School traditions are ingrained in every part of our culture and set the tone for what makes the Solebury community unique. Gathering under the Graduation Oak tree is one of those traditions. We end the school year together under the Graduation Oak to send off our graduating seniors and close our campus for the season. It is only befitting to gather under the Oak for Convocation at the start of the year to reflect upon the academic year ahead. This year’s Convocation marked the start of 97th academic year at Solebury and was a moment for students, faculty, and staff to rededicate themselves to the school’s core mission and values. For some, it is a new experience as they are inducted as the newest Soleburians. For others, it is a time to reconnect with friends and faculty.
Convocation is about inclusion and representation of students, staff, and faculty, highlighting different cultures within our community. During the ceremony, four members of the Class of 2024 gave a warm welcome and presented the school's crest, describing the fundamental values represented in each symbol (acorn and oak leaf, the plow, the beaver, and the owl).
Head of School Tom Wilschutz presided over the ceremony. The crowd quieted and took their places as he began to speak. “This is Solebury. You are Solebury—the largest, most diverse group of students in our history. I hope you are as proud of the community we are,” said Tom. “I hope you’re committed to helping us make this community the best it can be, holding fast to the bedrock values that serve as our guiding lights.”
One faculty member is chosen to give the main address. Juliet Harkanson (Bridge Teacher, dorm parent, and Field Hockey Coach), shared words of embracing our differences and appreciating the uniqueness of each individual. “Solebury School is composed of student-athletes, thespians, artists, musicians, video-gamers, bakers, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, multilingual people, just to name a few,'' shared Juliet as she reflected on her five years at Solebury. “I challenge you to love yourself exactly where you are and show your teachers, peers, and friends the same acceptance. And I promise, you will witness the spark of Solebury School.”
The Procession of Flags
Solebury is fortunate to have people from all over the world as part of its DNA. We choose to celebrate these cultures with an international flag procession during Convocation. Ryan Conde ’19, Social Media and Communications Coordinator recalled his experience as a student, "I was a new student when they called me into the barn to hold the Puerto Rican flag. Nervous, excited, and proud, I walked down the path with Mateo (Holmes ’19) on my shoulders, sharing my culture with the community and solidifying my new home.” This year's student population hails from 13 different countries, but the parade included students proudly carrying flags from 28 countries representing their cultural backgrounds. Maya Danner, Director of DEI, called each student to bring their flag forward in celebration of our community's culture.
Fostering Community and Rivalry: Induction into Solebury’s Houses
After we reaffirmed our commitment to the community and presented our cultural backgrounds, our newest members were inducted into their houses, where they become lifelong members. Each house of the four houses is named after a founder: Holmquist House, Erskine House, Lathrop House, and Washburn House. Our houses compete for points throughout the year by participating in activities, supporting local causes (food drives, donations, etc.), showing good citizenship, and other acts to support our community. The house with the highest points earned at the end of the year gets bragging rights. New members stand as their names are called aloud in anticipation of learning which house they can now call home. Everyone cheers for their new members. This part of the ceremony brings out the rivalry among the houses and anticipation of Community Day activities at the close of Convocation. Learning and living at Solebury extends beyond the classroom into the residential houses, making it a vibrant student life experience.
A Ringing Tradition: Solebury's Bell
Each year as Convocation comes to a close, new students, faculty, and staff would sound a gong to signify their entrance into the Solebury School community. This year, the gong was replaced with the Carriage House bell, which for generations signaled the start of meals. “About 10 years ago the bell was removed from the Carriage House roof for renovations,” shared Holly Victor ’89 P’23 ’25, Director of Alumni Engagement, “and we are thrilled that it has reappeared as part of Convocation. The bell has special meaning for our community.”
Celebration and Competition on Community Day
Community Day activities occurred in the afternoon and represented the official kick-off for house competitions. House members participated in games and activities, all culminating with the final event of the day—the rope-burning competition. Each house works together to build a fire structure high enough to burn through a rope. Students use wood, paper, and anything they can find to be the first house to successfully burn through the rope and win. They chanted and cheered as Scott Eckstein P'22 ‘25 announced which team was leading. "This activity demands cooperation to succeed and be first to burn the twine. It's also fun for most people because it's fun to participate in, and it creates a visual spectacle," shared Steve Buteux P’27, Associate Head of School.
Following the rope-burning competition, everyone gathered on the library's lawn along Founders Walk to hear which house had the highest calculated scores based on all activities. Holmquist House (reigning champions) won, having the highest cumulative points for the day. Go Holmquist House!
Convocation and Community Day are phenomenal Solebury School traditions and participants remember it for years to come. It is a great way to further unite the community and kickstart the beginning of a remarkable new year.
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