Submitted by Gina Napolitano ’16
After a day of festivities, the MacDuffie community came together to welcome its newest members in the nearly seventy-five year old tradition of Candlelight. This ceremony closes out the school’s annual Mountain Day- a day in which students and faculty members participate in Club Fair and hike up Mount Holyoke together. The point of this celebration is to make everyone feel as though they are included and comfortable by having new members of the school stand in a circle inside of a circle of returning members and eventually becoming one giant circle. After several speeches made by student leaders, a musical selection, and a dance piece, the inner circle is asked to step into the outer circle, officially making each new student and teacher a part of our community.
After a brief explanation of what Candlelight was and what it meant, each student and faculty member was asked to take a candle as they processed out of the gym, led by the seniors. As I walked past lit torches to the open field where the ceremony would be held, it sunk in for the first time that this would be my last of seven Candlelights. But as I looked around, I saw ninety-six students and twelve faculty members who were just experiencing the joys of this day for the first time. This reminded me of my very first candlelight in sixth grade at the old Springfield campus; I remember being nervous, confused, and just not knowing what to expect. I also recall how welcomed I was when I first came to MacDuffie. How, even over the course of my first week here, it felt like a second home. That feeling of acceptance and lack of judgment was so comforting, and, as a senior, I want nothing more than to spread it around the rest of the community.
When we approached the field and formed two circles, I was already getting teary eyed. Flags of each country represented at MacDuffie waved in the cool breeze and a large stack of wood sat in the middle of the meadow. Beautiful music played on the violin by Charlie Lee, ‘16, seemed to beckon and sooth the mass of people. After several speeches by our valued student leaders about the school’s six CIRCLE values, (Community, Integrity, Respect, Creativity, Leadership, and Excellence) an impressive musical performance of Stand By Me by the MacDuffie Singers, and an elegant, well-choreographed dance by the MacDuffie Dancers, Dean of the Boarding and MacDuffie Alumni Dina Lyman stepped forward and asked the inner circle to step into the outer circle. It was such a breathtaking spectacle- I was lucky enough to be able to stand back and see a circle of over three hundred and fifty people holding lit candles and lanterns in the darkness. I then stepped forward to lead the school in singing Summer Suns as everyone made their way to the grotto behind school for final remarks.
It was surreal to me, taking that last walk back to the grotto with all of my friends and teachers. So many people here have become family to me over the years, and Candlelight, as Mrs. Lyman always says, is one of the seniors’ first goodbyes. But I also got that same feeling of comfort that can only be described as pure happiness, knowing that everyone at the ceremony was now a part of this community that I have come to love so much.
After we arrived at the grotto, Mr. Steven Griffin, Head of School, gave an eloquent speech that only furthered my sentiments. In the minutes during which we sang our Alma Mater, The Magnolia Song, I realized how proud and privileged I am to be part of such a strong, unified, diverse group. I knew that, even when we dispersed, graduated, or moved on from the school, everyone could say that they were once part of a school as close-knit, unique, and welcoming as MacDuffie.