other hand, believed the education they received at Flint Hill fully prepared them for the challenges they experience in their college courses.
- Time management is critical. In addition to overall preparation, the ability to effectively manage their time was another skill that alumni appreciated from being at Flint Hill. Some credited having a free period occasionally while here, and others believed it came from the need to balance the number of activities in which they participated. The ultimate outcome was that they truly had learned to manage their time wisely. They went to college knowing full well how to take advantage of every minute they had. Some reported that there is a tremendous amount of free time at college, and, sadly, too many of their classmates don’t understand how to use it. In fact, they often either go back to bed or take that time as a day off. Our alumni, on the other hand, had learned that time was a gift that could be used to get to the library to keep up with their reading or to get a head start on projects or assignments that were not due for some time. They noted that, while time management is a hard skill to master, they were so thankful that it had already been ingrained into their approach to education at Flint Hill.
- Office Hours provide opportunities. At Flint Hill, there is a tremendous focus on the relationships between faculty and students, including during office hours/extra help. We encourage each student to take advantage of this time for extra support with course work or simply to strengthen relationships with their teachers. Our alumni expressed that this time had a huge impact on them and gave them the confidence to take advantage of office hours in college to get to know their professors. While they’ve seen many of their classmates struggle with approaching their instructors, our alumni reported their own comfort with asking their professors questions, directly, whenever they didn’t understand a topic, needed clarification or help, or when they simply wanted to build a mentor relationship. In several instances, it has led them to potential internships and some opportunities ahead.
- Destructive behavior can be common. This was a surprise to many of them. While they had been given a strong education here and had developed a good foundation for making wise decisions, the amount of drinking they have already witnessed in college — all week long — was shocking to them. In fact, the panelists urged us to make certain that we warn current students about this unfortunate aspect of the college experience. In doing so, we must also assure them that with the right choices, they can withstand the pressures to participate in this behavior and can find ways to avoid the potential dangers associated with this aspect of college life.
Whenever we question our efforts as parents or as educators, all we need to do is see our alumni in action. The mutual pride we should all feel is real and justified. In today’s world, we often talk about outcomes and the “return on the investment” we make in our children’s education. Let me tell you, as I observe all that our alumni are doing in college and beyond, it is clear that they have lived up to our vision, “Take meaningful risks. Be yourself. Make a difference.”
Best wishes to you! GO HUSKIES!!
John M. Thomas