Students enjoy music on the Quad during Quadchella

CA Curious

Community Vignettes

May 20, 2021

Even before our Director of Communications, Mandy Dailey, asked me to write this week’s blog, I was savoring scenes from around the Upper School, especially since they all seemed to coalesce around a common theme: community.  I thought I would share a few of them with you. 

Yearbook day

One morning last week, a senior stood in front of a classroom of adults, a group that included the Head of the School, Director of Facilities, and Board members. She explained what she had learned over the course of this year in an independent study focused on environmental sustainability.  Specifically, she shared how she had calculated Cary Academy’s immediate carbon footprint, then she offered suggestions about how we can move forward as a community, mentioning small and large actions we can take as a school to improve our world.  The adults scribbled notes the entire time. 

One afternoon last week, the six students in Yearbook, along with their teacher, parents, and advisor volunteers, passed out the 2020-2021 Yearbook, a compendium all-the-more impressive considering we started the year with much of our school life boxed into Zoom meetings. That afternoon, Upper School student stood in clumps about the Quad, pens in hands, flipping through pages, scribbling quick messages, perusing pictures. 

One afternoon last week, students lounged at the end of the Quad close to the Library, enjoying Quadchella. CA performers played and sang for each other in an informal concert developed over the course of a week with energetic input from StuCo and our arts faculty. Under that afternoon sun, the audience applauded the student performers, grabbed snacks, and laughed with a joy that we haven’t seen in some time.   

One morning this week, a gaggle of seniors sprawled under the trees, chatting and laughing and debating and—oddly enough—laying on their backs, the soles of their feet pressed together. That small scene (minus the feet) echoed countless other versions of the small conversations I witnessed this year, conversations about both nothing in particular and everything in general. 

The Jazz Band plays Quadchella

Earlier this week, the seniors on campus danced through the hallways and onto the Quad, the leader holding a speaker on his shoulder like some throwback to an 80’s movie. Their fifteen-minute pilgrimage was an homage to our annual Glow Stick dance, a soiree that didn’t take place this year. But this week’s journey, with its moments of exuberance, celebrated their bond built across the years—celebrated their bond with the school. 

A bit later that day, two of those same seniors, along with a group of 10th and 11th graders, talked about a year-long Cary Academy class, one that melded English and history and art and activism and entrepreneurship and experiential learning. They discussed once more that idea of community, even though they didn’t immediately form a close-knit group in August. At least not a first. The essence of their discussion? How even with their differences, they came to trust one another as their learning became personal, as they understood how their knowledge linked to each other and the larger world. 

Next week, a group of new alumni and newly-minted seniors will lead a symposium for 10th graders that brings national figures to campus virtually (yay Zoom!), allowing our students to hear from professionals in a variety of fields that touch our lives.  This opportunity comes to us, once again, courtesy of student ingenuity. 

During a year when so many of us yearned for physical community, the students have taken that urge and built beautiful, sometimes unexpected celebrations of togetherness.   

Yes, the adults have been present. Yes, we provide the guardrails and the reminders and food. Yes, that sense of belonging is coded into our school’s DNA; just consider the C in DICE. Or look at the opening phrase of our Statement of Community Values. 

But in a year when students could be forgiven for shying away from collecting together, they instead embraced opportunity: they searched for ways to understand, to come together, to lead. 

They built communities—so many enchanting, vibrant, celebratory communities. 

So, to our students: thank you.  Your actions give all of us hope.  Even when you play pattycakes with your feet. 

Written by Robin Follet, Head of Upper School

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