Connections and Commitment to Our Mission Create a Stronger, More Inclusive Ravenscroft
by Karen Lewis Taylor | Back to Table of Contents
Our Mission statement reads: The Ravenscroft community, guided by our legacy of excellence, nurtures individual potential and prepares students to thrive in a complex and interdependent world.
It’s significant, notes Head of School Doreen Kelly, that it begins with “the Ravenscroft community.”
“Notice it’s not ‘Ravenscroft School,’” she says. “In the most significant expression of who we are and who we aspire to be, we conceive of ourselves as a community first.”
As visionary as it was when the Board of Trustees approved it in 2006, this mission statement has come to mean even more since then. Thanks to advancements in neuroscience and a growing body of research on brain development, educators now know that a young person’s growth and success depends as much on their sense of security and belonging in the school environment as on their academic and extracurricular pursuits. Building and sustaining a strong and welcoming community for our students and their families, it turns out, is some of the most important work taking place on campus today.
“It’s important to focus on what it means to us when we say community,” Kelly adds. “We have our Lead From Here framework to help guide how we work together as we consider how we can continue to be an even more welcoming educational community.”
Here, we explore just a few of the many ways our faculty and staff, students, parent-led organizations and alumni nurture and support the Ravenscroft community of today in its many facets.
Whether it’s in class, at a special event or honoring a longstanding tradition, Ravenscroft’s strong sense of community brings students, faculty and staff, alumni and families together.
The foundation of Ravenscroft community is the classroom, where teachers and students spend their days sharing, learning and growing. From circle time in the PreK classroom to impassioned debates around Upper School seminar tables, connection and engagement among students, their classmates and their instructors is at the heart of Ravenscroft’s mission.
AS ONE COMMUNITY
With the implementation of a more collaborative approach to learning — in which teachers guide student exploration of new concepts and students often work together to develop greater understanding and solve problems — trust is an integral component of the classroom dynamic.
“Student-centered classrooms allow for greater exploration of passions and better understanding of the material,” said Colleen Ramsden, associate head of school for academics and student life. “Our approach fosters connectedness between students and teachers, which is paramount to the teaching and learning process.”
Middle School math teacher Scott Ringenbach said the benefits are worthwhile. “I am often surprised by the conversations that evolve as a result of one student sharing. Students really enjoy the idea that they can offer ideas to the class and respectfully get feedback from their peers, and they seem to realize that they’re all in this together,” he said.
Andrew Abbot ’24 agreed. “It amazes me how much the members of the faculty care for students and want them to succeed,” he said. “It allows people to be more comfortable around each other, to bond as one community.”
A SPECIAL BOND
Students also relish opportunities to forge connections beyond those groups. Grade-level experiences, such as field trips and service projects, and regular divisionwide gatherings reinforce the broader sense of community on campus even as they reinforce learning.
Zion Evans ’20 said his recent experience on the Junior Mountain Trip reminded him that he and his classmates — even those he doesn’t spend time with at school — have much in common, something they enjoyed discussing around the campfire.
“People tend to not go outside their friend group due to assuming other people are different, but everyone in my group had gone through the same things throughout the junior year,” he said. “This trip most definitely brought me and my group members closer together and is now a special bond that cannot be broken.”
GET COMFORTABLE THROUGH PRACTICE
With Lead From Here’s emphasis on fostering an inclusive community, division leaders continue to create opportunities to build community. Lower and Middle School students participate in “Mix-It-Up” lunches — where students are paired with peers outside their class or friend group and encouraged to get to know one another better — and students in all divisions are supported in having what school leaders call “courageous conversations.”
“The Lower School spent time this year focusing on identity, using three questions: Who am I?, Who are you?, and Who are we together?,” first-grade teacher Bernardo Guzmán explained. “We used Tree Talks as our main approach to the topic, with each grade then exploring the questions with developmentally appropriate activities.”
“Morning Meeting was an important part of our efforts to encourage students to present diverse perspectives and cultures this year,” Upper School Spanish teacher Katie Barnwell said. “Not all students are comfortable with these kinds of conversations right away, and that’s OK. We get comfortable through practice.”
Many students have embraced these opportunities to explore and, in some ways, redefine what community means in the complex and interdependent world of the 21st century. As Ravens continue to enjoy traditions such as Spirit Week, the MLK Day of Service and holiday chapels, student leaders and advocates are working to ensure that the Ravenscroft community fully lives its mission.
When asked about their favorite traditions as Upper Schoolers, members of the Class of 2019 named events ranging from Stark Raven Madness and the St. Baldrick’s fundraiser to Celebration Day, during which students share their talents and interests, and the festive Madrigal Dinner.
Others brought up more recently created events that explore and celebrate the diversity of the Ravenscroft community, including the schoolwide Culture Festival and SPEAK (Students Pursuing Equity And Kindness), a half-day of performances and workshops for students in the Upper School.
“SPEAK focuses on topics the student leadership team hopes will inspire students to increase their own awareness around the complex issues that impact our ability to connect with one another,” Upper School English teacher Shelley Torres, who serves as the event’s faculty coordinator, said. “Overall, SPEAK works to start conversations that can grow our community’s capacity for empathy.”
Students were also instrumental in forming a Spiritual Task Force to help facilitate greater understanding and acceptance of different faith perspectives, building on a longstanding tradition of having faculty, staff and students from a variety of spiritual backgrounds share their families’ stories and celebrations in holiday chapels.
Adam Seidenfrau ’19, who was among the students who founded an Upper School affinity group for Jewish students, said, “When I first got to Ravenscroft, I don’t think people understood Judaism or the significance of any of our holidays. The creation of the affinity group parallels the increasing understanding of the Jewish faith tradition.”
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SMALL ACTS
When school leaders held a “Kindness Council” one Saturday in March, more than 70 students from kindergarten through 12th grade attended. They spent the day getting to know one another and talking about what kindness means to them. In the Lower School’s resulting Kindness Challenge — inspired by the nonprofit Kindness 4 Kate, which honors former Ravenscroft teacher Kate Childrey — students aimed to record 10,000 acts of kindness in three weeks.
“The most meaningful thing I learned in the Kindness Council was the impact of a small act of kindness on so many others, even yourself,” Carter Anderson ’23 said of her involvement. “The first meeting, we learned the significance of small acts of kindness and how you could change the world with small acts. What an amazing idea, to encourage students throughout the school to spread kindness to everyone.”
In many ways, nurturing community is a deeply personal commitment for Ravens.
“Some of my fondest memories at Ravenscroft have centered around mentorship and admiring my older Raven role models,” Kemmia Godhrat ’19 said. “Upperclassmen I met through my involvement in the fine arts helped me navigate my life as a high school student and as a future leader of the department — all while giving me friendship advice, support on my bad days and even help with math. Now I’ve repeated this cycle with two underclassmen.”
In this speech from the Every Raven Society luncheon on May 1, 2019, Kemmia Ghodrat ’19 talks about peer mentorship as an important element of Ravenscroft’s community.
Ravenscroft Magazine, Winter 2013
Special school traditions over the years
As anyone who has been to a Homecoming dinner, an end-of-year party or a performing arts event can attest, Ravenscroft is more than just students and teachers. Current families and the more than 4,500 alumni and their families — many of whom count the years of their relationship with the institution in decades — are also indispensable members of the community.
OUR COMMUNITY SHOWS UP
Parent-led organizations such as the Parents’ Association, RAC (Ravenscroft Athletic Club) and the Fine Arts Association have proven to be community-building powerhouses over the years, organizing everything from grade-level parent meetings, athletics concessions sales and concert attire to major events including Fall Festival, the Golf Tournament and stage productions. Along the way, they’ve engaged countless families in volunteerism and philanthropy, two of the cornerstones of Ravenscroft’s success.
“Community is at the heart of our mission statement,” Peggy Robbins, who served as 2018-19 PA co-president, said. “Creating those connections is what builds the foundation for a strong sense of belonging in our community.”
“This past year Ravenscroft produced its largest musical to date with ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” said Fine Arts Association president Angie Crookenden. “Parents and grandparents worked to provide meals, put up headshots and posters, distribute tickets and keep up with costumes. It made my heart swell with pride for how our community showed up for the arts.”
Families have also shown up for one another. Groups such as Global Parent Ambassadors and the PA’s Parents Supporting Diversity and Inclusion plan social events, host information sessions and advocate for students and families.
“Our mind-set is one of inclusion,” said GPA’s Karen Taber. “We act as a springboard for international parents to participate in and contribute their rich diversity to our community.”
“We’ve been a vocal advocate for additional affinity groups,” said PSDI’s Tijuana Crosby. “They’re essential in helping to establish a welcoming environment for minority families — which, in turn, helps to strengthen the larger Ravenscroft community.”
THE PLACE THAT CONNECTS US ALL
Alumni, too, play an integral role in maintaining Ravenscroft’s strong sense of community. The Alumni Association is charged with keeping all alumni connected, from the school’s earliest students on the Tucker Street campus to the almost-graduated senior class. The association spearheads class reunions and other events that bring alumni back to campus, including the Legacy Lunch, athletics reunion games and visits from college-age alumni to talk about their experiences after Ravenscroft.
“It’s fun to be a part of,” Jeremy Bull ’00 said of the alumni lacrosse game, which takes place over Thanksgiving break. “You’ve got guys spanning 25 years out there competing, becoming friends, catching up. It brings us back to the place that connects us all.”
Of course, many alumni are also current parents or grandparents. Their presence is felt in the day-to-day volunteer roles they play on campus and in the policy-shaping work of groups such as the Alumni Council and Board of Trustees.
John Parham ’84, whose children Jordan ’17 and Rhett ’20 are also Ravens, has served in both groups.
“My alumni connections have deepened because of my involvement initially with the Alumni Council and then the Board of Trustees,” he said. “When I became president of the Alumni Council, I reconnected with my ’83-’85 classmates to ask for their involvement in Homecoming weekend and a variety of campus events. There are many Ravenscoft alumni serving on the board as well, and it has been fun getting to know them better since we are all from different time periods.”
What connects them is their dedication to ensuring Ravenscroft continues to fulfill its mission for this — and the next — generation of leaders and learners. For parents and alumni, as for teachers and students, when it comes to the Ravenscroft community, they’re all in it together.
For the thousands of students who have walked the bustling hallways and wide sidewalks of the north Raleigh campus that has been Ravenscroft’s home since the early 1970s, “the Ravenscroft community” evokes green metal roofs and bronze statues shining in the sun, bells tolling before chapel gatherings and roses blooming overhead at Commencement. Graduates of those early years may recall the textured green fabric of a pool table, the lattice walls of a courtyard gazebo or heat waves rising off a newly paved track. Those who came later may remember shaded trails on nature walks, the gleam of spotlights on the stage in Jones Theatre or the roughness of cardboard and Styrofoam in the MakerSpace.
Of course, for an entire generation that came before them, Ravenscroft was a Gothic-Revival stone chapel with a small, close-knit grade school on Tucker Street downtown. Even as they cherish memories of the stairway leading to the church tower, where art lessons took place, and the potbellied stove used to heat the World War II-era classroom expansion, many Tucker Street alumni loyally support today’s Ravenscroft community, serving over the years as trustees, fourth-grade pen pals and loyal donors — and making Ravens of their own children and grandchildren.
Charles Winston Sr. ’47 has said that the Ravenscroft of today reminds him of the Ravenscroft of his time, “from the aspect of what they tried to accomplish, which was a good student who would succeed in life. I’m a big salesman for Ravenscroft because of the results I see.”
As the world changes and Ravenscroft grows and evolves with it, campus leaders continue to embrace our mission — developing a strategic plan that envisions the spaces where the next generation’s learning and leading will take place. Keeping community at its heart is certain to be a priority.
Smedes York ’59
I was privileged to attend Ravenscroft on Tucker Street for Grades 1-5. I have many positive memories! As I was moving from grade to grade I got strong support and encouragement. I was able to develop confidence which has helped me as I have gone through life.
I suppose my competitive nature became quite prevalent during this formative period of my life. I especially remember being only the third-fastest runner in the first grade. Johnny Wardlaw and Bugg Berryhill were faster. I couldn’t stand it. I was so competitive in school work that I once faked an illness in the second grade. Ms. Tongue, our teacher, asked us to turn in our homework, which for some reason I had not done. I faked an illness — which did not fool my classmates. The reason I asked my parents to let me transfer to Myrtle Underwood in the sixth grade related to sports. Our fifth-grade class was small, and as a budding athlete I felt I needed more competition. (That would not be an issue today.)
My years at Ravenscroft set me on an upward path for which I will always be grateful. It has been exciting to witness the growth of our great school.
Kubi Johnson ’13
When I arrived at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 and met my new classmates, one strange theme emerged. Without fail, in the first five minutes of conversation, my peers would express how they were “so happy to get out of high school and meet new people.” For me, this did not compute: I loved my time at Ravenscroft, and, besides my parents, it was the thing I would miss most. Luckily, the Ravenscroft community didn’t leave me.
On my first day on campus, Dain Clare ’12 invited me to watch the Heels play at his place. Dain gave me the lowdown on college life: what classes to avoid, what books to buy and the best date spots on Franklin Street. Dain went out of his way to help a fellow Raven, and I did not forget it. Fast-forward to my senior year, and a new batch of Ravens — including my little brother, Matt Johnson ’16 — arrived on campus. I shared Dain’s wisdom, plus a few nuggets I’d picked up over the years.
Why did I love my Ravenscroft community in 2013 and why do I still today? In short, it stuck with me. I know no matter where I go or what I do, the Ravenscroft community will stay with me.
Kemmia Ghodrat ’19
There are tons of examples of how Ravenscroft has fostered the importance of community, starting in grade-level settings, into division levels, and then into all-school events — along with communities created through common interests like sports. For me, fine arts is my personal example of how this community has impacted me, but less in a professional, academic setting than in a social, one-on-one experience.
In the spring of my eighth-grade year, I decided to invest my time in musical theater and stage management. I had one senior mentor and one junior mentor, and I knew nothing about what high school was about to hit me with and next to nothing about stage management. For the next two years, these mentors voluntarily helped me navigate my life as a high school student and as a future leader of the department — all while giving me friendship advice, support on my bad days and even help with math. Without the space of the theater and our shared interest, I would not have found lifelong friends who I continue to get coffee with now as a senior myself. Now, I’m currently repeating this cycle with two underclassmen.
Zion Evans ’20
The main thing I enjoyed about the Junior Mountain trip was the diversity of classmates in my group and the time spent during camping hours. There was not anyone I did not know in my group, but there were some I may not associate with every day at school. People tend to not go outside their friend group due to assuming other people are different, but everyone in my group had gone through the same things throughout the junior year that everyone else could relate to, which started amusing and comical conversations. This trip most definitely brought me and my group members closer together and is now a special bond that cannot be broken.
There are clubs within the Upper School that have a sense of community. Affinity groups like My Brother’s Keeper, Nubian Queens and the Jewish club are sacred places for certain groups of people at Ravenscroft where they can go and have conversations that others may not experience and understand. While I’ve been a part of My Brother’s Keeper, there have been attempts of addressing community and wanting to enlighten other students of the situations we encounter that they may not understand.
Alex Richmond ’23
Being a part of Ravenscroft’s student community has afforded me many opportunities, from academics to athletics. The community allows us to foster lifelong friendships as well as new ones when students join in upper grades. Sports teams from cheerleading to lacrosse give us a sense of accomplishment that we made new friends and learned how to work together to reach our goals.
As part of the eighth-grade curriculum, my classmates and I participated in a yearlong capstone project called Ravens in Action. Ravens in Action is a project where we researched a problem in Wake County and did community service to try and resolve the issue. Poor nutrition and how it affects the health of homeless families is the issue I chose to ponder. I participated in Stop Hunger Now, where we packaged over 25,000 meals for local shelters. While doing my project, I was able to learn about the needs of people around the world and in Wake County.
I enjoy being a part of Ravenscroft, and I couldn’t imagine myself at any other school.
Andrew Abbot ’24
When I first came to Ravenscroft two years ago, I thought it was a great school with a great education. Now that I have attended the school and had the opportunity to meet students and faculty, my mind-set of the school has only improved. I was elected by my peers to be sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade co-president. That to me is a very meaningful part of being in the Ravenscroft community, knowing that my peers elected me for a leadership role. I get to work with other leaders from Middle School and faculty members when on student government.
The school focuses on character traits to prepare students for the future and how to be the best versions of themselves. This makes Ravenscroft a role model for other schools to start something that can benefit students. Overall, Ravenscroft teaches students to lead themselves and others to succeed in life. Ravenscroft cares for each and every student and is a great school that brings all of its members together as one community.
We were young
With our father’s bright smile
And our mother’s wide eyes
Baring our souls without hesitation
Hearts pulsing on our sleeves
Unprepared yet emboldened
Suddenly, it was freshman year
We shed our eighth-grade skins
Over the summer
Everyone was shiny
Fresh and untouched
Of a whole new world
Our first year
We were birds
Navigating the empty skies
Slicing the wind
With glistening wings
And resonant cries
Suddenly, it was sophomore year
We had grown familiar
Lonely hallways evolved into meeting spots
The archways became home
The flags waved us inside
Everyone was quieter
Gone was the need to show ourselves off
Flaunt our perfections
Disguise our flaws
Teachers were no longer strangers
They waved us inside, too
Our second year
We were autumn leaves
One by one
Suddenly, it was junior year
We were wise now
(Or so we thought)
Superior to the lowerclassmen
Finally growing up
Shedding our skin
Everyone was bolder
The blood, sweat, and tears
Hardened into resolve
An unstoppable force
Plowing through obstacles
Grasping for the finish line
Our third year
We were snowflakes
Embracing our uniqueness
Shimmering in the lowlight
Our frostbitten fingertips
Offered warmth by our racing heartbeat
Suddenly, it was senior year
The end of the line
A culmination of the best and worst of us
We were filled to the brim with memories
Everyone was tired
Worn down by the pressures we face
No longer comfortable in the tall tree’s shadow
Exhausted yet eager
One foot out of the door
Ready to begin the race of life
Our fourth year
We were rays of sunlight
Streaming through any gap in sight
Reaching the end
We were older now
With our father’s wide smile
And our mother’s bright eyes
Overflowing with untapped potential
Fearing the worst
Becoming the best