Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles about ways that CA is living its mission. We invite you to read more in the Fall CA Journal which will arrive in your mailboxes in early November.
The ink was hardly dry on Colorado Academy’s new Mission Statement in Fall 2019 when in-person school closed, and students transitioned to remote learning because of the dangers posed by COVID-19. By late spring, COVID-19 remained a daily threat at the same time the country experienced a resurgence of the national movement protesting systemic racism.
It is one thing to say that a school will be kind and courageous leaders and learners during daily living with ordinary challenges. But how would CA fulfill its mission under the dual clouds of COVID-19 and racial reckoning? With grace and action, as is very evident in these stories told by CA faculty and students about ways we are showing kindness.
All Are Welcome
When Lower School Kindergarten students received their letter of welcome during August, they also received a book that had been suggested by Kindergarten Teacher Christine West: All Are Welcome. Here are some excerpts from the book, paired with comments by Kindergarten Teacher Lindsey Owens on how she is incorporating messages of kindness and inclusivity in her classroom every day.
No matter how you start your day. What you wear when you play. Or if you come from far away. All are welcome here.
“In CA Kindergarten, we wanted to set the tone from the first day of school. It doesn’t matter what your background is, if your skin looks different, if your religion is different, if your family is different, you are welcome at CA.”
In our classroom safe and sound. Fears are lost and hope is found. Raise your hand, we’ll go around. All are welcome here.
“School may be the first place where Kindergartners see differences, and we want to show them it’s positive to talk about what they see. All subjects are fair game. They are so open and naturally curious at this age, and so we say, ‘If you are wondering, ask!’”
Gather now, let’s all take part. We’ll play music, we’ll make art. We’ll share stories from the heart. All are welcome here.
“Through books and spontaneous conversations, one of my main goals this year is to make sure that we talk about being inclusive all the time. It’s easy when someone is like you to be kind. When they are not like you, it may be harder. That’s where the teaching and foundation-building come in. Kindergarten is such a loving, positive experience, and being kind is something we can all have in common.”
Caroline Haley, Grade 7
If there is ever a tough year for a Middle School student to move across the country and change schools, it’s the Seventh Grade. And doing it with the disruptions created by a pandemic could make it even worse. That’s what Seventh Grader Caroline Haley feared until she arrived at CA and, as she describes in her own words, encountered some very kind strangers.
“I was disappointed to leave all my friends and school behind in Chicago, but I’m so grateful to be at CA. Of course, I was really nervous to start school. In fact, I was very terrified, because it’s an odd year to come into a new school.
“I knew a few people from the day that I shadowed last year, but I was worried they wouldn’t remember me. And people may not realize it, but when you come as a new student during the pandemic, you are wearing a mask, so people can’t see half your face! And you have to social distance! I thought it would be hard to meet new friends.
“But it turned out that the girl I shadowed, Khloe Brown, was my neighbor. I reached out to her before school started, and she introduced me to her friends. ‘Here is this person, and this person, and this person!’ It was so cool, and everyone was so sweet. They went out of their way to make me feel welcome.
“The teachers have also been so good at introducing me to everyone and showing me how things work. I think CA is a great school. The academics are good, the campus is so pretty, and the people are so nice. I already have a great group of friends.”
Peter Carpenter, Senior
Senior Peter Carpenter had not even started his Freshman year at CA’s Upper School when he experienced an act of kindness that has stayed with him, as if it happened yesterday. He was an incoming Freshman soccer player, hoping for a slot on the Varsity Soccer team when, during a preseason summer scrimmage, Coach Gabe Bernstein put him into the game.
“I actually scored,” Carpenter remembers. “But it was an ‘own goal,’ meaning I scored a goal for the other team. I was full of dread. All I could think was, ‘How will I ever make the Varsity team?’”
Instead of being blamed or ostracized for his mistake, Carpenter experienced the opposite.
“The amount of overwhelming support that I received from my teammates, whom I barely knew, and from the coaches, whom I also didn’t know, was just incredible,” he recalls. “I think CA values making mistakes and learning from them. And I think that everyone—students, faculty, and teachers—all understand that’s something that makes us, ‘us’.”
“This is an example of what makes our coaches great,” says Director of Athletics Bill Hall. “Coach Bernstein took that moment and turned it into a learning experience that Peter never forgot.”
Carpenter has gone on to play soccer during his entire career at CA. Freshman year, he played on a team that went to the State Championship. Sophomore year, he scored eight goals. During his Senior year, he is still hoping to play one final season for CA next spring during the COVID-altered sports schedule. Through the years, the lesson of kind support he learned never left him.
“We show up for each other on and off the field, because we are one community,” he says. “How well we do on the field is a reflection of how well we connect off the field.”