McCain-Ravenel Center
Leadership & Ethics Program

"We Are Challenged to Lead"

EHS students left campus for spring break on February 29, expecting to return to classes and community life in two weeks. With the Covid-19 outbreak, however, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam closed all public and private schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia through the end of the school year. Episcopal began its distance learning program on March 23.
With the School’s 440 students scattered around the country and the globe, Head Monitor Elijah Gaines ’20 wrote to his fellow students encouraging them to stay strong and stand together.

To My Episcopal Family,
I miss ALL of you terribly — my advisory family, friends, dormmates, classmates, teammates, teachers, coaches, EVERYONE. I miss so many parts of my daily life at EHS. I miss the dorm life, chapel services, community meetings, seated meals, sports, weekend activities, etc. I’ve always felt as though I appreciated EHS, but I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated my time at EHS more than now. I imagine that most if not all of you feel the same way.

Toward the end of February, I felt like I was counting down the hours until spring break, and now I would do anything to return to The Holy Hill. This feeling of sadness and nostalgia is even more palpable for the senior class. I don’t even think I’ve truly comprehended that we won’t return to campus to finish our final months. During this tumultuous time, I wanted to reach out to my favorite community of people and share a couple of thoughts.

Stay connected. Our community prides itself on supporting each other. Find ways to connect with classmates, teammates, dormmates, etc. This will take more effort as we aren’t naturally running into each other in the stairway, sharing a meal in the dining hall, or hanging out in Stewart. Fortunately, we have the type of technology to maintain our strong bond. Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage, etc., put in the effort to keep our Holy Hill connection.

Reach out to not just your best friend, but the person that lives down the hall from you on dorm, or the new student who just made your team or joined your afternoon option prior to spring break. If you’re struggling from a distance academically, emotionally, etc., reach out to someone for help. If I can be there to listen, or if there is anything that I can do, please reach out to me. And I know this community is here for you too. Reach out to us. We are here for you.

Stay positive. I want to be back on campus. I want to see my friends. I want in-person classes. While it is tempting to become consumed with negative emotions about the inconvenient and frustrating changes to our daily lives and this school year, we must recognize that this pandemic is much greater than any one of us. People are dying. People are sick. We must sacrifice for the greater good. This type of unwavering selfless sacrifice is something that my time at Episcopal has taught me. Now more than ever, we are challenged to lead and serve with humility and kindness, and to collaborate with empathy and respect. Let’s embrace this challenging time with optimism. Let’s encourage each other to find the joy in this distance learning and community journey.

I have good days and bad days. It’s hard being away from a campus that I’ve called home for the last four years and a community that I call family. It took a pandemic to keep me away, but I know in my heart that our love and bond is greater than even a pandemic. The Austrian psychologist Viktor E. Frankl once said: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Let’s embrace this challenge and come out on the other end an even stronger, more formidable community. Please stay safe and smart as we all battle this pandemic together. I love and miss you all!
Elijah Gaines