Opening Day Assembly, 2023-24

Opening Day Assembly, 2023-24

Welcome to Burroughs' 101st school year!

During Opening Day Assembly on Thursday, August 24, seniors continued the tradition on sitting on the Haertter Hall stage facing their families, faculty/staff, and fellow students while listening to remarks from head of school Andy Abbott, senior class president Rosalie Tasker '24, and student body president Monét Witherspoon '24.

Assembly opened with a performance of the national anthem by senior class members of JBS Voices. Mr. Abbott then addressed the crowd, commenting on the school's long history and the exciting year ahead as Burroughs prepares for the culmination of its Centennial celebration.

Mr. Abbott began by sharing a bit of Burroughs lore, stories from the school's history that have never been written down or published, but instead passed along by faculty and former students. He said that these stories are fantastical, inspirational, and at times, haunting, but that they all live on in the minds and memories of those who walked these halls.

"It has been an incredible 100 years. From the beginning, the founders of the school understood that students were not simply receptacles into which information was to be poured. Students are human beings. We are all human beings, with souls and consciousness and spirituality, and we shouldn't be educated as though we are on an assembly line. Education is best when it is participatory.

"And this year, we will participate. We will all become part of that history, and we will all have to decide whether we will be part of the haunting part, the fantastical part, or the inspirational part of the rest of this school's history." 

— Andy Abbott, Head of School

Assembly closed with a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Ryan Sieve '24 and senior members of the men's a cappella group, directed by Taylor Pietz (Music).

Rosalie Tasker '24, Senior Class President

Good morning, everyone, and welcome faculty, staff, students, parents, Mr. Abbott, and a special welcome to the Class of 2024. What an honor it is to be speaking in front of you all today. I, for one, can't believe we are sitting down here on the stage and not up in the balcony. Time has flown by quickly.

Before I get started, we have some unfinished business — at the end of May, the varsity girls lacrosse team and the boys baseball team won their state championships. Spring finals were already in gear, so these teams never presented their trophies to Mr. Abbott. So, I would like to invite Eva, Sahana, Katharine, Charlotte, Griffin, Calvin, and Charlie to come down and present these trophies to the school.

Brainstorming what I have wanted to say in this speech has not been easy. I wanted to relay a perfect message to my class and to everyone watching, but I felt like nothing that I wrote was good enough. I finally got some inspiration right at the end of summer when my family was vacationing in upstate New York. My dad and I were on our way to a local high school's tennis courts so I could practice for the daunting JV1 tennis tryouts that were beginning that upcoming week. Something that my dad said that really stuck with me was, "Leadership does not mean that you have to come up with an idea for it to be important. You can set aside your ego and acknowledge the brilliance of others' ideas and harvest from them." 

So I decided to talk about something that could be cliché: I am my father's daughter, so bear with me–the easiest way to describe the class of 2024 is team. Obviously, we have nominated Allie Turner to be our point guard and me to be the team captain. But seriously, just as a team would, we ride the highs together, like celebrating these said state championships, and we ride the lows together, like when last year's Sophomores beat us in the game of tug of war during Field Day. That was a good blow to our egos. But we suffer and triumph as a team–together and with endless support of one another, and that is what I admire the most about us. We bleed blue and gold and have an immeasurable amount of bomber spirit. You can count on our class to have the most attendance at any hockey game, even though that $5 admission can really add up — you can ask my mom about it; she's got a lot to say. You can also count on a number of us to volunteer to clean the bathrooms during Senior Drey Land — and trust me, they were NOT looking too good. And you can definitely count on us to pull away with a win from the juniors in this year's game of tug of war.

But overall, we show up for one another and have each become leaders in our own ways. Some of us doing the dirty work, and others cheering like crazy on the sidelines. But everyone on our team has a role to play, and we all acknowledge that leadership comes unexpectedly and it comes from all corners. And we know that the sum of us together is greater than the equal parts, and I don't think we take that for granted.

Don't get me wrong, building leadership and becoming a team has taken a long five years. We have all had our fair share of facing adversity, but dealing with tough challenges is something everyone has to tackle. There was this one time in Freshman year when a group of us were playing a friendly game of football in the middle of January. There was snow covering the football field, and the game was getting very competitive. Kat Long, my team's quarterback, threw me a dime of a pass, and surprisingly, I caught it. But then — out of nowhere, I got immediately blown up by Max Petite. Just to be clear, we were playing two-touch. I was on the ground, and everyone circled around me, and I thought I was going to die of humiliation. Max reached out his hand to help me up — after he got his fair share of laughs — and I joined in with the laughter, too. Like this time and many other times, you have a choice to get up after you have been knocked down. You also have the choice to be the first one to help someone else up. This fall will bring its own miraculous catches and unexpected takedowns, but you can be that teammate who holds their hand when someone is down. Continue to be there for one another through the ups and downs — because that's what good teams do.

Today marks the beginning of lasts for the Class of 2024. Last first day, last Blue & Gold Weekend, and second-to-last time sitting up on this stage. It is scary not knowing what lies ahead, but it is also exciting. We have each other, and we need to lean on one another during this hard and emotional beginning of the end. But I do want to challenge everyone to do one thing. Leave it all on the field–whatever that means to you. Be brave. Reach out and make a new friend, start up a club or join one, and most importantly — make an impact in the classroom, in the community, and make an impact for your team. If we build off of each other's brilliance and believe in the power of working together, there is no telling what we can do.

This is our final season together as a team. We are ready. Let's take a deep breath, huddle up, put our hands in the middle, and make it a great year. Go Bomb!


Monét Witherspoon '24, Student Body President
Good morning, students, faculty, parents, Mr. Abbott, and the Class of 2024! I am Monét Witherspoon, and I am this year's student body president.

For me, it's a bit of a surreal experience for my classmates and me to be sitting up here before you today. To be honest, there were times that made me question if we might ever become the seniors we are today. You see, it wasn't a pretty path. As 7th graders, We would cover our entire commons in sticky notes because our theme was neon, which our principal was not too happy about. In our later years, we did things like hanging some of our classmates' things in the ceilings, breaking tables in the Commons, having some food fights, taking furniture from around the school and stacking it up, trying to play human Jenga, fishing in Laughing Lake, flipping peoples' backpacks inside out during a passing period, and more. Let's just say lots of faculty and many of us were concerned. I also worried if we'd ever physically make it up to this stage, back to a normal way of life, when there were times when we were separated by the grids of a zoom screen or the cloth of a mask. 

But here we stand today (or sit). While my introduction might have you all worried about the seniors who sit here before you, I can say with utmost confidence that this class is not one that should worry you. This is a class that I am very proud of; we have grown — A LOT. Over the years, I've watched as each of us matured and became leaders in every aspect and every environment, whether that was on the field, the court, in a classroom, or the hallways. Whether that was being a leader in completing a task and helping others when no one was watching, or through leading by example. 

There are many reasons for our class's growth, and I believe the main reason for this growth is our ability to lean on one another in trying times and to persevere. 

I'm going to ask you to take a second look around you. Take in this moment, because it will never happen again. Turn to your left and your right. Look in front of you and behind you. And if you're in the back row like I was. Yes, take in the cement wall up there. You're surrounded by people who are your classmates, future friends, future teachers, or maybe people who won't be your closest friends or favorite teachers but will be here for you when you need them. Whether you need help figuring out a problem or if you just need someone to make you laugh. This is a community. You may not believe me now, and I didn't necessarily believe it when I first heard it, but it's all true. This. Is. A. Community. We are a community.

Recently, our class went on a trip together to Senior Drey Land, and I'd be lying to you if I said I enjoyed every second of it. If you're unfamiliar with Drey Land, it's like a camping trip or a retreat, and for me, a germaphobic-ish, "not-so naturey" person, I was not looking forward to it. When we arrived and discovered what swarmed above us at night, or what might crawl on or up to us, looking for our food or to eat us as food, and the fact that there was no lack of cell service made matters worse. But, as you can see, I survived. And in the end, it was one of my favorite JBS experiences yet. And that's because of the people behind me. These people transformed my experience from bearable to memorable. Over the course of the weekend, we were a community; we had to rely on each other to metaphorically and LITERALLY catch us whenever we took a leap and fell out of the air. 

We formed bonds and made unexpected friendships. It was the kind of trip that made me be able to stand in front of you today and say that I can guarantee you that this class is a great one. My wish for you all, no matter the grade, is that you learn to do this sooner. Take the leap, and so what if you fall? Know this community will be there to catch you. 

Yes, this school is hard. Yes, there will be times when you want a break, but it isn't break time. There will be times when you want to give up. Or maybe a random pandemic will shut the world down, but that same pandemic and hardships will make you realize just how important it is to have a community. That your community is your classmates. It would be a shame and a mistake to ALWAYS try to persevere by your lonesome. There is strength in numbers. 

Oftentimes, at this school, we are held to extremely high standards, and we feel as if we are expected to be the ultimate student, athlete, artist, friend, and more. In order to reach these standards, we may set goals (whether that may appear as grades, awards, championships, or other achievements). Sometimes, we do not reach these goals. But, like I said, that's why we have a community. You're surrounded by people who are going through the same thing as you and are here to help. When we don't reach our goals, we determine those mistakes or those incompletions as failures. But failure is okay. It is a setback and an opportunity; it should be something you should be happy to encounter. I know "happy" is weird. But this is because you have tried. It means that you are just that much closer to success. When writing this speech, I came across a quote that puts it simply.  

"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing." — Denis Waitley  

Use those "failures" to encourage you. Use them to push you. Don't be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and set goals for yourself that you're not 100% certain you can attain. Don't be afraid to "fail" at those goals. Yes, this may feel uncomfortable because you're trying new things. But what also happens when you step outside of your comfort zone, when you go into the wilderness for what feels like forever, is you do things that you never expected yourself to be able to do. You discover things about yourself that you haven't known before. You learn how resilient you are because you overcome those "failures." You find people that you'd never have met otherwise. 

It has become a tradition at JBS for the student body president to declare at the start of each year that it's "The Year of ___." In fact, during my campaign, I was going to deem this year as "The Year of the Bucket." But I encourage you to simply make this year, The YearYour year. Push beyond those bounds that previously limited you, but you have now realized fail to exist. 

I'm grateful for having shared this moment with you all this morning. Thank you for listening, and please make this year your year.