How Might We Foster Connection Across Campuses? For many years Mount Vernon has had an end-of-year tradition known as the Senior Salute, where on the eve of baccalaureate, graduating seniors dressed in their caps and gowns parade through the Lower Campus to cheers and high fives from younger Mustangs. Starting in August, as a way to build on the Senior Salute tradition, all 107 members of the Class of 2023 began to forge relationships with individual classes in The Lower School.

Each senior was assigned a classroom, either at random or by senior choice. Their next task was to get to know the kids and vice versa. Each Senior had the opportunity to fill out a “Get To Know Me” questionnaire highlighting what clubs they were involved in, what sports they played, their favorite memory in elementary school, and, of course, their favorite snacks. Those answers were shared with the class through their teachers and a similar questionnaire was shared with the seniors to get to know a little more about their class. Some classes created cheat sheets together to highlight what the Seniors put in their questionnaires.

Next, Seniors acted as “Mystery readers”, a common occurrence at the Lower School where parents, administrators, or in this case, a trusted friend brings a book to read to the class. Some seniors brought their favorite books from when they were children while some brought books that highlighted their interests. For example, Senior, Will Jackson read his favorite book from when he was a kid, Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne, to Ms. Richardson and Ms. Tuggle’s Kindergarten class. He also brought his guitar to explain his interest in playing music to the class. Kindergartener, Dash C, requested the Star Wars theme song and after quickly researching the cords, Will strummed the song to the crowd of delighted students.

Most Seniors donated their chosen book to The Inquiry Zone, Lower School’s library. There was even a special surprise from Cult Club parents like Steve and Shelly Ray to help their Senior student, Aiden Ray, read to his class. Since students in the Colt Club are by definition Seniors who have attended Mount Vernon beginning in Kindergarten, Mr. and Mrs. Ray could remember when their son was in that exact classroom not so long ago.

Aidan Ray enjoyed the experience of going to read to Ms. Edwards’ Grade 2 class. “It was really special to me since Mrs. Edwards was my teacher back in Grade 1. I read Horton Hears A Who which I donated. It was my favorite book as a kid and now that I’m older, it’s fun because I played the role of Horton in the Dr. Suess play back in Grade 7. It was a really touching experience to interact with the future of Mount Vernon and remember back to when I was sitting where they were.”

Emmy L in Ms. Thomas’ Grade 4 class enjoyed having older kids come to her classroom. Her favorite Senior is Hope Holloway. “Hope is really nice. The first time we met her, she was wearing disco pants that jingled.” She donated one of her favorite books called Extra Yarn by Mac Burnett and Jon Klassen in which a girl transforms her community with a box of colorful yarn. Colin S in Ms. Rowe’s Grade 4 class connected most with one of their seniors, Weber Whelan. “I could see myself being him one day. I have gone to Mount Vernon ever since I could remember and I’m sure I’ll be here until I’m in Grade 12.”

Bridges are constantly being built between Mount Vernon’s Seniors and Lower Schoolers. But why stop with classroom connections? “Our hope is for each class to find a moment of connection to the Seniors outside of the walls of the school, coordinated by the room parent or a classroom parent. For example, a room parent could plan a class outing to go see a basketball game or arts performance the Senior is in. Or, perhaps a Senior enjoys fishing and is willing to have a few Lower School students learn from them.” Jacki Fink, Mount Vernon Parent Network (MVPN) Connections Committee President and parents of Brooklyn F, Class of 2034 explains.

Additional moments of connection are planned for the remainder of the year leading up to the seniors walking through the Lower School with their caps and gowns during graduation week.

  • On October 31, Seniors will accompany Lower School students as they parade in their Halloween costumes through Upper Campus where they have a special trick-or-treat activity planned.
  • Seniors will participate in “Senior Carpool Takeovers” where they greet students in the Lower School as they are dropped off in the mornings.
  • In December, the Seniors will assist their classrooms in a Design Thinking Ornament Challenge for students to bring home to their families.
  • In January, classes will hold a special 100th Day of School Celebration that their Seniors will attend.
  • In February, seniors plan to decorate Lower School walkways with chalk creations while Lower School does the same for Upper Campus.