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Seniors drove onto campus on Thursday for College T-Shirt Day with college flags waving, greeted by Headmaster Dennis Manning, Upper School Director Linda Gorsline, the ever-enthusiastic Bulldog, and faculty with pom poms.

As the Class of 2021 headed to Wynne-Darden Stadium, they were ebullient and ready to start celebrating the next chapter in their life's journey. They could see brighter days ahead, after a long and often-challenging year shaped by Covid-19. It was a day when things seemed to be turning a corner, locally and nationally, due to increasing vaccinations and declining case numbers.

The seniors posed for photos, grouping and regrouping as friends arrived on the field. Capturing the mood often came down to a single word: “Great!" “Amazing!" and an occasional, “Nervous!"

Liam Michaels, who is heading to Virginia Tech, reeled off a series to describe his mood: “Grateful, excited, and emotional. I visited Tech two weeks ago, and I loved it--the food is great and everyone is friendly."

“It's been a long and very fulfilling 10 years at NA," said Anna Melley, who is going to James Madison University. “I am ready to take it to the next level."

Shirts were on display from institutions of higher learning coast-to-coast and the Midwest. From Bates (Maine) to Florida State on the East Coast; Kenyon College, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Michigan State in the great Midwest; and University of California (San Diego) in the West. The state's flagship universities were abundantly represented--University of Virginia, William & Mary, Virginia Tech, and James Madison University. And there were other outstanding universities on display -- Harvard, Howard, Cornell, and Wake Forest, just to name a few.

The school's longstanding tradition of First Grade and Senior Buddies, in which seniors are matched with a first grader to mentor and encourage throughout the year, was disrupted this year by Covid protocols for safety, which eliminated mingling between Upper and Lower divisions.

However, earlier in the year, the seniors made video introductions for their first grade buddies, and on Thursday, the first graders paraded into the stadium carrying letters for their seniors, setting the stage for a joyful meeting. Each letter was embossed with the senior's name and college logo, and carried heartfelt message, painstakingly printed in pencil. The first graders shared some facts about themselves, a compliment for their senior, and most important, a piece of advice for success in college. Some samples:

“Brush your teeth every morning."

“Bring a stuffed toy."

“Take a picture of your family with you."

And on a more serious note: “Follow the golden rule--treat others the way you want to be treated." 

The letters prompted admiration from the seniors for the neat handwriting as well as conversations on the field about mutual interests--games, books, movies, sports, and above all, highlights of the first grade year, a nostalgic trip down memory lane for the seniors.

“Twelve years in the making!" said Phoebe Montagna about this moment. “I've loved these years. I am happy now, but tomorrow, that last day, I'm going to be bawling like a baby."  

Onward, Bulldogs, and congratulations!

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