Roots and Wings
By Megan Tady
Photographs by Joanna Chattman
Think back . . . maybe you remember yourself as a shy freshman, dipping an apprehensive toe on the Deerfield campus . . . unfamiliar with new school lingo and uncertain of decades-old tradition. You were utterly far from home—whether it was in the next county or the next country—and Deerfield had yet to feel like it. At your old school, you were a big fish, a star, the best athlete, the smartest. But at Deerfield everyone seemed bigger, brighter, better. Who were you at Deerfield Academy? Who did you emerge as after graduation?
Or imagine you’re an apprehensive parent dipping a shy toe on campus, unfamiliar with your role at a boarding school. You’re on the precipice of leaving your child far from home. Did you pack the right clothes? Will your child fit in at Deerfield? Will you? And then come the first few weeks with a quieter house and a handful of homesick phone calls. Who will your child become at Deerfield? Did you make the right decision?
- Connect4 and the Deerfield Parent Network help students and parents navigate the transition to boarding school life.
Eventually, adults settle into parenting alongside a boarding school, and students ease into daily life. Nevertheless, Deerfield is keenly aware of the ups and downs accompanying this transition and lifestyle and wants to ensure that parents and students don’t have to navigate it alone. And so, two new initiatives were introduced this year: The first is Connect4, a residential life program that was developed in recognition of the fact that the world runs at a quicker pace these days, and technology has made dorm life radically different from what it was even a decade ago. Connect4 places a high value on the time students spend in their dorms, and a high value on Deerfield’s role in using that time to shape student experiences and ultimately, their values. Simply put, Connect4’s goal is to foster strength of character.
In some ways, the Deerfield Parents Network (DPN) is the adult version of Connect4. At its most basic level the DPN strives to build partnerships among Deerfield parents, but much like Connect4, the DPN’s ultimate mission is to foster a consistent understanding of Deerfield’s mission, values, and social and ethical expectations across the parent body.
Both programs have striking parallels, offering students and parents an opportunity to learn from each other and take an active role in shaping the culture of the school. The ultimate goal: To ensure that the Academy’s core values—respect, honesty, hard work, humility, and a commitment to service—are directly woven into the Deerfield experience, thus shaping students who are ready and willing to do good in the world—not just to do well.
“Attending Deerfield is not only for self advancement,” Head of School Margarita Curtis says. “You will be expected to have a positive impact on the lives you touch. If you don’t start thinking about others while you are here, then chances are you won’t develop the habit of looking outward later in life.”