Student Speeches-September 2010

[ September 13, 2010 ]

My name is Dominic A.A. Randolph. I am the Head of School here. I wish you the best for this school year, and I hope that you will make an effort to come and see me in my office or in the Student Center.

I want to talk about three things with you this morning.

One—we are a community. That is special. It means that you have the privilege of attending one of the best schools in NYC and the world. You are an amazing group of people and we are proud of the leadership the Class of 2015/2011 offers us all.

Along with this privilege comes responsibility. We all hope that you will enjoy the classes, the campus, and the opportunities that this school affords you all, but you also have the responsibility to be honest, to respect others, and to try your best to take advantage of all the opportunities available here, in NYC and in the world.

Let me tell you a bit more about this. We take respect and honesty as a given here. That means if you are dishonest or if you disrespect anyone in this community, you risk being disinvited to this school. For example, if you use racist language, or call someone “gay” or physically intimidate anyone, you risk affecting your permanent record and possibly leaving this school. If you are dishonest and we find out that you have handed work that is not your own a teacher, you do not deserve to be at Riverdale. If you put something online that affects the reputation of the school or disrespects another member of this community, you give up your right to be a member of this community.

I am telling this now to you all, since last year we had a number of incidents where this happened, and the students involved in some of these incidents are no longer here. It is not enough to say, at your age, you did not realize this. The consequences of such actions are clear, and you need to think about things as you move through every day at the school. Live your lives thoughtfully in this community. I do not want to harp on the negative at the start of the year since, for the most part, our community is strong because we care about each other and we want to make the most of our time together, but it is also important that we are all clear on what can happen if one makes a serious misstep here.

One area that we have to do a better job immediately is to leave the Student Center in a better state and ensure that we do not leave trash around the campus. I want to see us all make a habit of cleaning up our tables after lunch or picking up trash on the Jones Lawn and the fields. It is essential that we do this since it is a very concrete sign of the health of our community—we need to care about these green spaces we inhabit together, but also about the people who come in to clean this school every day. I hope that you will join me in ensuring that we leave that space and others free of trash and mess at the end of each day.

Two—we are not just about developing your minds, we are also about developing character. This means that it is not enough just to do school here. You need to do the work, but you, not the teachers or your parents, need to make the effort to link your learning to your lives. Therefore, you can learn about poverty and social problems in your classes, but you must equally work to try and solve the blight of poverty and make this world a better place to live in. When you are in Kindergarten, you could make the point that it is your parents sending you to school, that school is being done to you. Now, you no longer have that excuse. You have much more freedom, but you must start using that freedom wisely. Use it to do something of value. We can all complain about our classes, but such complaints are basically boring. We can all think about all that we have to do in order to get good grades or get into the college of our choice. I would like you all to commit to changing that “norm”. What about committing to becoming the most interesting person you can? If you do that, you will be successful because you are actually interesting and you have done interesting things, not just jumped through the hoops that your parents or school has wanted you to do. This will demand that you take risks, that you try out things, that you work hard to connect your learning to your life and that you are more concerned with how you perform than the grade you receive. This is really more about a state of mind that you have than your actual IQ–that you are resilient, that you are curious and that you work hard. Many people confuse sheer IQ with the capacity to use whatever IQ you have. I would like you all to think about growing you intelligence and using it wisely this year. Not easy, but I think completely possible for everyone here.

Three—connect and choose good moments to disconnect. You are probably the most “connected” generation in the history of mankind. You have access to all sorts of great knowledge via the Internet. You also have access to trash. Therefore, use that connection wisely. In other words, I would like you to understand the value and use social networking tools to improve your life and your work. Understand the world you live in by subscribing to news services or blogs. Keep up with the latest trends and news in the arts, politics and fashion, but also choose to read a book, understand history in deep ways and spend time outdoors talking to friends or just communing with nature. Adaptability has marked the human race throughout its history and the people who have been most successful have straddled both tradition and innovation. They keep their feet in the past while poking their heads into the future. I wish you all the possibility of both respecting and admiring the past while also looking to understand and be a part of the future.

Thus–good luck with your work, your friendships, and your fun this year. Remember to understand and be a part of this great community—respect each other, be thoughtful and be honest. Develop your minds and character in good ways and believe in your ability to grow your minds. Take charge of your learning here and make it your own. Finally, sure learn how to use the tools that you have, such as phones, computers, and the Internet wisely to improve yourself, but also be respectful of good discussion, great lectures, and the close reading of a good book. Be adaptive in how you learn from the world around you.

Again. I wish you the best for the year and feel free to come by and have a chat with me if you wish.

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