Most great works of literature start with a prologue or a preface, a beginning that justifies the pages that follow. It explains the relationship between key characters, places, objects, or ideas, steering the reader’s understanding in the direction of the author’s intentions. Sometimes, it introduces characters, as in Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales; sometimes, it ties all the components together, such as in Walt Whitman’s collection Leaves of Grass; and, sometimes, it explains the moral necessity of the novel, as in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Thus is any beginning: seemingly anecdotal but hardly accidental.
Although obvious, it is worth noting that not one of the ~420 students who has graduated from Ridgeview arrived on that stage without experiencing at least one first day and first year. Every graduate who has walked to “Pomp and Circumstance” has also walked into Ridgeview’s doors with only that first day on their mind. Graduation is no small feat, but neither is that first day.
New Ridgeview students face not only the complexity of navigating new friendships and hallways, but also the difficulty of adjusting to a rigorous curriculum that may seem altogether foreign. To those students, please know that you are not alone or unsupported. As one alumna put it: “Find the people that support you, both friends and faculty, and look for things that excite and interest you in your classes. It won’t take long. The beauty of classical education is that it presents ideas which are inherently worthwhile and interesting, so to get caught up in or be daunted by the apparent grandeur of it misses the point. Let down your guard and allow yourself to be drawn in by it” (Julia McCaffrey Edwards, Class of 2007).
My husband, Josiah Stephens, a 2012 Ridgeview alumni, has similar advice. Josiah forgot his copy of Frankenstein in his locker, which a teacher momentarily teased him for before realizing that he was a new student. His literature teacher offered grace and humor and shortly became his favorite, a teacher with whom Josiah discussed the philosophy of not only Milton and Dickens but also Nietzsche, Aristotle, and Camus. Their shared passion for logic and philosophy grounded Josiah more strongly in his conviction that he belonged at Ridgeview.
This year at Ridgeview’s Open House, I was greeted and welcomed as a new member of Ridgeview’s staff. The generosity and kindness of the Ridgeview community has never ceased to amaze me. However, I did have to laugh as I thought about my first day at Ridgeview as a 3rd grade girl with a short, boyish haircut, when my dad and Mr. Carpine were going over measurements to build backpack hook shelves. I remember Mr. Carpine saying something to the effect of, “You’ve got your work cut out for you, Paul. Good thing you have two strong boys to help you.” My dad, used to such responses, laughed, “Well, this is my daughter and she’s just as strong or stronger than her brother.”
In summary, welcome and congratulations to the new parents and students at Ridgeview. Congratulations for conquering your first of many firsts. Next will come papers, and tests, and many great conversations. The administration, faculty, and staff want to see you succeed and flourish, not just at Ridgeview, but in life. Seek out help, conversations, advice, and grace, and you will find them. Find your passion and those who share it, and you will feel right at home.