As my first season of re-enrollment rolls around, I am thinking about the many conversations I have had with this year’s seniors, the only group that is not eligible to return for another year at Shorecrest. I have enjoyed their company over lunch, learned a great deal about the people in their grade, and gained a better understanding of why they love the School and appreciate their Shorecrest experience.
Every Wednesday, I invite a group of five 12th graders to join me for lunch outside of Charger Commons. Looking over the list of seniors, I decided to start from the end of the alphabet and go backwards, to mix it up a bit, (as someone whose last name begins with an “S”). Part of the fun is that Chipotle is on the menu and it is my treat for the students to order their choice of burrito, bowl or anything they want. My weekly salad is always the same: chicken, white rice, no beans, cheese and corn salsa. One time, our order came up a burrito short, so I offered to pass along my salad to the senior who would have been left empty handed and grab a pre-made salad from SAGE for myself. I was a little curious about what this 17-year-old athletic boy would make of my go-to salad instead of his steak burrito, so I was pleased when he announced that it was really good and asked what was in it so he could replicate the order!
We sit three to a table, socially distanced, and the conversation ranges all over the place. I always start with asking how long they have been at Shorecrest. Many are lifers (students at Shorecrest for at least 12 years), and others have been on campus since Lower School. Some have lived in St. Pete all their lives and changed schools to attend. I have met Chargers who moved to this area from all over the United States and indeed from all over the world. It’s been fascinating to hear stories about coming to Florida from California, Massachusetts, London, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and Michigan.
I ask what has changed during their time at Shorecrest, and what hasn’t changed. The first response is always the physical aspect. Throughout their fifteen years on campus, this class has seen enormous change in the buildings, many of which are not even here anymore. I have learned about dog kennels, floods, and lunches in the gym. What hasn’t changed is the spirit of Shorecrest, the sense of community and how strongly these students feel about the relationships they have with their teachers and their peers. One senior told me, “Before COVID, I would always go over to the Lower School and visit my first grade teacher. She was the best.”
Each grade has its own dynamic and chemistry, so I always ask the group of seniors to describe the personality of their class. Many will cite how close they have become, that while there are different friend groups, everyone cares about each other and feels so connected to their classmates. They talk about how the Class of 2021 has gone through so much together, from distance learning last spring, to missing their junior prom and other treasured traditions, yet overcoming these challenges to unite as a senior class. These experiences have bonded them together. They are incredibly proud of their success at Homecoming
“even though we are not the most athletic class.” Overall, they treasure the chance to be together, either via the Flexible Learning Program or in-person and on-campus.
I should add that I have also had the opportunity to talk with seniors who are on the Flexible Learning Program, and learned about their experiences at Shorecrest. I am particularly impressed that despite being on Flex, these students remain very involved in the life of the school: organizing club meetings, talking with teachers, participating in Morning Meeting and sharing in other community gatherings.
When I ask what each senior has gotten out of Shorecrest, the theme is opportunity. Seniors talk about the chance to pursue their passions, to dive deeply into academic subjects that excite them, to be involved in a variety of extracurriculars such as athletics, the arts and so many clubs. Most of all, they appreciate the chance to be leaders. One senior observed that her classmates, more than ever, appreciate the amazing experience that Shorecrest has provided. She feels so well-prepared for college, and while she is looking forward to moving on she is already nostalgic for her days as a Charger.
My relationship with the Class of 2021 is special because they will be the only class that I meet as 12th graders. I did not have the chance to watch them grow up: to see them dropped off in carline, observe them running around on the Lower School playground or growing out of their Middle School uniforms. To me, they will always be Seniors, the leaders of the School. They have imprinted on me what leadership looks like at Shorecrest, and I know they will leave an amazing legacy on this community.
All the best,