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Gathering of Thanksgiving Ushers In Season of Gratitude
A collage of photos showing the Gathering of Thanksgiving

Clockwise from top left: Ethan Silverman ’25 opens the gathering with a greeting; members of the Sixth-Grade and Middle School Strings ensembles perform “Ethos”; students in Lower School enjoy the program.

The entire school community came together earlier today for the Gathering of Thanksgiving, kicking off the season of gratitude with music, readings and reflections.

Arison Wells ’28 called students and employees to Warner Family Arena in the A.E. Finley Activity Center with the traditional ringing of the bell in the Murphy Bell Tower. Attendees were greeted by Ethan Silverman ’25 and led in the Pledge of Allegiance by Jenna Seidenfrau ’23 and Hadley Ahmadieh ’32.

The Sixth-Grade Strings and Middle School Strings ensembles performed “Ethos” under the direction of Pamela Kelly, with accompaniment by S.K. Chipley.

Yara Othman ’27 shared an opening prayer of thanks from her Muslim faith tradition, followed by Nikki Gupta ’26 reading a poem, “A Day Of Thanksgiving” by Julie Hebert. The poem included these lines:

Give thanks for the seasons, and all experiences you’ve been given.

Give thanks for those you’ve helped, and also for who you’ve forgiven.

Give thanks for all that’s little, not just for the big things.

Though you may not realize it, little things tie together like strings.

But most importantly give thanks for who you are today.

You're kind, loving and courageous,

And I give thanks for you each day.

A collage of photos from the Gathering of Thanksgiving

Clockwise from top left: Associate Head of School for Academic Affairs Justin Brandon talks about his family’s Thanksgiving traditions; Arison Wells ’28 rings the bell in the Murphy Bell Tower; Head of School Doreen Kelly closes the ceremony; Strings Director Pamela Kelly directs the ensembles as Upper School students and employees look on.

Then, Justin Brandon, Associate Head of School for Academics, shared some reflections about a Thanksgiving tradition he enjoyed growing up: traveling with his family to visit relatives in Philadelphia and enjoying a meal prepared by his Aunt Linda, who — unlike many other attendees at the dinner — was a very good cook. He said:

As I got older, I thought about what I could contribute to Thanksgiving so that Aunt Linda would not have to cook all of the food. I wanted to learn how to make a dish that was so good that Aunt Linda would invite me to bring it to Thanksgiving. 

I had no idea what I could make that could meet such high standards. Then my mother came up with the dish. One day she said, “OK, it’s time for you to learn the family recipe for sweet potato pie.” I was excited and nervous for what was to come next. My mother taught me what it meant to cook to taste — that means there was no detailed recipe, just suggestions, and there were no measuring cups involved in the process. 

Our recipe was simple and complicated: it was completely based on the taste and looks of the mix. So I got to work. I boiled the sweet potatoes, added the condensed milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla ... and more sugar and more cinnamon and more vanilla and more sugar! I then used multiple spoons to taste the mix and see what was missing or if the mix was ready to be baked. As you can imagine, it took me years to get the taste of the pies to my liking and high expectations. I often shared my pies with friends and coworkers. Then one day I gave my Aunt Linda a slice of my sweet potato pie. Guess what? She loved it. 

Brandon concluded by recounting how, now as an adult, he includes his daughter in preparing the sweet potato pie that has become their family tradition. “I one day look forward to seeing how she will contribute to our family traditions as she grows up,” he said. He closed with this message for students: “As Thanksgiving and other family gatherings occur in the coming weeks, I hope you think about what you can one day contribute to those events to make it easier for the hosts — and I hope you never have to worry about being served that bad macaroni and cheese by an overconfident uncle!”

The event was concluded with remarks from Head of School Doreen Kelly, who thanked the members of the Spiritual Task Force who planned the program for the gathering. The Spiritual Task Force is a student-organized group that works with school leadership to plan and promote events that are inclusive and welcoming to students and employees in the Ravenscroft community.