The Orme School Board of Trustees and Leadership Summit this past week included special guest John Agresto, former president of St. John's College, Santa Fe, and senior advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Baghdad, Iraq.
Agresto joined school trustees and alumni during the three-day summit that began Thursday, Jan. 19, with registration and campus tours, and continued Friday with a full day of presentations by both faculty and students.
A highlight of the summit was the Student Leaders Luncheon which took place on campus in the Lou Alfred room, where student leaders spoke to the guests on Orme tenets of tradition, character and excellence.
Drew Huffman, a senior from Sedona, talked to the group about school traditions.
"There is something so special about the traditions that I am lucky enough to participate in every year," Huffman said.
Huffman said her experiences with the school's caravan program - an annual trip students take to various parks and monuments that often includes backpacking, camping, and biking - have created memories that will last a lifetime.
"I have seen faculty become friends, students rise to the occasion, and a dog who scaled cliffs with a backpack. But the best thing about Caravan is the bond that the students make with each other throughout the trip," explained Huffman. "This bond lasts long after their blisters have healed and the dirt is washed from their hair and sleeping bags."
In contrast to the rough and ready Caravan, Huffman also fondly recalled Dress Dinner events, where the girls' camp would follow the tradition started by school founder Minna Vrang Orme in which students focus on developing social skills to aid their academic, personal and professional lives.
"Because of the traditions of Orme, I know who I am. I am an adventurer who has backpacked miles upon miles. I am an actress who has appeared in a 20-minute-long movie. I am a leader who loves to take charge and get things done. I am a lady who has good table manners and is terrible at walking in heels. I am Olivia Drew Huffman, a proud Orme Student and a lover of Orme traditions," she said.
Student Body President Zoe Schroeder introduced the audience to "Excellence" the Orme way.
Recalling the first time she stepped foot on campus, Schroeder said, "I knew this school was unique." Coming from the public school system in Camp Verde, she stated that she was in desperate need of a change of pace.
"I needed a school that would help me better myself and emphasize my education. I love the focus Orme places not only excellence in the classroom, but also on the extracurricular activities, the tightly knit community, and the preparation for our future."
Schroeder detailed the many projects open to students on campus that are designed to prepare them for their academic and professional lives, stating that as a preparatory school, "Orme does just that. Prepares us for college and beyond."
Schroeder said she has come to appreciate and develop critical thinking skills. Smaller class size is a feature that Schroeder finds particularly helpful in reaching her own level of excellence.
"Having only 13 students in my largest class and only five in my AP Calculus class, individual attention from the teachers truly benefits each student and their unique learning styles. Students can choose to push themselves to levels they would never imagine and strive for excellence," she said.
Schroeder is confident her experience on campus has prepared her for success.
"Because of this emphasis on excellence I am confident to face whatever challenges my next adventure may hold in store," she said.
Junior Navin Crump comes to Orme from Singapore by way of Chandler. Crump, who appeared as comfortable in public speaking as he is on the basketball court, told his audience how his time at Orme has developed his character.
"Whether it was being late to class sometimes, or being ill-prepared when I did show up, I didn't feel as though I was doing anything wrong, and at times felt that I was being targeted," recalled Crump of his early days at the school. "But with the help of my advisors and my family, I got back on track and made improvements as a student, but more importantly as a person."
"Character in my opinion doesn't define who we are but determines what others will think of you," said Crump. "It determines your legacy and how you will be remembered as an individual."
Quoting his father, Crump said, "You only own two things in life - your name and your reputation. What you do with both of those things will map out your life, whether it be positive or negative."
Crump said that character is demonstrated by how a person reacts to and learns from those mistakes.
The 3-day summit concluded with a trustees' breakfast and full board meeting on Saturday morning.
Information on upcoming Orme activities, including the annual Fine Arts Festival in February, is available at www.ormeschool.org or on the school's Facebook home, www.facebook.com/pages/The-Orme-School-and-Summer-Camp-of-Arizona.