felicity picThis year is a bittersweet one for our family. My daughter, Eve, who has attended City Neighbors Hamilton since kindergarten has finally reached eighth grade, and the time we have at CNH is rapidly coming to a close. On the one hand, she is so ready to move on to high school, but as graduation approaches, many of our conversations circle back to a memory of the last nine years at CNH.

I remember her dancing on the outdoor stage with her principal on her very first day — already feeling safe and welcomed and fearless. By the end of the year, one of her classmates drew a now highly treasured collage of the many moods of Eve, proving she was understood by teachers and friends. I remember watching her class perform a song in first grade, which Eve chose to meow instead of sing the lyrics, and the parents of her classmates turning to smile at us, delighted by her even as I wanted to crawl under my seat. Hard conversations about her grades or behavior with teachers always ended with reassurance that she would be supported as she muddled through whatever issues she was grappling with. I’ve had teachers stop me to share her artwork, to talk about her valued input in class, to celebrate her emerging sense of who she is and where she wants to go.

The support we’ve received at CNH has been remarkable. That motto, “Known. Loved. Inspired.,” is day-to-day living, not just a pretty slogan for a t-shirt. Teachers across the school know her, not just the ones she has that year. I remember walking into an office and meeting a new teacher who asked me who my child was, not because he didn’t know her, but because he found our resemblance to each other uncanny and he wanted to make sure his instincts about who my child was were correct. And he wasn’t even her classroom teacher at the time, but a teacher who had already invested that much work into Eve and her classmates.

This year, my daughter’s class went to Puerto Rico and my husband had the good fortune to go with them. He talked as much about the teachers who were on the trip as he did about Puerto Rico itself. He was blown away by their patience and empathy. Before the trip, my husband was concerned about shepherding 17 teenagers so far away, but those concerns disappeared once he saw the CNH teachers in action.

In June my daughter will put on a pretty new dress, and walk across a stage to receive her “warm diploma”. As a former board president, I have been lucky enough to see all four graduation ceremonies CNH has had, so I know what is coming. Every student is congratulated by a favorite teacher not for finishing the work needed to earn a diploma, but for the growth they’ve shown as a person. Students are recognized for who they are, and who they strive to be, and it is a beautiful and touching ceremony.

For many of us, it will be the last time that our children will be together after so many years as classmates, friends, and family. Many of them, my daughter included, will be transitioning to City Neighbors High School, which will be familiar and yet not the same. And we will make new friends with classmates, teachers, and parents, even while cherishing the memories and friendships we have made for the last nine years.

My daughter is ready for new beginnings. I hope I am as ready for them as she is.

~Felicity Knox, Parent & Former Board President, City Neighbors Hamilton~