September 11, 2023
The theme of belonging was apparent during Cheshire Academy’s Convocation ceremony ringing in the 230th academic year, with students and faculty recounting how they have become members of the longtime educational institution’s community.
An annual tradition, Convocation began with students gathering on Slaughter Field during the morning hours of Friday, Sept. 8. A procession followed, led by senior faculty members Chip Boyd P’10 and Laura Longacre. Bagpipes were performed by Jesse and Levon Ofgang.
On Simosa Field, students, faculty, and families gathered to usher in the new school year. Natalia Moro ’24, a boarding student from Mexico, was the first to address the crowd. Now entering her third and final year at CA, Moro boasts an impressive resume: she is a full International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme student, is active in the school’s music and theater programs, and is an outfielder for the varsity softball team.
Moro spoke about how CA contributed to her development by helping her to understand the true meaning of engagement and growth. She learned at CA that engagement is more than doing “the mandatory activities,” and has been able to recognize her growth as a student and individual.
“CA will allow you to be part of a community while valuing your individual contributions as a person with our own ideas, responsibilities, and values,” Moro said. “Here, we combine our personal interests with the group’s goals, and work together to achieve them.”
John Wotherspoon ’24, a boarding student from New York City, reflected on his experience of joining CA as a 9th grade midyear student. He spoke about how he felt at home when he toured campus, but that he suffered from anxiety when he first arrived as a student. His fellow classmates helped him to break out of his shell and flourish as a student and individual.
Today, Wotherspoon is student body vice president, a member of the varsity boys’ lacrosse program, and an intern with the Admission Office. He previously served as a dorm prefect and as a stage manager for the theater program.
“My boarding experience and overall life at CA have drastically improved by the strong relationships that I have developed here,” Wotherspoon explained. “It is my hope that incoming students will be open to forging new friendships as we gear up for another exciting school year. One thing that I’ve learned as a boarder, leader, and as a student is that here, at CA, we look out for each other, and we take care of each other. I have no doubt that this year will be no different in that regard.”
Shreeya Gomathinayagam ’24, a day student from Cheshire, has taken full advantage of CA’s offerings. She is a full IB student, accomplished dancer, dedicated amateur research scientist, and member of the CA chapter of the National Honor Society. She is a member of the varsity girls’ basketball team, and has served in many leadership capacities, including as class officer, student body vice president, and now as student body president.
Gomathinayagam spoke about her 9th grade year and how she wanted to fit in, forgoing her unique background and individuality simply to belong. She learned, however, that her upbringing as a second-generation Indian American was a strength, not a weakness. As part of her address, she encouraged her classmates to “embrace one another, discover your role and significance, and recognize your immense impact on this community as the truest you.”
“I believe every student possesses a unique place and purpose here, a place and purpose molded to their evolving individuality and personal journey of self-discovery, not one you need to mold yourself into,” she said. “Our diversity, encompassing factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, gender identity, ability, sexuality, and family composition are key parts of our identity and help us build connections with one another.”
Head of School Julie Anderson P’19,’23 closed out the ceremony by speaking in part about CA’s global community, with students from nearly 30 countries and from all regions of the United States attending this year. Students here have diverse religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, and represent different gender identities, sexual orientations, learning abilities, and so much more.
Anderson shared part of her life story with the CA community, including about her two children — Jenna Denomme ’19 and Kamden Denomme ’23 — and marriage to match teacher Tom Marshall. Sharing information about herself, she said, allows her to be her authentic self and belong.
“I am a complex and multifaceted individual, just like all of you, and that is what makes our community so special,” Anderson said. “We are a community of difference, but we are also a community of belonging. We belong here because we are all included and celebrated for who we are, no matter our background or our story.”
“This is just the beginning of our conversation,” Anderson continued. “You all belong here at Cheshire Academy. Remember why you chose to be here and treat each day as an opportunity to share the stories within you and to learn more about the stories of others … Let’s learn from each other, grow together, and celebrate our differences. Let’s make Cheshire Academy a place where everyone feels like they belong.”