Upper School Prefects Provide an Uplifting Start to Year

In a recent virtual Upper School assembly, the Class of 2021 prefects offered speeches about the year ahead. Despite facing a senior year like none other, each expressed optimism and high hopes for 2020-21 and provided an uplifting start to the school year for students and faculty alike.

Enjoy these excerpts from their speeches. You may also listen to the full speeches here.

William O'Brien '21     

William O’Brien ’21

The refectory has, throughout my time here, been a sort of microcosm for my whole St. Albans experience … I remember my first ever lunch there, sitting at Mr. Stephany’s table, when Smith Mohler [’19] said to me, “Nah, ‘William’ is too boring. You’ll go by ‘OB’”—a name which has stuck with me ever since. I remember dropping a stack of plates in eighth grade, my face turning red as I awaited the relentless roasts of my classmates, and I remember when, to my surprise, instead of the verbal abuse I was expecting, all I got was help cleaning up the mess. I remember my first middle school dance, having posted up at the snack table, when Street Roberts [’20] ran over and insisted I get out on the dance floor, and I remember having a great time. I remember nervously picking at my food the day of our lacrosse game against Landon freshman year, and then I remember the triumphant BEEF Club announcement the next lunch by Jackson McDonnell [’18] after we had gone “bear hunting.” … I remember countless good times I have had sitting at those wooden tables, joking around with close friends and new ones I had only met that rotation.

Lunch is always a welcome respite in the middle of tough school days, and getting to spend it with guys who are going through the same things you are is especially meaningful. It’s safe to say that [the refectory] has been the epicenter of life at St. Albans for me and for so many us.

And I’m sure most of you can relate to this, which is why not being able to spend time in the refectory, or any space at St. Albans right now, is particularly hard. It’s hard not to be able to see the boys, the teachers, or the spaces that have meant so much to us over the past years—the boys having seemingly been replaced by annoying siblings, the teachers by two-dimensional digital projections, and the spaces by our bedroom desks.

As easy as it is to slip into this way of thinking, I want to encourage you all … to avoid this negativity. Because even though this situation we are living through is not how we envisioned our year going, what these past few months have shown me and have proven to all of us is that the spirit of St. Albans, the spirit that we’ve seen in the refectory on so many occasions, the spirit of camaraderie and compassion that make this community what it is, will not disappear just because our physical spaces do. You see, it wasn’t the refectory that made for the many special memories that I have there, but it was rather the boys in it. And the boys are still here.
Tayo Ball '21     

Tayo Ball ’21

We’re in the middle of an event that is unprecedented in modern history. Rarely has something ever been so impactful that it has caused such a drastic change on a global scale. We now live in a world that focuses on dividing us all. Whether this division is physical, racial, or political, it’s forced almost all of humanity to take a step back and reflect—on its flaws and shortcomings. In a time in which the world is focused on dividing, it is now more important than ever to find unity—a unity which, unsurprisingly, is natural here at STA.

St. Albans is a place of incredible diversity: diversity of thought, background, opinion, and so much more. Yet despite this great diversity, we all display a daily capability of uplifting each other. From the classroom to the sports fields to the stage, we each serve as a constant reminder to each other that we’re all in this together. I ask you all, this year especially, never to lose sight of that. Though the distance between us has made it difficult to connect with each other the way we should, it is not unlike the many obstacles we have overcome before as a community. The world is changing, and I know we’re all anxious to know what the other side of this change will look like. But I believe that if we trust in our brothers as we have done countless times before, we’ll emerge from this not only as better St. Albans men, but as better people.

To my brothers in the Class of 2021: It’s still unbelievable for me to think that we only have around nine months left here—nine months of challenges, celebrations, and memories which we will carry with us … The legacy we leave through this as the senior class is now more important than ever, and I have nothing but faith that we will still find a way to celebrate our dedication to each other and to the St. Albans community through it all. If I know one thing for certain, it is that I’m grateful to be sharing this experience with all of you.
Graham Chandler '21     

Graham Chandler ’21

Every school day at St. Albans starts the same way for me, whether I am leaving at 6:00 a.m. for a lift or scrambling out the door with just a few minutes before class. I leave my home, cross Garfield Street, continue along the Grant Meadow, and enter the school through the Activities Building. This walk, while short, is special. The transition from home to neighborhood to school is something I look forward to, as I know when I arrive I will be surrounded by people I love and who want the best for me.

But I did not always feel this way about St. Albans.

When I started at St. Albans in Form II, I was upset … When I found out I was leaving the only school and town I had known, I was heartbroken … Little did I know then that his school would surround me with people who would inspire me and push me intellectually, physically, and spiritually further than I could have imagined.

St. Albans began to transform me through the hard work of daily life and the expectations set by teachers and coaches. The rigorous schedule of my first two years at St. Albans led me to focus singularly on surviving. As long as I passed an important test or class, I was satisfied. My academic struggles forced me to meet with teachers regularly with the goal of trying to move beyond just surviving. Slowly, through consistent work and help from teachers and coaches, I gained confidence and improved academically.

Without teachers and peers who helped me be my best, I don't think I ever would have realized how much further I could push. The structure of support at St. Albans is special and demonstrates a community that wants the best for all of its members. Whether in the classroom, on the stage, or, in my case, in the wrestling room, the St. Albans community demands all to finish through the line together … Being able to spend these last five years at such a place is a blessing. I would not be the student, athlete, friend, and man I am today without St. Albans.
Grayson Grigorian '21     

Grayson Grigorian ’21

Our St. Albans educations are incomplete … We have more to learn before we can go out into the world and make our marks. The question we’re left with is how to rise to this challenge. I believe it is by leaning into all aspects of our education more than ever, by seeking out this year’s scarce opportunities and capitalizing on them. We are at a crucial moment in the life of the school; what we do this year will affect generations of St. Albans students to come. The way we keep the vigorous spirit of this school alive, when we can’t play sports, act, or be with one another, is to keep a positive attitude as we confront the multitude of trials that await us.

All of us will fail at some point this year; it’s inevitable even in a normal year. But each failure we endure, each triumph we celebrate, and each mundane day of school shapes us. So long as we keep that positive attitude through all of these, we just might come out of this year with a better education than we would have had otherwise: one that goes beyond the classroom, one that better equips us to tackle the world’s problems. I assure each of you that we will make it through: problem-solving is in this school’s blood. Doing that may not etch our names into the history books, but it is what we owe to each other, to our predecessors, to ourselves. We will still be talking about the pandemic at our future reunions, but I hope we don’t remember this year as a waste—rather as a challenge that we met, just like [the] Bulldogs of the past.
Jackson Namian '21     

Jackson Namian ’21

When you hear St. Albans what words come to mind? For me, one of the first is resilient.

… About 15 months ago, our last head prefect, Aidan Stretch [’20] … [shared] a quote from Winston Churchill that I find even more relevant now. In the midst of World War II, Churchill returned to his former school to speak, and he said, “These are not dark days, these are great days.” I’m paraphrasing a little, but he went on to say that all of us should be thankful for the role we get to play in making these days great, in making them memorable.

I think it’s more important than ever to keep that in mind. In a year that has shown us more adversity than almost any year since Churchill gave that quote, we need to remember how fortunate we are to be at such a great school (and I do believe St. Albans is truly great), to be with friends we’ll keep our entire lives, and to be living in such a significant time in our nation and world’s history, with the ability to bring change, socially and politically, ethically and medically. It may seem like dark days, but to make them great, you need to be resilient, and I know you all are. ...

St. Albans really is a home, a family, a brotherhood. While I can’t speak to everyone’s experiences, I feel confident in saying that everyone has felt or will feel that sense of brotherhood, of love, at some point in their time here. Like Churchill said, these really are the good days. These are days you will remember for the rest of your life; this is a place where you will make memories and form relationships that will stay with you until the day you die. And that’s because of the person sitting to your right at the lunch table, the one sitting in front of you in bio, the one standing next to you backstage, and the one lined up next to you on the field. I genuinely, wholeheartedly love St. Albans and I have each one of you to thank for that.

Located in Washington D.C.,  St. Albans School is a private, all boys day and boarding school. For more than a century, St. Albans has offered a distinctive educational experience for young men in grades 4 through 12. While our students reach exceptional academic goals and exhibit first-rate athletic and artistic achievements, as an Episcopal school we place equal emphasis upon moral and spiritual education.