Chris Warner on Broad Peak

Editor’s Note: Alice Rydberg is the President of the 2020-2021 Parent Association.

At a recent Colorado Academy Parent Association Coffee Talk, Middle School Counselor Kate MacKenzie gave parents a student mental health update for each of the divisions. Her message in a nutshell: our students are hanging in there, but it has been a challenging trimester. One of the helpful things that we can do as parents is to acknowledge the difficulties that our children have dealt with this year and the losses and disappointments they are grieving in their own ways.

Another thing we can do to help them is to encourage them to appreciate the “silver linings” along the way. I don’t just mean pandemic baking and quarantine puppies. (Although, we all love the puppies!) We’ve all seen the photographs taken of glimpses of Earth without pollution during the days of the initial shutdowns—from Mount Everest, to the Grand Canyon, and urban centers around the globe. Maybe it’s temporary, but it’s a gift all the same. Here are some other silver linings that I’ve collected to share with you.

Technology connects us as we struggle with distancing

A year ago, many of us had never heard of Zoom. Now, Zoom sessions have become as commonplace as phone calls. And this fall, through the efforts of the entire CA Music Department, grandparents were attending CA music recitals via Zoom. In our family, one set of grandparents, who used to be at every recital, but who are not as mobile now, and the other grandparents, who live across the country and only ever got to see videos after the fact, were able to attend a Zoom piano recital. (And Director of Visual and Performing Arts Katy Hills even let them visit with each other over Zoom after the recital was over!)

Our Parent Rock-Climbing Club, under the leadership of Liz Arnold, Chris Warner, and Tricia Youssi, also recently explored building community over Zoom. Chris shared stories and videos of his harrowing expedition to summit K2, and helped us realize that most of us didn’t even know what real stress felt like! Thanks to his willingness to share his experiences and wisdom, we all forgot for an evening the burdens of the pandemic and lost ourselves in an adventure shared by a gifted storyteller. And because this happened over Zoom, we even had CA alums join us for the event.

Our Class Leads in all three divisions have also been working to bring parents together virtually to meet and connect. If you have ideas to contribute to this ongoing effort, please send them to your Class Lead. Or text a fellow parent and have them join in on the next parent Zoom—just showing up counts when we are trying to connect, despite COVID!

“Even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion.” – Elie Wiesel

This collection of silver linings started with an unusual COVID-era story about creating light in the darkness. Even before our global health crisis, my friend’s mother-in-law had been struggling with declining physical abilities, decreasing engagement outside her home, and caring for a spouse fully dependent on her. A couple of months ago, this retired teacher started teaching girls in Kyrgyzstan who are victims of trafficking. These days, she gets up at daybreak to conduct an international Zoom meeting, but does it gladly and even stays up late planning her lessons and thinking about how she can better help her students. With this new light in her life, her world has suddenly stopped shrinking.

Our CA community has also been creating light in this dark time. Just as they rallied to fund the Emergency Tuition Assistance Fund in the spring, our parents, along with faculty, staff, and alumni, set new giving records this fall on CA Gives Day. And our CA Cares program has continued to give our community a chance to provide assistance to CA families experiencing pandemic-related financial hardship, including a special gift for their Thanksgiving Breaks.

When life gives you lemons…

As our Parent Ambassadors can tell you, our Admission Office staff have outdone themselves this year! Have you seen the virtual experiences available on the website for prospective parents? We all have people asking us about CA—please tell them to check it out. Watching those video clips makes me want to choose CA all over again.

And because Admission Preview had to “go virtual” this year, this wonderful glimpse of a day in the life of a CA student is now available to families who are out of town or parents who can’t get off work for an in-person visit on a weekday morning. Our parent volunteers who help introduce prospective parents to our school are hard at work, organized by division leads Allyson Jacoby, Liz Oertel, and Heidi Wolfe. Using the new format, they are connecting with prospective parents and then connecting them to what our school and community offer.

Looking through the lens of gratitude

Everything looks a little different when viewed with gratitude. As a result of our experiences supporting “Zoom school” at home, I know that all of us parents have a much, much greater appreciation for our teachers! We’ve known this all along, but we know it better now: teachers are our heroes.

Do you remember seeing the videos of people singing together from their balconies in Italy during the shutdowns in the spring? Community helps us get through the tough times. One way you can express appreciation for our community is through the Parent Association—if you want to plug in and give back, come join us; the nominating process has begun for next year’s Parent Association leaders. All the information you need to nominate yourself or another parent can be found in CA Today this month.

I will never get tired of saying how grateful I am for our parent volunteers. Even during these on-again, off-again, uncertain times, our Wreath & Garland Chairs Vanessa Homuth and Dana Gordon have helped us complete one of our main fundraisers to support our school. We are grateful for their efforts and will get to see the benefits when we give back to CA through our PA Gifting program in the spring.

And one last silver lining to mention—many of our families are finding that they are having more family dinners, as many of our normal activities have paused. In this season, we can take advantage of not being in as much of a rush and take the time to express our gratitude to our loved ones and to each other.