US Welcome Assembly 2017-18

Good morning Mustangs! On behalf of the faculty, staff, Dr. Jacobsen, and our entire community, I want to officially welcome you to Mount Vernon’s Upper School. I would like to thank our Prefects for leading orientation for our new students, preparing the bulletin boards and hallways to make you all feel welcomed. Also, please take a moment with me now to recognize our incredible faculty - many familiar and some new faces - all who have been here preparing for you.

I know many of you, but there are many of you I look forward to meeting and getting to know this year. For those of you who don’t know me, let me share a few things. This is my 8th year at Mount Vernon. 6 more years and I’ll be a “Lifer!” This is the 3rd time I’ve started high school. First as a student, second as a teacher, third as a principal. Most people graduate high school and never look back. I’ve been in school in one capacity or another almost continuously since 1980.

I taught high school 10 years - Chattahoochee High School (AP World History, Government, Economics, Dept Chair of Gifted Program) and Dunwoody High School (World History, United States History). I have 3 college degrees and am currently a student at the University of Georgia working on my 4th in Educational Leadership. Go Dawgs! I have 3 children - all boys, all Mount Vernon Mustangs. I grew up right here in Atlanta and graduated from Lakeside, a public school in Dekalb County. I was proud to be a Viking. I’m proud to be a Bulldog. I’m proud to be a Mustang. All three of those are pretty strong mascots that are part of my identity. That got me thinking about school mascots and identity. I did a little research and wanted to share with you some interesting and curious school mascots from around the nation.

(Go through slides)

So, all I can say is thank goodness we have a strong mascot here at Mount Vernon. What does it mean to you to be a Mustang? What are some qualities that Mustangs possess? (wait time - possibly take some responses)

As we launch this school year together, I want to share with you three things that I think define who we are as a school and as a community. Three important things that distinguish us as Mustangs.

First, Mustangs are wild at heart. Our spirit is wild. We cannot be tamed, bridled, or contained. I’m not talking about partying. I’m not saying you should go wild making poor decisions for your life. Nor am I saying that you should ignore rules and break laws. What I mean is that I believe each of us was created with talents, abilities, and desires in our heart - in the image of passionate God. A creative and powerful designer. In 1971, the United States congress recognized that wild, free roaming horses (Mustangs) are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the American west. When it comes to this year and your time at Mount Vernon, I want to encourage you to find the things you are passionate about and curious about and pursue them with uncontained enthusiasm. Like a Mustang, you can’t be fenced in or domesticated when it comes to learning everything you can. Don’t do anything half-hearted. Pursue your passions unapologetically. Race after them. No one can catch you. Nothing can stop you. Mustangs are wild at heart.

The second thing I think it means to be a Mustang is that we run together. When you run alone, it’s just a race. When we run together, we create a powerful stampede. This whole place is for you. It’s all about you AND it’s not about you at all. Everything you see, every adult in this room is here because of you and FOR you. There is an entire community of teachers, staff, parents, coaches, Sandy Springs police - all here to help you on YOUR Hero’s Journey. You are the hero in this story. We’re just the helpers along the way. The Pioneer Tomorrow campaign - raising millions of dollars to build a new Upper School building - FOR YOU. It’s all about positioning you in the world - in the best way possible - to give you every advantage - so that you can then turn around and design a better world - make an impact - make a difference for those who are in need, hurting, suffering, lonely, poor, mistreated, outcast.

So on one hand, it’s all about you. On the other hand, it’s not about you at all. That means there is a danger that you could see all of this and allow your ego to become so self-focused and self-absorbed, that you fail to leverage your life for the good of others. We want you to leverage your time, talents, and treasure for something bigger than just yourself. This is the only way to a truly happy life, by the way. You have all the power. Think about all of the examples in the world right now of people who have lost sight of what it means to run together and to leverage all of their power for the good of others. What if Kim Jung Un spent the last decade trying to solve hunger instead of pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to incinerate millions of people? What if the white supremacists could step back and let go of their hateful identities? What if they focused their energy on something positive instead? Sadly, the example are endless. But not so with you. You will be different. You will defend and respect one another. You will look out for each other’s best interest. It’s about doing good for others and making a dent. Mustangs run together.

The third quality that defines what it means to be a Mustang is to always remember that YOU are a thing of beauty. Just as you are. Right now. You are majestic, unique, and powerful. Let’s be honest, high school can be hard. At times, it can be filled with insecurity, filled with scoffers, and people who are looking to bring you down, life can hit hard and bring you down. I want to challenge you to stand firm in your identity - in who you are -- without apology. Don’t listen to the dream assassins. Don’t allow yourself to play the game of comparison. Don’t let other people’s opinions count so much in your life. You are a thing of beauty.

To conclude, if you choose to embrace what it means to be a Mustang (and it’s totally up to you), this year will be a meaningful and fulfilling experience for you. Remember...

We are wild at heart.

We run together.

We are a thing of beauty.

We are Mustangs!