The first day of the new school year at Riverdale Country School was a time of anticipation and excitement as students arrived on campus. On both campuses, the energy and enthusiasm for a new year was also a time for reflection about caring for one another and creating meaningful change in our school and beyond our campuses.

At the River Campus, Head of the Lower School, Dr. James P. Duval, said, “Even the steady downpour couldn’t dampen the spirits on the River campus.” The students all began their days with morning greetings and ended their days with mindful closings in their classroom communities. These intentional bookends to the day, which will persist throughout the year, highlighted the priority being placed on creating a sense of belonging that will allow students to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally as they embark on a new learning journey.

On the Hill Campus, at the first Morning Meeting of the year, Head of Middle School Milton J. Sipp addressed the students and faculty in the Jeslo Harris Theater, encouraging them to be caring community members and diligent students. “Take care of each other, take care of your teachers, take care of your deans,” he said, “How do we do this? It starts with being kind to each other… giving each other grace. Let’s make it a point to start that work today…In your classes, your teachers are your biggest supporters and want you to work hard and excel. In return, work hard for them. Let that be your legacy this year…that you took care of each other and our community.”

Across campus in the main Montag Gymnasium in the Zambetti Athletics Center, after Upper School students and faculty had assembled, the traditional walk-in of the seniors – this year, carrying “anything but a backpack” to symbolize their extremely unconventional high school experience – was met with laughter and applause. The Class of 2023 carried laundry baskets, pushed doll strollers, and toted briefcases – one student even brought along a large pasta pot.

In his remarks, Head of the Upper School Tom Taylor quoted a recent New York Times essay which asked, “What is school for?” and challenged students to determine for themselves “What is Riverdale for?” “Is it just for a credential?” Mr. Taylor asked. “We are here, we gather to learn together. We are here because by being in community with one another, we get to be called into the obligation of co-creating an environment in which we can all thrive. What a fantastic privilege that is! We get to do the important work of changing our world for the good.”

Head of School Dominic AA Randolph, in his last year as head of Riverdale, shared a familiar concept at Riverdale: that we treat one another always with an “ethos of care.” “Remember that ideas and knowledge should make us uncomfortable but should not create harm. Let’s all be both careful and daring in what we say to each other. Let us consider different points of view calmly and objectively and be generous in spirit with those that we disagree with.” In closing, he shared his three wishes for the entire community, “I wish you more curiosity, more purpose, and more belonging for you this year.”