Every day at Randolph, an adult suggests to a student that he or she take a risk or try something new. Hearing this advice from an adult does not have the same impact as it does when a student hears it from a peer. For this reason, the School looks for ways to bring older and younger students together and to provide opportunities for older students to reflect and younger students to learn from them.
As seniors, members of the Class of 2013 spoke with the Class of 2016 at a Freshman-Senior Panel Discussion. These discussions are now held at the start of the year when the 9th graders spend the first full day of shool on a retreat with their advisors and a group of seniors.
The Panel was chaired by Upper School Head Ryan Liese, then the 9th/10th Grade Dean. Of the eight panel members, four were lifers, two had come in Middle School and two in Upper School. The panelists were Student Government Association President James Park; Lillie Brown, serving her fourth year as Class President; Honor Council President Elise Nelson; and classmates with a range of interests and experiences at Randolph: Troy McMichens, Brinn Loftin, Sanders Clayton, Will Laidig and Michael Gross.
Some advice was philosophical, some practical and, again, better delivered by a peer than a parent or an educational expert. When asked at the end of the discussion what final piece of advice they would give to the 9th graders, Michael said, “Get a lot of sleep.”
Mr. Liese: How?
Michael: Go to bed!
Mr. Liese started by asking students what had meant the most to them about their experience. Answers included, “friendship and memories,” “getting to know everyone in the Upper School,” and “finding my Randolph family.”
What is your biggest regret?
Will: Not taking advantage of everything that Randolph has to offer. For example, I really like basketball but I never played here and Randolph is a school where I could have played.
Brinn: Not being more involved. Even if you have a lot of commitments after school, there are things that you can get involved with during the day.
James: Not showing up enough at school athletic events.
"Why does showing up matter?" asked Mr. Liese.
Troy, a varsity football and basketball player, said “The crowds at football this year were awesome. We’d never had that much support before. It meant a lot to know that people were behind us and wanted us to succeed.”
What classes and activities have meant the most?
Will: Baseball, because of my teammates.
Elise: English and history.
James: Fine arts: theater and choir.
Brinn: Take foreign language all four years. I didn’t take it this year and I am regretting it.
Sanders: Band has been my favorite class. It has kids from every grade and it’s like another Randolph family.
What advice do you have about the 9th grade Chicago trip and Interim?
James: Don’t limit yourself to what is available in Huntsville. You can go to another city. You can combine a trip with an internship. You can go with a friend. I’m going to New York this year. It’s a great way to learn what you’re interested in.
Will: I did a local Interim trip that included volunteering for three hours a day at the Boys and Girls Club. It was great getting to know the kids, helping them with homework, hanging out with them and learning about their lives.
Michael: Don’t try to avoid things you think you’ll regret. You should be happy when you don’t like something because that helps define you as much as something you do enjoy.
What comments do you have on the honor system? Brinn, coming here from public school what’s different about being at a school with an honor system?
Brinn: Thanks for putting me on the spot, Mr. Liese!
Mr. Liese: That’s why you’re here.
Brinn: Well, honestly, you should be thankful that you have an honor council. It's just different. Here, your teachers have so much trust in you and that’s also so different. The teachers really care about you and care about your learning and your future. They want you to succeed. The Honor Council helps all of that. Be thankful.
Lillie: There’s a great bond of trust between all of us.
Sanders: When you get here as a freshman and hear about the Honor Council, it can sound like a big, scary thing, but their goal is to make you a better person for when you go out into the real world where no one will be responsible for you. The Honor Council is not out to get you. If you cheat, you are really just cheating yourself. It’s such a great thing that our school has going for it. It’s a learning experience. Having an Honor Code sets you up for success in the real world.
“It’s teaching you responsibility,” James added. He urged students to be clear about what was being expected of them in their assignments, whether work was supposed to be completed independently or whether you were meant to work with others. “If you don’t understand, just ask.”
“That’s one of my big regrets,” Sanders added, “not taking advantage of the relationships you can have with your teachers. If you’re confused, go talk to them. Don’t tiptoe around assuming things. Take advantage of the small class sizes. The relationships that I do have with some of my teachers are one of the big things I’ll take from here.”
James: Teachers will listen. They are all advisors. They will try to help you solve your problems. Don’t be afraid of talking to them.
What’s one piece of advice you have for the 9th graders?
Elise: Don’t wish away your time while you’re here. Make friends with everyone. Enjoy your time in high school. If you’re feeling like you don’t want to be here, get involved in something.
James: Don’t get stressed about everything. Have fun. Find the balance between fun and your academics.
Will: You don’t want to go to either extreme. But don’t forget, this is when it counts. Between now through your senior year is going to make the biggest difference about where you go to college and your life.
Troy: Try something new. Step out of your comfort zone. You could find your calling. And even if you don’t you’ll be glad that you put yourself out there.
Brinn: Don’t take it for granted. You’re so lucky, and I say this coming from public school… for everything that you have, that we’ve already touched on. I would also say use your time and your free periods wisely.
Lillie: Make this place your home. Get to know everyone by name. Know everyone in your grade. You’ll enjoy your year more.
Sanders: School will be what you make it. Don’t be grumpy about trivial things. Enjoy it. Have impact!
In December, the senior class hears advice from three groups of alumni: college freshmen and college seniors, as well as graduates representing several career fields. If you are interested in sharing life or career advice with our students, please let us know!