Constructing a “Better” Normal Together

Rashad Shabazz ’03

On behalf of the Admissions Office, I want to extend a warm welcome to our new and returning Solebury students and families as we all get ready to kick off this unprecedented school year. As a former boarding student and alum of the school, I believe in and am cognizant of the unique benefits of obtaining an education at Solebury as stated in both its mission statement and statement of philosophy. From the perspective of a former boarder, Solebury has a robust residential program. Living at the school for three years as a student taught me vital life skills such as critical thinking, time management, accountability, respect for all, and self-initiative. Nonetheless, the two most essential things I learned, and that impacted my life most after Solebury, were the strength of diversity and community engagement. I relished the opportunity to reside with, understand, learn from, and get to know other students and faculty members from different countries, cultures, backgrounds, as well as various neighborhoods across the United States. Little did I know at the time how much my boarding experience would inspire and influence my future life decisions. 

Five years ago, my wife and I moved seven thousand miles away from home and embarked on a one-year adventure to teach English to Chinese students at an international boarding school in Beijing, China. This undertaking metamorphosed into a four and a half year journey of a lifetime, filled with precious memories, amazing trips, eye-opening conversations, and friendships for life.

Seven months ago we returned home and I accepted a role in Admissions at Solebury. As a staff member and now a dorm parent, I still see the things I loved here as a student, along with some new things, taking place. However, as a result of my lived experiences, the difference now is that I view them from a different perspective and through a more panoramic lens. This observation brings me to the moment that we are all currently living in. As a society, we are in the midst of two concurrent crises—one is a novel global pandemic that has devastated families and drastically changed our way of life, while the other is a list of long-established societal ills that have plagued countless lives for centuries. 

Einstein is often quoted as saying, “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” I am proud of the steps Solebury has and continues to take to meet the moment and address both of these critical situations within its community. My faith in Solebury’s profound commitment to being “what school should be” and its pledge of respect for all individuals has not wavered. There still are and always will be more issues to tackle, and I am confident we can work through them together to continue to ensure our community connections stay strong and we deliver a world-class education to our students. Together we can construct a new and “better” normal. Welcome back, Solebury!