Dear Freshman,

Common trust is foundational to Concord Academy, and it is only when our foundation cracks that we realize that our community crumbles. Freshmen are the easiest to blame for this breakdown of community due to the gap that the previous senior class left for them to fill. We expect freshmen to act as though they have the experience of seniors, but how could they. Throughout my freshmen year, I heard countless upperclassmen complain that kids in my grade were “the problem.” So this letter comes from a place of love, not blame, and I hope it serves as a reminder to not create a reputation of being “the problem.”

Common trust is indefinitely linked to respect. I trust that you will respect me, my time, and my effort. I trust that you expect the same respect from me. I believe our community trusts in the respect we have built toward each other, and so it comes as a great surprise to me that the trust in our respect continues to be broken. Issues of disrespect have been brought up in all school council repeatedly. This year especially, I have heard from several students that the freshmen are rude and do not listen to their teachers, along with varying levels of discourtesy. Though I have nothing against you and the freshmen class, I cannot deny the consistency with which I have heard about these actions.

It pains me to watch my beloved house parents picking up the plastic wrappers on the floor that my inconsiderate housemates did not care to throw away. It pains me to see students chattering with blatant disregard while their class advisor is struggling to make themselves heard in class meetings. It pains me to overhear judgemental, ungrounded opinions about members of our community being whispered through the halls. It pains me with each assembly, to see that many do not even make an effort to stay awake, to give the speakers a moment of their time. I am driven by this pain to reach out to you, in hopes that you will listen, and that my pains will begin to fade.

It is with this information that I would like to give a reminder. Each year, the freshmen class has trouble adjusting to the norms, the culture of unsaid respect for one another that Concord Academy tries to instill and cultivate. It is our job as upperclassmen and sophomores to help guide you into this environment, but our effort is futile if you do not put effort into this project yourself.

I do not believe it is your fault—one bad action does not make you a bad person. It is what you continue to do that creates your sense of self. It is what the student body continues to do that creates its reputation. I am not undermining the positivity of this community. Each day I see and hear countless kind acts, caring words, and considerate gestures. I am touched so often by the sheer goodness and helpfulness of every member of our community. There is not a single person whom I cannot find a shining ray of golden personality at this school. The potential for this community has always been here, it is our job to let it shine.

Every one of us must continue to strive for such a compassionate environment. The second we stop pushing, the culture we have created will begin to collapse in on itself. With each negative action, each vile act of disrespect and disregard for another person, the culture of distrust grows deeper. Like a drop of food coloring into a glass of water, when our community breaks down, the culture shift is felt throughout the entire community and encourages people to believe that breaking common trust is ok. It is not. Grant Hightower once asked, “Am I the fool for believing in common trust, or are you the villain for breaking it?” If we are all fools, then there are no fools at all, but when a villain rises, the rest will fall.

I would like to remind you to act with a bottom line of respect for each other within the community. Respect is one of the most important virtues of humanity. It is only when you truly respect someone, can you truly appreciate them. It is not hard to figure out how to treat others with more respect, but it is difficult to continuously choose our community over your personal biases or inward-facing actions.

So I advise you, before you say your next words or make your next action, to consider your impact. Be introspective. As long as you are trying, striving to uphold common trust, the castle we have worked so hard to build will stand.


Ryan Zhao