At the end of the 2020 school year, Middle School students were asked what they were most eager to “get back to” as we transitioned out of pandemic protocols and worked to regain a sense of normalcy at CHC. Social events, lockers, in-person assemblies, clubs, lunch with friends, regular athletic seasons, and various other student life programs topped the list. CHC is looking forward to recreating and rebuilding this year, with a focus on student programming that supports and enhances our Core Value of community and our commitment to creating a sense of belonging for each student.
When asked about the connection between student life programming and community for students in Grades 6-8, Middle School Director of Student Life, Mr. Lance Hurdle, commented, “Like every human being on earth, Middle School students have needs. Basic, psychological, and self-fulfilling needs. The goal is to create the right environment where students’ needs are met and supported by the right programs that will help them continue to develop and nurture their inherent abilities.” In the Middle School, the Advisory Program serves as both the foundation and the glue for each student’s academic, social, and emotional success. While formal advisory programming provides intentional education around topics such as academic goal setting, study skills, ethics, resilience, time management, gratitude, and other important soft skills, advisory also provides opportunities for organic interactions during advisory lunches, unstructured play time, and service-learning trips that help to ensure that students feel known and valued by their advisor and one another. “Advisory is where we are intentional about really getting to know the students, their parents, and supporting fellow faculty. As a result it strengthens our school community and the students are able to feel comfortable taking risks, embracing the different challenges that a Middle School student faces, learning new skills, and developing habits that will benefit them throughout their lives,” said Hurdle.
The seeds of self-confidence and belonging are planted in the Lower School years where the student life and community connection is equally as important. During the early childhood years, student life programming often takes the form of group gatherings, celebrations, and recognitions. “One of the most important means of building a sense of community in the Lower School has been through our weekly Friday morning assemblies. It’s the one time in the week when all of the students and faculty in the division share a common experience. Over the course of the school year, we celebrate special accomplishments and learning milestones for each grade level, classroom, and for individual students,” said Mrs. Leesa Hannah, Head of Lower School. Modeling and celebrating character values and traits such as empathy, kindness, and inclusivity help to create a positive school community and a sense of belonging for each student. According to Assistant Lower School Head, Dr. Shamaine Williams, “The success of student life depends on the positivity of the building, they must coexist.” Co-curricular programming, such as the Lower School Global Studies Program, also provides students with the opportunity to celebrate different cultures, gain an appreciation for diversity, and develop a sense of empathy and inclusivity that lays the foundation to a strong community.
The impact of COVID on student life and community building may have been greatest for our Upper School. As Mr. Greg Angilly, Upper School Director of Student Life noted, “Last year was difficult in terms of student life opportunities. In order to maintain our health protocols, we had to limit our physical interactions and we rarely had a chance to truly celebrate and enjoy this awesome community.” Despite the challenges of COVID, our Upper School students remained incredibly resilient and found new ways to recreate student life and build community during the pandemic. “This student body is amazingly creative and talented—if provided the opportunities, they never cease to amaze me in their ability to make a difference—even if that difference is simply making us all smile. I hope to bring back our Upper School Talent Show, Mr. and Miss Cape Henry, Prom, All-School Dance—simple and fun activities that allow us to celebrate our collective love of CHC.”
As we launch the 2021-2022 school year, we remain focused on “getting back” the things we have missed, rebuilding our commitment to community, and rebooting our student life programming across all three divisions under the leadership of Dr. Williams, Mr. Hurdle, and Mr. Angilly. “Creating an environment where students feel a sense of belonging that is supported by student programs that are tailored to the students’ needs will motivate them to become active learners through social and academic participation, and ultimately build a healthy and strong community,” said Hurdle.