V Formers Reflect on St. Andrew's Core Values
V Formers Reflect on St. Andrew's Core Values
Liz Torrey

At the outset of the school year, Dean of Leadership Ana Ramirez and Head of School Tad Roach asked V Form students to consider the School's core values of grace, kindness, inclusion, and respect, and to put down in writing how and why they will remain committed to these values throughout their junior year at St. Andrew's. A sampling of the students' reflections are below.

Miles Abney '19
I have chosen to approach this assignment by giving you examples of how I believe I have practiced many of the core values of St. Andrew's during my first summer away from the school. Throughout my first year at SAS, the culture centered around the Honor Code amazed me as I watched how my peers acted in response to the guidelines and expectations in a very respectful and accountable manner. This "honor culture" is very unique and different compared to the schools I have attended in the past. I remain in awe that committees such as the Disciplinary Committee and the Honor Committee exist where students truly keep other students accountable for their actions, which helps keep the important values of the School in place in order to foster the unique culture of the campus. .

Towards the end of my summer, I attended a co-ed, multi-activity summer camp, which I have attended for nine years. It has been a highlight of my life for many years and, prior to this year, I believed that its values were similar to St. Andrew's. This year I was shocked by how many of my childhood friends abused and disrespected the standards we had followed for so many years by bringing and using illegal substances in our cabin. Due to my experience with the Honor Code system at St. Andrews, I brought it to the attention of the counselors and eventually some of my friends found out I told. Due to this, I quickly became labeled as a snitch, was isolated by the majority of the cabin, and received little support from the staff. During the rest of the term, I felt as if I was being punished, instead of my peers who broke the rules, for doing what I believe was the right thing to do. While my decision may have not been popular among my peers, I feel that I did what any St. Andrean would have done and continued to treat my friends with grace and kindness even though it was not reciprocated. That being said, the whole experience was very difficult for me and bruised my confidence. Upon reflection, I have learned a lot about myself, my beliefs, and how to handle my beliefs and others' with grace.

Throughout my summer I learned a lot about myself and what I believe, which I look forward to bringing back to St. Andrew's. I am committed to helping strengthen the culture of the School through my actions of inclusivity, kindness, and respect. I am also committed to learning more about and better understanding beliefs belonging to my peers and faculty members that may be different from mine, while also having the confidence to bring my opinions and beliefs to the table.

Molly Ayres '20
I will try to help make our public spaces healthy and welcoming for everyone at St. Andrew's. Whether it means picking up some dishes that were left out or inviting someone to come play four square, I think that our public spaces are very important and it is necessary that people understand how to take care of them and enjoy them.

Logan Cameron '20
Growing up with my dad and my sister both coming to St. Andrew's, I felt like I knew this School inside and out. However, coming here as a student and realizing how much work it takes uphold our morals is something I could never have anticipated. When I was moving in last year, my dad told me that you can get as much or as little out of St. Andrew's as you put in, but now after being here for a year, I can truly see that. When I started last year I was quiet (in some ways) and really tried to just get through the day. It was two weeks into the year and the only thing that I was really involved in was soccer. Then, when an email came out announcing that the Noxontones needed another beatboxer, I remembered what my dad said, and jumped right on the opportunity. It was one of the best decisions of my life. By branching out and finding more things that we can do around campus, we strengthen the commitment and trust we have in the community, and this helps us to succeed in all fields. Whether it be academics, in the arts, or on the field, we all can learn to trust the community. Realizing this was what made me want to uphold my commitment to integrity, success, and the morals that we hold as one.

Karin Dahr '20
In my opinion, my greatest commitment to the School would be in the areas of kindness and inclusion. I say this because I know how lucky I am to be in a place where everybody can make friends who care about and support one another. I realized the extent of these values on Move-In Day my freshman year. After my parents had left, a group of about five seniors came into my room and introduced themselves and were really approachable and kind towards me. I previously went to a school where the freshmen were avoided and disrespected, rather than respected. The seniors made me feel comfortable and welcomed into their lives and St. Andrean life. My hope and goal is that I can provide this same sense of kindness, openness, and inclusiveness to any future students, just as the seniors that came into my room on my first day demonstrated these values to me.

Lucy Dai '20
Moving up to junior year, I realize how much responsibility I suddenly have on to my shoulders. Being a junior, I understand that I have to care for the underclassmen and make sure to lead them properly. I also understand that I have to respect every part of the School, the people, and the place. I understand that people in this community come from different parts of the world, and also, as a Chinese student, I am a part of the international community. As a result, I keep my culture within me while respecting the various cultures of other students. I see myself as a part of the team and see myself included in the school's activities and issues. I will be sure to welcome visitors, teachers, students, and parents with the kind, graceful smile and show empathy when they need help. I will also be sure to learn to forgive and be selfless. Being an Andrean is not just for the interests of myself but for the community: saving energy, helping to clean up, picking up trash on the grass. These are my commitments to be a better member of this school.

Lamar Duncan '20
To be completely honest, this is still unbelievable. I'm officially an upperclassman! It feels just like yesterday when I was a freshman looking up to Colin Cool '17 and Malik Velmar '17. Now I feel as though it is my time to give back, not only on the court and field but in the hallways and on the dorms. As I freshman, I didn't always feel like I belonged, but with the support of others, St. Andrew's officially became home to me. It is now my duty to make every student feel included and at home.

Being a point guard in basketball, my job is to be the leader on the court, both vocally and through my body language. Wanting to be a role model for all the new younger players, I must spread all positive vibes and energy 24/7. I must show good sportsmanship at all times and let players make mistakes because mistakes allow each player to grow into a better overall player.

In the classroom, respect is key. St. Andrew's is so diverse and different from any other place I've ever been, which makes it so special. With it being so diverse, I must adjust and explore many different perspectives, even those I may disagree with or that I may never have thought about. I must be compassionate, honor each person's views, and allow them to fully express themselves. Since I can't officially be a Residential Leader this year, I will try my best to make sure everyone is treated fairly and with respect on the dorms. This goal encompasses with personal belongings and dorm jobs. Everyone understands and respects the core values here at School and with my newfound leadership, I hope to help enforce these ideals and standards by simply being there whenever I am needed.

Andy Dupree '20
Not to preach to the choir, but St. Andrew's is a special place. It's not the grounds, the air, or the pond, which day after day are the site of amazing things. It's not the people either; as much as I love my peers and teachers, not one of them is the source of this mystical energy. After all, seniors graduate and faculty retire, yet the spirit of the place lives on. No, the secret ingredient to St. Andrew's success is its unified community, which is built upon mutual trust. This trust quietly underpins all of our lives at school: we don't have locks on our doors because of it, we can try new things because of it, and most importantly we're comfortable being ourselves because of it. Any violation of that is a direct attack on the foundation of our community. The network between us is only as strong as we are good, and that is why I am committed to grace, kindness, inclusion, and respect.

Josie Friedli '20
This year, in order to strengthen the School's core values of grace, kindness, inclusion, and respect, I hope to continue to serve my class and the greater community as a Form representative on the Disciplinary Committee. On the committee I have discovered and more fully understood the significance behind the School's core values and can really see how each rule holds the best interests of my classmates at hand. If I can continue to serve, I would hope to serve as a good role model and spread my awareness and understanding of the rules to others.

Whether I learn something from the committee or from the community, respect is something I really value. For example, this year on dorm, I will respect my classmates' feelings as well as their property. This will help instill a closer relationship and comfort between all of us. For this to happen, it is important that we make a promise to each other, act upon that promise, and that we listen to the wishes of everyone in order to understand each others' needs.

Lastly, I want to make it goal to help when I see something wrong: a mess in the Dining Hall, or a messy kitchen on dorm, or a job on dorm not done. Although I may not have made the mess, it is still the right thing to do to help clean it up. Somebody who sees me cleaning up a mess could be motivated to jump in and help and do the same next time, and if I see someone leaving a mess behind I will hold them accountable.

Isabel Hwang '20
I still remember my freshman self coming into high school expecting a clear divide between the "jocks," the "nerds," and other social groups. However, St. Andrew's debunked this misconception in the best way possible, and I have considered the School as my second home since. SAS harbors an inclusive community. While college students might experience "homesickness," I frequently experience "school sickness" during long breaks.

I believe that what makes this School so special is how genuine people are. Even beyond the classroom, I can feel the love of SAS. When I land at the Philadelphia Airport eager to return to school, Mr. O'Mara or Mrs. Wright pick me up with bright smiles even after they've been driving for hours. When I go into the servery for a teaspoon of this or a tablespoon of that, Mr. Miguel always asks about my day and be genuinely curious. When I suffered from a long concussion last year, Ms. Rickolt and the entire Health Center staff cared for me, rooting for a fast recovery.

I want to help encourage this kind of nurturing community throughout my junior and senior years. I'm committed to the school that accepts me for who I am and I can't wait for the square dance that marks a new school year.

Alex Maruszewski '20
The reason why I chose to attend St. Andrew's in the first place is because of how firm of a believer I am in the values of grace, kindness, inclusion, and respect. This year, I am committed to not only being a positive member of the SAS Community, but also having a positive influence on my peers. I feel that it is my duty not only to abide by these values but to also make sure that others are as well. If I see one of my peers being excluded from an activity or being disrespected, I can promise you that I will not become a bystander and blend into the crowd. I am not afraid to call out someone who is being unkind. Every year, I want to become a better version of myself. This includes being completely committed to strengthening the School's core values

Spencer McKenzie '20
I am so grateful to be a part of such a great community with so many talented, intelligent, and thoughtful people. My goal for this upcoming year is to really immerse myself in the community that we live in, because sometimes I feel like I am holding myself back from further developing the role that I play in our community. During my sophomore year, around the middle of winter, I think that I became satisfied with the friends that I had made, the student-teacher relationships that I had developed, and the overall person I had become. Suddenly my life at St. Andrew's became routine. Every day was the same: I saw the same teachers, sat with the same people at meals, and spent way too much time in the ceramics studio. Looking back, this is what made sophomore year so much more comfortable than my freshman year, and noticing how comfortable I was with the life that I had is what made me realize how much I was dissatisfied with it. So my commitment for this upcoming school year that will strengthen the core values of St. Andrew's is to continue to push my limits and stray away from my comfort zone on a regular basis. In doing so I hope to build new relationships with people that I have yet to get to know and continue my development as a supporting member of the St. Andrew's community.

Emily Paton '20
I will carry myself with respect. I will demonstrate self care and balance. I will embody a lively, positive spirit, I will work extra-hard to think of others, and I promise to be an empathetic St. Andrean. I will be a friend, and ally, and an open person to talk to. I will double my efforts to get to know those I don't already know as well, strengthening and developing both new and old relationships. I will engage with new students, and share the feeling of what it's like to have St. Andrews as a true home. And I promise, that in this upcoming junior year, I will now more than ever embrace, encourage, and embody the role and spirit of a St. Andrean, and I commit myself to this community full-heartedly. Because St. Andrew's is my happy place, and I want to spread the joy with everyone possible.

Dante Soriano '20
I understand that I am now an upperclassmen, and my actions will influence the younger classes. My behavior has to reflect the leadership position I now have. When I was a freshman and sophomore, many of the upperclassmen helped me adjust to different forms of life at St. Andrew's and provided me with insights and advice that has helped me throughout my high school career. Shridhar [Singhania '18] was one such person who encouraged me to be the best I could. During our Andrean Ensemble trip to Bermuda, he helped me cope with many of the crossroads in my life and was a great leader as well as a friend. As an upperclassman, he did not have to show me the respect that he did; many other high school seniors do not treat the underclassmen with such grace.

These past few weeks, I have been thinking about my place at St. Andrew's. How can I rise as a V Form leader? How can I impart the lessons I have learned in my first two years here to the underclassmen? What can I do to influence those in my dorm, in the classroom, in my Form, and finally the entire St. Andrew's community? Although I really do not know the answers to these questions, I know that if I continue to include, respect, and show kindness to all, then the rest will fall into place.

Beck Sturmfels '20
In the middle of the summer, during the third session at Camp Arrowhead, I was placed in unit P7 with the oldest boys in the camp. For two weeks, I was going to be the role model of kids who were only two to three years younger than me, and in the beginning of the session, I felt as if the kids didn't respect me due to my age. They would directly disobey my instructions and disrespect each other and the core values of the camp. I knew I had to do something that would change the dynamic of the group and create a more positive environment within the unit.

So during the mandatory quiet time of the day, I asked each of them to come out of their cabins and sit around the picnic table in the middle of the campsite. I knew that in order to get them to understand the values that they had been disregarding, I would need to be very personal. I would need to get them to connect with each other in a way that made them feel more as a unit rather than a couple cliques of friends living with each other. I started my little speech with my observations of the past couple of days—how I had noticed them putting each other down in ways that incited anger in the group, and how that anger created tension within the unit. I decided that in order to stress the importance of teamwork and responsibility, I would need to take them to my first couple weeks as a freshman at St. Andrew's. I told them about the brotherhood between all of the boys in my grade and how special that bond was during the beginning of the school year. I needed them to understand that they were a part of something bigger than themselves and that the way they were acting was jeopardizing the bond they all shared. I told them that whether they realized it or not, they were going to need to become this sort of brotherhood that I have at St. Andrew's because their actions were affecting each other in huge ways. As I was telling them about this vision that I had for them, I found myself thinking about the School and how much love I have for it and its message. After teaching them about the importance of the values that both Camp Arrowhead and St. Andrew's share, the rest of the session went by smoothly and I really began to see them bond with each other. As the last night came around, they were even drawn to tears at the thought of leaving each other the next morning. This is what it's all about, I thought to myself as the kids were hugging each other during the final eucharist of the session and tearing up as the whole camp sang "Lean On Me", by Bill Withers, as a parting song.

The very last thing we did as a unit was our "reflections," where we gather in a circle around a candle and reflect on our day, but on the last night of camp, we had a special topic. I asked the kids to think of one thing that they would take from their camp experience and bring into the world. As they went around the circle and shared, I heard them repeat the same values that I had been trying to teach them throughout the two weeks. I thought that I had been doing a bad job setting an example for them, but they were actually consciously thinking of the brotherhood they had all formed and how crucial respect, kindness, and inclusion is to strengthening the bonds that they all now shared.

Thinking on my commitment to the school, I realize how precious all of these things are and how each one of us has to work hard to maintain the teachings that are presented by St. Andrew's. It is not just a couple of individuals putting in the effort, but rather a team effort—one just like the boys in that unit learned to they had to give in order to succeed. That is why I am committing myself to uphold the values of grace, kindness, inclusion, and respect at St. Andrew's this year and for many years to come even as I graduate and move on in the world.

Adrian Watts '20
My St. Andrew's experience leading up to this point, my junior year, has been one of a significant amount of growth. Coming in as a freshman, I was very pessimistic about how my experience here would go, as I wasn't very thrilled to be going to a boarding school. I didn't think there was any way I would fit into what I thought would be a stereotypical private school. I thought that since my background might not be the same as others, I might be treated differently than others. My first two weeks at St. Andrew's changed my perspective greatly. The significance of the first two weeks is that they showed me that the kindness, acceptance, and inclusion that I was surrounded by was not a hoax, but was genuine. After the first week of school I was aware of the unique sense of community that exists here at St. Andrew's, but I still thought that it couldn't be possible for that sense of community to actually be present at all times. After the second week of my freshman year, I began to notice that these seemingly ongoing acts of kindness weren't a hoax, but that St. Andrew's as a school and community is natural in behaving this way. This special sense of morality radiates among everyone here. The morals instilled in this community have been instilled in me as well. I feel that because of all of the kindness people have shown me here, being an older student now, it is very important that I do my best to convey those same acts of kindness, inclusion, and respect to everyone around me.