This annual all-school assembly is a way to bring the whole community together, welcome new students and faculty, and kick off the 2023-24 academic year.
To begin Convocation, Vocal Ensemble performed the National Anthem, and then Doug Lagarde, Head of School, introduced each class, inviting those students to stand and be recognized. The class of 2024 received rousing applause and plenty of foot-stomping as they were introduced for their final time at this event.
A speaker from fifth, eighth, and twelfth grades then offered brief remarks to the crowd. First up was fifth-grader Lily ’31, who welcomed her Lower School classmates and encouraged everyone to treat one another with kindness and respect. She predicted a year filled with new friendships and exciting challenges. Speaking directly to the class of 2031, she reminded them that they are now the leaders of the Chesapeake Campus and that while they will make mistakes, those mistakes are how they learn and grow. She concluded by saying, “Let’s make this a year to remember!”
Matthew ’28 was Class President the previous year and was the eighth-grade speaker. He encouraged his classmates in the Middle School to challenge themselves by trying new things, citing the learning that happens by stepping outside of one's comfort zone. He also threw out a second challenge to his peers: doing something for others. He closed his remarks with an enthusiastic, "Go, Admirals!"
The final student speaker was Sean Ward ’24, a member of the senior class and Student Council President in 22-23. Ward, who has participated in many public speaking initiatives and joked that his classmates know him as the “speech guy,” shared with the audience that he actually has anxiety around public speaking. For him, getting up on stage is a profound statement because it’s a way to defy that anxiety. Building on that theme, his greater message to the student community was this – take the leap in spite of your fear. He acknowledged that the end result won't always be a win, but said, "I can promise you that taking that leap will teach you a lesson.”
Lagarde was the final speaker, and his message centered around trust and belonging and how those two things connect at Severn. His remarks began with the acknowledgment that every year, every student is given a gift when they walk through the doors – the gift of trust. “We trust that you will grow and change; we trust that you will reach for new heights; we trust that you will have successes and disappointments; we trust in who you are now and who you will become,” said Lagarde. Building on that, he spoke of the idea of social trust, a trust built within organizations in which people are "bound together to do joint work…in which they are held to rules and standards of excellence to live up to, that keep them trustworthy.” (Brooks, David, America Is Having a Moral Convulsion, The Atlantic, 10.5.20) This, he pointed out, is the trust that is offered to students each year, even though there is no guarantee it will be returned. “Every year, I am heartened by your commitment to honoring your part of the trusting relationship that makes our community flourish,” said Lagarde.
While trust, said Lagarde, is the glue that holds people together, “belonging is the feeling that we are part of a larger group that values, respects, and cares for us. When we feel as if we belong, we are connected to those around us, we feel supported…and we are free to be ourselves and perform at our best.”
(Magness, Steve, Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness, 6.21.22 ).
Belonging, however, is a different process for everyone and Severn, said Largarde, cannot simply “proclaim everyone belongs…and give belonging as if it is a badge or a sticker.” (Mattingly, Bob, CSEE, Summer 2023) Instead, he implored every student to act as an architect of belonging and help build trust through kindness, thoughtfulness, honesty, integrity, and care. Through those actions, every individual can arrive at a place where they “trust this community enough to say, I belong.” Lagarde concluded his remarks with, “I trust you will all be up to this challenge.”
Following tradition, the kindergarten and first-grade students walked into Convocation hand-in-hand with members of the Class of 2024. They were also seated together for the assembly. After Convocation, they stayed together, walking from the Edward St. John Athletic Center down Alumni Walkway and over to the Zimmerman Library, where each of the 62 kindergarten and first-grade students was presented with a personalized copy of Incredible You
by Rhys Brisenden. The seniors also gave the young learners a letter with words of advice for them as they continue on with their education.
Photos from Convocation can be found here