Remarks of Head Monitor Elijah Gaines ’20
Senior Send-Off celebration, May 30, 2020
As I was preparing these remarks, there was one quote that particularly struck me:
“You never leave a place you love. Part of it you take with you, leaving part of you behind.”
As I’ve pondered these words over the past week, I’ve found myself reflecting on the parts of Episcopal that we will take with us as we embark on our next journey.
While there are so many ways in which I believe Episcopal has made its mark on each of our lives, I’ve focused on a handful of values to underscore today.
We will take with us a steadfast work ethic and selfless commitment to others. Episcopal’s faculty and staff are the quintessential models of these values. Think about the countless hours of extra help and tutorial in the classroom. The coaches driving to and from games in Richmond — and sometimes even farther. The faculty on dorm duty into the wee hours of the night. The dining hall staff, blizzard or sunshine, weekday or weekend, making sure we are fed and taken care of. The middle of the night trips to the Health Center. And just this spring, the genuine desire of the faculty and staff to provide the very best learning experiences, senior externships, May programming, and celebrations like the seniors’ last day of class, and this send-off this morning – all while juggling this tumultuous time period themselves.
These are just a handful of examples of the faculty and staff giving of themselves without reserve. Their mentorship has been exceptional, and their modeling has been contagious. When I sit in Chapel and listen to the sensational musical talent of my peers, walk by Hummel Bowl and see teammates running sprints, listen to the announcements for service opportunities for an upcoming weekend, visit the Writing Center for an appointment, or head to the library on a Sunday afternoon, I recognize that this modeling has inspired an extraordinary work ethic and selflessness in each of us.
We will take with us the philosophy to live with joy and enjoy the journey. It’s a value in terms of wanting to live with that mindset. This type of mindset is celebrated and encouraged at Episcopal. Dorm games, Mass Meetings, Spirit Week, Woodberry, Seminary Hill Cup, Finals, May Day, weekend activities galore. When you randomly stop by to watch a volleyball game or basketball game and observe the students in the stands. That mundane-turned-hilarious night on dorm where a dance party breaks out or video game battle ensues. Or when the Head Monitor attempts a live game of Kahoot at Community Meeting. Living joy, finding joy — during our time here we learned that it’s a skill, a choice, a key ingredient for a balanced life and building strong relationships.
We will take with us the courage to speak our mind and stand up for what is right. During our time at Episcopal, we became more inclusive, more accepting, and more appreciative of each other’s diverse backgrounds and identities. We celebrated the 50th anniversary of integration at the School and acknowledged the need for more work to be done. We started to examine our institutional past, were challenged and educated by guest speakers, and navigated years of political divisiveness together. We listened to our peers bear their souls, fears, and innermost thoughts during Chapel talks that so many times brought us to our feet. We challenged each other when we acted in a disrespectful manner or when we disagreed. That is courage. And we value that as a community.
We will take with us the importance of family and community. I remember seeing these words in Episcopal’s admissions materials and hearing these words during panels on revisit days. They are not just words; they are the way we live here. It is palpable. My advisory calls itself a family. We hug instead of shake hands when offering peace during Chapel and hold hands during the prayer at seated meals. We sign up for fan vans to away games, and sign huge banners to deliver to members of our community when they have lost loved ones or are caring for sick family members. We listen — really listen — when a friend or younger student seeks advice, or needs a shoulder to cry on, no matter the amount of work we might have or sleep we might need for a big competition the next day. We love each other. We support each other.
And that is what we will leave behind. We leave behind a piece of our heart and a commitment to this community. We promise to represent Episcopal honorably outside of these gates and to give back both in time and resources. Mr. Stillwell, many of us in the class of 2020 started with you during your first year as Head of School here. In a way, it seems fitting that this spring we faced the beginning of what will likely be the biggest challenge of your tenure as Head of School, as your student leaders by your side. We commit to supporting you and this community through this challenging time. There are always challenges in life. Most often they are individual or small. This one happens to be global, but perhaps that’s where community means the most, shines the brightest, feels the strongest. We commit as the newest alumni of this community to helping Episcopal rise from this challenge stronger. God Bless the High School.
Class of 2020, let us embrace this next journey courageously, faithfully, and joyfully. “You never leave a place you love. Part of it you take with you, leaving part of you behind.”