I just returned from our school’s annual retreat with our 8th grade class. This is an exciting and important event for the students, as well as the school, as it serves as both a real and symbolic mile marker as our students begin to write their final chapter of their Davis Academy journeys. For many of the students, they have shared many firsts: the first day in kindergarten, the losing of their first tooth, their first siddurs, and first overnight trips together as a community, and now they are able to look into the not so distant future and see a world of newness and opportunity ahead. While there is undoubtedly a piece of Carpe Diem (seize the day) to the message we are hoping to impart, the objective goes far beyond that. Our goal on this retreat and throughout their 8th grade journey is for them to embrace and exhibit our core value of righteousness.
And thus, I found myself sitting on a dusty basketball pavilion floor engaged in a conversation with a group of eighth graders. The topic? What does righteousness and justice mean to them? How is social action a part of their lives? And, how do they not only hope to, but how do they plan to change the world? There were amazing stories told of activism inspired by family members who fought against cancer, hours spent working with and welcoming refugee families, time spent volunteering and getting to know homeless families at local shelters, hours of volunteering and fundraising to address hunger, and service projects aiming at improving the lives of impoverished children. The stories that were shared in my group, and replicated in other groups across the pavilion, spoke to the students fundamental beliefs that it was their duty to make a contribution to those in their community with the hope of making a positive impact. The fact that this realization was so rooted in the minds and hearts of our middle school students speaks volumes to the character of these children, the parenting and examples they have experienced at home, and the community in which they learn and grow every day.
As we approach the new year, in a year that saw us commemorate 50 years since the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the students offered me a spring of hope, appreciation, and contentment that his noble work continues on.