By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

As we move closer to Thanksgiving (and don’t you always associate ice storms with Thanksgiving?), I thought about how thankful I am to work with such wonderfully talented and caring kids. This week I was fortunate to witness several examples of that in action, and wanted to share them with you since we won’t have a newsletter next Friday.

First, at our fantastic Open House this week, we asked seven students to be tour guides and/or to speak on a panel to our prospective parents. That would be a little nerve-wracking for most adults, but imagine being 10 – 13 years old and facing that prospect! Well I have to say that 6th grader Zoë Petiprin, 7th grader Mae Wilson, and 8th graders Scotty Rivera and Jackson Sleadd did a fabulous job on our panel, and were joined by 8th graders Sophie Kirby, Jane McLeroy, and Amelia Gorman as tour guides. The student panelists’ words were entirely their own and they came from the heart. They spoke about the academics, their teachers, the extracurriculars that have impacted them, and how caring the St. Francis community is. Scotty commented on how everyone can fit in, and how students are nice and supportive of each other. And my favorite comment came from Zoë when asked how the transition from Lower School to Middle School had been for her. She said, “Lower School was wonderful and then I went to Middle School where…and at this point she paused to collect her thoughts and tried to find the right words…she continued…“where I was met with a wave of love.”  I made sure my tour group knew that wasn’t a planted line! What a beautiful sentiment from one so young! Our students are absolutely some of our best ambassadors.

We also held a tree planting ceremony in honor of former St. Francis teacher Jenny Marshall, who passed away this summer. Members of Jenny’s family and past St. Francis teachers attended, as well as the 7th and 8th grade classes – the last two grades who had Ms. Marshall as a classroom teacher. I asked the kids if any of them wanted to share memories of Ms. Marshall and five spoke. Their comments were also from the heart and had a common theme – the incredible caring and kindness that Jenny showered upon them. 8th grader Fairleigh Jones spoke about one of his wood block creations getting knocked over, which made him cry. Ms. Marshall stayed with him at recess and helped him rebuild it. That’s a St. Francis teacher! And how touching is it that our 7th and 8th graders are willing to share those stories publicly on a bitingly cold day outdoors in front of a group of adults.

Finally, backstage at the fall play this week, one of my student assistants, Ella Johnson, who is a new 8th grader this year, asked if I wanted to see something on her phone she had made. I of course was in the middle of the hurricane that is “backstage” and only half heard her. But I looked at her phone and found myself looking dumbfounded at artistic caricatures of several of the characters in the play. And they were stunning. “You made these?” I asked, incredulous. She responded shyly, “yes”, and said they took an hour each to create, and she had made three (so far). I told her I wanted to share them at our cast party with those kids, and she was so proud and said she’d make more. What it pointed out to me is not just how talented Ella is, but that an activity she jumped into as a new 8th grader had inspired her to honor her new classmates in such a unique and personal way. I hope you enjoy them, too!

As we prepare for Grandparents’ Day performances next week, I wish you and your family a heartwarming and memorable Thanksgiving with family!