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Leading by Example: The Class of 2020's Impact on Rockbridge Academy

July 31, 2020
By Olivia Reardon

I was sitting outside in mid-July watching the first ever outdoor Rockbridge Academy graduation when it hit me. The young men and women in caps and gowns, that I had grown so accustomed to having around, weren’t seniors anymore. They were graduates—off to start a new chapter in their life, likely far away from Rockbridge. As the school year approaches, the idea that the class of 2020 won’t be there is becoming all too real. And, as a rising junior, watching this class graduate made me realize how I want to graduate: having made an impact, a difference in the lives of those I will leave behind. It was a privilege to watch this class graduate because they have done just that. This fall, the class of 2020 will be gone, off to do God’s will elsewhere, but through their exemplary leadership, they left behind lessons in love, joy, and faith that won’t be forgotten. 

This class taught me much about how to love one another in a Christ-like manner. Their constant encouragement and support of one another is a great example of how to be a good friend. When my brother, Zach, tore his ACL, I watched his classmates come together and support him by praying for him, visiting him after surgery, and encouraging him through a difficult time in his life. 

Not only was this class a tight knit bunch who cared strongly for one another, they poured out this love on younger students. As a new student at Rockbridge this year, I barely knew anyone, but on the first day of school multiple seniors went out of their way to get to know me. I stepped out of my car and was immediately welcomed by Lauren Bailey who later took the time to follow up with me at lunch. There was not a day that went by in which I didn't see a senior assisting someone else. Whether that was giving rides between campuses or to events, sharing helpful advice, or just being someone to laugh with, they were there and eager to serve. Their leadership in events such as FCA, sports, and clubs will surely be missed; but they have left me with a deeper understanding of how to love one another in Christ. 

Radiant, abundant joy exuded from the class of 2020. On any given day you could hear laughter pouring into the halls from either twelfth grade homeroom. They kept laughing through quarantine in their late night zoom calls where they shared jokes and showed off their pets. These graduates brought their joy wherever they went, but that isn’t to say they were never serious; I have watched them tackle difficult tasks with persistence, carry each other's burdens, and deal with important matters discerningly. At the 2020 March for Life, Rockbridge’s group got separated into multiple small groups, many of which didn’t have adults in them. I witnessed the seniors take charge, letting people borrow their phones, offering to wait for parents with younger students, and leading everyone in making a human chain in order to get to the metro station across the march without losing anyone. I am continually inspired by this class’s ability to be hardworking and dedicated while still being able to laugh and have fun. This kind of joy is infectious and their laughter and smiles brightened Rockbridge. This class has shown me how to find the joy in every circumstance and share it with those around me. 

Each graduate’s faith was highlighted through their demonstration of love for others and uncircumstantial joy. During quarantine, this class kept our FCA bible studies alive by way of Friday morning zoom calls. Ryan McDowell, Alex Lawing, and Jillian Schwartz led us through Phillipians and 2 Timothy where they explained God’s word and applied it to our lives while many other seniors offered valuable insights. This class has always been ready and willing to share their own stories in order to help or inspire others. My faith has been strengthened in indescribable ways from my time at Rockbridge, and these graduates have played a huge part in that. I am sad that their continual example won’t be around anymore, but I couldn’t be more grateful for the ways in which their faith has ministered to me.

This class has made a tremendous impact on myself and many other students. As a rising junior, my class will soon be in a position where we too can make an impact on the other students. Being an example is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly, and I am so thankful for the example of the recently graduated class. They taught me to never be too busy to help someone out, to take the time to enjoy the wonderful gifts God has given me, and to trust in the Lord for my future. I want to graduate having taught these lessons to the classes that come after me. This class will be missed deeply. However, after seeing and cherishing the effect they had on Rockbridge, I know they will continue doing great things for the Lord wherever they go. So, while Rockbridge won’t feel quite the same without them, their influence in how to love like Christ, be persistently joyful, and have a faith that can move mountains, will live long after they leave.

Olivia‌ ‌Reardon,‌ ‌‘22,‌ ‌loves‌ ‌to‌ ‌write‌ ‌and‌ ‌can‌ ‌usually‌ ‌be‌ ‌found‌ ‌reading‌ ‌a‌ ‌good‌ ‌book.‌  ‌She‌ ‌is‌ ‌part‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌dance‌ ‌company‌ ‌and‌ ‌enjoys‌ ‌spending‌ ‌time‌ ‌with‌ ‌friends‌ ‌and‌ ‌eating‌ ‌ice‌ ‌cream.‌


Posted in Upper School

The Birth and Development of a Rockbridge Tradition

January 15, 2020
By Marcus Wilson, class of 2018

Chairs clatter, students squeal, rooms empty, and break looms. No it’s not the last day before summer vacation, but Rockbridge’s annual Captain’s Cup decorating competition, one of the most hectic days of the year. In a matter of hours, classrooms are stripped down and transformed into ornate displays of “Christmas” scenes, all for that coveted lunch (take-out from the restaurant of their choice) paid for by the school’s administration, not to mention the trophy.

Rockbridge has traditionally held its Captain’s Cup on the final day before Christmas break as a way to not only celebrate the holiday season, but also to promote community and fellowship among its students, teachers, and alumni.

The very first Captain’s cup took place in 2006 and was coordinated by then upper school principal Ralph Janikowsky. “By the time of the Christmas break, everyone was exhausted and no one was having any fun,” Janikowsky explained. “We decided to start the Captain’s Cup to encourage class camaraderie, prepare our hearts for Christmas, to provide some team building and leadership opportunities, and to let our students be creative and enjoy that last day.”

In its purist form, Captain’s Cup is a classroom decorating competition between upper school homerooms. For weeks, students plot, scheme, and vie for the best idea, one that will undoubtedly set their class apart as the best. In the end, decorations are brought in, actors are chosen, and a few lunch periods are lost in the process, but it’s all worth it once the finished product is presented. Ideally, each room will have tie-in to the holiday season, but as history has shown, this is only a tangential requirement.

According to former administrative representative Ellen Wallen, Mr. Janikowsky may have found inspiration for Captain’s Cup in a small scale Christmas door decorating competition which had already occurred between classrooms prior to 2006.

Janikowsky instituted and popularized the competition during his second year at the school, but what took place early on was not exactly the same Captain’s Cup we’ve grown to appreciate today. According to rhetoric literature teacher Monica Godfrey (who was a sophomore at the school in 2006), the event took time to develop and mature. She explained that in the early years, decorations were not as elaborate, likening it to those doorway competitions which preceeded Captain’s Cup.

“The expectations were a lot different then,” she said. “No one really transformed their rooms, so you could still tell you were in a school. Over the years things morphed as people became more creative and committed to setting themselves apart.”

She also explained that originally there were no actors in the rooms, and due to the small size of the school, teachers judged the rooms rather than alumni. Mrs. Wallen noted that she, along with Mrs. Davis and Mr. McKenna, were the first to hold this honor.

As the years advanced, Captain’s Cup continued to progress. The name “Captain’s Cup” was not even utilized until much later on, referencing Mr. Janikowsky’s experience in the Navy. Additionally, starting in 2011 the school opted to let the alumni play a key role in the event as judges, an element that remains to this day (per Mrs. Wallen and Mr. Keehner).  

Former upper school principal Jerry Keehner stated that this choice continues to produce one of the best alumni events the school holds. “We love seeing them, and work hard to keep up that relationship,” he explained.  

Class of ’15 alumna Caitlin Flanagan voiced her appreciation for this particular opportunity, “Returning to Rockbridge for Captain's Cup, especially because my family moved, is my only real opportunity to return to the halls and community that shaped me so much and for which I am so grateful,” she said. “A lot of my friends in college never return to their high schools, but I really treasure the time to see some of my old teachers and catch up with friends who I haven't seen in so long and wouldn't necessarily see during my time in Maryland otherwise. As long as I am in the area at that time of year, I really hope to be able to at least stop by, walk through those tiny little hallways, and thank God for four beautiful years there.”  

In the past, we have had over sixty-five alumni participate in the festivities. As judges, the alumni are told to review each room and rank their three favorites. Once their ballots are all collected, Mr. Keehner tallies the scores and announces a winner.


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