After thirteen years at this school, thirteen years which encompass my worst failures and my greatest successes, thirteen years of being supported by my teachers and peers, my relationship with Hewitt ends with a feeling of gratitude. In speaking to the Hewitt experience, I am compelled to thank you all for shaping me into the young woman I have become, and more expressly, for the lessons that you have taught me, like the value of leading a life by faith and courage.
That particular philosophy of Hewitt’s has fostered my personal passion for theater. I distinctly remember the first time that I stepped onto the stage in the gym and fell in love with that invigorating moment when all the lights are lowered except for the soft glow of the stage manager’s reading lamp and members of the cast all hurry to our places.
As I took to the stage again and again, I began to understand that two things were necessary for the success of any show: the faith everyone has in their fellow cast and crew members and the courage we all need to perform in front of the Hewitt community. Although I approach this subject with some caution—I know you don’t want to be bored with all the details of how Hewitt's drama program has deeply affected my life—I truly think it is an important one. Take it, if you can, from this self-proclaimed theater nerd: Drama is relevant to everyone.
We have all partaken in an education rooted in theater. If you’ve glimpsed a student tour guide introducing our school to prospective families, you will know that Caroline Hewitt founded our school in 1920, the first year that women were able to exercise the right to vote. But, before that, Miss Hewitt was a teacher, and prior to that, she was a governess, and even further back in our history, Miss Hewitt spent her girlhood in the countryside of Warwickshire, not far from the cobbled streets of William Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon. As our school emerged from a collection of informal classes, a large part of Miss Hewitt’s educational mission emphasized her English cultural heritage, an influence which manifested itself through her interest in Shakespeare’s works. One of Miss Hewitt's early students remarked that she knew almost every word of every play.
As the twenties roared on, Miss Hewitt incorporated multiple yearly performances into the curriculum, such as a Christmas concert and seasonal plays. The theater was her way of guiding students not only academically, but individually. She believed that the qualities courted by performance, including self-confidence, enhanced poise, and sharper memory, were also essential qualities for young women venturing out into the world.
I look back with affection at the trials and triumphs of performing in Our Town in my first year of high school. I remember looking at the seniors with admiration, reverence, and fear on the first day of rehearsal. During one scene, a senior and I were supposed to perform standing on a stool. After countless rehearsals, I grew comfortable with the scene and with its blocking, that is until our opening night when the wrong stool was set up on the stage. It was significantly higher and less sturdy than the one we had rehearsed with. I mustered all of my 14-year-old gumption and grit and stood tall and trembling on the rickety stool. I looked out, blinded by a spotlight and supported by the arm of my senior scene partner and the self-confidence that she had modeled. When I step beyond the wings of a stage, I am obliged to relinquish control and embrace discomfort, freedom, and vulnerability with faith and courage.
Acting at Hewitt has given me the space to explore the human experience beyond the limits of my personal reality. It has given me a window from which to see the world from a multitude of perspectives, enriching my own worldview and approach to others.
I took these lessons with me when I took on the role of an athlete, which was deeply out of character for me.
As a freshman, I had bright green hair, geeky glasses, a weak frame, and a personality defined by awkwardness. But, strengthened by my encounter with vulnerability and collaboration on stage, I took a leap of faith out of my comfort zone by trying out for the varsity crew team. When I say out of my comfort zone, I mean that I fainted in my first week of practice, and I frequently found myself staying after practice to finish the workout that everyone else had already completed. I thought about giving up every time my alarm rang at 4:15 in the morning. While this was all difficult and painful, I found myself once again supported by Hewitt girls. We relied on each other to be there for practice because we only had enough girls to fill one boat, and on the water, we rowed together, putting our collective effort before our own personal struggles or exhaustion. When we won, we won together.
Although theater likely did not play the same role in everyone’s experience at Hewitt, its spirit lives within us all in some way. Whether we’re stagemates or teammates or classmates, we have learned to act as an ensemble, embracing trust, honesty, and self-confidence.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote, “We know what we are, but we know not what we may be.” Well, I know something of what we are. We’re venturers and friends, students and sisters. Above all, we are Hewitt girls. We have each been molded by the turmoil of high school, and we have helped each other to see the value we each have within this community. As we walk out into the next stages of our lives as women, we do so with the immeasurable potential to become anything we want to be.
As I look to the future, I know that we all have many roles ahead of us and that we will approach each of them with faith and courage.