Upper School students have once again committed themselves to NSA's Honor Code during the school's annual Honor Council assembly.
Christina Tabet '26 played the piano while eighth graders, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors filed into the Cafetorium. Once everyone took their seats, Honor Council member Lily Petry '24 approached the podium and led students and guests in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Upper School chorus followed, with a performance of NSA's Alma Mater. Lily then welcomed the crowd and spoke to her peers about the purpose of the event.
Lily said that while "Honor Above All" is the school's motto, the spirit of the phrase will stay with students well after graduation.
"Composed of individuals from diverse backgrounds, NSA has created a unique and supportive environment for us to grow as students, athletes and artists," said Lily. "But these high school activities and experiences will not follow us through our journey to adulthood. What will remain, however, is the character we develop while at NSA. We will seek to conduct ourselves as honorable individuals. People with confidence, kindness and, most importantly, people with integrity. We are pledging to lead lives guided by the Honor Code. The commitment we are making today will set the foundation for us to maintain honor throughout our lives."
After Lily's speech, Karen Mugaisi '24, who serves as the recording secretary on the Honor Council, delivered a reading about a baker and a farmer who sold goods to each other. One day, the baker learned the farmer was shortchanging him on the butter he bought. It was revealed later in the story that the farmer had been using the bread the baker sold him to measure out the butter he sold the baker, which meant the baker had first shortchanged the farmer on bread.
"One thing we should take from this story is that by compromising your integrity, you ultimately hurt both yourself and those around you," said Karen. "Our community is built on individual honor, and even small breaches in honor can begin to undermine what NSA stands for."
Honor Council member Ashley Bush '24 followed Karen at the podium, where she introduced guest speaker Dr. Ashley Anderson '09. During her time as an NSA student, Dr. Anderson served as a class officer, student government president and Honor Council chair. She was an active member of Students Against Drunk Driving, Relay for Life, First Priority, the National Honor Society and several other volunteer initiatives. Dr. Anderson also played basketball for the Saints from middle school through her senior year. After graduation, Dr. Anderson attended Wake Forest University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science and graduated summa cum laude in 2013, majoring in health and exercise science and minoring in both biology and chemistry. Dr. Anderson then returned to Virginia, where she earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Virginia Commonwealth School of Dentistry. While at VCU, Dr. Anderson served as a class officer and founded the school's health and wellness club. She was also a research assistant in the Department of Orthodontics. Dr. Anderson went on to pursue specialty training in pediatric dentistry in South Carolina. After her residency, she settled in Hampton Roads, where she now provides dental care to pediatric patients in both outpatient and hospital settings. Outside the office, you can find Dr. Anderson either swimming, cycling or running. She is a competitive Ironman triathlete and open water swimmer. She is a Boston Marathon qualifier, four-time Ironman World Championship finisher and a three-time Ironman All-World Athlete.
Dr. Anderson spoke about how the Honor Council serves as a guiding light for students, helping them to think a little longer, act a bit more carefully and give even more consideration to the decisions big and small that shape a student's character. Ultimately, Dr. Anderson said the goal of the Honor Council is to help formulate the moral compass of all students, which will help them navigate life outside of NSA.
"This year, I encourage you to lean on this council and the constructs it represents," said Dr. Anderson. "I encourage you to lean on and learn from one another when it comes to holding each other accountable in all aspects of honor. I encourage you to think beyond NSA and aim to make the tough decisions now, so that your moral compass is something you can rely on with the utmost integrity when difficult situations present themselves and the guiding lights are few and far between."
After Dr. Anderson's speech, Honor Council Chair Adi Barot '24 addressed his fellow students.
"I understand that there are many temptations and easier paths in which we may not follow 'Honor Above All,' but the road that may seem more difficult in the beginning will lead you to more fulfillment and joy at the end," said Adi. "It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s part of what makes us human. What truly defines us is how we pick ourselves up in hard times and correct our mistakes."
Adi then led the Call to Commitment portion of the assembly, where everyone pledges their commitment to NSA's honor system by reciting the Honor Code pledge. Adi was the first one to take the pledge, followed by Honor Council members. Head of Upper School Ms. Kim Aston '88 took the pledge on behalf of faculty and staff, and class presidents took the pledge on behalf of the students in their grade.
After reflecting on the promise they just made, students heard from Honor Council Vice Chair Emma Fisher '24, who read a poem called "The Goal" by Amos Russel Wells. The poem emphasizes how, above all else, leading an honest life will take you farther than you could possibly imagine.
"As we grow up and life hurdles its inevitable new challenges, we gain more freedom and more independence," said Emma. "We must take this new found individualism in stride and never forget what is right and what is wrong."
Head of School Mike Barclay closed out the assembly with his remarks on honor and its importance in the NSA community.
"Honor is swimming against the current when you know the current is pulling you in the wrong direction," said Mr. Barclay. "Honor is speaking up for those who are too afraid to or don't have the courage to. Honor is being the voice of reason when others are unreasonable. Honor is agreeing to disagree and respecting the other person's position and not letting it impact your friendships or relationships. Honor is doing the right thing when no one is looking. Honor is always doing your best, regardless of the situation, and being okay with the outcome. Honor is having integrity and recognizing leading with the truth and your truth will never steer you wrong. Honor is recognizing perfection is unattainable and it's our imperfections that make us who we are. Honor is being a Saint. A Saint always leads with empathy, listens with compassion and learns from their mistakes."