By Erika Lorenzana Del Villar, PhD, Middle and High School Faculty
Beginnings are not easy. When we are about to embark on an experience that is replete with unknowns, taking that first step can be disconcerting, unnerving, uncomfortable.
September marked the beginning for all of us at Forest Ridge; and for some–including myself–it was not just the start of a new school year with the same community, but a completely new adventure into an unfamiliar place. The learning curve presented itself as truly steep: mapping out classroom locations in your mind and making sense of building numbers; adjusting to a counterintuitive schedule and struggling to find a routine; learning names, matching them to faces, and learning those names again; battling with combination locks that seem unrelenting even in the face of teary pleas; realizing that you suddenly had to sing the school hymn in French; discovering your “House” and what that means; making sure that you’re where you’re supposed to be at a particular time and place; knowing your code by heart or else risk not being able to print classwork or get some lunch; and simply being fully present and engaged in the midst of competing demands.
I could have turned back as soon as I set foot on Forest Ridge’s 19-acre woodland campus on that sunny September morning, and immediately taken a “personal day” just to breathe and relive the summer. But I decided to show up despite the apprehension of all things unknown. We all did. And I believe we all made that choice to begin because we deeply understand one thing about this Sacred Heart community to which we belong: that ours is a loving family that readily supports us and cheers us on as we take risks, embrace challenges, and seek to achieve more than we ever thought possible.
Throughout the entire first week of school, what I felt around me was the spirit of resilience, integrity, and courage—from the youngest 5th grader to the most veteran of us educators. I noticed old students graciously helping new ones figure out the difference between Days 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the schedule when they themselves were struggling to make sense of it. I saw students and teachers navigate locker combinations together until their fingers were sore. I witnessed teachers comforting students who were overwhelmed, and those same students courageously picking themselves up to rejoin their classes. I observed administrators and staff taking charge of their roles to make sure that classes were held and learning was taking place. I was amazed at student leaders and their mentors as they launched the new House program with confidence, without precedent to back them up. I witnessed the Helpdesk staff take on a great flood of tech issues with unparalleled patience and ready smiles on their faces. I was astonished at how Chef Ron and his team were able to provide sumptuous meals for the whole community without fail and with utmost care. And lastly, I experienced, first-hand, being asked “How are things?” by every person I work with—not merely for small talk but from a sincere desire to make sure that I felt welcome, included, and at home.
At one point during the first week of school, I visited the chapel to say a short prayer, grateful for the opportunity to be still, be present, and be enveloped by God’s goodness. It was then that I realized that beginnings are indeed never easy. But by the same nature, beginnings are full of promise. There is beauty in the unknown. All we need is the understanding and faith that we are not alone as we take that first, scary step; that we are resilient and persevering beings; and that we have the power to make the unknown, known.
Here’s to another school year of promise and possibility at Forest Ridge!
- Forest Ridge Blog