Many people choose Randolph for its excellent reputation in academics and the way it prepares students for the next chapter of their lives in college. For my family, it was about the little things, the personal touches that made my children feel like they were loved at school, as if they were at home.
We moved here just a few days before my daughter was to start 1st grade. Moving to a new town for the third time in her short life was a big deal. A lot had happened in our family the previous year and my daughter, Sawyer, was very apprehensive about change, but it was the little things she found at Randolph that that made her experience so positive.
That first day of first grade when she walked into Mrs. Nicole Knapp's classroom and began to shed a tear was the beginning of her journey at Randolph. Mrs. Knapp didn't hesitate for a second; she came over and got down on Sawyer's level and gave her a big hug. She reassured Sawyer that she was there for her, that she understood how scary coming to a new place with new people could be. Mrs. Knapp made Sawyer feel like she was part of a family. She would spend the year with Sawyer opening her mind to new ideas and showing her new ways to enjoy learning.
This was the beginning of my shy, quiet little girl being nurtured to step out of her comfort zone and build a stronger sense of self-confidence. Each year, Sawyer's confidence has grown in leaps and bounds because of what I like to call the "human factor." Every teacher at Randolph makes it their job to know each of our children on a personal level. They make it their business to know their strengths and weaknesses, and how to nudge them to take new risks by making them aware of opportunities available that may fit their interests. They know that the children won't always succeed, but they are also there to help them wade through the mess of life to gain knowledge from their experiences, to pick up the pieces and try again!
The theater program has been one of those opportunities for my family. Sawyer's brother, Tristen, a sophomore, found his niche in Theatre Randolph using his creativity to build props and design sets. It has given him an outlet to use his hands and love of tools to create things. Although he isn't seen on stage the fruits of his labor are; he has gained so many things from the program. He is often most comfortable working alone or following the adage of "if you want something done you might as well do it yourself." Mrs. Voight, along with his Upper School class peers, has been instrumental in teaching him how to be an effective leader, showing him that you can guide and teach people how to work together to accomplish the tasks, and that the effort of a group is mightier than that of a single soul.
It was Tristen's love of the theater program that opened the door for Sawyer to give it a try. When Sawyer was in the 3rd grade, Tristen came home talking about how they would be holding auditions for a few children to be part of the play, The Turn of The Screw. Sawyer decided it would be fun to be involved with a production her big brother was working on, so she went to the audition. I could tell that she was trembling inside; she had never tried anything like this and had no clue what was expected of her. Just her luck, she was the first person chosen to go up on stage and read a portion of the script along with an older student. She was so quiet you had to strain with all your might to hear her. At the end of the auditions Mrs. Voight was very encouraging. She told Sawyer that if she did not make the cut for this play that there would be many more opportunities in the future, like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She said they would need lots of kids for that show. Unfortunately, when the time came, Sawyer's schedule didn’t allow her to commit to the rehearsal schedule and she chose not to audition.
This year, in 4th grade, Sawyer joined Mrs. Hoppe's Young Voices choir where another opportunity arose to audition for a part in the Young Voices musical, Lion King Kids. She set out with excitement to audition for a part. She was filled with anxiety the day the announcement of parts was to be posted. When I dropped her off at school she made me park the car so that she could come back and tell me the outcome. I hoped she would at least get some part no matter how small. Never had I dreamed my quiet, shy little girl would be running back to tell me that she had been cast in the principal role of older Simba.
She has looked forward to practicing the songs and learning her lines each week, taking the responsibility of being a member of a group very seriously. Although it has been a lot of work preparing the final product, the children are quite abuzz about showing off their new found talents.
To add to Sawyer's excitement, a few weeks ago she found out that her brother and the Upper School tech crew would be designing and constructing the set. Tristen, in his brotherly way, assured her that Pride Rock would be up to his safety standards while looking awesome! Combining the expertise of Mrs. Voight's seasoned Tech crew with these first-time thespians is sure to offer a show you won't want to miss!
Lion King Kids will have two public performances in the Rhett Fine Arts Center, Friday evening, May 20, 7 p.m., and a Saturday matinee, on May 21, at 1 p.m.
[gallery link="none" columns="2" ids="5046,5050,5049,5048,5047,5052,5053,5054"]