By Maddy Frech, student body president
This year, Rowland Hall welcomed students back to school with a virtual Convocation on Friday, September 4. This year’s speakers focused on the theme Welcome Everyone—one of Rowland Hall’s core values—recognizing the power we all have in building our shared community. For Maddy Frech, 2020–2021 student body president and a Rowland Hall lifer (a student who has attended the school for 12 or more years), the event was a chance to reflect on her time at Rowland Hall and to use that experience to challenge each grade to find ways to build community and make a difference in the world. Her speech—lightly edited here for style and context—appears below.
Traditionally, a welcome can include a high five, a handshake, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek, but unfortunately these friendly gestures are no longer acceptable at the moment. We now have to depend on the sincerity of our words and honesty of our actions to convey our welcome. So, it is with heartfelt and candid excitement that I say, “Welcome, Everyone.” This year is going to be amazing!
Now, you may think, “How can we be sure that this year will be a great one when no one knows exactly what to expect?” But there are a few things that you can be assured of.
Firstly, you are at the very best school in the state of Utah. Our faculty and staff care about you and want you to succeed not only academically, but personally. Our school will adapt to these uncertain and frightening circumstances to provide you with the means to be successful and, more importantly, develop individuals who contribute to and are prepared to change the world. How do I know this? Well, this year will be my 14th year at this school. Since walking through the front doors of the Beginning School and being greeted by classmates who remain my friends to this day, I have known Rowland Hall to be welcoming. I can attest that your senior class is inspirational. They not only are talented but thoughtful. We can use the class of 2021 as a model of community spirit as we rally around the unknown.
A simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall.
So, how can we be welcoming and rise above the uncertainty that feeds our anxieties? Well, let’s start with our Beginning School. I challenge students in 3PreK, 4PreK, and kindergarten to meet new friends. Whether this is in the sandbox, on the playground, or in the classroom, a simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall. My memories of growing pumpkins, making green eggs and ham, constructing Mother’s Day hats, and learning all about the many varieties of apples are cherished, and my partners in those activities are still some of my best friends. Also, I can assure you that the entire senior class is really envious of your allotted naptime!
First graders, congratulations! You are in a different building on campus. You have a bigger playground, which at first may seem overwhelming but will be exciting as you learn to navigate a world that seems bigger. Share those monkey bars and help a friend that skins their knee. Remember that caring friends will last a lifetime.
Second graders, you will start writing your own stories. Try to write stories about friendship and making the world a better place. I wish I had written more of these instead of stories about Justin Bieber and my Bieber fever; I suspect our vice president, Cooper Davis, may have had some similar stories about the Biebs. So, focus on what you can do to be more inclusive. Your stories could teach adults how simple it truly is to be kind. Your parents may keep that story; re-read it to remind yourself who you strive to be.
Third graders, welcome to the upstairs! When you pick your biography project, I challenge you to, rather than picking a sports legend or celebrity, choose a person that actively tried to change the world. I actually chose Mother Teresa, initially not because of her amazing service, but because my teacher, whom I loved, was named Teresa, and my mom could easily convert my Princess Leia costume into a holy shroud. However, through that project, and looking back now, I am happy I chose her because I learned that she was an incredibly happy person by living a life of service.
Fourth graders, be prepared to learn about the great state of Utah! The lyrics “Utah, people working together” will soon be stuck in your parents’ heads. Even though the song is a little—no, really—incredibly annoying, it teaches you that we are a local community and everyone in that community matters and contributes to our great state.
Fifth graders, you are finally the oldest on the McCarthey Campus. When you learn about explorers, challenge yourself to think about what they could have done better. Many social problems exist because they could have explored and settled without harm to humanity. It is important to learn from the mistakes of history so we do not repeat them.
Sixth graders, I am sure you are terrified…I know I was. A new campus, and all the other students look so much older. But make sure you take advantage of the sports and the arts opportunities so that you can meet those older students. You will be surprised just how much community spirit our events can foster.
Seventh graders, you will likely have your first big trip to the Tetons to do amazing science. Even if that does not happen, the brilliant faculty will figure out some way for you to learn about the beauty of nature. Take advantage of the incredible knowledge of our teachers to learn what you can do to preserve our environment.
Eighth graders, similarly we hope that a trip to Washington, DC, happens. In preparation, make sure you learn about the importance of government. Don’t just plan to visit the sites—think about what decisions are made in those buildings. The only way we can have effective change is the next generation of leaders; be that change.
Freshmen, I cannot imagine what you are feeling. Starting high school is scary enough without added uncertainties. But please know that your Student Council is here for you. Specifically, we have a website for you to ask questions and get help.
Sophomores, you made it through a very strange freshman year. Even though you did not get the joy of losing Battle of the Classes, please know that Student Council will try to make that up to you. We will plan more class competitions so that the class of 2023 can come in last place a few times (but perhaps, with enough class spirit, you might pull off a few victories).
May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community.
Juniors, your symposium was canceled last year, but, fortunately, the advertising project can be done mostly virtually. This project will challenge you to think about stereotypes and the importance of positive change. Be prepared to work hard and concretely propose ideas that reduce bias. It is a hard year—power through it!
And finally, my fellow seniors, I challenge you to be leaders. Look to set an example for those younger than yourselves. What do you wish the senior class did for you? Please use the Student Council website to voice your ideas to surmount these challenging times with innovation. Please propose a community gift so we can leave an impactful legacy. The community gift is something I believe will allow us to leave our mark.
In conclusion, please know that I sincerely welcome you back to school with a virtual high five, handshake, hug, and kiss on the cheek. May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community. Winged Lions, I wish you all health, safety, and comradery that can sustain you through the uncertainty. As your president, I promise you an amazing year. Thank you!
Top photo: Maddy, left, arriving on the Lincoln Street Campus on the first day of the 2020–2021 school year.