Convocation: Yes, And...

SEPTEMBER 16, 2022

For the first time since 2019, Nightingale’s Lower School, Middle School, Upper School, and professional community came together in one room to kick off the 2022-2023 school year at Convocation. Held in the Susan Hecht Tofel ’48 Gymnasium, Lower School and Upper School students sat together on the floor while Middle School students sat in the bleachers.

After words of welcome from Head of School Paul A. Burke and senior class Co-Presidents Annique B-A. ’23 and Julia D. ’23, Upper School Chorus sang “Be the Change.” Their voices filled the gym, echoing off the walls:

“Be the change you want to see in the world, and change will come to you. Be the voice you want to hear in the world, and change will come to you. Be the light you want to shine in the world, and change will come to you.”

As Nightingale’s Convocation tradition calls, student leaders from each division are selected to speak. Lower School’s student speaker, Spriha G. ’31, kicked off the student speeches by reflecting on her time in Lower School, before and during the pandemic.

“When we did virtual school, to be honest, I was scared I would never see my friends and teachers ever again. Now, I realize more than ever that we should always be grateful that we are able to come to Nightingale every day,” Spriha shared, standing on a small stool behind the podium. “This year, let’s make the most of being together. Be excited for the things that you know will be great—like Homecoming—but also be excited to try new things.”

Middle School student speaker Sarah B. ’27 also reflected on her time at Nightingale. Entering her ninth year, Sarah recalled her early days at Nightingale: putting on her tunic and white shirt for the first time, posing for the first day of school photo, and how she enjoyed the ease of having so much assistance when she was so young, like having breakfast prepared for her and having help packing her backpack. She also remembered how nervous she was before going to Kindergarten and what the future would hold.

“Now, I long for the days when life was more simple, but also relish the opportunities and challenges that Nightingale has presented to me,” Sarah admitted. “Whether we were learning what five times six is, or pouring time and effort into essays, my teachers have presented a chance for my peers and me to grow as students.”

Sarah shared how she used to struggle with writing, but with the help of her teachers and Wordly Wise, something clicked and she fell in love with it; a challenge overcome.

“Now, as I look at those Wordly Wise exercises in the rearview mirror, I have a whole new set of challenges ahead of me. This year I will have to write long informative and interesting essays, craft a memorial to an important historical figure, and push myself out of my comfort zone,” she said. “Despite the fact that the past seems comforting—and the future may feel scary—every new year presents a chance to grow, and one day, will become the comforting past we look back on with nostalgia. As we begin this new year, let’s all seize the chance to conquer and try new things.”

As the final student speaker, Student Council President Nisa W. ’23 began her speech by acknowledging the past couple years, and the potential of the year ahead.

“As I look around at all of your faces, free from a mask or a Zoom screen, I think about how far we’ve come, and what potential we have for this year. This is a big year for many of you: transitioning into a new division, coming in from another school, making new friends, meeting new teachers, graduating soon, grade trips coming back and more,” Nisa shared. “That said, I want to leave everyone with a rule of thumb that I picked up from my days as an improv kid: the power of Yes, And. It has many uses, of which Nightingale has used to get us through challenging times. For example, when our community wondered if we could have performances, concerts and games anymore, we said Yes, And we won’t let our masks stop us.”

She continued: “As we move into a new season together as a community, I challenge you all to emerge from that place of comfort and use Yes, And to keep changing while you strive for more…when your community turns to you for ideas, support, or even joy, say ‘Yes, And, I am right here when you need me,’” Nisa implored. “How could you know what could have been if you didn’t say Yes, And?”

After an incredible round of applause, the Upper School Chorus sang a perennial favorite: “When I Rise Up.”

Following the song, Alumnae Board President Terri Davis-Merchant ’95 delivered the final remarks of the morning.

“What I know from my experience as a student here is that Nightingale provided me with the skills, confidence, and ability to take on any challenge. That is one of the things that I take with me every day from my Nightingale education—and I hope that you will too,” she said. “I learned from my time at Nightingale that as a woman, and a woman of color, that I can affect change.

Ms. Davis-Merchant shared how the skills she learned and experiences she had while at Nightingale are reflected in her personal and professional life every day, such as during her role as alumnae board president, during her work at Trinity Church Wall Street, and during her work as program director for the Housing and Homelessness initiative.

Similar to Spriha, Sarah, and Nisa, Ms. Davis-Merchant urged students to take chances this school year, big or small.

“Be open to new things like talking to someone you don’t know well, join a team or club that you may not have even considered before,” she advised. “You may surprise yourself.”

To conclude Convocation 2022, Ms. Alexander led the community in the school song, singing “For Nightingale.” For the final time of the day—but the first of many times during the school year—the room filled with Nightingale song.