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Opening Convocation speeches

September 6, 2013
Class of 2014

Opening Convocation address by Head of School Pilar Cabeza de Vaca

Good Morning Madeira! It is always such a pleasure to have our campus slowly re-populate after a long summer.  The sounds of laughter and excited voices make our places and spaces come alive again.  Today we begin a new school year.  I like to think of it as an exciting journey that will take us to new places, new dimensions, or back in time to understand what got us here in the first place.

I just renewed my passport, and while I was collecting the information I needed to send to State Department, I flipped through the many pages of my old passport and traveled back in time to all the places I had landed.  The dates of entry and exit stamped on each page speak to where I lived, what places I visited, how long I stayed at each place, and as I dug through the memories brought back by each seal, I realized how much richer my life has been because of all those experiences.

Ninth graders and all other new girls, you have just obtained your passports and have your entry stamp to the country we call MADEIRA.  You have arrived safely, your suitcases came with you and weren’t lost in passage, and you are in the process of unpacking them and setting up your rooms or your spaces in your lockers to hold your belongings.  In your suitcases you brought the essentials: values that you learned at home, your family customs and traditions to remember, pictures and posters you could not bear to part with.  You also packed your hopes and dreams for this trip.  And yes, I’m sure you packed some comfortable sweatpants, t-shirts, slippers and maybe an assortment of wildly colored nail polish.  I hope you brought some red, too!

Your journey begins today. Ninth graders and first time students, you are newcomers to this country; sophomores, juniors and seniors, you already are seasoned travelers and will help guide all our newcomers.   You are also dusting off suitcases and boxes after the summer hiatus, and I know that you already know to pack the essentials.  As you unpack your values, make sure you place them in a prominent place where you can see them every day, remind yourself that these are the things you hold most dear, and know that in this country that is MADEIRA they will be the building blocks that will make you a successful citizen. 

First and foremost, I’ll talk about integrity. Be honest at all times. Choose honesty and truth even if they are the more difficult road on this trip. Don’t cut corners or take shortcuts by using others’ work and passing it off as your own, or you will lose valuable opportunities for true learning and understanding.  Integrity will allow you to hold your head high at all times and never to have to remember to whom you told what story. Next, awareness of self and others, coupled with compassion. This is a place that celebrates you as an individual, teaches you to respect yourself and encourages you to learn about, understand, and celebrate others.  In this country, MADEIRA, we have a wealth of backgrounds, traditions, perspectives and viewpoints to share.  Each one of us brings a plethora of experiences that we might be eager to talk about and to have you discover.  We are a community that embraces diversity:  religious, ethnic, racial, sexual orientation, geographic, political, and socioeconomic.  Take the time to learn about your fellow-citizens and enrich your own experiences.  Be good to yourselves by nourishing your body and your mind, by allowing yourselves not to be perfect, by forgiving yourselves for making mistakes.  Likewise, be compassionate with others:  learn to see things their way and to forgive them for their mistakes.  Next, resilience.  To make your way around this country of ours, MADEIRA, you’ll certainly need to build up a reservoir of resilience.  You need to have the ability to persevere after the first attempt at something ends in failure.  You need to know how to pick yourself up when you fall.  You need to learn to rely on your inner strength to get you through tough times. Although MADEIRA is a wonderful country, with paved roads and manicured lawns, the roads are sometimes slippery when wet, have potholes, or sometimes are blocked by a tree felled by a storm and you need to get to the next place by trekking through the woods.  Your moral compass and your resilience will let you find the way and arrive at your destination. Last, but not least, are both creativity and intellectual curiosity. You are newcomers to this marvelous country.  The list of interesting sights to discover and explore is endless.  Be curious and creative in how you approach learning about each of the wonderful places available to you. I’ll give you a brief list of recommended, must-visit places along with a short description of what you might find in each:

The town called HISTORY will allow you to take journeys back in time and discover what makes us what we are today.  It will allow you to learn all about the wonders that humanity has accomplished in building civilizations as well as about the horrors of war and genocide and how destructive they can be.  This town is populated by some really nice folks who tell great stories. 

The ARTS, another town on the list of places to discover, will allow you to be creative, to build, to design, to identify a special talent for music or the arts.  It will offer you food for the soul.  They have a fabulous array of cultural events you won’t want to miss:  Fall Play, Winter Musical, many soirees, and ASM’s dedicated to the arts.  The inhabitants of this town are really artsy people.  You’ll find dancers with lithe limbs, singers, performers, actors and musicians who play myriad instruments.  You also find some really fine Silicone-valley types who know tech; and them some great builders that design and build theatre sets.  Hey, it’ almost a little Hollywood!

The city of ENGLISH is a major city, for it is through language that we communicate.  You will discover the in’s and out of syntax and vocabulary; subject-verb agreement and correct use of tenses.  You will learn that writing is a process that demands both creativity and structure and offers you the opportunity to express your opinions and views; to describe your innermost feelings; to communicate in print or digitally.  Likewise, you will discover writers from all eras and countries, and through them appreciate the diversity of characters, plots, and nuances that make great novels.  This city is a mix of poets, writers, thinkers who share a passion for reading. 

Almost adjacent to English is the town of MODERN LANGUAGES, where you will learn to roll your r’s or rush them through your throat; modulate your tone to get words in the right context; find out that tables and chairs can actually be feminine while cars change their gender depending on whether you’re French or Spanish speaking.  You’ll learn about roots, and you’ll delve into the culture behind each language and begin to understand why in some languages we say “I/someone broke the glass,” and in others “the glass broke itself.”   This is the most multinational town we have.  It could almost be a mini-UN!

The next big city, SCIENCE, is actually a cluster of several towns:  Biology, Physics, and Chemistry.  This is an awesome city:  you’ll be able to go back in history to the era of dinosaurs and travel into the future to the era of nanophysics.  You can experiment, construct, design, and discover.  You will need to pack some safety equipment, like goggles and lab coats, when you visit this city. The inhabitants of this big city are all scientists, each with a very specialized interest.  They love working collaboratively with their neighbors in the next town and with the artists, and together they’ve concocted a huge project called STEAM.

As we near the angles marking some of the boundaries in this country, we arrive upon the town of MATH.  People here love to count and multiply, develop equations, measure perimeters and calculate surfaces, figure out the statistical probabilities of having a declared snow day.  This is a place where you really learn to solve problems.  They’re a cool group of gals and guys. 

Yet another place of interest is the town called CO-CURRICULUM.  Tourists and citizens alike rate it as a triple star site.  It is almost like a tiny country within a country, because while you have a small area to visit, most of the action takes place off-site.  This is a place where you learn diplomacy, government, democracy, and you can practice everything from science research to learning to run a bakery.  You will be the main inhabitants of this town, but you will be driven off site to meet other very important people, including well-known politicians.

 Along the roads connecting all these cities and towns and dotted around the countryside you will find many refueling stations:  athletic fields that allow you to play team or individual sports, a stable full of horses, the best friends anyone could ever want, a fitness center where you can work off your stress and come out better than when you went in, and many trails that allow you to appreciate the beauty of the nature in this country.  There is one restaurant in particular that I recommend for all.  It is clearly marked on the map as the highest rated in the country.  Make sure you try their daily specials three times a day.

The country also has safe havens for tired travelers who need a sturdy shoulder to lean on.  These are filled with welcoming adults, counselors, faculty and staff that are all in place to make sure your journey in this wonderful country is filled with wonder.  They are there to lend an ear when you run into problems, they will provide directions when you cannot find your way, and they will refuel your souls and spirits when you need them.  Make sure you make several pit stops, even if only to say hello to all these friendly people. 

This is the landscape of this wonderful country.  You have your passports, your visas, and the list of places to visit and get to know.  New students, the discovery will be exhilarating.  Don’t miss any of the attractions.  Tenth graders, continue to explore every corner of the country.  You already know the lay of the land, and now is the time to begin to give back by supporting our newcomers, by getting involved in the community, and by developing your passions and talents.  Take steps to protect the environment that nourished you as a newcomer.  Juniors:  you are starting to reach out beyond our boundaries and to explore government and politics.  You are now establishing a firm sense of self and thinking about the next country you will move to.  Use your creativity to solve the problems you encounter, and be a role model for your sisters.   Seniors:  you are now getting ready to apply for a new passport that will take you to your next destination.  You are the leaders in this country, and as such, are role models for everyone else.  Like me, you will begin to flip the pages of your old passports and start retrieving memories that you want to keep alive forever.  You are in the process of choosing your next destination and making a list of everything you will require to obtain an entry visa.  In a few short months you will begin packing your bags and selecting which things you want to keep and which you will leave behind as legacies for your sisters in the upcoming classes.  And you will make final choices as to which things you want to leave behind for good. 

All students:  Remembers always that MADEIRA is a democratic country.  Your voice counts here.  Remember as well that there is a set of standards of behavior you must follow if you are to remain in good standing as a citizen. Don’t risk getting your visas revoked by not following rules.  You are old enough to know right from wrong and to know which roads and streets are safe to explore.  Avoid those neighborhoods that spell danger:  to yourselves or others.  Remember to be responsible digital citizens as well as real time ones.  Help others to keep safe.  And last, but most important, remember to make lasting friendships, to connect to everyone in the country, and to have fun. 

I wish all of you a wonderful journey, a great beginning, and a successful school year.

Address by Senior Class Presidents Jessica Schwartz '14 and Fahmida Hussain '14

J: Hi everyone, my name is Jessica and I’m the senior class day president

F: Hello – I’m Fahmida and I’m the senior class boarding president

J: We have prepared a special performance to welcome everyone back to Madeira and help you transition from fun in the sun to fun in the…classroom. (?)

F:  We’ll start with the freshman. This one’s for you. (point)

Together sing: “First I was afraid, I was petrified”  *freeze

F: Right now, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed by the campus, the academics, the traditions… but we just want you to know that it will get easier… and then it will get harder again. So enjoy the time you have- try new things, meet new people and take advantage of all the cool experiences. These four years won’t last forever.

Together: Freshmen- 1364 days. YOU WILL SURVIVE.

J: Next- to our dearest sophomores. 

Together: How you feel- how you feel- how you feel? Sophomores sitting on 25 mil!

J: You all must feel great right now… like you’re sitting on 25 mil…no stress! Get it? Haha. You’re not really looking at colleges yet, and you’ve got the lay of the land since you’re not a freshman anymore- so it’s the perfect time to do what you love and enjoy it before junior year. This is the best year to explore your passions and find out more about yourself.

Here’s our first big tip for sophomores… It’s spelled s-o-p-h-O-m-o-r-e-… We promise that knowing this piece of information will ensure a bright future ahead of you.

Together: Sophomores- 999 days. Yolooo

F: And now, we move on to juniors…

Together sing: “There’s a light in the darkness. There’s a struggle”“You have yet to win”

F: I bet that was pretty motivational, huh? No, but seriously Juniors- this year is difficult. We cannot lie about that. But we promise… it does end. Eventually. Just remember that seniors are always there for you whenever you need us. I know the seniors were there for me last year, some pulling all-nighters with me. We will be there, getting just as excited as you about the two research papers, 'cause every junior knows that’s the HIGHLIGHT of their Madeira career.

Together: Juniors- 626 days. The struggle will end.

J: Last but not least…

Together: seniors

Together: “as we go on, we remember, all the times we had together.

J: Seniors- we’ve spent three years waiting for this day…for wearing white- for ringing the senior bell- for class rings- for senior dinner and all that jazz. Now we have one year left to enjoy this together and to show everyone how cool and unique the class of 2014 is. Make memories, Don’t stress, Laugh often, Say thanks, Eat Cupcakes, and Get Pumped because...

Together: Seniors- only 259 days!!! (CHEERS!) Whatever happens, we’ll still be friends forever. Thank you!

Address by Head of Community Service Calli Zarpas '14

Hi Everybody! My name is Calli Zarpas. I’m a senior day student from McLean, Virginia and I am the head of community service. Before I begin, I want everyone to give their neighbor a high five.

The reason I had you all do this is because I want to stress that community service isn’t just about the big gestures, but also the small ones. Even though I am exploring big ideas like doing service with other schools, planting flowers, or visiting a retirement home, doing something as little as giving someone a high five or a smile is also important when serving your community. In addition to putting more emphasis on the little things, I want to make this year about what you guys want! Even though I have a bunch of ideas, I am open to any you all have! Please don’t ever hesitate to send me an email or come talk to me because I want as many of you to be involved in community service as possible. I want people to be passionate about the events we plan throughout the year. In order to do this I hope to use online surveys so people can vote on the causes they want a certain event to support. I also plan to have events that are hands on to keep you all active and to move away from just drives and fundraisers. I hope you guys are as excited as I am! Thank you and I can’t wait for a great year!

Leadership Student Life