Commencement 2017

…I see my friends here before me, and I feel a deep sense of gratitude as I am flooded with memories of the times we’ve shared.  Although my personal recollections are probably a little different from yours, one thing is for sure:  We’re all very lucky to have had such transformative relationships with our teachers, and to have benefited from such invaluable opportunities to learn.  This, indeed, is St. Luke’s.   

                         – Luke Martocchio, St. Luke’s Salutatorian 2017, Attending Harvard

 

In his impeccable address, Salutatorian Luke Martocchio captured the spirit of Commencement—a time to reflect and enjoy a flood of memories—before the next journey and new memories begin.

I referenced Luke’s “stratospheric GPA” and “the quality of his intellect” when introducing him. But as we listened to him celebrate his teachers—from Mrs. Olsen in fifth grade through a host of Middle and Upper School faculty—we knew Luke’s greatest asset is his huge heart.

Awe-inspiring “intellectual prowess and acumen” describe Valedictorian Grace Zaro. As I cautioned the Commencement audience: “Do not be fooled by her casual demeanor.  This is a scholar who combines innate brilliance with both discipline and a fiercely intense focus.  In high school this has brought her to valedictory heights.  At Stanford and beyond, the sky seems the limit.”

Gracie gave a provocative address. She used “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” protagonist Randle Patrick McMurphy to demonstrate humor is not a cop out:  “When a situation is hard or frustrating, it is the little one-liner, the ability to self deprecate, that makes the fight easier. Humor is not a cop out, it is an advanced defense mechanism. Think about it: it is free, it is legal, it is harmless. It is your opponent’s worst nightmare.”

Class of 2017

Each year, I marvel at the skills of our young speakers and the intense emotional impact of this day. When will I become desensitized? Never, I suspect. It’s an honor to send these wonderful people out into the world. And a beautiful sorrow to bid them farewell. Below is from my Commencement farewell:

“Whatever you achieve in your lives, remember to seek out communities like this one.  Places that offer you connection, the feeling of rootedness, and the timeless values that St. Luke’s has.  We live in a time of constant change, of uncertainty about what the future will hold for us…or ask of us…and of relentless questioning of what many of us considered timeless truths for most of our lives.

As any great skipper will tell you, your moorings matter.  Without that safe harbor, that tether to something stable and comforting, that thing to which you can cling when storms seem otherwise overwhelming – without that, moving forward feels scarier and more difficult.

Soon – at college and throughout your life – you will face tough choices, in new communities and in unfamiliar cultures.  You might encounter a fraternity brother or sorority sister who wants you to drink yourself into oblivion, to prove…who-knows-what.  Maybe it will be a roommate – or a boss – who seems to lack a sense of honor.  Whatever the circumstance…remember us.  Remember St. Luke’s, and all the people who love you.  Remember that here you have constructed a strong moral compass…within yourself.  It’s there.  Use it.  Whenever you feel untethered, remember St. Luke’s.”

Enjoy this Commencement 2017 Photo Gallery (we’ll keep adding photos so check back).

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

Lessons from Penn State

Early this month, 18 fraternity brothers were charged in the death of a young man. He died during a drunken “pledge night.” From every angle, this story is pure heartbreak. For the senseless loss of a life just beginning. For his devastated family. For the 18 “brothers” who did not set out to cause harm—but whose actions and inactions will forever haunt them.

In the wake of this sadly familiar tale, I received the email below. It was written by St. Luke’s alumnus Drew Lord ‘14 to the Interfraternity Council (IFC) at Cornell. In addition to serving as president of the IFC, Drew is president of Cornell’s Cayuga Watchers group which aims “to become an established national model for combating high-risk drinking.”  USA Today wrote about Drew and the group in 2016.

As our class of 2017 prepares to leave the Hilltop and make their way in the world, I’m eager to share Drew’s wise words. I am deeply grateful for his leadership. He is living every element of the St. Luke’s mission and has indeed gone forth to serve:

 

From: IFC President <president@cornellifc.org>

Subject: Lessons from Penn State

Date: May 7, 2017 at 3:30:37 PM EDT

To: IFCALL-L@list.cornell.edu

Hi everyone,

At this point, I’m sure you have all heard the news of the horrifying death of Timothy Piazza, a member of Beta Theta Pi at Penn State, who died after falling down the stairs at his chapter house following a fraternity “initiation ritual.” While the details of this incident are beyond disturbing, they are important for us to reflect upon.

First, we must all recognize that under no circumstance is it acceptable for any of us — or for our peers — to reach a dangerous point of intoxication. Indeed, it seems like there might have been forced drinking involved in Piazza’s situation. It goes without saying that forcing anyone to drink copious amounts of alcohol is unacceptable. However, in more general terms not related to Piazza’s situation, be safe with your alcohol consumption — pace your drinks, do not drink with the goal of blacking out, and be aware of your limits. It’s also important for us to realize that we all have a place when it comes to mitigating the harms of high-risk drinking. Sometimes your brothers, or your peers, need an active bystander to help keep them in check. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being that person.

Second, and most important, if someone is to ever be in a situation like Piazza’s — call for help. Many times we hear our friends advocate for letting a drunk or injured person “sleep it off.” This is problematic — oftentimes, we don’t know whether the BAC of this person has reached its peak and is declining, or if it has rather not yet peaked and still rising in their sleep. Keep in mind Cornell and New York State’s Good Samaritan Protocol, and remember that immediately taking action to do the right thing will always have a favorable outcome for all parties involved.

Third, do not — in any capacity — try to “cover up” any type of incident. The results of the grand jury investigation demonstrate the consequences of acting in the way of the brothers at Beta Theta Pi the night of Piazza’s death. Following a review of GroupMe messages, texts and surveillance video from the night of his death, the fraternity and its brothers faced over a total of 850 charges. Eight of the brothers were charged for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and hazing. Four brothers were charged for reckless endangerment and hazing. Six were charged for evidence tampering, while the chapter itself is facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and hazing. In a situation like this, there is no other option than to seek help from a medical professional as early as possible.

Cornell is not immune to the harms of high-risk drinking or hazing. The situation at Penn State serves as a somber — but incredibly important — reminder of the incident that occurred at Cornell’s SAE chapter in February 2011. Ever since, we have taken great strides to make our fraternity community more safe, responsible, and aware. With a few high-risk days coming up, let’s hold the lessons we’ve learned close.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thanks for reading through, and I hope you have an awesome week.

Best,

Drew Lord
President, Interfraternity Council
Cornell University

 

Drew Lord @ Cornell

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

 

Taking the Lead on Mindfulness

Just over a year ago, I wrote this blog post about the benefits of mindfulness.  I was fairly new to meditation and yoga but increasingly excited about the possibilities—for myself and St. Luke’s.

Since then, I’ve continued to practice and study data around mindfulness. Even more compelling than the science, however, are the people I’ve encountered. Once tapped into mindfulness, a network of kindred spirits began to appear—each with a tale of improved focus, presence and capabilities.

One such spirit, Erika Long,  is St. Luke’s parent. Erika and Will Heins—both former Wall Street warriors—along with Michelle and Nick Seaver (featured in the aforementioned blog ) could not find a secular meditation group locally, so they created one. In May of 2014, New Canaan’s Community Mindfulness Project (CMP) launched.

Just three years later CMP is thriving. Over 6,000 people have attended sessions (including me). This make it happen spirit inspired me to take the lead and create a    St. Luke’s mindfulness event. Thanks to my incredible team, the CMP and The Spence School, The Mindfulness in Education Conference will come to life on June 10, 2017.

In an unbelievable stroke of good fortune, Susan Bauer-Wu, President of the Mind & Life Institute will be our keynote speaker. There will be something valuable for anyone interested in how mindfulness prepares the mind for learning.

All parents and faculty of Fairfield and Westchester independent schools are welcome to attend. I cannot wait and hope you will join us.

P.S. Recommended reading: One Second Ahead, The Mindful Leader, Real Happiness

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

Scholars Symposium 2017

“If Blues Band is the day in the fall when I feel most happy and proud of our community, the Scholars Symposium is that day in the spring for me. I realize what good hands our futures are in when I hear these incredible students sharing their knowledge, ideas, and passion with such remarkable poise and conviction.”

                                                                              -Liz Perry, Head of Upper School

Liz took the words right out of my mouth. Blues Band and Scholars Symposium bookend the school year spectacularly. And I know why: both events leave you in a bit of awe.  You know you’ve witnessed something truly exceptional.

St. Luke’s Scholars 2017

An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.

St. Luke’s Scholars are the School’s mission come to life. Listen as a teenager educates the room about Infectious Disease in West Africa, or Genetic Luminescence, or Damnatio memoriae in the Roman Empire…it’s the epitome of deep learning.

These students become experts and that’s learning that lasts. When you develop a topic, execute a research plan, put forth a thesis, draft an extensive research paper and present your findings in public—I can promise you, it’s something you will remember forever.

Last year, my daughter Sarabeth worked on her Global Scholars project. She studied healthcare and nursing in India. I saw firsthand how a student moves from passionate but fairly superficial understanding of a topic to deep understanding. For Sarabeth, progress came through research, questioning, writing, rewriting and translating her findings into something meaningful for an audience. P.S. She’s studying to be a nurse.

In a few weeks, videos of the Scholars presentations will go online. I’ll share and urge you to watch a few. I bet you’ll find yourself thinking “This is exceptional.”

 

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

SJLS: Curious Leaders

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.”

Samuel Johnson

 

We are all born curious. And if lucky…our curiosity grows.

Tapping our students’ innate desire to know more about each other and the world around us—that is the inspiration behind the Social Justice Leadership Summit (SJLS).

I attended the SJLS in 2014 and wrote: “In more than thirty years as an educator, I have never participated in an event that built as much trust, or inspired as much faith and hope as the SJLS.” Nearly three years later, the SJLS continues to thrive. There were 35 students and faculty the year I attended. This year (January 28, 2017), there were sixty.

Dr. Stephanie Bramlett, Director of Inclusive Excellence & Leadership, describes the SJLS to students this way: “SJLS is a one day leadership retreat where you will explore your own personal identities, learn about perspectives different from your own, and most importantly seek commonalities with classmates. With all the divisions in our world right now, we should all be working a little harder to find commonalities.”

The SJLS is also a catalyst for student leadership, as Dr. Bramlett points out: “Two years ago students put together ideas that inspired the launch of my new American Cultural History class. Last year, students saw a need for more diversity programs in Middle School and this year, those same students will run a Middle School workshop called Ally Afternoon. Another idea that students made a reality is “Dive-Ins” where students host conversations and welcome diverse perspectives. They don’t just talk. They take action.”

I’m particularly enthusiastic about the Dive-Ins because they foster civil discourse—an essential leadership skill.  Topics have included Colin Kaepernick’s controversial protest of the national anthem and a Dive In about students’ hopes and fears around the new president. More than 50 students have dived in to tough, important conversations.

My hope is to have a student or two share reflections from this weekend’s summit. The positive anticipation leading up to this weekend was palpable. According to Dr. Bramlett, senior Matthew Lindsay best captured the pre-summit excitement: “It’s going to be lit!”

I’m pretty sure that’s good 🙂

St. Luke’s is a private independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit!

Trying…Losing…Winning

Walking onto the Hilltop for the first time in 2017, I thought: I am excited to come to work. I feel as excited as I did in 2002, my first year at St. Luke’s. Back then, I was driven by goals and possibilities. Today, I am still fueled by results—a thriving community, exceptional teachers, a campus that just keeps getting better, and students who astound me.  

Just before break, Student Council President Porter Bowman ‘17 delivered a Meditation. In it he shares defining moments from the year, including his recent appearance on Jeopardy Teen Tournament.

As everyone who watched Porter’s Jeopardy appearance knows…he lost. But that’s not how Porter sees it.  As he told classmates, this went through his mind after betting and losing it all during Final Jeopardy:

I stood there realizing my dream was ending…Deflated but not defeated in that moment I wanted to shake the hands of the explorers, pioneers, scientists, politicians, leaders and authors whose individual life’s work had helped propel me to that Jeopardy stage. I look back on the years of classes and teachers and memorable moments that fill nearly every nook and cranny of my brain, including my heart and my soul…I didn’t need a win to validate my passion.”

Porter is an authentic leader. He’s genuine, unafraid to be real and vulnerable. He turned what could have been a negative experience into an asset that deepened his love of learning. Then, he had the courage to shine the spotlight on his loss and say but look what I gained. With humor and grace, Porter demonstrated that “taking risks” and “learning from failure” are not lame platitudes but a powerful strategy for growth.

At the State of the School, we talked about having a mission vs. living a mission. As Porter describes his deep love of learning, strong moral compass, and commitment to serve (the confidence to lead is self evident), it’s clear our mission is living, breathing, and playing Jeopardy.

 

 

The Confidence to Lead

A group of ten year olds earnestly discusses whose life they will affect—the young woman in Indonesia whose village needs water filters, or the young man in Jordan trying to pay his school fees?

 The Fifth Grade Kiva Club is making a difference in the lives of people all over the world. Their teacher (Ty Wieland) provides structure and students take the lead—presenting work to peers, driving support and selecting fund beneficiaries. So far, the Kiva Club (including advisories and families) has loaned $6,400 to more than 120 people working to better their lives .

Take a look at the video below, created by our students (with a bit of help from Ty and Academic Technologist, Eli Fendelman). I watched it and marvelled at the elements of our mission on display—an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.

I am grateful to these compassionate, young leaders who are living our mission. They inspire their peers, teachers and, most of all, their  Head of School.  

 

 

Teachable Moment: Civil Discourse

Every four years the St. Luke’s History Department organizes and oversees a mock Presidential election at school, with advisories dividing up into states to “replicate” the Electoral College.  Last week’s mock election showed that we had many students and faculty supporting each candidate, with roughly one third voting for President-elect Trump and roughly two thirds voting for Secretary Clinton.  Our outcome mirrored Connecticut’s but not the national results, and we saw democracy in action.

It won’t surprise anyone to learn that emotions were high on all sides going into this election, and we have seen that continue in the days since November 8th.  Not surprisingly, the divisions we see in our country at large also play themselves out here at school.  In a few instances, this has led to behaviors not in keeping with our core values, school culture or Honor Code.  Knowing this, and wanting to remind everyone of our expectations, I made the following points at this week’s Upper and Middle School town meetings:

-At St. Luke’s we value respectful discourse and encourage discussion of different viewpoints.

-Among other things, respectful discourse means not making your disagreements personal.  For example, it’s not in keeping with our values to call someone an idiot, or to suggest that they are a bad person, or a racist because you disagree with their point of view.  We expect that no one will engage in behavior or use language intended to intimidate or humiliate anyone.

-If you’re struggling with how to manage a difficult or emotional conversation, seek out a faculty member or an advisor for advice.

-Our culture of kindness doesn’t mean you can’t disagree or strongly argue your point. In fact, debate – respectful debate – is the essence of a healthy democracy, and a core element of what it means to participate as a citizen of a democracy. Whichever candidate you supported, and whatever policies you agree or disagree with, now and in the future, I hope every one of you will not shy away from understanding the issues, debating them with others, and working hard to make our democracy strong and healthy.

What I didn’t say, but perhaps should have, is that everyone has a right to feel how they feel.  If you feel excited and optimistic because your candidate won, that’s understandable and OK.  If, on the other hand, you feel sad and fearful, that’s also understandable and OK.

Since November 8th we have seen a spike in overt harassment of minorities in schools, including schoolyard bullying, taunts, and even the Royal Oak middle school students seen chanting “Build the wall” on a video that went viral.  It’s not a partisan act to condemn these things and to assure those people in our community who fear what could happen to them or their loved ones that we will keep them safe here at school. This is how a school community acts with integrity and stays true to its fundamental values.

And so we will encourage—no, insist on—civil discourse at St. Luke’s.  While we have no wish to monitor every interaction among students, when we learn of students not respecting each other we address it and will continue to do so.  As the St. Luke’s Honor Code reminds us:

As members of the St. Luke’s community, we will maintain and encourage integrity at all times.  We will be honest in what we say and write, and we will show respect for ourselves, each other, and all property.  We will treat everyone with kindness, and we will accept responsibility for our actions.

Read Look for the Beacons for more about honor at St. Luke’s.

 

True Patriots

To criticize one’s country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment. Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism—a higher form of patriotism, I believe, than the familiar rituals and national adulation.  

—Senator J. W. Fulbright

 

When Senator J. W. Fulbright told a roomful of students at Johns Hopkins how important it is to question and criticize your country, he was describing what it means to be a citizen. For him that meant criticizing McCarthyism and the Vietnam War during his 30-year career in the US Senate. To him, patriotism was about far more than singing a song or pledging allegiance. It was about standing up for what you believe.

It may seem strange that loyalty and disagreement go hand in hand, but consider this: a real friend tells the truth; learning means asking questions; and honest discourse, the kind that brings about change, begins from a place of respect. Finding that place is tough, and it requires a great deal of practice.

At St. Luke’s we practice finding that place. We practice empathy, and we practice finding our voice. We learn to have difficult conversations and  remain respectful of diverse opinions. Our confidence to lead grows from this practice.

During the course of this Presidential election, a great deal of the discourse has been uncivil, and it’s hard to imagine how Senator Fulbright would have reacted. Appalled at the current culture of personal attack? Or approving of the dissent so essential to democracy? Both, I suspect.

When we head to bed on November 8th, a significant number of Americans will not be happy. Regardless of outcome, true patriots will stand by their country, ready to criticize and improve it and defend every citizen’s right to an opinion and a voice.

On November 11th, St. Luke’s honors the very men and women who defend our rights and secure our freedom. Our annual Veterans Day celebration takes place during Grandparents Day so that we may salute those who served across generations. We’ll sing the National Anthem, learn about the origins of this special day, and remember the courage that defines our nation.

Veterans & Grandparents Day Assembly 2015

Safe Teens & Sane Parents

Elizabeth Driscoll Jorgensen knows a lot about teenagers. She’s a nationally recognized expert in substance abuse counseling, with an excellent track record of engaging resistant teens and motivating them to change. She’s also hilarious.

Last week, Jorgensen gave a talk at St. Luke’s for parents of teens, aptly entitled Delay Your Gray. She admitted that, while parenting a teenager isn’t always pretty, it helps to keep in mind that you’re the grownup. According to Jorgensen, children need two things in order to be happy and healthy: to know they are loved for who they are and that there are limits to their behavior.

Children need and want time with their parents, but Jorgensen—who frequently polls teens —tells us that in high-achieving families, teens often feel that this time turns into a to-do list of academics and athletics. With so little “quality time” together, it’s no fun to be the party pooper. But the reality is that love and limits go hand in hand, especially when it comes to substance abuse. She asked us to face facts:

  • Connecticut has a 20% higher binge drinking rate than the national average.
  • Affluence is a risk factor for drug and alcohol use.
  • It’s “cool” to smoke and even deal weed—the stigma is gone. 
  • Median age for first-time pot use is 12.9.
  • The plastic adolescent brain is permanently changed by cannabis.
  • The later the “first use” of alcohol and marijuana, the less impact on the cognitive functioning of the adult brain, and the lower the chance a person will experience substance abuse in adulthood.
Liz Jorgensen at St. Luke's

Liz Jorgensen at St. Luke’s

According to Jorgensen, teens’ brains are wired for learning through new experiences, and not for understanding consequences. They aren’t always aware of the dangers of riding in a car with a friend who is drunk or high. To them, smoking pot for the first time or swallowing a pill is all about now.

As parents, we always have to think about consequences and impact. And we have to do that while our teens’ emotions are running just about as hot as they ever will.

Jorgensen reminds us it is possible. Teens should test their wings but need to be aware of the no fly zone. This means being the one who says yes maybe you can go to a friend’s house, as long as I meet the friend, and I know that his or her parents will be there. It means being the one who agrees to rescue that child any time of day or night as long as they promise to call. It means saying all this calmly, even if your teen throws a tantrum.

Jorgensen likes to wear a badge that identifies her as the “world’s meanest parent.” She wears it proudly, and often passes out extra badges to the parents she counsels. I applaud her refusal to go along with the “we all partied at their age” justification. She pushes back hard on that thinking and warns that lack of limitations often leads to substance abuse and other coping issues. She sees it firsthand every day.

Among Jorgensen’s many quotable lines was my favorite: “Being fired by an emerging adult child is a sign of success as parents.” May we all get fired one day.

Below are the slides from Jorgensen’s presentation, including much of the data. My personal thanks to our Parents’ Association for bringing Liz Jorgensen and her invaluable parenting wisdom to the Hilltop.

Just hit pause to spend time on a slide.

 

When Possibilities Bloom

I know what Emily Dickinson meant when she wrote her poem entitled “I dwell in Possibility.”

I am right there with her: every morning when I arrive on the Hilltop and see the faces of teachers and students with dreams and plans; every evening when I leave and hear the echo of things tried and goals met.

I feel it at the start of the year when the sense of possibility is everywhere, and I feel it even more now, as I see those possibilities turn into accomplishments.

Upper School Academic Awards

Upper School Academic Awards

When we recognize the academic, leadership and character accomplishments in our Upper School Awards Assembly and Middle School Day of Celebration, we dwell in possibility and inspire others to work hard and value the St. Luke’s culture of excellence, good character, and kindness.

When we practice good sportsmanship, not only do we dwell in possibility, but also we triumph on the courts and on the fields as our teams become champions in varsity Softball, Golf, Girls Tennis, Girls Soccer and Boys and Girls Basketball.

When we focus on communication and language, we dwell in possibility and celebrate stunning performances in our World Language Department—where our French students took 1st place at the Olympics for World Languages and attained national recognition for their excellent performances on the 2016 National Spanish Examination, National French Contest and National Latin Exam.

At the beginning of the year, those who saw potential in debate and in the Social Justice Leadership Summit transformed that belief into big wins for the debating teams and the largest Summit ever.

Finding da Vinci Challenge

Finding da Vinci Challenge

When our students identified themselves as potential problem solvers, Middle Schoolers rose to the Finding da Vinci challenge, and 9th graders workshopped action plans for issues as big as poverty and gender identity—then acted on those plans for the culmination of J-Term.

The possibility of practice blossomed into virtuoso performances in this week’s musical concerts and two recent plays: This is a Test and Avenue Q. Earlier this month, eight St. Luke’s students were invited to the selective Connecticut Music Educators Association All State Choirs.  Just days ago, St. Luke’s theatre students received 18 Halo Award nominations—Connecticut’s high school equivalent of the Tony Awards.

18 Students in Connecticut Art Education Association Youth Art Celebration

18 Students in Connecticut Art Education Association Youth Art Celebration

Emily Dickinson wrote poetry all her life, but it was not until after her death that 40 volumes—1800 poems—were discovered, rocketing her into the pantheon of American poets. She described “the possible” as a “slow fuse lit by the imagination.”

On June 3rd, when we gather for Commencement—the ultimate St Luke’s celebration of what’s possible for each and every one of us—we will feel that glow.

 

St. Luke’s Success

Many very different people make up the St. Luke’s community. Yet, without exception, we share a common goal: we want our children to be successful now and in the future.

I think a lot about success. I’m fascinated by how hard it is to define. Its meaning changes—like a chameleon—with every use.  For some it brings to mind wealth or fame. For others, it might include a strong family life or contentment.

At St. Luke’s, we measure our success by our mission—instilling a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead. That, to borrow from Head of Upper School Liz Perry, is what gets us up in the morning.

St. Luke’s interpretation of success defines us. It keeps our ladder leaning up against the right wall. Learning, stretching, becoming compassionate, confident, intellectually and emotionally well-rounded people. Those words have the ring of St. Luke’s success.

One does not have to look far for examples..

Such as twenty senior scholars sharing a year’s worth of hard-earned knowledge during the Scholars Symposium. Students boldly took on topics such as: The Role of the Internet in a Free and Closed Society, The International Oil Conflict, The Effectiveness of Commerce-Based Philanthropy in Combating Global Poverty and Setting the Stage for Augustus, Rome’s First Emperor.

Such as Middle School students working in mixed-grade teams to design an interactive sculpture for our science wing. Our designLab launched the Finding da Vinci challenge during a Middle School assembly. Students were confident, curious and creative. They collaborated, built prototypes on the fly and “pitched” ideas. They embraced the process of trial and error, and felt the triumph of figuring it out.

On the Hilltop, we see success in glorious art on our walls, professional performances on our stages, and the sportsmanship that defines our playing fields. We see it in a young writer reading a personal story, beautifully crafted and expressed. And we see it at the COLT Poetry Contest—the Connecticut  Super Bowl of language competitions—where St. Luke’s students took first place in five categories.

Even more indelibly, we see St. Luke’s success in the reflections of a 9th grade girl who learns something about herself, the world and her capacity to make a difference:

I have just left the two hour J-Term showcase, and I have a feeling of accomplishment that I have rarely had throughout my life. I have always thought that the feeling of getting a challenging test back with the big red A on the front was one of the best feelings you could have at a school. However, right now, I realize that I was wrong. After the J-Term showcase, I feel that I have professionally pitched an organized idea that does true good for the world…Doing a week of hard core research on this topic has truly opened my eyes to the world around me. Before this week, I considered poverty to be an issue that was more prevalent in other states or countries. However, this week I learned that poverty is a much more local issue than I thought. This topic is so sad to think about, and I really learned a lot about myself this week. I think I realized that I should be less ignorant toward the issue of poverty and try to do more to help.

What does success mean to you? I’d like to know. Share your thoughts using the comment feature on this page—or write to me directly at davism@stlukesct.org.

 

                            

A Life-Saving Night

 

Before you leave for vacation, or settle in for stay-cation, please mark your calendars for March 31: The Power of Prevention: Success Stories and Strategies for Healthy Teen Years. The event is hosted by the RAM Council, an organization built around New Canaan students who lead substance-free lives.

I’ll be speaking on a diverse panel (see flyer below). We’ll each address substance abuse through a different lens.  I will share my story of watching a loved one struggle through addiction and recovery. Several other panelists have personal stories to share as well.

RAM Council president, Joyce Sixsmith, said the goal is to make the threat and pain of addiction real:  “…if we recounted stories that brought to life how heroin has affected families it could make a difference.”

You can read more about RAM and Power of Prevention in this New Canaanite article.

There are no reservations or tickets required.  I hope to see many of you there—with teens in tow.  See the flyer below for more information.

P.S. If anyone doubts the need for this talk…see links below:

Heroin Has Killed Six Young People from New Canaan – New Canaanite

Heroin Use Becoming An Epidemic in Fairfield Community – Norwalk Daily Voice

Heroin Killing Connecticut Residents at an Alarming Rate – New Canaan Patch

Pair Arrested for Heroin Possession in New Canaan – Eyewitness News

New Canaan Police Have New Tool for Fighting Heroin Overdoses – New Canaan News

Heroin Epidemic Increasingly Seeps into Public View – New York Times

 

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A Niche of Our Own

In a few days, the Niche list of Best Private High Schools will come out. Our competitors are on it, and St. Luke’s is not. Why? Below is an explanation from the Managing Editor of Niche:

“Our K12 school lists come from the U.S. Department of Education’s NCES database, and St. Luke’s School was not previously included in the data. The way our system is currently structured, we can’t add schools that don’t come from this source.”

After much back and forthing with Niche—we’ve been added to their database and will be ranked on next year’s list.

I’m not waiting with bated breath. I appreciate good data and dig into research before making big decisions. But this is just shoddy work. The National Association of Independent Schools forcefully discredited the Niche ranking as Bad Data, calling it the “least competent ranking system” with “horrific” indicators.

That said, some people still place value on this and other  “best of” lists and will be disappointed. To those folks I recommend a quick read of When Knowledge is the Prize, by College Counseling Director Sonia Bell…

“When I was growing up, we defined ourselves as students. Our job was to learn. Now, many students define themselves as college applicants. Once they get to college, they define themselves as applicants to internships, graduate schools or high-paying companies…Our job at St. Luke’s is to recapture an idea that has fallen into extinction: Knowledge is the prize.”

Thank you Ms. Bell for reminding us all what matters most.