Stronger Together: One Year Later

“All we need, all we need is hope

And for that we have each other

And for that we have other

And we will rise

We will rise

We’ll rise

We’ll rise”

Rise Up – Andra Day

Every Friday morning at 10:30 am, APH students and staff click on the Zoom icon. “Gooooood Morning APH!,” welcomes the voice of Mr. Dean Tsouvalas which signals the start of “Good Morning APH.” We meet as a community at least twice a week to share joys, concerns, celebrate achievements and give announcements.

What was unthinkable to us a year ago has become all too familiar. The ring of a Zoom call signaling the start of class, the sting of hand sanitizer over a small papercut, the adjustment of a mask as it slips off the nose. March 2020 marked the beginning of these daily routines not only for the community at APH, but the world.

After quickly adjusting to remote learning in March 2020 and then a long summer of careful planning and preparation, Penguin Hall opened its doors to half its students again with the new implementation of a hybrid schedule. Cohorts from two grade levels would be on campus for in-person learning, while the remaining two grade levels would participate in class remotely. The cohorts would take turns each week, switching from in-person to remote learning, allowing Penguin Hall to go back to some sense of normalcy.

As the vaccine has become more widely available, Penguin Hall will be taking one more step towards actual normalcy: safely welcoming all students back to campus under one roof on March 22.

It’s been a challenging year–a year of growth. As that one year mark approaches and as Penguin Hall prepares for a much needed two-week spring break, the team behind “Good Morning APH” chose to celebrate and reflect as a community on what this past year has meant to them. This special broadcast, “Stronger Together,” recognized the strength and gifts of our community.

After opening the virtual meeting with the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day, Ms. Brigid Beckman posed the question: “Who and what are the things that have helped you rise up during this year?”

Thinking back to their first days of quarantine, this past school year and where they are now, a student from each grade level shared their reflections with the APH community:

Caitlin D. ’24: “I’ve learned to live in the moment! While it was easier to worry about the future with the pandemic, I tried to live in the present each day. I now have real, truly wonderful memories from the intentional time I spent with my family.”

Kylie S. ’23: “I am so grateful for my family, friends and my school. It was hard to keep in touch with people, but making the decision to be in school full-time helped boost my happiness. Even though we still wear masks, I appreciate the conversations I have with people. It makes things feel normal again.”

Bridget M. ’22: “What got me through 2020 was the hope in 2021. I knew we wouldn’t be in quarantine forever. The pandemic won’t go on forever. I organized the ‘2020 Revision’ art show not to dwell on the chaos of this past year, but to highlight what can and will be different in 2021 .”

Abby P. ’21: “I’m grateful for a lot this year: the opportunity to foster kittens, spend time with my family, learning new instruments! I feel like I really took time to discover what it is that made me, me. My confidence has grown so much this past year. There was a lot of loss and things we couldn’t do and people we couldn’t see over the past year. But one thing most of us got was time, and I am grateful for that.”

There’s a lot for students to learn here at Penguin Hall; Math, English, how to be a leader. But there are a lot of things that these very students teach us: resiliency, positivity, creativity, gratefulness, intentionality. If Penguin Hall has learned anything this past year, it is that our community is strong, our students are inspirational, and we will never take our time together for granted.