Students Introduce New Yearlong Theme to Community

Student members of the school’s academic year theme committee held special Chapel presentations on Friday, Sept. 16, to introduce this year’s theme, Gratitude. They also shared ideas for spreading gratitude throughout our community.
Maya Murtuza-Lanier kicked off the service by welcoming everyone to Chapel. “You may already have heard about this year’s theme for our school, Gratitude,” she said. “We are here from the committee to do a little fun activity.”
Crawford Arnow then jumped in and asked everyone to take out the origami paper left for them in their seatbacks. Next, he explained how to fold the colored origami paper into a small heart, while projecting step-by-step folding instructions on the Chapel walls for others to follow.
Murtuza-Lanier stepped up again to speak. “Our committee exists to come up with exciting activities and Chapel programs all year to reinforce the year’s theme within our community,” she said. “Some past themes have included Peace, Respect, Kindness and Hope. This year’s theme, as we mentioned earlier, is Gratitude!”
Ben Krauss, another committee member, then took the podium. “Some of the ideas we’ve had for this year include a campaign to show gratitude toward our underappreciated staff,” he said. “This could take the form of letters, an “Appreciation Station” to write notes or even special announcements of thanks. We even have hopes to extend our gratitude beyond The Hill by sending notes to veterans, firefighters, social workers or anyone we rely on to keep our lives moving smoothly.
“We’re also looking into making a collaborative word cloud, where everyone on campus could submit expressions of gratitude, whatever that means to them, throughout the school year,” Krauss said, adding “or perhaps a flower garden to express our gratitude toward the Earth.”
“We have so much to be grateful for: our lovely campus, the ground it sits on, and the amazing staff, teachers and students that fill it,” Murtuza-Lanier noted. “We want to spread and encourage our appreciation.”
Crawford then stepped up again. “Now, we have a task for you,” he said. “We want you to take the cute origami hearts you just made and give them to someone you’re thankful for, as an expression of gratitude. It could be your best friend, that random person who smiled at you last week, or a teacher whose class you really enjoy. You don’t even have to explain why to them! Just pass on the love.
“We hope that physically spreading our appreciation for each other puts a little bit more gratitude into your day,” he concluded. The Chapel program ended with everyone in attendance reciting the school prayer.
This year’s gratitude committee is comprised of eight students and eight faculty and staff: Ben Krauss, Crawford Arnow, Eishita Yadav, Kristin Svahn, Maya Murtuza-Lanier, Philip Emioma, Vedant Yadav, Selina Lu, Cynthia Bartek, Kathy Coe, John Dugan, Liza Ayres, Miranda Ayres, Anne Marie Becka, Morgan Stokes and Sarah Todd.
The idea for a school-wide “theme” was first introduced at St. Stephen’s in 2014 to help focus our community on a common positive goal each academic year. To date, yearlong themes have included Peace (2014–15), Respect (2015–16), Beyond Tolerance (2016–17), Listen (2017–18), Welcome (2018–19), Kindness (2019–20), Together (2020–21) and Hope (2021–22).
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