Aug. 30, 2021 — They’re back! The NMH campus is buzzing again. Classes started today for 668 NMH students, after a flurry of activities over several days that included Matriculation, orientation for new students, and other events that Dean of Students Angelita Castañon called “mandatory fun” — songs around a campfire, outdoor games, an outing to a bowling alley, and down time for socializing or hanging out in the many blue Adirondack chairs clustered around campus.
Last week, students — and their families — began arriving at NMH in waves. First came the student leaders, followed by students who are new to the school. Student leaders at NMH play a big role in the opening days of school by helping students — especially new students — move in, unpack and settle into their dorms, get acquainted with campus, socialize with other students, and begin to navigate life at NMH.
“Even though new students can be a little nervous at first, they all seem really excited to be here and for all of us to be together on campus,” said Jack ’22, a student leader, during orientation for 9th and 10th graders.
This year, some returning NMH students are getting reacquainted with campus life. According to Grant Gonzalez, assistant dean of faculty, 44 students who remained in the remote NMH Lab Program during the entire 2020–21 school year are back on campus this fall for the first time since March 2020. The lab program was NMH’s remote-learning program created for students unable to travel to campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For some students, even for some returning students, they’re meeting some of their friends for the first time in real life,” Otto ’21, a student leader, said.
During orientation, new students tested their skills on a team development course — helping each other traverse logs and working together to fill water buckets by communicating, cooperating, and supporting each other. They also played disc golf and volleyball, and tried their hand at making fire using friction, among other activities.
Faculty member Tim Relyea, who led the team development course, asked students to gather into a large circle. “Look at the people to your left and right. Some of them will become your lifelong friends,” he said. “We’re all here to support each other. Lean on your Resident Leaders. Lean on your teachers, and lean on your classmates. Lean on your community here.”
With support from student leaders, faculty, and staff, Zack, a new 9th grader, had a positive report of his first few days on campus, saying, “It was much easier to socialize and get to know people than I expected.”
After orientation on Saturday afternoon, it was time for the annual matriculation ceremony, when each new student is officially welcomed into the NMH community and adds their signature to “the book.” NMH Archivist Peter Weis explained that the book is actually many volumes of books that NMH students have been signing since 1897. “The sheets of paper you are about to sign will one day be bound to form the 10th volume in the series,” Weis told students.
The 230 new students — who hail from 27 states and 23 countries — include a student who created a video blog to share her interviews with other teenagers around the world about their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another student collaborated in a maker community to design, create prototypes, and test robotic hands for amputees. They have received awards for writing, published their poetry, and volunteered for organizations and campaigns focused on LGBTQIA+ rights, Black Lives Matter, the opioid epidemic, and mental health. They are athletes in soccer, skiing, ice hockey, basketball, volleyball, swimming, field hockey, lacrosse, track and field, and wrestling. They are artists, dancers, scientists, and photographers. They are musicians who play the cello, violin, guitars, piano, drums, bass, trumpet, and keyboards, and one student marched in a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
At Matriculation, Head of School Brian Hargrove asked the students to take in the 360-degree view of campus visible from where they sat on Miller Brothers Field. He pointed out Memorial Chapel on the hill above, the many academic buildings in the heart campus, including the new Gilder Center that is close to completion, the gym with its new fitness center, and the hills and river in the distance.
“You’re part of something very special here,” Hargrove said. “Your signature today really does mean something. We have a responsibility to each other. We are in this together, to learn and to grow. You get to be who you are here, and together, as a community, we can make an enormous difference in the world.”
See photos of the opening days of the school year: