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May 3, 2020

Dear Families,

Believe it or not, Friday was the last day of classes for the Class of 2020. The junior class sent them off with a special “thank you” video tribute. Under the leadership of juniors E-Beth Goodrich and Camille Beaudoin, Upper School students, faculty, and staff participated in the piece. The seniors still have some unfinished business and will be around the virtual campus. They have assignments to finish, AP exams in the next few weeks, and there is one more week of senior speeches. They are a great group, and we will be celebrating them in the month of May.

You may notice an “NYA Senior Yard Sign” posted in yards throughout the area. The signs and some NYA chocolates were delivered to the seniors’ homes last week. If you drive by a house with an NYA Senior sign, be sure to give a loud honking of your horn!


Mission Spotlight – NYA Community Spreads Kindness

The NYA Make-a-Wish Club is one of the most active clubs on campus. On Friday, another wish was granted courtesy of the NYA club. A local girl celebrated her 13th birthday, and while she was disappointed she would not have friends with her to celebrate her “teen” birthday, many celebrated with her virtually. She is an avid photographer, and her mom created a scavenger hunt for her, which culminated with the discovery of a major haul of professional photography equipment. She was thrilled. Thank you to all at NYA who helped make this and many other wishes come true.

Also spreading kindness is NYA alumnus, David Griswold ‘03, who left a legacy as a very bright, creative, and funny student during his time at NYA. After graduating from Yale, he worked for Google for several years and then became an author. He has collaborated with an illustrator to write a children’s book called Fur & Feather Stand Together. It is a book about people and animals around the world working together to address climate change. They are running a Kickstarter campaign that includes a kindness challenge with sponsors who will donate $1,000 to the campaign if 100 people participate in their acts of kindness challenge. Ms. Grady’s sixth grade geography class shared their acts of kindness in support.


As I shared last week, the Events Committee is working plans for important end-of-year events. This committee consists of faculty, administrators, and student representatives. The current climate and uncertainty make it challenging to plan, but we are meeting regularly just the same to ensure we capture both the important purpose and symbolism of as many events as possible. In many cases, we need to be creative to make these meaningful and memorable. One event we still are planning to hold in person, at the earliest possible and practical date, is Commencement. The same holds true for Middle School Recognition. Holding these events in person and on campus is important to our students and faculty, and we plan to do so when and if restrictions allow. We are actively planning for Middle and Upper School Awards Day in a virtual format, to be held on its regularly scheduled day, June 4. More information will follow on this and all events throughout the month. Thank you for your patience as we make plans.

Lower School Grandparents’ Day was scheduled for Friday, May 1. This is one of the highlights of the year as grandparents, relatives, and special family friends gather with the students for a visit to school, an amazing musical performance, and a tea party. While gathering this year was not possible, we tried to capture the spirit of the day. This video was sent to our Lower School grandparents. We look forward to seeing everyone in person next year!

Even hiring goes on remotely. I am pleased to announce Leslie Pike will join the faculty for the 2020-2021 school year. Leslie has accepted the position as a Lead Primary Teacher in the Lower School and will join Cindy Rideout in the Primary B classroom. Leslie has over 17 years of educational experience as a Montessori preschool teacher and in early childhood special education. She was most recently at Winfield Montessori School. She earned her BA from Dickinson College and an MS in Education, with a specialization in Montessori Early Childhood Education, from USM. Leslie’s appointment was made to accommodate growth in NYA’s early childhood program. She replaces KB Lavertu, who will now be the Kindergarten teacher in NYA’s new stand-alone Kindergarten class. Please join me in welcoming Leslie to NYA.

Also, around the virtual campus:

  • See Ms. Kathi’s recap of the week with her Toddler class.
  • Ms. Christa had a live Zoom art class with the fourth grade. As part of their Maine classroom project, they made dioramas for Maine.
  • Major spring assignments for the fifth graders each year are their State Projects. The students are well into their work on these projects. Consistent with the times, the students embarked on virtual tours of their states, courtesy of Google Earth. They shared their favorite highlight with Mrs. Buehner, which ranged from standing in the Valley of Fire in Nevada to being on the top of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee to visiting the burrowing owls on Marco Island in Florida! It was a super fun experience for the students.
  • Sixth Grade Class Visitors: Michel Kanyambo, father of Sammy ’26, spoke to Ms. Grady’s sixth grade geography class about Rwanda, the Country of a Thousand Hills. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Kanyambo moved with his family to Rwanda when he was in middle school. Mr. Kanyambo beautifully described the country of Rwanda, its strong family traditions, and its road to independence in 1962. In addition to discussing the 100 days of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, Mr. Kanyambo explained the Genocide Commemoration, a time when Rwandan communities throughout the world, including in Portland, recollect and reflect upon that terrible tragedy. Mr. Kanyambo’s journey has led him from the D.R.C., to Rwanda, to Belgium, and now here to the United States. NYA is fortunate his family is now an important part of this community.
  • Dr. Jarrod Daniel spoke to Ms. Grady’s sixth graders about pandemics. Dr. Daniel is the father of sixth grader, Hugo; fourth grader, Delphine, second grader, Cappy; and primary student, Emmeline.

Congratulations to Spencer Barton, Aidan Lacombe, Sally Stronge, and Jack Schaeffer. They represented NYA on PBS’s High School Quiz Show. The team, under the coaching of Mrs. Michaelis, competed against Morse High School in a game that aired Thursday evening (it was taped in December). It was high pressure, but the team had an exciting win.

To keep students connected the Upper School, students are collaborating on a weekly production of NYA News. The show, anchored by Executive Council President Mason Parks, includes many features. These include Cooking with Camille, Movie Reviews, the Faculty Favorite Song Challenge, Acts of Kindness, Weekly Wellness Tips, and much more. This week’s clip finished with a COVID-19 original performed by Ms. Krainis and her husband. It is a very fun recap of the many things going on around “campus.” Take a look!

The Wellness theme for this week is Grounding Techniques. These are simple strategies to help you separate yourself from intense feelings such as anxiety, sadness, stress, and anger. Grounding is a way to distract yourself, mentally and physically, from difficult emotions. By learning these techniques, everyone in the NYA community can feel empowered to regain control over their feelings, and confidently problem solve a situation. You can find links to information, videos, and more on the COVID-19 Healthy Mind and Body page. Thank you to Mrs. Hould for sharing these wellness techniques. Be sure to also check out the Get Moving page, where you’ll find the plan for the week, Saturday Game Day Challenge, and a full body workout video by a special guest trainer. They may be found on the COVID-19 Healthy Mind and Body page.

The virtual NYA Soirée is Friday, May 15. This will be a fun evening of camaraderie and support for NYA, as we come together as a community to raise funds for need-based financial aid and faculty support. I hope you will join us for the event. You can register now and begin bidding on live and silent auction items before you tune into the live event! Learn more: www.nya.org/soiree

A thank you to the entire community. I can’t say how much I appreciate the continued efforts of our students, faculty, staff, and families. I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. We are thinking of each of you every day. The campus is too quiet, and I look forward to a return to the same level of in-person energy, activity, and excitement soon.

As we shared at the beginning of this crisis, NYA’s most important consideration when making decisions is the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and families. This continues to be the case. We are eager to provide spaces for some outdoor recreation for our students at NYA, specifically the Poulin Family Tennis Courts and Lewis and Denney Fields. While some outdoor recreation has been approved, there is no clear guidance regarding the use of these specific facilities. We appreciate your patience as we wait for approval to open these spaces for use. We hope that will happen very soon.

Thank you and have a great week.

Sincerely,

Ben Jackson
Head of School


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