When Wellington opened its doors to 133 students on the first day of school in 1982, many things were different. Computers were bigger (and so was hair!). Forty years later, our school has grown into a diverse group of 717 students ranging in age from 3 to 18. But the commitment of our founders to build a warm, supportive community remains the same.
“Find your people,” advised Cristen Geary P ’35 ’36, co-head of middle school, at The Leap, our annual all-school gathering to kick off the year ahead. It’s a phrase that students in all divisions have heard at every turn throughout this first week of school.
For our youngest learners in early childhood and lower school, finding your people means learning to make friends and lending a helping hand when someone is down. Middle school students are encouraged to find a go-to adult in the building - someone to help navigate the joys and challenges of pre-teen years. And in upper school, it’s all about striking the balance between newfound independence and steady support from a team of trusted advisors, teachers, and coaches.
The first week of the school year included familiar sights and sounds for our youngest learners: new Little Jags exploring their cozy classrooms, fresh sneakers squeaking down the lower school hallway, and the return of lunch bunch in the Thomas Family Dining Room.
Kindergarteners followed clues around the building as part of a scavenger hunt to foster community and familiarize themselves with their new home. They followed jaguar footprints all around the school, exploring important places and meeting new people along the way. Dr. Terwin helped the students find Duke hidden in the rotunda to end the hunt.
“The excitement was tangible,” shared Tori Charbonneau, kindergarten lead teacher.“ The kindergarteners walked back to their classrooms with a big smile on their faces, feeling more at home within our school.”
The kickoff of the beloved Lower School Buddy Program was a highlight of the first days of school for many, including Head of Early Childhood and Lower School Shelley Brown. Designed to foster community in our youngest learners, the program provides opportunities for 4th grade students to mentor kindergarten students through weekly activities. During the first week of school, 4th grade leaders helped guide their kindergarten buddies through the lunch process and kept them company as they learned the ropes - a perfect example of finding your people.
“It makes my heart swell to see how [the 4th grade students] are owning this moment and teeing themselves up to be leaders of our lower school,” Brown said.
Middle school students brought palpable (and audible!) energy to the first days of school, with a rousing “clap-in” for the new 5th grade students at the first morning meeting of the year.
“The energy and enthusiasm [the 5th grade students] brought filled our building with joy,” wrote the 5th grade team in their weekly note to parents. “We could not be more proud of this group of upstanding Wellington students and we look forward to a memorable year.”
As the year got underway, students in all grades participated in community-building activities and trips, and learned about the shared values that create a culture of connectedness in the middle school. Co-heads of Middle School Cristen Geary and Lissa Wade encouraged students to find their people by introducing several go-to adults like Sloan Magliery, who will serve as the new dean of students in addition to continuing to teach language arts, and new counselor Dr. Diane Schwendenman.
Ninth grade students were especially focused on finding their people during the first week of school as they participated in orientation, navigated class schedules, met advisors, and connected with the senior class. Friday brought an exciting wrap-up to the week with a trip to ZipZone Adventure Park, where students enjoyed opportunities to challenge themselves and support one another on the ropes course.
Seniors enjoyed a trip to Goodale Park to close their first week of school, where 12th Grade Dean Drew Eberly P ’36 challenged seniors to demonstrate enthusiasm, responsibility, and a sense of community as they embark on their final year at Wellington.
Senior Class Vice President Ian Ziegler ’23 poignantly captured the impact of finding your people in his remarks at The Leap.
“Looking back on these 40 years you’ll see a tight-knit community… Looking back on my own four years of high school, I have witnessed a great amount of love and compassion coming from teachers and staffulty, and a close bond with the other students, building each other up to become the young adults we are now.”