News Archives

Opening Day Assembly

August 22, 2019

During the opening day assembly on Thursday, August 22, the seniors continued tradition by sitting on the stage facing their families, faculty and fellow students.

Isabella Koster '20 sang the National Anthem.

After welcoming everyone, Mr. Abbott set the tone for the year. He asked us to embrace one idea: That all human beings are beautiful and have the capacity to grow. He was followed at the podium by senior class president, Jackson Miller, and student body president, Lola Fernandez. Jackson told his classmates this is not the time to play it safe ... that it's OK to fail — in fact, it's required. Lola declared this The Year of the Dive and encouraged everyone to get involved wherever/however they want and to support one another in those dives. All of the prepared remarks appear below.

Mr. Abbott concluded the assembly by welcoming all new students: four juniors (including two AFS students), three sophomores, 11 freshmen, one eighth grader and 103 seventh graders.

I want to welcome all of you to the first day of school of the 97th year of John Burroughs School. ....

The first day of school is always a special day. Each year, we begin with goals and we begin with ideals and we begin with a renewed hope for a fresh start.

We start this year as we should start every year ... with one shared belief:

That all human beings are beautiful. That all human beings have the capacity to grow and to improve. And that lets us know that every person in this community is important.

So I ask us all to begin this year acknowledging the intrinsic value of everyone in this room. From the most shy to the most loud, from the most liberal to the most conservative, from the most athletic to the most artistic, from the most driven to the most complacent ... we all matter. Know that about yourself … know that about everyone else we share this space with.

And while we are all beautiful people, we also all have some kind of profound insecurity – how we look, how we dress, our weight, our skin, our family. I would love for this to be an island where that doesn't exist. A place where we support one another so much, a place where we care about one another so much, that those insecurities can melt away, and we can see … truly see each other. With clear and loving eyes.

Some will have a tough time connecting. Allow them to reach out ... or reach out to them.

And in that community of support, my hope for all of you – for all of us – is that we can push ourselves to levels we never believed possible.

Last spring, one of the graduating seniors shared with me that she would love to challenge her classmates with four questions. And I would like to share them with you now:

  • Will you be a passive spectator, waiting for life to happen, or live to be the active hero in your own life?
  • Will you choose the path of ease, paralyzed by complacency and self-satisfaction, or will you challenge yourself, taking the road less traveled?
  • Will you surround yourself with feel-good admirers, or will you choose friends who will challenge you to live more creatively, care more deeply and live more courageously?
  • Will you wilt in the face of challenge, doubt and insecurity, or will you live bravely knowing that everything you value, you hold inside – a weightless treasure you can carry easily?

Hard questions, but they are best answered in a community of people who support one another and believe in one another.

The group of people ready to take us on that journey is right beside me on this stage. I want to give a special welcome to the members of the class of 2020. This class recently traveled to Drey Land together to have fun and to think about the year ahead. It has become a tradition that the senior class sits on stage on the first day of school and again at the senior assembly, their last at Burroughs. And in between those days we are looking forward to their leadership. And speaking of that leadership, I would like to introduce senior class president Jackson Miller.

Good morning, students, parents, faculty, staff, Mr. Abbott and the class of 2020. I’m Jackson Miller and, at a generous 5’10’’, give or take, I am truly honored to be in front of you today to inaugurate the 2019-2020 academic school year.

An idea that Burroughs emphasizes a lot is grit. That courage, that resolve, that relentless, undeniable ambition, grit. The qualities that I see within this school: the people, the teachers, the community, the history. And of course these qualities epitomize the graduating class of 2020.

We’ve unanimously matured in the years we’ve spent here. My first memory, actually, at Burroughs, was the summer before 7th grade. I enrolled in Coach Kinney’s strength and conditioning program at a firm 80-85 pounds with hopes of finally seeing some definition in my triceps. One day, we went outside to work on our strength and conditioning, as it were, and he told us to get with a partner.

Now, I went to Rossman for elementary school and was pretty easily deemed a top-tier runner, at least top five or six in my class. Whatever, so this kid walks up and introduces himself. We run this drill where there is a really long rubber band, and one partner gets in a run while the other one holds it behind him as resistance. So this kid just takes off and I fall, and scuff my knee, and he starts to drag me, and it hurts, and I have bad knees too, so I’m sad, I got back up, though, grit...! Two Band-aids later, I ask this kid, do you run track or something? And I should’ve because, nonchalantly, Brandon Miller goes, “Mmhmmm, yeah, a lil bit, sometimes.” And from that point on, I knew not to underestimate 2020 again. Or at least Brandon.

Fast-forward a couple months, and there was one of the biggest clashes between the John Burroughs administration and the class of 2020. It really boiled down to a question of efficiency, maximizing speed in our four-minute passing periods, I guess. Let me explain. William Hylen and his Heelys versus Mrs. Harris and school policy. Put bluntly, Hylen, you didn’t have a chance, RIP Heelys.

We were soon freshman. And instead of a beef with the principles, we pivoted our disputes to furniture. By that, I’m not exactly saying destruction of John Burroughs property, but I would like to point out the tables in the freshman Commons are now replaced and very sturdy, and that’s thanks to us. Actually let me rephrase, that was not because of us, that was because of Emma Petite, body-slamming the table. Somehow? Our physics teachers are still a little baffled about how it played out.

We’ve also had some malfeasance with our class elections. Ranging from when Loch rapped everyone’s name in his speech, to then Loch’s getting impeached, to this previous election showcasing Angelo’s unprecedented appetite for paper, which was so odd. Why would you eat it, man? But our campaigns have never been dull.

Another hop, skip, and jump to our Senior Drey Land. We had a “friendly” game of poker. I don’t think I need to you give you all the details, but let’s say this: Rafi and Connors, the losers, have a high tolerance for cold, night water, but an ever higher tolerance for some friendly, mild teasing. Hey, props to them, every bit of them.

On a more serious note, though, our senior year will culminate our 6-year odyssey together. State championships, dance shows, pep rallies, Potpourri, just to name a few, those events, those moments are special. Those “wins” are special.

But to come full circle, our defeats, our rejection, our breakdowns, both of my AP physics finals actually, those present other opportunities.

Of course, don’t aim to fail, but if failure is completely out of the question then maybe you are not pushing yourself hard enough. I think John Burroughs thrives off of its safe, comforting environment. It is OK to fail. Let’s fortify ourselves, let’s practice failing, knowing fully well that not only is failure OK, but it is required for success. It’s not the time to play it safe. Now is not the time to linger in your comfort zone.

My granddad used to remind my little brother, Chase, my big sister, Eliza, and me that when you fail, that’s not the moment when you lower the goal, that’s the moment when you increase your effort.

Seniors: For five years, Mr. Abbott has told us to bring our full selves when we walk into this school. To foster discussions with not necessarily a goal of agreement, but a goal of understanding. Guys, we have one more year with this remarkable, nurturing, caring family we’ve built. Have confidence in yourself, embrace others, take risks. Use your failures as a catalyst and take comfort knowing that there is not a single, better place to fail, to learn, and to grow than John Burroughs School.

Thank you very much.

Good morning, everyone. Five years ago today was my class’s first day of seventh grade. I’m sure all the seniors remember it well, not only because we were nervous out our minds, but because halfway through the day, the power went out in the entire school, including the air conditioning, so we had to cram into the gym and stay there for the rest of the day. Sweating away, awkwardly sitting in a sauna of a gym, surrounded by kids we had yet to know is how the class of 2020 started their Burroughs career. Now it’s hard to believe that this is our last first day at Burroughs. It seems like just yesterday we were chanting save the Heelys and watching Penny flip Charlie Lemkemeier in the upstairs Commons.

Nevertheless, on that first day we were all so anxious and excited to come to Burroughs, a school that pushes us to grow in any direction we want, not just academically, but athletically, artistically and most importantly, individually. There are really so many cool things to do here, from sports games to trivia tournaments, from dissecting a frog to sleeping in trees, from baking monkey bread to sculpting a pot from clay you dug up yourself.

When you’re in middle school, you might go to a football game, or stop by a lacrosse game while you’re waiting for your parents to pick you up, or if you’re feeling extra frisky maybe even go to a middle school mixer. Then you get to high school and you start to creep out of your shell a little more – you might even play in one of those big games everyone attends, join a club or two, but you’re still you’re only scratching the surface. You get more involved as an upperclassman but then all of a sudden you blink and you’re a senior and you go to as many games and events as you can because you realize your Burroughs experience won’t last forever. There’s a reason why seniors account for the majority of the fan section. It’s because we’ve come to realize and appreciate what a special place Burroughs is, and we want to make the most of the time we have left.

The upside to this is that you actually do not have to wait till you’re a senior to make the most of your time at Burroughs. It’s in this stream of consciousness that I've dubbed this year “The Year of the Dive.” The year to dive headfirst into everything this school has to offer, to follow your passions and commit yourself to being an active participant rather than a spectator. Students, teachers, coaches, Mr. Abbott – we can all dive in and live this year to its utmost potential. Make every game feel like the MICDS football game. Don’t wait to wear that crazy spirit week outfit, or sing that song at Commons Cafe, or join the SMV club. Do it now. Dive right in to whatever passion or weird interest you have.

This doesn’t just mean attending as many games as possible. For some of that’s not your thing or you already have too much on your plate. That’s OK, I get it. Part of what makes Burroughs so unique is its many diverse interests and talents so this could also mean striking up a conversation with the new kid or hanging out with someone you’ve always wanted to but never got the chance. Take advantage of the cool and unique people you’re surrounded by and all the opportunities presented. Whatever it is, whatever you like to do, do it wholeheartedly and don’t end the year wishing you would have done things differently.

Still, diving head first into anything is inherently scary. We all know that feeling of apprehension before you jump into a pool or a lake. The water can be cold, and you’re not sure what’s under the surface. But still, you build up the courage, trust yourself, and dive right in because you know that in the end it’s totally worth it.

Similarly, it’s hard to put yourself out there and do what you want to do because you’re afraid of what others might think or say or do, but if every single person in this room decides right now that this is the year to give their best selves to the school, to adopt a positive mindset, to support each other instead of judge each other, then we can all work together to make this dive a little less intimidating. Think about how much easier it is to dive into the lake when you’re jumping with a friend or people are already in the water, encouraging you to join them. If we all decide to dive in together, the potential for this year is limitless.

I know my classmates, so I know we’re going to have an amazing fun-filled year right along with the rest of you guys. The class of 2020 is a group of kids who make jump ropes out of Mardi Gras beads left in the Commons, write and produce their own songs, say “Quiet, please,” more than any teacher I know, and have absolutely no mercy in four square. We’ve grown up together, survived our awkward middle school years together, have watched each other grow and evolve and know each other probably a little too well. There is no doubt in my mind that we we’ll amazing seniors. Let’s all dive in together and make this year the best one yet. Thanks, guys.