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Fifth Form Retreat Highlights the Importance of Leading to Serve Others

Kelly Slonaker

On the evening of February 25, the Fifth Form had their annual retreat centered on the theme of servant leadership — a philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve others. 

The retreat began with an opening prayer and Director of Campus Ministry Devon McCormick introduced the School’s own Dean of Students Jake Dellorco as the guest speaker. “Tonight’s retreat is really an invitation to begin to think more intentionally about servant leadership—what it means, where we have witnessed it in our own lives, and how it may inspire us to become everyday servant leaders with and for others. As we were discussing who the speaker for tonight should be, the Sacristans and Interfaith Council were adamant about one person…who, to many of us on this campus, embodies servant leadership in so many ways: Mr. Dellorco.” 

Jake has served Canterbury as the Dean of Students since 2017, following eight years of teaching at independent schools. After receiving his degree in math from Tufts University, MA, he worked at Blair Academy in New Jersey as a math teacher and coach. He then went on to receive his masters from Columbia University, NY, and worked at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut for three years as Director of Choate’s Prefect Program. “We are so incredibly blessed to have Mr. Dellorco with us and caring for us everyday in many, many ways,” continued Devon. “And, we are so grateful that he agreed to be our speaker this evening in the midst of his busiest year—a real testament to how much he cares for and loves this community.” 

Jake addressed the Class of 2022, sharing his own story of servant leadership and imploring the students to keep in mind questions that would help them lead in the best interest of others. “As you think about how you can lead better here, at home, in your local community, and globally, I ask you to consider the following questions: How are you adding value to others on a daily basis? How are you empowering others? How are you de-centering yourself in your relationships and interactions with others?” Jake spoke about his grandmother, who guided and inspired him by always putting others before herself, and closed the talk with some galvanizing words: “Each student here leads in some fashion, whether it is in your family, in your friend group, on your team, in your dorm, or simply at the lunch table. We are all on a journey to become better leaders. I ask you to be reflective and thoughtful tonight, but most importantly, I ask you to think about how you can add value to others’ lives."

Ashley Regina ’22, an Admission Lead Ambassador, was particularly moved by Jake’s talk and shared her reflection: “Hearing about how how impactful Mr. Dellorco’s selfless grandmother had been, as she put others first and herself second, made me realize that I could be powerful and go from being a good leader to a great one.” She continued, “Servant leadership is not about wanting to show that you are leading, it is about doing little things to contribute to the community around you. As I continue to lead others, I will remember what Mr. Dellorco’s grandmother had done: I will put others’ benefits before my own needs, I will be selfless, and I will continue to better myself and others through service and helping the people around me.” 

Following Jake’s address, Sacristans, Interfaith Council members, and faculty facilitated smaller group discussions with the Fifth Form. As they begin to apply for student leadership positions for their final year, the Fifth Formers were asked to think about the qualities of servant leaders and how they can contribute to building community at our School and beyond. Canterbury has numerous leadership positions open to the student body, especially to (rising) Sixth Formers, including: sacristan, Interfaith Council member/leader, VI Form Council, International Student Ambassador, Admissions Lead Ambassador, Student Proctors (Day and Boarding), athletic team captain, elected officer of a club, and community service leader.

The retreat provided space for meaningful reflection on the leadership positions students already hold, as well as those they’d like to work towards, and how they hope to fulfill those roles and responsibilities. Katelynn Pizzano ’22, a Boarding Student Proctor, reflected on her own experience with leadership: “Listening to my fellow classmates, friends, and teammates talk about leadership through their own experiences made me reflect upon myself as a leader on this campus. Servant leadership is about leading by example and spreading positivity and love to everyone around you. A servant leader is someone who serves those who are in need of loving and kindness the most. Servant leaders are capable of putting action to their words through service to others.” 

David Salazar ’22 is also a Boarding Student Proctor and shared what servant leadership means to him: “It is about putting others before yourself—focusing on kindness and doing little things to help others can have such a big impact.” Hanyan Cai ’22 noted that his perception of leadership had changed since learning more about servant leadership: “This retreat taught me that everyone has the potential to be a great leader. You do not need to be charismatic or have accomplished great achievements; instead, embodying kindness and adding value to someone else's life is a form of leadership.”

Each of Canterbury’s Form retreats build upon the School’s Five Values (Honesty, Respect, Compassion, Spirituality, and Self-reliance) and encourage students to look within themselves, while also directing their intentions outward to serve others. They aim to help instill and enhance those foundational values through every facet of life, both on the hilltop and beyond. Students will begin applying for Sixth Form Leadership positions when they return from March Break and those assignments will be announced later in the year.