“My charge for us is to think about ‘together we can make a difference,’ to navigate some of the not only tricky waters ahead, but the promise that those very same waters hold,” Head of School Bodie Brizendine shared with Upper School students, faculty and staff at a virtual opening assembly to begin the academic year.
Brizendine framed the unique academic year not only as one posing new challenges, but one filled with opportunities to bring Spence's mission into fruition.
“Ahead of us we have the call and the promise of Black Lives Matter and our fight against racial injustice, staying safe while living through a pandemic, a major election coming our way, and as we all experience it, the fissure and divide within our country,” Brizendine emphasized. “There is lots for us to get our arms around and to put our mission into action in whatever way you can. Each one of us has a charge to make a difference.”
Director of Institutional Equity Dr. Rebecca Hong echoed Brizendine’s sentiments. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the questions: ‘What kind of history do I want to make?’ and ‘What kind of history do we want to make together?’” Hong emphasized the urgent need to act as a community. “The wind is at our back right now with racial justice, in our school and in our world, and we will do and can do more if we do it all together.”
Members of the Upper School also heard from student body president Laura T. ’21, who encouraged everyone to find beauty in uncertainty as the school year begins virtually.
“Most of us are scared of diving into the unknown, into an abyss of uncertainty, of unfamiliarity, of not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Laura. “But what excites me most about diving into an abyss of the unknown is that sometimes the greatest moments in life are those moments that are completely and utterly unexpected.”
In a year of many firsts, new Upper School Head Rachael Flores shared a joyful welcome to the entire community at her first assembly in the role. “All my best wishes for a great school year,” said Flores. “I can’t wait to see you and get to know you.”
The assembly also included a virtual greeting from members of the Class of 2021, who continued the tradition of beginning the school year with a welcome celebration in front of the Red Doors. Holding celebratory posters and dressed in tee-shirts adorned with the word “TRAILBLA21NG,” this year’s seniors came together on East 91st Street to cheer for the start of “the craz21est year yet.”
In another back-to-school tradition, Brizendine shared a student reflection from the senior retreat in response to the Edith Hamilton quote, “Freedom is the power to live under one’s own control and not another’s.”
Brizendine selected one student’s response to read out loud, noting that she was struck by its pertinence to this year’s theme of coming together. The student quote showed that, “It takes action and agency for us to be able to come together,” Brizendine underscored. “It isn't just something you can say and do.”
The student emphasized in her reflection that at times it has been difficult to come together with her peers because of their differences from her. “It was only in my junior year when I realized that a strong community is not strong because of what they have in common,” the student wrote. “Rather, it is strong because we embrace differences, rather than hide them.
“I have seen our grade grow and mature as we embrace our differences….Seeing our grade learn to be unapologetically themselves, including myself, has been one of my favorite parts of Spence, and when I think of the future, I don't see graduating high school or moving away to college as freedom. I think freedom is the ability to be yourself, wherever you are.”