May is a particularly nostalgic month for me. My father died 48 years ago on May 14th when I was in eighth grade, two weeks before my 14th birthday and three weeks before my grade school graduation. I had already been accepted to Archmere with a scholarship, which was based on my academic performance, but also on our family's financial need. As the fourth of four sons born "later in life" to my parents who were only afforded 8th grade educations, it was a "dream come true" for my parents, and a life-changing event for me.
If you are in a position to do so, you can help us provide scholarships and financial assistance to deserving students, particularly during this time of more acute financial hardships families are experiencing because of the pandemic. Archmere Giving Day is tomorrow, 5/20/20, and we are hoping to raise at least $25,000 to receive a matching gift of $25,000 from an anonymous donor. For every dollar given, it will be matched one-to-one up to $25,000. Gifts can be made online at www.archmereacademy.com/giving-day or by check, dated 5/20/20, and mailed to the Advancement Office at Archmere, 3600 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, DE 19703.
I drove through my old neighborhood last Saturday, and saw my former family home in the process of being completely renovated. Seeing a team of people outside and all of the windows of the house bare, it occurred to me how transient are the places we call "home." I thought in that moment that the only thing that lasts is our relationships with each other. I had just come from the Archmere campus, where I had to retrieve some files, and there was Mr. Carl Campion '76, my high school classmate, watering the flowers, and checking up on things. I thought, "What dedication, what love for a community of which he has been a significant part for over 48 years." He never left, really, working in the summers through college on campus, and then teaching chemistry following his college graduation. He has held many roles on campus, and I am so grateful that he is managing our operations and technology now, especially during these pandemic times. His knowledge of science, of the intricacies of the campus, and his analytical "scientific method" mind give me, and should give us alla sense of peace and confidence as we move through these unusual days.
I am also grateful to Father John Zagarella, O.Praem. and the team of counselors, health professionals, and administrators, who participated in the three virtual parent meetings last week. We discussed timely questions and received wonderful affirmation, support, and offers of assistance from our parents. (These sessions were recorded and are available on MyArchmere using the links, Senior Parent Meeting, Junior Parent Meeting, and Freshman and Sophomore Parent Meeting.) As I mentioned in all of the meetings, we will be collaborating as an administrative team the first week in June to consider plans for Class of 2020 senior events and incoming freshman orientation events this summer and the reopening of school in August. Our plans will be based on Delaware Governor Carney's mandates by that time, and we will engage the voices of students and parents as we anticipate that we may need to design three scenarios for the start of school: on campus, a hybrid of on campus and on-line, or completely on-line. Whatever the situation may be, I am confident that the feelings of community I felt as a 14-year-old 48 years ago, the sense of commitment I feel from our staff, like Mr. Campion and Father Zagarella, and the innovation and talented solutions that our staff, students and parents will contribute will make the 2020-2021 school year a most memorable one.
A few other comments, based on questions from our Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior parent meetings:
Mr. Jordan will be in touch with students regarding times and protocols for coming to campus to clean out lockers, collect artwork, drop off athletic uniforms, etc. Mr. Cirillo and his staff are working on reimbursements or credits for unused transportation and art fees. Dining account credits are automatically reimbursed to seniors over the summer or applied as a credit to students' balances for the following year by SAGE, our dining service. Mr. Walsh is working with us and the State of Delaware to safely complete the driver's education course for those students enrolled. The college counseling session on May 20 will address questions regarding next steps for students in the college selection process.
At one point in one of our evening conversations, I mentioned that we were in a time like the "Great Flood" with Noah and the Ark. I consider Archmere as "the Ark." I really don't want to be thought of as Noah - he was very old, I think. Anyway, I believe that "holding it together" and using the talents, wisdom, and energy of our community, we will be stronger as we come out of this pandemic time. I appreciate the emails from parents sharing with me that they choose to be on the Archmere Ark (only one letter away from "Auk" - interesting!)
As our senior lawn signs say, "We are all in this together;" cliché, I admit, but what better words? With regard to the senior events, I know that we would have just held the prom and after-prom this past weekend, and I am sure it was a disappointment on a beautiful Spring Saturday not to celebrate. However, "Good things come to those who wait," and I look forward to working with our seniors and parents on an equally beautiful celebration in the future.
With regard to interest in a postgraduate year at Archmere, we have received student and parents responses to the survey we conducted. In summary, 53 seniors responded to the survey (approximately 46%) and 14 parents (approximately 11%). Six seniors were interested, and six additional indicated potential interest in the program, while three parents were interested, and four additional parents indicated potential interest in the program. Internships, Advancement Placement course college credit, and cost of the program were considered most important in that order by the students. Available internships, program cost, and service project opportunities were considered most important in that order by parents. Course electives and cohort size are not considered as important. The majority of the students and parents responding indicated little or no interest in the concept; however, the survey data has yet to be discussed by the Academy's administration. Recognizing the timeliness of decisions regarding fall enrollment, I am not confident that we can offer a well-developed programmatic response in short order. However, we are happy to continue conversations with those parents and students who have serious interest in a postgraduate year. These students and families should be in touch with Mr. Jordan or Mrs. Thiel about their continued interest. We will continue to pursue the idea of a more formally developed postgraduate year, as there might be future interest.
Later this week, seniors and their families will be receiving more details about the "Gift Box Pick-Up Parade" starting at 2 PM on May 31. It will be much fun and celebratory of the end of the school year, in anticipation of your graduation ceremonies in late July.
I encourage everyone to join us virtually for a "live stream" Mass on May 31 at 10 AM. After the Mass, we will have a special tribute to long-time varsity soccer coach, Mr. Robert Bussiere and faculty members, Dr. Jenna Christy and Mr. Terry Newitt, who are retiring after wonderful careers at Archmere. We will also say, "Farewell," to Mr. John Jordan '80, Principal, and wish him well as he assumes the position of Headmaster of Saint Edmond's Academy, effective July 1, 2020. We hope to invite them all back to campus to celebrate when we are able.
The last words of the Gospel reading for the Feast of the Ascension which we celebrate in the Diocese of Wilmington on Sunday, May 24, are, "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) This past Sunday, we heard Jesus make the promise, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-21) What powerful words in this time of uncertainty! The Spirit of God, the Advocate, the truth, remains in us and will be with us. How is this not a bunch of words, a placebo of sorts to get us psychologically through a rough time? As Jesus says, "the world cannot accept." I don't have the answer to that question for everyone, because I think it may be different for each of us. But for me, when I think about the trajectory of my life, and the darkest moments I have had to experience beginning with the death of my dad, I never felt abandoned. Much like the Archmere experience at fourteen-years-old, I felt protected, welcomed, and valued. All of us have the capacity, with the help of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to feel protected, welcomed, and valued, so that we, in turn, can be that haven for others.