I find myself becoming increasingly nostalgic. This past Friday, more than 100 alums returned to campus to participate in our reunion activities. It was such a joy talking with alums, particularly those in high school and college, and I marveled at the growth they have shown during the years since they had left Hillbrook. I was particularly struck talking to one high school senior, who described in detail the college program he was entering next year in theatrical direction and writing, a program that he noted accepts only six students each year. Wow, I thought to myself, he is on the verge of being the adult I had imagined he would become back when he was at Hillbrook. Older, more mature, more assured, and ready to fully pursue his passion in drama and theater, and yet his passionate and charmingly unique Middle School self still shone through.
As you read this, we are less than three weeks away from summer break, another reason I suspect I’m feeling nostalgic. Next week, all Middle School students will be off-campus on expeditionary learning trips to Yosemite, Catalina Island, and Washington, D.C. Here on campus, we are gearing up for several year-end experiences, including the 3rd Grade Greek Play, the 5th grade Living History Night, the 1st/2nd grade Author’s Walkabout, and the 8th grade Capstone projects. All of this activity creates a powerful mix of excitement and accomplishment, as well as a strong sense of endings.
And, yet, even as we focus on culminating experiences and projects, I’m struck that what we are really witnessing is a series of new beginnings. Our 1st and 2nd grade authors, for example, will be introducing themselves to us for one of the first times as writers, an identity that will continue to grow and broaden in the years ahead. 8th graders are exploring areas and passions in a new and more in-depth way, building electric bikes, coding virtual reality experiences, drawing message-driven cartoons, apprenticing as teachers for younger students, and learning and then teaching peers and adults how to bind books While their public presentations at NuMu on June 1 will be inspiring, what we are seeing is the emergence of young adults and lifelong learners who are just beginning to understand their full potential. These young people are not at an endpoint at all, they are at a series of extraordinary and exciting new beginnings.
This is also the time of year when we say goodbye to some teachers and staff members who will not be returning for the 2017-18 school year. Included in that group this year are several resident teachers – Yanelly de la Rosa, Rasha Glenn, and Helga McHugh, JK/K PE teacher Regina Reilly, Director of Admission Nikki Butts, Middle School English teacher and Humanities Lead Julia Rubin, longtime Substitute Coordinator Chris Lawrence, Facilities Manager Alan Bahnsen, and our longest serving employee – Physical Education Teacher and coach Sue Yoshioka. As they leave Hillbrook, I know that each of them will be having their own new beginning. In some cases, they leave us to launch into their first lead teacher role, while others are looking to move into the next chapter of their lives as they “rewire” and imagine what the years ahead hold in store for them. All of these talented individuals, whether they were here for 2 years, 39 years, or somewhere in between, have made a difference in the lives of our students and have made our community a better place. We will have an opportunity to recognize each of them at our Final Flag of the year on Monday, June 5.
At the same time as some people are leaving, we are preparing to welcome a new cohort of talented faculty and staff to our community.We will share news about our new community members in August. We are also thrilled to see the Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship continue to grow and flourish with the addition of Annie Makela, the Founding Director for the Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship, joining our community in July.
Ultimately, each goodbye represents an ending and a beginning, depending on the angle from which you view it. The departure of the dynamic and talented Class of 2017, for example, represents the end of an era for many students and families, and yet as they leave they prepare to begin anew at high schools around the Bay Area and beyond. Their departure also opens up space for an extraordinary group of new children and families, including our largest cohort of new 6th grade students ever. A whole new set of Hillbrook stories are soon to be written.
Circling back to where I started this essay, this past Monday one of our 8th graders talked about how this year’s graduation marks the end of an era for her family at Hillbrook. She and her two sisters have been a part of this community for the past 14 years, meaning she has been a part of Hillbrook since she was born. There are seven other families marking a similar transition this year, with the youngest member of the family graduating and thus marking the end of 10 or more years at the school for the family. In addition, there are a number of families with only one child who are also marking their own graduation from Hillbrook as their child leaves for high school.
It is definitely bittersweet to see these families move on from the school, and hard in the moment to imagine Hillbrook without them here. As I was reminded at the reunion last weekend, however, the end of this era represents the beginning of a new relationship, one that is marked by significantly less frequent interactions, but the same level of affection, appreciation, and wonder at the journey we all take through life.
Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” In the weeks ahead, I encourage all of us to celebrate and honor the closing doors of this chapter of the Hillbrook story, while looking with enthusiasm toward the new doors that are just beginning to open.