This weekend at EHS is about numbers — namely, four performances of the “Seussical” musical; close to 200 paintings, drawings, photographs, and other pieces of student art; a “Roaring ’20s”-themed dance; and one British military expert. And most important: 440 EHS students on campus soaking up all the fun planned.
Welcome to Community Weekend, a new feature in the EHS calendar in which students stay on campus for a special smorgasbord of events and activities aimed to bring friends, classmates, and dormmates together. The School typically eliminates student day and overnight leaves on weekends after breaks and before exams, but this year, as part of its work implementing the 2018 Strategic Plan, it established four additional closed campus weekends for community-building moments featuring activities that are crowd-pleasers.
This weekend’s event-packed schedule includes two traditional anchors of February: the winter musical, with a large cast putting on performances of “Seussical” on Thursday and Friday nights and two shows on Saturday, and the Winter Carnival dance, whose Roaring ’20s theme has had students hunting far and wide for costumes. Other highlights include a faculty-seniors basketball game; a gallery reception for the exhibition of student artwork from the fall semester; and a talk Sunday night by Lois Nicholson, a British Embassy official whose visit will also bring 22 visiting United Kingdom students to campus for dinner.
The first Community Weekend — planned entirely by members of the student Activities Committee, with events unveiled only on Friday as a surprise — was a huge success. Highlights included a Friday night band; a carnival on Hoxton Field that featured a bounce house and mechanical bull; and a food truck serving free snacks along the route to St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes, where varsity football battled to a 24-14 win. “In my six years here, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger crowd at an away football game,” says Lucy Whittle Goldstein ’97, dean of residential life.
Students also came up with their own fun on the spur of the moment, including a three-on-three basketball tournament and games of Ultimate Frisbee. “When we gave them time and space together on campus, students with common interests found each other. It was back to basics,” says Emily Urquhart ’08, director of activities. “There weren’t Ubers involved, and they weren’t relying on tech for food orders and to make connections. They just organically found things in common they wanted to do.”
Urquhart and the Activities Committee try to plan Community Weekends around EHS traditions like Seminary Hill Cup, Ice Ball, and Winter Carnival. Other big hits this year: faculty-student volleyball and basketball games as well as a Pendleton Hall performance by hypnotist Tom Deluca, a college favorite who put more than a dozen students to sleep and then awakened their imaginations and had them singing and dancing on stage.
Naturally, some students grumble about being restricted to campus during Community Weekends. But the fun has won over more than a few skeptics. Missy Brandt ’20, a vice president of the Activities Committee, worried initially that the School was going to impose its own programming but was pleased to find that it wanted students to have a hand in the planning. “In the moment, the togetherness we get from all of us being on campus is pretty special,” she says.