On September 2, 2020, Winsor ushered in what promises to be an academic year unlike any other, and in keeping with the times, held an Opening Day ceremony marked by unprecedented firsts. With COVID-19 health and safety guidelines making it impossible for the entire school to gather in celebration in the hallways and in the theater, a live broadcast was held under the tent in the courtyard. Socially-distanced seniors were on campus to unveil their 'Road Trip' themed home room, and they donned costumes celebrating the possibilities - and obstacles - on the open road.
Despite the unconventional circumstance, the morning followed the traditional program, with remarks from the head of COLLECT, the senior class president, and Head of School Sarah Pelmas. Senior Small also convened for the first time to sing “Jerusalem,” and the heads of Lower School Council closed the ceremony by ringing Miss Winsor’s bell, a gift from the Class of 1910, to officially signify the start of new year.
View the Opening Day Gallery.
The morning opened with a welcome from Head of School Sarah Pelmas, who set the stage for the progam and provided an overview of the key health and safety protocols observed in the planning. She also welcomed the new faculty, administration and staff joining the Winsor community, some present on campus, and many joining in via the webinar.
Mishael Quraishi ’21, president of COLLECT, was inspiring in her reflections, and laid out a road map for the year ahead. She observed that as a nation battling public health, human rights, racial, and climate change crises, “We’ve seen how these crises intersect and converge and it can often feel like our world is being consumed by hatred and violence. But it is in these times that we as a community must come together, rely on, and trust each other.” Underscoring empathy and tolerance as essential, she implored, “We would be remiss if we did not actively take part in speaking up for what is right, and using our privilege to educate ourselves and others.” And speaking directly about making a difference at Winsor, she said, “It is our responsibility as a student body to make everyone feel safe, comfortable, and welcome here,” adding the “importance of us, as Winsor students and global citizens, leading by example.” In closing, she left her peers with these “action items” for the 2020-2021 school year. “Be mindful of the rules in place to protect us. It is going to be weird to stand six feet away from everyone, I know, but look out for your friends whether it’s here or outside of school. Make it your goal to meet new people and build community over Zoom. In addition, make every effort to be a good ally and supportive friend to those around you - you never know what someone else might be going through.”
Alex Lee ’21, president of the senior class, joyfully welcomed students watching from home and the members of the Class of 2021. Sharing background for the “Road Trip” homeroom theme, chosen by the members of Class VIII back in the spring, she said, “Having been quarantined for weeks at home at the time, adventure and open spaces were just what we needed.” The theme also seemed fitting on a number of levels, she shared, noting how a “sense of humor”, an “independent spirit”, and an appreciation that “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” define and unite the Class of 2021, and are essential for a good road trip, and for facing the challenges ahead. Referencing the pandemic and the current state of political and social unrest in our country, she called upon her peers: “So seniors, on our last stretch of our road trip, it’s up to us to not get our road rage on, but to show what we do best.” And she reminded students, “Whether you’re in the beginning of your Winsor journey or closer to the end, don’t forget to laugh at yourself a little...to not be afraid of driving down a different road, and of course, to appreciate the views as you go.”
Ms. Pelmas, in her 2020-2021 opening address, reflected on Winsor’s rich history as a community with “social justice at its core,” where, from it’s founding, “there was an expectation...that Winsor grads would make a difference.” And she recalled the familiar refrain that Winsor’s progressive founders had a profound understanding that “no one can lead well without being forward-thinking and generous-minded.”
Acknowledging these uncertain times, and the need to face them head-on, Ms. Pelmas also encouraged, “we must, absolutely must, find and celebrate the very best of our world and of each other. We need to paint homerooms, dress in costume, have socially-distanced gatherings, laugh together, and be happy. We must sing and dance. If we don’t, then the forces of darkness will have won, and we cannot let that happen.” Speaking specifically about taking action, and doing what’s right, she added, “don’t ignore the injustices and difficulties you see on your road trip. Fight the injustice. But also enjoy the ride. You must find a way, as Mr. Braxton is always saying, to do both/and thinking. And you should enlist all of us--all your teachers and advisors and family members and coaches and friends--to do it with you.” She closed with gratitude and encouragement for the Class of 2021. “Thank you to the seniors for letting us think about this perfect theme, this moment where we are starting on a metaphorical road trip through covidland and where we need to learn more about ourselves and also see things through other people’s perspective. If you do both those things this year, with an open heart and a loving eye, you will have had a remarkably successful year.” Completing the tradition-filled morning, SASS leaders Caroline Cromwell ’21, Catherine Friendly ’21, and Ellie Pellegrino ’21 led a school cheer; Senior Small members Katie Burstein ’21, Anne Joseph ’21, Kate McCurley ’21, Anjali Palepu ’21, Mishael Quraishi ’21, and Jordyn Young ’21 led the singing of "Jerusalem"; and Lower School Council co-leaders Maddie Cheng ’25 and Katina Handrinos ’25 rang Miss Winsor's bell to signify the official start to the school year.