The new school year has arrived, and with it, comes some form of change for everyone. For our community, identifying as ‘Summit Micro School’ is a big change we will all take on together!  In light of that, I wanted to share a excerpt from the graduation speech on the topic of ‘change’ that I delivered at our ceremony this past spring. 

When we announced that we would be changing our name to ‘Summit Micro School’ last week, the news was received with some mixed emotion from our community, which, to be honest, surprised me at first, because I was really excited about it!  But then of course, I realized that this was a really significant, and unexpected change for everyone. We have always been High Park Day School. It’s all we’ve known, and there wasn’t really any reason to believe that it would ever change.  I had months to sit with it and get used to the idea of being something other than HPDS before we made the announcement, and to be honest, even I had some nervous feelings about at first, despite initiating the change in the first place and knowing it was the right thing to do.

We can all attest to the old adage that “Nothing remains constant, except change itself”. At any given time in our lives, we face a variety of changes – they might be major life changes like relocating your family to a new city, or small changes that force us only slightly outside of our comfort zone. While sometimes we have no choice, other times, we are in control and make the decision to invite change into our lives.

I’m noticing a trend here at school that in the month of June realizations of change seem to intensify, at least for us here at school in  and I find myself having lots of conversations with students, parents and staff lately about “change” itself. We reflect on our accomplishments, have parties and celebrations to mark the end of programs, and for the staff, we are already preparing for our next academic year. All of this signals that change is on the horizon.

The circumstances of change are not any different here – there will be changes big and small for our students, staff and families, some we’ve had control over, and others not. Everyone’s situation is a little different, but we can all agree that change is not always easy and our feelings can be very conflicted. We struggle to let go of our familiar, comfortable world with the one hand, while the other is desperately reaching out and ready for something new and exciting. It can be an emotional tug-of-war. From excitement and hope to uncertainty and fear, and everything in between, change can bring on some very strong feelings.

Completing elementary school and moving on to high school is a milestone – one of life’s big events. There no doubt that your day to day experience will be very different than the one you have had here. New people, new places, new schedules and routines – Anticipating this great change can be both exciting and frightening at the same time. And because you did not have a say in the matter and weren’t given a choice about advancing to high school, it may be harder still to feel prepared for the next big step. I would guess that this is a change affecting your parents as well, as they realize their babies are growing up and your are about to take independence to a whole new level.  On the one hand so proud to see what strong and responsible people you are becoming, and on the other, sad that you won’t always need them or rely on them the way you once did. For us at school, it’s going to take some getting used to as well. We will certainly miss seeing you everyday, as well as your contributions to our school community.

When faced with the challenge of change we are sometimes encouraged to “embrace it” as a strategy to help us get through. But I’m not going to tell you to do that tonight. When we look at the meaning of “embrace” which is “to accept willingly and with enthusiasm” we realize that this advice isn’t really helpful. To take our doubts and worries about changes and magically transform it into positivity and willing enthusiasm, seems unrealistic at best, and oversimplifies the real impact that change has on our lives.

Instead, I’m going to suggest that we learn to acknowledge and be OKAY with those uncomfortable feelings that come along with change. It won’t help to ignore your feelings or to pretend that change doesn’t bother you. Change is inevitable, so it is a good idea to get used to it and to figure out how to work through it to come out the other side on top.

All of us here are going to face some kind of change come September, whether its a new teacher or class, or a new school altogether. If you are feeling nervous or anxious of the the changes to come, I want to give you some thoughts to consider. I want to remind you of the enormous benefits you stand to gain when the status quo has been shaken up and we step outside of our comfort zone in the face of change.

First is personal growth. You will learn something every time you are faced with change. Sometimes the most important lessons you learn come from the changes that you didn’t want in the first place.

Next is the skill of flexibility. Frequent changes make you easily adapt to new situations, new environments, and new people. As a result you are more prepared when things unexpectedly shift. This skill is more important now than ever, as the pace of the world continues to accelerate – change seems to be coming at us faster each day.  Think of every change experience as “life- training”.

Strength is something you will gain, in particular when you are faced with unpleasant or unexpected changes.  Overcoming a tough period of change will definitely make you stronger. It’s even more powerful when you can step back and realize when you’ve overcome a challenging change – give yourself a little pat and the back and acknowledge what you really are capable of.

Progress is another benefit and something that helps me personally to appreciate change. Changes trigger progress. Things move forward and develop because of the them. Cell phones, the internet, personal 3D printers and makerspaces – we can all thank change for having these things in our lives.

The Opportunity that change can bring is something we cannot underestimate. When you turn from your usual path there will be plenty of different opportunities waiting for you. Changes will bring new choices and new experiences, some that may even change the course of your life in wonderful ways that you never anticipated.

And finally, big changes will bring new beginnings and excitement to your life. Each change is a turning page. It is about closing one chapter and beginning another one.

To our graduating students – this chapter of your lives, here at HPDS is over, and it is time to begin a new one. I have all of the confidence in the world that you are ready to take on your new experiences in high school. You will grow to be even stronger individuals and you will be presented with many exciting opportunities that will open your eyes to a whole new world of possibility.

I’d like to close with a final message to all of those embarking on new adventures in September and point out that there are some things that will never change, and that you can always count on. Here at HPDS or Summit Micro School, whatever you call us, you will always have a special place in our family. When you visit (and we hope you do!) you will always be welcomed with a smile and open arms, you will feel the same warmth and comfort in these halls and classrooms as you do today, and you will always have friends who are here for you when you need us.

Congratulations again to our students for an incredible year, and to everyone gearing up for a change, good luck!