A College Preparatory Private School with Two Campuses in Suffolk, VA. Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 12.

NSA Spirit Highlighted at 2023 Convocation Ceremony

2023 Convocation Ceremony

NSA's new Head of School Mike Barclay welcomed Saints to the Main Campus on August 31 for the school's annual Convocation Ceremony, which celebrates the beginning of a new school year.

Each year, the ceremony begins with a procession of our kindergarten students and their senior "buddies." The tradition symbolizes the beginning and end of a Saint's educational journey and strengthens the bond between our Upper School and Lower School students. Once students were seated, Mr. Barclay greeted the audience before he turned the podium over to Middle School student Trey McMurran '28, who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterward, chorus students sang the alma mater.

Student Council President Karen Mugaisi '24 followed, welcoming students to the new academic year. She reflected on her journey as a Saint, which has included many moments big and small, from a 20-minute recess in Middle School to her first field hockey goal to Homecoming and more. Karen said it's all of the memories and the people she has shared them with that make NSA an amazing community she calls home. She then reminded us all that each one of us has a role to play in creating the NSA experience and that each and every grade is an essential part of our school, teaching us important life lessons.

Karen Mugaisi '24 speaking at Convocation

"Imagine if we didn’t have the kindergarteners, sitting there dressed so beautifully, their smiling faces reminding us what it feels like to be a kid in a school that prioritizes our happiness," said Karen. "Imagine if we didn’t have the fourth graders teaching us more about the history of our country with trips to Jamestown, in return helping us appreciate our state and school a little more. What about the sixth graders, who despite the change in buildings and scheduling, continue to thrive and immerse themselves in sports and clubs, representing NSA both in and outside the classroom? In fact, let’s take a moment to appreciate the sixth grade girls who have formed the first JJV Field Hockey Team in the last seven years. They are already leaving a legacy in this school. Imagine if we didn’t have the ninth graders, who even though are the youngest in Upper School, continue to prove themselves as valuable additions to clubs and Varsity sports teams, inspiring the upperclassmen to be leaders. Imagine if we didn't have the juniors, who constantly support and befriend the senior class as they go through all their lasts and finish school. Finally, imagine what would happen without the senior class, who every day are an example to everyone that what we do here is not in vain. They remind us that our contributions and hard work lead somewhere, and that with constant perseverance comes reward."

Following the conclusion of Karen's speech, Mr. Barclay returned to the podium and announced the creation of the John C. Harrell Endowment Fund, which honors the memory of Mr. John Harrell. A lifelong resident of Suffolk, John graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering. He was the proud owner of Suffolk Iron Works and was honored as Suffolk’s First Citizen in 2017. An NSA parent and grandparent, John was also a longtime member of the NSA Board and served as NSA's Chairman of the Board from 1981 to 1983. The long-term goal of the John C. Harrell Endowment Fund will be to provide operational support for the Sandra F. Birdsong Center for Academic Excellence.

After thanking the Harrell family for their continued support of NSA, the Saints community had a special surprise for Mr. Barclay! Students presented our new head of school with a poster to welcome him to the ever-growing NSA family. Mr. Barclay told the audience that as a new member of the NSA community, he has turned to students and faculty to learn more about what it means to be a Saint. Everyone had their own unique answer for Mr. Barclay.

"Ashtyn Elliot '25 said being a Saint means 'loyalty and being true to yourself and other people,' said Mr. Barclay. "For Jackson Runyon '24, being a Saint means you are a 'friend to all, a friend to anyone.' To Adi Barot '24, being a Saint is 'to be part of a community that’s a home for so many people.'"

After consulting with Ashtyn, Jackson, Adi and many others, Mr. Barclay said he formed his own thoughts on what being a Saint means to him.

"To me, being a Saint is a privilege, not a right," said Mr. Barclay. "Being a Saint is kindness. Being a Saint is recognizing and honoring the hard work of your parents, who provide this wonderful opportunity, the dedication of the administration, faculty and staff and the visionary work of an incredible Board of Trustees, past and present, that secure and ensure the school’s success. Being a Saint is a responsibility to lead with compassion and empathy, accepting and celebrating what every Saint brings to the table, no matter where they are, where they are from, what they look like, or what they believe. Being a Saint means showing gratitude for the Saints that came before us, the Saints who are here now, and the Saints who will come in the future and are lucky enough to experience a community that engages, inspires, and empowers its students to see a world where the sky’s the limit. Finally, being a Saint is to recognize we are all Saints and in this together. Regardless of your grade, your position or your age, we are all Saints. We are all friends. We are the Saints community."

At the end of his speech, Mr. Barclay invited Adi, who is an NSA Honor Council representative, to assist with retiring the Class of 2023 banner. The Class of 2023 banner will remain in the Thomas W. Johnson Gymnasium in the Beazley Center until next fall, when the Class of 2024 banner will replace it.

To conclude Convocation in spirited fashion, our mascot, Bernie, the NSA cheerleaders and the Marching Saints took over the Thomas W. Johnson Gymnasium in the Beazley Center, to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In." Excitement filled the gym as Mr. Barclay called several students to the stage to help lead the crowd in a "Go Saints" chant. Cheerleaders deployed confetti poppers as Mr. Barclay exclaimed, "It's going to be a great year!"




Other News