We human beings love round numbers and clearly demarcated period of times. To wit, we monitor the developmental stages of our infant child in months or even days; chart the height of that child annually on a doorframe in the house; or return at rounded intervals of five or ten years for reunions at the places from where we have graduated. Marking time brings order to an otherwise random and unpredictable world. These points in time also provide a perch, a momentary resting place from which we can both take account and dream ahead.
The Class of 2016 provides Parish a round number of its own: our 10th graduating class. On May 22, 2016 our 841st graduate will cross the stage at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. With this year’s conferral of diplomas, our school community receives a gift – a moment to catch its collective breath. From this perch, we should remind ourselves what we have accomplished together this last decade and affirm our belief in tomorrow’s limitless possibilities.
Our school’s story is remarkable. After existing for three decades as a respected PreK-6th grade school of 400 students based at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, our church and school community chose the bold course. In order to meet the Metroplex’s need for an additional PreK-12 independent school option, Parish Day would expand. But anyone can dream. To turn possibility into reality, however, requires a unique combination of skill, fortitude and good fortune.
Indeed, since 2002, Parish Episcopal School has done what some might have considered impossible: nearly tripling our size to offer our college preparatory program to over 1,100 students; retrofitting over 350,000 square feet of the I. M Pei-designed, former Mobil International Research facility in Farmer’s Branch; adding 20 million dollars to our endowment; and sending talented graduates in our first 10 classes to colleges and universities across the country.
Looking back from the perch afforded by our 2016 graduation ceremony, a distinctive feature dominates the view: Parish’s pioneering spirit. The 46 students in the inaugural class of 2007 entered a new high school in 2003, where classes would be staged in a corporate space renovated for their arrival only in the preceding eight months, with only five faculty members and a division head as their guide. Together, fueled by faith and hope, they built a quality school program and successfully transfused a larger Parish Episcopal School with the uniquely inclusive and joyful culture of the more intimate Parish Day School.
Some 10 years later, though Parish has evolved in ways the class of 2007 could never have imagined, they would recognize the pioneering spirit embodied in the class of 2016. Among this year’s 90 graduates are:
- The second cohort of scholars in our Academy of Global Studies, who have spent three years studying a global issue of interest to them through an academic’s lens and producing a scholarly and artistic capstone to evidence their thinking.
- The first graduates of the Leadership Institute, who have spent three years learning about and practicing leadership through coursework, workshops, a professional mentor and a community based capstone.
- One of the first cohorts of students to help develop, learn and teach in the more than 14,000 square feet of STEM, maker and robotics spaces on our two campuses, all part of Parish’s national regarded PreK-12 ParishSTEM programming.
- The student cohort who launched ParishBridge, which engaged each of these 90 students in a five week learning experience unique to them. Through their online course, personally designed academic project, and 15 to 50 hours of real world professional experience, these young people haven’t wiled away their final days on campus. Rather, they’ve learned more about themselves and about the complex global society in which they will lead and serve.
Yes, the Class of 2016 represents the latest generation of Parish pioneers!
As we pivot on the perch provided by this year’s graduation and look ahead, we are right to wonder: “What’s next for them?” “What’s next for Parish?”
Of this I am sure, the graduates of 2016 will return to Parish at some time marker in the future. Maybe it’s a six months from now at the holidays, or a year from now to see their friends graduate, or at their five year reunion in 2021, or when we celebrate our wonderful school’s 50th anniversary in 2022. Whenever it might be, they will encounter a Parish as unimaginably different to them as the Parish of today is to those 46 graduates in the class of 2007. We understand the world changes relentlessly. Consequently, we believe the way school works needs to change as well. Emboldened by our pioneering past, we are at work even today reimagining the Parish of tomorrow.
And of this, I am hopeful. That the young men and woman who cross the stage on May 22 carry with them not only the content knowledge they’ve secured and the warm memories of rich relationships with faculty and schoolmates, but also the pioneering spirit Parish has imbued within them. Our world needs solutions. Our city needs bold leaders with big hearts. Our communities need those who see limitless possibilities.
May God guide Parish and the class of 2016 as we journey forward.