Dr. Foster’s Chapel address, November 6, 2017
What does it mean to belong? How does it feel to know that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself? Why does it matter that young girls and young women came before you in these halls of the Castle?
Belonging is one of our most fundamental needs as human beings. Belonging provides us with happiness and a feeling of warmth. Belonging provides us with support when times are difficult. And it’s through belonging that we find our identity. It helps us know who we are and who we are not, what we believe in and what we reject.
There are many things we can belong to. First and foremost there is our family – the centre of our world as children. Family is the first thing that teaches us what it means to belong – to feel embraced and cared for by people we love. And as students, the other community you belong to is your school. School is the place you spend much of your weekday, and oftentimes your weekend. It’s where you learn, and play, and socialize, and for many of you, it’s where you live.
Not everyone feels a sense of belonging in her school. For some, schools are huge institutions with more than a thousand other students. Students sometimes feel nameless and sometimes alone. For others, her school may not be large, but it’s not a warm and welcoming place. And for others still, a school may not allow a student to feel accepted for whom they really are.
We had our Open House on Saturday afternoon. It was our biggest Open House in memory, and the families coming to visit us at the Castle were excited to hear from our student and parent volunteers. When I spoke with families after their tour, one of the most common things I heard was how wonderful it felt in our halls – how polite and articulate and informed and enthusiastic our students were. And how warm and welcoming our parents were.
I’ve been a part of many school communities, and I can tell you that this feeling of community, of sisterhood, and of mutual support doesn’t happen everywhere. But it happens here. And it’s something to honour and to protect.
Now I realize that, as with all families, disagreements occur. We sometimes argue, we sometimes have fights, and we are sometimes less than kind to one another. But I know that we have the ability to do what strong and healthy families do. We have the ability to show forgiveness, to learn from our mistakes, and to remember that none of us is perfect. And despite these moments of normal difficulty, we are still bound together by a sisterhood that has lived in these halls for 143 years.
Yes, that’s right. For 143 years, girls and young women have learned together, lived together, and grown together. You share this history with each and every Trafalgar girl who has gone before you. And you are all a part of this important sisterhood.
When I spoke with the Parents’ Guild this September, they expressed a desire to give each of you something meaningful – something that would remind you of the ties that bind you together, of the sisterhood you share today, and of the history of sisterhood that came before you.
Today, after Chapel, each and every one of you will be given a reminder that you are part of this community, that you are important, and that you belong. To symbolize our shared community, the Parents’ Guild is presenting each girl with a bracelet. And on that bracelet is a charm – a castle, to be specific, representing our deal old Trafalgar.
You’ll be able to add charms to your bracelet to represent your time here. It might be a House colour charm, or a sports charm, or a hobby charm – anything that speaks to you and your heart.
As you wear your bracelet, I hope you’ll think about what it means. It means you belong here. It means you are part of a community that cares. And it means that you are part of a sisterhood spanning 143 years that will be with you long after you leave these Castle walls.
I hope you wear your bracelet with pride, and fill it with charms, just as you fill your time at Trafalgar with memories of friendship, learning, and laughter.