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Sixth Form Set Goals and Intentions for Their Final Year During Annual Dinner & Retreat

Kelly Slonaker

On Tuesday, September 21, Canterbury held its annual Sixth Form Dinner & Retreat, a tradition that honors the senior class and emphasizes the importance of their role at the School. The evening began with a formal dinner and an address to the 104-member class from Head of School Rachel Stone, “Now, as you write your Sixth Form chapter, I would like for you to think about the following: What do you want the contents of this chapter to be? How will you make this place HOME for all? How will you ensure that you don’t look back and wish you had met more people, attended more events, auditioned for the play, been a better and more involved leader…?” She continued, “Many of you have heard me say that we as faculty can set the rules and expectations, but that it is the students—and the Sixth Form in particular—who set the culture and the social, academic, and athletic norms for each school year. And a great deal of it will stem from how—and how well—you know and take care of one another, this community, and this school.” She then invited Sixth Form Council member Hanyan Cai ’22 to the podium to address his class.

“[...] there is nothing that can replace our small, special community,” Hanyan shared. “This is our final year to be leaders, athletes, and academics, and to be honest—be whoever you want to be. This IS the year to let our creative and tenacious energies explode. With the support of teachers, the School, and, most importantly, our peers, let us all strive to live our best lives during this last year.”

After dinner, the Sixth Form took part in a time-honored tradition: faculty formed a line, and each student shook the hand of each faculty member. This year, the handshakes took place outside on the path between the dining hall and the chapel. This tradition comes full circle at the Sixth Form’s Commencement in May, bookending the students’ final year with a moment of gratitude, reflection, and connection with their teachers, coaches, advisors, and dorm parents (and, for some, their actual parents!).

Afterward, the Sixth Formers headed to the Steers Center for Part 2 of their retreat, where they participated in discussions about their Canterbury memories and experiences—both their best and most challenging—and what they envision for their final year at the School (Part 1 of the retreat took place during the first week of school and offered the class the opportunity to reconnect and spend time together outdoors). The retreat opened with a reflection led by Director of Campus Ministry Devon McCormick, who invited the class to think about the year ahead and what they are grateful for and perhaps even anxious about as they embark on their final year of high school. The students were then given the opportunity to pick out stones that were hand painted with thoughtful words and phrases by artist and Canterbury parent Denise Trach P ’20, ’23. 

Olivia Meola ’22 was grateful for the time spent together as a class and the opportunity to reflect on her hopes for the year: “The Sixth Form Retreat not only allowed me to get to know and connect with other Sixth Form students that I didn’t know very well, but it also allowed me to reflect on myself and the mindset that I would like to be in this year. I enjoyed the retreat because it was a time for the whole Sixth Form to come together, focus on ourselves as the leaders of the School, and think about the impression that we would like to leave for the younger students at Canterbury.”

The Sixth Formers then had the opportunity to write a letter to themselves with their own hopes, prayers, and intentions for the year. The letters will be opened again during their Sixth Form Reflections Retreat in May. To conclude the retreat, the class was split into small groups and asked to create a Bucket List of 22 items (for the Class of 2022) for their last year, including goals such as reconnecting with someone with whom they have lost touch, trying something new, and making friends with someone who is not in their close circle.