On Thursday, Sept. 2 at 9:00 a.m., Upper and Middle School students and faculty gathered together in the Hoffman Field House for Kingswood Oxford’s annual Convocation. In addition to the excitement that comes with the start of a new school year, this year’s Convocation was a particularly special one as the entire Kingswood Oxford community was finally able to come together in person for the first time in over a year.
Head Prefect senior Stella Risinger began the ceremony with a warm welcome to all new students and faculty. She appreciated how lovely it was to see the whole community gathered together off of a computer screen. “I really did miss this,” she remarked. As head prefects have done in the past during Convocation, Stella shared a heartwarming allegory that she felt embodied some of the core morals of our community. The story was about an emperor who was looking for a successor and a little boy, Jun, who came to be his choice based on the fact that Jun expressed his true authentic self, although he felt scared doing so. “That’s exactly what we look for and want at KO: for everyone in our community to come as themselves and feel loved and embraced in doing so,” Stella said. “I hope that you embrace this as you embark through this year and every year onwards.”
Senior Speaker of the Upper School David Shi then welcomed everyone back and shared his positive outlook for the year. He charged each student to be present and to soak up all the experiences during their short yet formative high school years. He remarked that while students may not remember every single fact and figure in every class they have taken over their time at KO, they certainly will remember the experience of being a part of such a great community.
Following David’s remarks, the annual Dux Prizes were awarded by Head of the Middle School Ann Sciglimpaglia and Head of the Upper School Dan Gleason to a student in each form who held the highest grade point average in their class for the previous year. The prizes were awarded to seventh-grader Natay Belachew, eighth-grader Norah Pond, freshman Ysabel Albert, sophomore Carson Zielinski, junior Maggie Dwyer, and senior Emma Levinbook.
In another long-standing tradition, class flags were presented to Upper Prep and Form 6. The Upper Prep flag was received by sixth-graders Julia Stepnowski and Jace Brett. Seniors with the most community service hours, seniors Charlotte Mandell and Will Berekmeyer, accepted the flag for the Class of 2022.
Senior class president Sam Krugman and senior vice president Allie Wildstein then stood to accept the senior shield. The senior shield is another integral part of KO tradition: Each senior will engrave the shield with their name at a carving ceremony later in the school year.
To conclude the ceremony, Head of School Tom Dillow gave his annual convocation speech, welcoming students and faculty back to campus and sharing his excitement to be back in person kicking off the new school year. He first walked the community back through the history of how the Kingswood School and the Oxford School merged into the co-ed Kingswood Oxford we know today.
“Whether you realize it or not, KO will now forever be a part of your life,” Mr. Dillow
said. “It’s your place. It’s your community.” He described how while students will each go their separate ways in the future, they will always have Kingswood Oxford as a part of their personal lexicon.
He then went on to give a thoughtful summary of the past year – one of virtual classes, canceled social events, halted travel, and an overall paused society. He remarked on the fact that we often take for granted the ordinary, constant things in our lives and acknowledged that although the last year and a half was challenging in many ways, we can still learn from it and take away a heightened appreciation and gratitude for day-to-day occurrences. Despite the challenges we as a community and as a nation face, Mr. Dillow shared the remarkable faith he has that KO will rise above. He charged students, faculty, and staff to be the kind of community that leads by example. Mr. Dillow explained that this means respecting every person as a whole person, acting with integrity, including others and seeking what’s best for them, and having the courage to stand up for what is right when someone is being wronged. “It means not accepting language from your peers that is hurtful or demeaning,” Mr. Dillow said. “It means being a friend to someone in need.” He finished Convocation by giving a simple yet powerful message to the audience, encouraging them to strive to make the 2021-2022 school year the best year yet.