Dear Flint Hill Families,
At the beginning of this week, we held our annual All-School Gathering. It is one of the milestones we celebrate at the beginning of every school year. The entire student body gathers together, along with all the teachers and staff. To start the ceremony, the “Lifers” in the Class of 2020 walked hand-in-hand with the Class 2033, our JK students! The entire senior class then paraded in with their “Lower School Buddies.”
Prior to the ceremony, we held a special reception in the Falcon Room for the parents and family members of our “Lifers” and “Almost Lifers.” Our Lifers are students who started in junior kindergarten or kindergarten and have been here continuously since then. Our Almost Lifers also started in JK but left at some point and then returned.
This year we celebrated some significant milestones. Would you be surprised to know that the first graduates from Flint Hill graduated in 1960? So 60 years ago marked our first Commencement Ceremony and our first yearbook. And 30 years ago, we were reorganized as a school. As you may know from our School’s history, we had a moment back in the late ’80s, when the School struggled. However, we view 1990 as a new beginning. And it is from that commitment, with only 425 students enrolled, that we began the charge to where we are today. We became Huskies. We introduced the Learning Center and promoted our “Driving Spirit,” the passion we hold for learning and growing in this dynamic School family.
Those critical concepts led us to our All-School Gathering. This program is part celebration, part ritual and part tradition, but all about the students and the start of this school year. It is meant to be part inspirational and part aspirational. We all get a fresh start, and we use this moment to reflect on this together. We recognized and welcomed new students and teachers at all three divisions and took time for a special shout out to Third Grade Teacher Mrs. Kleintank for her birthday! Seniors, in particular, were given strong recognition. We asked them to stand, and we noted that we will be asking them to stand up frequently and literally, time and time again throughout the year. It is through their spirit, energy, tone, and example that our younger students will learn how to navigate the School year. This year will be a tribute to them and an opportunity for us to benefit from their leadership, long-term commitment and drive.
We also talked about our core values and our balance as a school. We encouraged students to explore their curiosity, engage their imaginations, develop their work ethic, and to honor our true sense of family and school community. Additionally, we talked about our commitment on building a sense of equity and inclusion in all that we do. A highlight of the ceremony was the chance to hear from the division directors and students at each division. In the Lower School, some incredible students talked about their hopes and dreams, not only for the school year here at Flint Hill but for the world. Mr. Lamont shared his best wishes for this new year and had students share the new Middle School Social Contract. While Lower School students learn the Husky Promise to understand our core values, Middle School students apply our values to their annual Social Contract.
Their contract this year is:
- Follow the four core values.
- Try new things while making safe choices.
- Be a good student and a better friend.
- And work hard and invest in yourself.
Mr. Reed in the Upper School congratulated the entire community for a smooth start and wished everyone all the best for a great year. He then introduced the president of our Student Council, Avishka Boppud, who gave a wonderful speech that focused on the emotional side of the event and her own memories of walking into the All-School Gathering as a kindergartener years ago.
One of the purposes of this ceremony is also to help new students, teachers and staff learn more about our unique school culture, the importance of our sense of teamwork and why we are Huskies. I shared the story of the heroic Alaskan dog team that raced to transport medicine, from Anchorage to Nome, during the 1925 diphtheria epidemic. That 1,150 mile charge became a legend. Disney made the wonderful children’s movie, “Balto,” about the dog who led the team on the final leg of that 1925 serum run. Balto even has a bronze statue sitting right in New York’s Central Park. In 1973, Alaska created a race to memorialize that moment, the Iditarod. Many call it “The Last Great Race on Earth.” That dog race must be incredibly beautiful one minute and unbelievably frightful the next. At Flint Hill, we have taken that concept as a metaphor for our lives and for our educational journey. There can be great joy and great challenge, but we are never alone. We are part of a team, and together, we learn to be resilient and develop the grit we need and move forward.
The final moment in the ceremony is the lighting of the lantern. In the original Iditarod race, a lantern was lit at the start of the race and kept lit until the last team finished. It had nothing to do with order or place. It was said that, “If you dare to be in this incredible race, you deserve to have that lantern burning for you out of respect for the courage, the determination and the commitment you have demonstrated.” At Flint Hill, a red lantern is lit by our Lifers, and it remains lit in my office until the last senior completes the requirements for the year. That light is for all of us — students and faculty alike.
The program ended with a reminder on what “accountability” and “team” truly mean. And on that note, I’d like to share an old African saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This year, we hope students, teachers and parents alike will pull together to make this 2019-2020 school year the very best. We will go far for sure!!
Best wishes to you!
John M. Thomas