Convocation 2023

SEPTEMBER 28, 2023

Every year, students and professional community members come together during the first week of school for one of Nightingale’s most special traditions—Convocation—which marks the beginning of the new school year. This year, students from the Class of 2024 to the Class of 2035 gathered together in the Susan Hecht Tofel ’48 Gymnasium, and set the room abuzz with excitement.

Senior class co-presidents Bella R. ’24 and Lexie B. ’24 shared: “As we stand before you today, we recognize that, having all arrived at Nightingale during different years, each of us has experienced the school’s evolution in unique ways. Through change and growth, however, what binds us together is our shared journey of witnessing Nightingale’s remarkable progress [and] greater interconnectedness.”

“Keeping this in mind,” Lexie continued, “part of what makes Convocation so special, is the sense of community it evokes. The speakers today will mark the first opportunity for our schoolhouse as a collective to set its intentions for the coming year: its motto, if you will.

Lexie reflected on the senior retreat that occurred the day before, where altogether, the Class of 2024 came up with their motto for the school year: Leadership is reflecting on the past, engaging with the present and constructing with the future.

“Throughout this orientation week, we’ve taken the time to reflect on our journey here, appreciating the heartfelt messages shared between classes on whiteboards, the warm exchanges of shy smiles and high fives in the hallways, and the lively staircases filled with cheerful Lower Schoolers,” Bella said.

“It’s hard to believe that those Lower Schoolers were once us (...) so whether this is your first Convocation or your last, we hope you’ll leave here today knowing that each moment at Nightingale is a special one, and that one day, sooner than you think, these moments will become your most cherished memories,” Lexie said.

After words of welcome from Head of School Paul A. Burke, Upper School Chamber Chorus stood and sang “Be the Change.” It wasn’t long before the rest of the room was clapping to the beat of the song and echoing lyrics back, “...and change will come to you.”

At each Convocation, one student from each division is selected to speak. With a round of applause, the community welcomed Class IV student Philippa R. to the front of the room.

“Even though I know we all had wonderful summers, I am delighted to be back in the Schoolhouse with all of my teachers and friends,” Philippa said. “I missed that feeling I have when I walk through the blue doors; that feeling of exhilaration and determination. There is nothing like it. And more than anything, I missed the Nightingale smiles.”

Philippa shared some of her hopes for the Lower School throughout their upcoming year such as for Kindergarteners to have a great first year, the Class IV to enjoy their swimming lessons, and for the seniors to have the best time in their last year at Nightingale. Before ending her speech, Philippa shared three pieces of advice. The first piece of advice, which was from herself, was that she implored her peers to always try their best. In her second piece of advice, Philippa quoted Dr. Suess: ‘You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose.’ And for her final piece of advice, she quoted Eloise—which was that ‘getting bored is not allowed.’

The community then welcomed Class VIII student Valentina J. ’28 to the podium. Valentina introduced herself and lifted her hands and said: “These are my two hands, and ten fingers, and I know you are all looking at me and thinking, ‘So what?’ and ‘What is she doing?’ Well, to the composer and pianist Frederic Chopin whom you all know, he thought that each finger has its own personality and once they unite to play a piece of music, it works out perfectly. As I’m going on my ninth year here at Nightingale, I’ve come to realize that this theory couldn’t fit the school better.”

Valentina asked the room to look to their left, their right, and who was around them, and think about the different sports, classes, and extracurriculars their peers were involved in, and the importance of showing support for one another.

“We are all good at various things, but as a group and together, I think we can help each other excel beyond our individual boundaries,” Valentina said. “I think we collectively have unique personalities like each of the fingers on the hand, but together we, here at Nightingale, will be able to create beautiful music if all of us came together to support, help, and empower each other—not just during this academic year, but for the many years left to come in the Lower, Middle, and Upper School.”

With a round of applause students then welcomed Student Council President Mya B. ’23 to the podium, where she reflected on her years at Nightingale and shared her surprise at how quickly the time passed. Mya urged her peers to pause and think about who they wanted to be when they walked out of the blue doors for the last time, and what they would have wanted to accomplish at that point.

“We all only get one Lower School, Middle School, or Upper School experience, and the choices we make, the activities we participate in, and the classes we take all mix together to create who we are at the end of this experience,” Mya said. “So ask yourself, are my actions molding me into the person I aspire to be?”

Mya recalled a recent, powerful speech which was shared by Ms. Foster-Hinds: Chimamanda Adichie’s TedTalk, The Danger of A Single Story.

“In her speech, Mrs. Foster-Hinds encouraged us not to let a single story or perspective adversely affect the way we look at ourselves and our abilities. She explained, ‘A big part of telling your story is looking in the mirror and asking yourself, what am I good at, what am I curious about, and how can I learn more and take risks to try new things?’

Mya encouraged her peers to reflect on how they live their lives, and how easy it is to become comfortable with what is already known.

“But, it’s in the uncharted territories that we find the magic of self-discovery,” Mya said. “When we push ourselves to explore the things we haven’t tried, we become liberated from groupthink; we become unique individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. So, this year I challenge you all to reflect on where you are, reflect on where you’ve been, and then ask, what can I do to get where I want to be? Here’s to a year of stepping into the new with open hearts and eager minds.”

Applause erupted around the room. Convocation’s final speaker, Alumnae Board Vice President Anna Spanfeller ’08 addressed the room, who spoke on behalf of over 3,700 alumnae. Anna discussed her experiences at Nightingale and affinity for this time of year: one that’s filled with new beginnings.

“While the future may hold uncertainty, I know from experience that the Nightingale community will have your back throughout it all. Through the good times and the tough times, your friends, teammates, teachers, advisors, and even the alumnae community will be there to support you and help you figure out what’s next,” she said.

After the Upper School Chorus sang “When I Rise Up,” Mr. Burke addressed the community and shared how he recently stumbled upon research about how brief, warm interactions can significantly affect one's energy and sense of happiness throughout the day.

“As I read about this research, I thought as I often do about the magic that is Nightingale. You see, Nightingale is a school where students can do the hard work of designing a preferred future precisely because of these minute interactions. At Nightingale, kindness and hard work are not in conflict. At Nightingale, joy and achievement are not in competition. At Nightingale, we are good neighbors and courageous designers. At Nightingale, we walk Kindergarteners up on their first day and then jump headfirst into a course of study that will enable us to create a more sustainable and a more loving future. At Nightingale, we know we can do both. At Nightingale, we know we can be both. ”

Just before the room concluded by singing the school song, “For Nightingale,” Mr. Burke said: “Classes 2024 to 2035, please don't ever, ever forget that you are the reason our Board of Trustees, our parents, our alumnae, and our professional community love being at Nightingale. We are here for you, and because of you. This is our year.”