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Photo: The graduating class of 2021. Photo by Nancie Battaglia

North Country School celebrated our 9th-grade graduation ceremony on Saturday, marking the end of an eventful, challenging, inspiring, unpredictable, and joy-filled academic year. As we say goodbye to our departing students and prepare for summer break, we also reflect back with gratitude for all we were able to accomplish and experience together during this usual year, and for those who supported us along the way.

After a week of special Endersession programming, heartfelt words of appreciation, community recognition events, and a spectacular theater production of Mary Poppins, we watched our oldest students walk across the graduation stage to accept senior books. The handmade senior books are a long-held NCS tradition. This year’s books featured wooden covers unique to each student, beautifully made by NCS faculty members, and contain written memories, drawings, and photographs from friends, teachers, and houseparents.

Each graduating student received their book and diploma, before taking the stage to speak to their peers and loved ones. The speeches were filled with memories of friendship, of challenges met and chances taken, and of gratitude for time spent together. They exemplified the rugged, resourceful, and resilient qualities that define an NCS student, and we couldn’t be prouder of each of our graduates as they leave our campus toward the next stop in their exciting lives.

We congratulate all of our graduating 9th-grade seniors, and wish all of you a safe and healthy summer surrounded by your loved ones. We look forward to returning with more updates from our mountain campus in September 2021.

ENDERSESSION

Top: The fort building group works on their construction. Middle 1: Sean catches a fish. Middle 2: Camp Lilly takes a break after setting up tents. Middle 3: Tyler rides Brownie the horse. Middle 4: Colton rock climbs. Middle 5: Fred works on a watercolor painting. Bottom: Ella sets up the large format camera.

The final week of the academic year gave our students the opportunity to participate in special half-day programming called Endersession, which offers activities that focus on specific interests. This year’s Endersession offerings included Camp Lilly (during which teacher Lilly ran a different camp-themed activity each afternoon), fishing, fort building, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, painting, large-format darkroom photography, furniture making, studying history in film, comedy club, and paper making. We were excited to watch our students deep dive into these different areas of learning, adventuring, and creating to complete large-scale projects together and hone their skills in new areas. 

RECITAL and SPRING PERFORMANCE

Top: Arden performs at the music recital. Middle: Cocona performs at the music recital. Bottom: A 4th-grade band performs at the music recital.

This year’s music recital exemplified our core value of “Art Everyday,” with fifteen different solo acts and group ensembles performing the music they have been working on throughout the Spring Term. The live audience that joined together in the Walter Breeman Performing Arts Center (WallyPAC) was small due to COVID regulations, but everyone in the larger community was invited to live stream the event from home. Whether viewing the lively recital in person or over Zoom, the talent on display was clear. Performances included 9th-grader Arden performing her original song “Oh the Beauty” on violin and vocals; 9th-grader Cocona performing a moving rendition of “If the World was Ending,” by JP Saxe; and one of our 4th-grade bands performing a version of Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” that brought the house down at the end the the show.  

To view a recording of this year’s spring music recital, go here.

Top: Ella, Azalech, Teagan, and Tyler in a scene from Mary Poppins. Middle 1: Dancing with bees in Mary Poppins. Middle 2: Working at the bank in Mary Poppins. Bottom: Teagan, Tyler, Steven, and Arden in a scene from Mary Poppins.

The end-of-year production is the culmination of many long hours of hard work and practice put in by the theater and theater-tech departments. Our teachers have worked alongside students for the past several months to create costumes, memorize lines, build sets, plan stage lighting, and learn music. This past week the majority of the student body participated in three performances of the spring production of Mary Poppins. The show, which was put on for our faculty and staff, day families, and 9th-grade families, was performed with a full pre-recorded score played in real-time with our actors in order to comply with New York state COVID safety guidelines. The sets were spectacular and the acting was hilarious and moving. We couldn’t be prouder of how the show came together despite the additional hurdles involved with putting on a live production this year. Congratulations to our talented cast and crew! 

To view a recording of this year’s production of Mary Poppins, go here.

COMMUNITY RECOGNITION

Top: Students applaud one another at the appreciation Town Meeting. Middle: Colton, Felix, Arden, and Matt receive their pink pitons for climbing. Bottom: Jess’s “Dear Me” video. 

One of our best loved North Country School traditions involves ending the year with a special Town Meeting centered around recognition and appreciation. This past Friday we joined together as a full community under the graduation tent to share our collective appreciation for one another, to recognize some of our students’ achievements, and to reflect back on the year.

Students were recognized for their reading accomplishments through the Title Trek program, while others were awarded their pink pitons for their achievements in rock climbing and gear for completing an on-campus outdoor activity challenge. Afterward, we watched our 9th-graders’ “Dear Me” videos, which offered messages to the younger versions of themselves that first arrived at NCS—whether that be five years ago or seven months ago. The video messages ranged from comedic to poignant, and included lessons about the importance of trying new things; encouragement to connect with and learn from those with different backgrounds; and reminders that the time spent in the barnyard will be looked back upon with fondness once they depart our campus. The reflections were moving, and were good reminders to all of us who are not leaving campus quite yet to remain present in each day we have here in our beautiful home and with one another. 

Top: Ella and Grace with the Jamieson-Roseliep Work Award plaque. Middle: Arden records words of appreciation. Bottom: Liz offers her appreciation to the community. 

The Jamieson-Roseliep Work Award is given each year to students who have volunteered their time to help our community, whether it be by pitching in at the barn, helping to wash dishes in the kitchen, or lending a hand to organize our art spaces. Recipients of the Jamieson-Roseliep award display exemplary kindness and compassion, taking the time to support others without seeking recognition for their actions. This year the Jamieson-Roseliep Work Award was given to 9th-graders Ella and Grace, whose names have been added to the plaque of past award recipients that will hang in the NCS halls for years to come.

We end our appreciation Town Meeting each year by inviting our students, faculty, and staff to offer their thanks to those who have had a positive impact on their NCS experience. Friday’s appreciations were written down as they were offered, and by the end of the morning we had several boards filled with words of thanks, kindness, compassion, and gratitude for one another. It was a powerful moment to end the academic year, and a wonderful way to move into our graduation ceremony on Saturday morning. 

GRADUATION

Top: A graduation flower arrangement. Middle: The graduates take their places.  Bottom: Yves Jean speaks to the graduates. 

On Saturday morning we celebrated our 2020-21 graduation ceremony, gathering together to see our oldest students off toward their next adventures. It was an event filled with joy and appreciation, where our 9th-graders were joined by their visiting families to reflect back on their North Country School experience. This year we also welcomed professional musician and NCS alum Yves Jean (NCS 89) to campus as our commencement speaker to talk about his experience as a student, and to offer thoughtful words of guidance and a few life lessons he has learned since he stood in the same shoes as this year’s graduating class.

Top: Shannon gives Azalech’s advisor speech. Middle 1: Jack gives his graduation speech. Middle 2: Senior books on display. Bottom: Celebrating our graduating class.

Faculty advisors were able to take a moment to honor their 9th-grade advisees, before graduates were welcomed to the podium to share their own moving thoughts, reflections, and words of thanks. Each student was then given a unique senior book, made in our woodshop using local lumber to create the outline of Balanced Rocks and Cascade Mountain. The books hold messages from members of our community to each graduate, and will become lifelong keepsakes of their time at North Country School. 

Though this year looked different from others in many ways, our moving graduation ceremony held the same significance as it always has. We are grateful for the time we’ve been able to spend together, and wish the graduating class of 2021 countless successes and joys. We hope that wherever they go they will be bringing a piece of their NCS experience with them. 

We at North Country School thank you for spending the 2020-21 year with us and wish you all a wonderful summer season. We will return with updates from our mountain campus in September 2021.

North Country School is providing recordings of our end-of-year events for those who were not able to be on campus this year. All events can be viewed here

INTRODUCING ACCESS WILD PLACES

To practice inclusivity, take it outside. Introducing #AccessWildPlaces. This coming week, follow the brainchild of NCS 8th grader Inyene and the NCS Outdoor Leadership Program with this exciting new camp! Access Wild Places aims to bring groups of students to North Country School and Camp Treetops for intentional outdoor experiences and inspirational mentorship among the forests, lakes, mountains, and other wild places in the Adirondacks.

In early June, students from the Hempstead Union Free School in Hempstead, NY, outside New York City, will arrive in Lake Placid for a five-day program of stargazing, kayaking, hiking, climbing, and taking in the splendor of the Adirondacks – an agenda inspired largely by the North Country School philosophy to provide a humanistic and progressive education rooted in inclusivity, self-sufficiency, community and respect for the land. “When I first came to North Country School, I wasn’t that into the outdoors,” Inyene said. “Now that I’ve been able to experience all the things that I have experienced, I want other people to have that experience as well.”

We are thrilled to welcome three amazing guest mentors:
Dr. Thomas EasleyAssistant Dean for Community and Inclusion at Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Lisa Muñoz, Director of Equity and Inclusion at the The Putney School