Earlier this month, SHP junior Aanya Kapoor gave a huge grin when fine arts department chair Lauren Benjamin high fived her outside studio arts in the Campbell Center, the location of a new display dubbed the “High Five Wall,” that recognizes students for good character traits. Since last semester, the wall has filled up with Polaroid photos of students alongside colorful sticky notes with teacher write-ups explaining why they were chosen.
Benjamin wrote Kapoor’s note; she is in Pulse Dance Team and intermediate dance. In part, it reads: “Aanya cares deeply about her class and teammates. She takes the time to listen to people who need a friendly ear… her continued display of compassion is a gift to this community.”
The themes on the wall were refreshed with different virtues throughout the year; the wall encompasses a spectrum of creative individuals—from actors to artists, dancers to musicians, vocalists to filmmakers, theater crew members, and more.
Born out of a desire to tangibly connect artistic development with the school’s yearlong focus on Goal V (personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom), the project ties directly into the school’s companion “cultivation of character” campaign, which monthly emphasizes one of seven virtues of Christ: integrity, courage, compassion, confidence, generosity, forgiveness, and respect.
“[The whole project] added a lighthearted celebration into the school day,” said Benjamin with a laugh. “I noticed kids looking at the wall—and that [inner] smile that spreads when they recognize, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m up there!’ And it’s a moment that’s just really sweet to see.”
The creative inquiry department also found a new way to honor students’ virtues. Last month, faculty members selected students to be celebrated, and SHP English co-department head Jake Moffat organized distribution of hand-written cards by teachers for students, complimenting various qualities of character.
At the end of February, a luncheon prepared by faculty was served for the group of students in the CI Hearth. On the menu was stinging nettle focaccia, salad, corn and pea risotto, and garlic lemon baked chicken thigh, with Head of Schools Rich Dioli providing dessert. This is the second “character lunch” to take place this academic year—the first was in the fall.
“The lunch was a simple way to slow down and acknowledge that we care about character and we want to celebrate it,” said Moffat. “We [can’t] think about a meaningful education without considering the cultivation of character; it should be at the heart of everything we do.”
“With the new hearth being the heart of CI, having the lunches here is ideal. Breaking bread together helps up cultivate the sharing of ideas, and a culture of family, comfort, and being in community that’s consistent with Catholic teaching.”