There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about. – Meg Wheatley
A question that I get this time of year from prospective families considering where to send their children for these fundamentally critical years is a simple one: what distinguishes Belmont Day from its peers?
As those who know me might suspect, my first answer to such a question is, “How much time do you have?” Of course, I speak to our mission, faculty, facilities, and core values. I speak to the power of an intentional public speaking curriculum, a student-centered pedagogy, the development of student agency, and the authentic commitment to the whole child across their academic, artistic, athletic, and social-emotional development. I speak to the promise of excellence across the program. I speak to the joy at the heart of all we do.
Of course, I also speak to one other ingredient of the magic that makes Belmont Day such a special place: the community. The difference that I try to articulate for families is that, somehow, the community here is different. “You understand it once you’re here” is a common refrain I hear from families (especially those in their first or second years at BDS), and they’re right. The community at Belmont Day has a unique magic to it.
My best assessment of where that magic comes from is rooted in things old and new. The old? We often turn to the school’s founding as the basis for our community strength: parents searching for something more for their children founded the school in 1927. That DNA threads through the century to today, where we aim to honor the partnership between parent and school to ensure that we all share in the common goal of inspiring and challenging our students. And the new? Parent volunteering at Belmont Day is a leader in the pre-kindergarten to eighth grade field: all of our parents are members of the Corporation that is BDS, but more than that, over 90% of them volunteer over the course of a given year. That statistic is staggering enough on its own. When one comes to see what those volunteers do for our school—as mystery readers, library helpers, annual fund donors, Pumpkin Patch vendors, Fall Fest crafters, or grade parents—a community that seeks to embrace the core value of caring for one another, for our students and for our school is discovered.
So, what has me waxing on about the magic of Belmont Day’s community? The magnitude of its presence in the opening days of our school year. (You can hear me knocking on wood as I write this next line.) It’s beautifully pre-pandemic. We had nearly 100 parents show up for our first Parents’ Association meeting of the year. Fall Fest featured over 200 families on an overcast Saturday afternoon last weekend, and playfulness and happiness were apparent in abundance. Last night, our grade-level socials kicked off with the second and fifth grades, and it was so clear how eager everyone was to connect again. It feels different: folks looking for something with a bit more intention and a ton more joy.
So, as the new admissions season kicks off, I can’t wait to be asked what makes Belmont Day such a special place.