Shawn Morrison '94 recalls he wasn't "the typical Raven" when he joined the Upper School as a 10th grader. His family had recently moved to Raleigh from up North, he came from a single-parent household, and he was the only African-American student in his class. With different experiences from many of his classmates, he says, he struggled to fit in.
When, at his family's urging, he tried out for the football team, he found the sense of belonging he had been looking for.
"Coach Gonet gave me an opportunity to be on a team," he said. "Putting on that Ravenscroft #14 jersey and helmet from my sophomore through senior year helped me get through school. I fell in love with the sport — the smell of the grass, the sounds, the lights — but I also learned discipline, teamwork and the importance of physical health. It changed who I was as a person."
Morrison said joining the football team shaped him in other ways as well.
"Football led to FCA, which led to my involvement with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, or IV, when I went to University of Richmond," he said. "I ended up working for IV for seven years after graduating from UR. I had to fundraise in order to work with college students" — experience that prepared him to make the career move into nonprofit development.
"[Former Ravenscroft physical education teacher] Cherie Fowler and FCA were tremendously influential for me," Morrison said. "And my development job at Duke came about in part through a friendship made through [football teammate] Rob Hines '95."
Today, as director of development at The Steward School in Richmond, VA, Morrison appreciates the impact his time at Ravenscroft has made on his life. He also has a deep understanding of the role alumni play in the continued success of independent schools.
"Alumni support serves as a vote of confidence that can speak volumes to the board of trustees, prospective and current families, and friends. It acknowledges that we are a community that keeps growing," he said. Most importantly, alumni support "communicates to the school that they are on the right track."
Morrison noted that he felt a surge of pride in Ravenscroft at the start of this school year, when he read Head of School Doreen Kelly's statement condemning the racially motivated violence that took place in Charlottesville, VA, in August, and reaffirming the school's commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
"Valuing diversity's presence in a community is important to me. The added responsibility is to create a hospitable environment where everyone is able to be their best selves," he said. "I am thrilled that my alma mater embraces both diversity and inclusivity despite the challenges it brings. I would have benefited from hearing Doreen's words so many years ago."
"Ravenscroft opened the door for me to attend a competitive college," he added. "I will always appreciate the access to education, sports, extracurriculars and college life that Ravenscroft provided. The school took a chance on me, and I will never forget it."