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Open Minds, Positive Attitudes For New School Year

“We offer acceptance, joy, and empathy in welcoming others. We actively strive for peace in our communities.”

The speech below was offered by Student Council President Patrick Duffy ’24 on August 24, 2023 during the opening convocation of the 2023-24 school year.

“We offer acceptance, joy, and empathy in welcoming others. We actively strive for peace in our communities.”

“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ.” Rule of Benedict 53

Welcome to the first day of the 2023, 24 school year! I am honored to speak to all of you, and help introduce you to your next year here at Prep. I would especially like to welcome all of the new students, faculty, and staff to the Prep community! All of us are excited to meet and talk with each one of you. I am also happy to see so many familiar faces. I can’t wait to see all of you again this school year. While the new year starts formally with our convocation ceremony, it is also marked by greetings, reunions, and memories made between new and returning members of our community. This is my favorite part of the new year.

This will be my 6th, and hopefully last, year here at Saint John’s Prep, but whether this is your 6th, 1st, or 33rd year at Prep, it will leave an impact on you that will last a lifetime. I can attest to loving every one of my years here, and I am certain each of you will as well. I understand the first day of the new year can bring a variety of emotions: anticipation, anxiety, or, hopefully, excitement. But no matter what you are feeling today, I encourage you to go forward with an open mind and a positive attitude.

Our paths before coming here were filled with an array of diverse experiences, cultures, and beliefs, but we have all arrived at the same destination. Today, we see a version of our Prep community that is different from last year and will be different from next year. We are lucky to be able to meet many people with whom we can learn, speak, and grow. At Prep, there are so many backgrounds, ideas, and ways of thinking, and you can learn something from everyone here. Be open to hearing a different perspective or alternate approach to a problem, or sharing your own unique ideas on a project or task.

I know that all of us have heard this many times, but don’t be afraid to try something new. I know this is easier said than done, but my favorite memories at Prep have been made through activities, events, classes, and friendships I never would have seen myself pursuing before I came here. Don’t be afraid to sign up for a new club at the club fair or talk to someone you think you don’t have much in common with. I also hope to see many, if not all of you, at school events, even if they aren’t run by student council. Whether it be attending the sixth grade Audubon trip, competing at middle school highhollowoctoberwenerennesancefest, cheering at a Prep sporting event, or having fun at upper school dances, there are many ways to build memories that you will carry long past your time at Prep.

Now, I will admit, as with every school year, there are challenges. Trust me, I know the
feeling of trying to complete an assignment in the few minutes before the 11:59 deadline, or
feeling overwhelmed with all the activities many Prep students love to do. But when I am going
through a challenge, I know I can always seek help from my friends, teachers, or anyone in the
Prep community. I can’t tell you how many assignments, projects, or situations I have made it
through thanks to the people here today. We work better together, and can overcome obstacles
that are far more challenging on our own.

And lastly, I want to highlight the Benedictine values that we live by. I know you have
heard these many times: justice, stewardship, and respect for persons to name a few, but I think it
speaks to their importance to our functioning here at Prep. Instead of going over every one, I
would like to touch on one to keep in mind in the beginning of our new school year: hospitality.
For hospitality, The Rule of Benedict states: “We offer acceptance, joy, and empathy in
welcoming others. We actively strive for peace in our communities.” Especially during the start
of our year, keep this in mind as we create our new Prep community.

As I’ve said before, talk to someone new, try something you thought you wouldn’t, and work together to overcome obstacles. Your time here at Prep is what you make of it, so I hope all of you work to build a
better community for yourself and others. Thank you, and welcome to the 2023, 24 school year!

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