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Strong Communities Find a Way

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Strong Communities Find a Way
Rudy Brandl

The word Community is often overused and has become somewhat trite and cliché, especially during these challenging times. Community is one of our school’s Core Values and certainly represents a strength of our institution. I have survey data to support that claim – many Wardlaw+Hartridge students, parents, faculty and alumni say that our community is one of the things they love most about the school.

The description of Community as one of our Core Values reads as follows: 

When faculty members, students, parents, or graduates walk through the doors of Wardlaw+Hartridge, they have entered a home. Our community is distinguished by an ethos of care and mutual respect, and a strong partnership with families.

Our Community, along with the rest of the world, has been put to the test in the past 10 months. When COVID-19 changed the world last March, it forced us to live differently and sacrifice many things to remain safe. 

The 2020-2021 school year has been much different from any other in the 138-year history of this fine institution, but it has not stopped us from living our mission and embracing the one Core Value that is most significant now more than ever. Our community has found safe ways to move forward, stay together and lead productive lives.

Our Parents’ Association has been faced with the impossible task of replacing live gatherings and fundraisers with virtual events. They have re-imagined and re-invented just about everything on the typical WHPA school calendar, including the most recent International Family Fun Night Dinners. Honestly, I think six nights of food is better than one and I could never eat that much on one evening in a jam-packed AP Room! Kudos to WHPA president Marci Bowman and her eager, spirited band of parent volunteers for doing yeoman’s work on these initiatives. Their partnership with Chef Anibal Rodriguez and the Sage Dining Services crew has been productive and spectacular. 

The Admission Office has not been allowed to host prospective families and students on campus. Instead, they are running Virtual Admission Information Sessions almost monthly to boost enrollment. The assistance of our community, including parents, student ambassadors, faculty and administrators, has been critical to the execution of these events.

Our Lower School Virtual Paint Nights were a huge hit during January. Parents are not permitted to come to campus so they met on Zoom with art teacher Sara McDermott and learned how to paint. Some parents, and many faculty and staff members, attended multiple grade-level sessions. While much of the work created was amazing, these evenings were more about connecting our community.

We’ve all been forced to adjust on the fly during this pandemic and the W+H community has even found a way to make things work within the realm of service. Most recently, with about a week’s notice, W+H converted its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service into a schoolwide food drive. Families donated more than 3,000 items to support two local food pantries during a time in which food insecurity numbers in New Jersey are hitting record highs. We could have canceled the event, but instead, our community found a way to make a difference.

That’s what strong communities do, and at W+H, it’s not overused. It’s who we are.