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A New School Year Begins

Sept. 1, 2022 — You will make mistakes. And that’s OK. 

That was senior Alice Kim’s message to NMH’s 223 new students, who gathered for the first time as a group in Memorial Chapel at the annual matriculation ceremony on Aug. 26. Matriculation — the way the school officially welcomes its new students to the community — was just one of a flurry of activities to help students get ready for the school year. Classes began on Monday.

At the ceremony, Kim shared a few of her own mistakes, from procrastinating on a 10-page history paper until the week it was due to living off “Hi-Chew packs and Sour Patch Kids” the week she refused to leave her “warm and comforting” dorm to walk to the dining hall. A rower, Kim once steered into a log, breaking a piece of the “really, really expensive” boat. “I shed a few tears and thought about running away from the boathouse and never coming back.

“Trust me, you will also make a lot of mistakes,” she said. “But please, don’t worry. There are people here who are willing to go out of their way to support you. Grasp every opportunity NMH has to offer. We’ve got your back.”

Just before sending them off to fan out around campus in smaller groups for orientation activities, Grant Gonzalez, assistant head of school for campus life, reminded new students, “Your education at Northfield Mount Hermon doesn’t just happen in the classroom,” noting the orientation and campus life theme of “NMH 360.”

And then they were off! 

In the Gilder Center, students got acquainted with academics, campus technology, and the workjob program. In the Rhodes Arts Center, they made pencil drawings for a community mosaic that will hang in the Blake Student Center. They tested their skills on an outdoor team-development course, helping each other traverse logs or send tennis balls through interconnected tubes. They improvised on bongo drums, learned how to use primitive tools, and  met the horses and goats on the school farm. Amidst the information sessions and fun, student Resident Leaders, dorm staff, and faculty helped students settle in and get to know all things NMH. 

Hazel Handy ’23, a Resident Leader in MacKinnon dormitory, said, “It’s important to be in a place where you feel you can trust people and people trust you. It’s nice to help the people around you feel comfortable.”

During a break from trying to make a fire using friction, a popular orientation activity, new student Katie Munro, who is from England, said, “I came to NMH because I wanted a place that cares about you — where you have a place in the community.”

New 9th-grader Alan Galym said he was happy to meet another student from his home country of Kazakhstan. “People have been very nice and kind to me, especially the student leaders and the international students,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of Russian-speaking people – to be honest, I expected to be the only one.”

On Sunday evening, orientation culminated with the first all-school meeting of the academic year. Called “NMH On Stage,” it was a medley of presentations about school rules and norms along with entertainment, including a rousing rendition of the school song, “Jerusalem.” 

Classes started the next morning with excitement — and a few jitters — for approximately 650 NMH students. 

“I consider last year to be my learning year, and it’s something everybody goes through,” said Ollie Bolt ’25. “This year, I am looking forward to making new friends, to meeting more people, and being more friendly and outgoing. I’m especially looking forward to world history class, because I'm kind of a World War II fanatic, and I’m excited to get back into the mountain biking team.”

Yesterday, the school held Convocation, the traditional ceremony marking the start of the school year. Students dressed up, and seniors had the spotlight as they were led into Memorial Chapel by Orchestra and Band Concert Director Steven Bathory-Peeler on the bagpipes. 

In his Convocation remarks, Head of School Brian Hargrove said, “This year’s theme of citizenship and service allows us to fully engage with our mission and values as we consider the essential question Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. posed when he said, ‘Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are [we] doing for others?’” 

As is tradition, Convocation included the spade ritual, which stems from a springtime school custom in which the seniors plant a class tree. At Commencement, a member of the graduating class passes to a rising senior the ceremonial spade, a symbol of the value of hard work as well as new growth. The spade recipient delivers an oration at Convocation and brief remarks at Commencement. 

In her Spade Oration yesterday, Sofia David ’23 urged students to keep the school learning theme of “citizenship and service” in mind as they endeavor to “end the year as a better version of ourselves and leave NMH a better place. 

“Be the reason the NMH community continues to come together during difficult times, be the reason you accomplish your goals, and be the reason that someone else accomplishes theirs, too,” David said.

See photos of student arrivals, Matriculation, orientation, and the first day of classes on NMH Flickr.