Each spring, Upper Schoolers have the opportunity to take part in a Steward tradition: Minimester week. Freshmen participate in community service projects and tour colleges. Sophomores and juniors can do an internship at a local organization; attend workshops; or travel to an international destination. And seniors, with the guidance of their advisors, can put the finishing touches on their senior projects. Upper School Dean of Students Gardner Mundy and Upper School Dean of Student Support Livia McCoy serve as coordinators of Minimester.
Venice, Florence, Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii … travelers to Italy enjoyed action-packed days that led them on a journey through time, from Ancient Rome to the formation of the modern Italian state in 1861. Logging more than 40 miles on foot during their trip, Spartans visited the Venetian Gothic Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Cathedral, the Bridge of Sighs, Michelangelo's David, Ponte Vecchio, the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Sistine Chapel, and Pompeii.
Upper School Social Studies Teacher James Haske, who led the trip, said, “It was a rich experience from beginning to end. You could see students transforming as travelers, learners, and individuals before your very eyes.” The trip to Italy inspired Cameron Berryman ’24 in surprising ways.
“The most meaningful part of the trip was seeing the wonders that lie beyond my own culture,” he said, noting the “grandiose nature” of St. Peter’s Basilica. The journey also helped Cameron to “feel significantly more confident than before. On one hand, it’s amazing seeing what humans have created on such an impressive scale, which gives me a little more faith in the future. I also feel like I truly have the potential to grow as a person. It just takes a little effort … and some unique experiences!”
Spartans in England explored Bath, toured the Roman bathhouses, and visited Christ Church College in Oxford. In Stratford-upon-Avon, they visited the church Shakespeare attended, toured his childhood home, and attended the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) production of “The Tempest.” To top it all off, travelers participated in an RSC workshop, and our acting students performed impromptu Shakespeare on a stage outside the Bard’s home. All the world’s a stage indeed! In London, the group saw Big Ben, the houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower Bridge; rode on the London Eye; and toured the Globe and the British Museum.
Blakely Cummings ’23 loved traveling with her classmates. “It's fun exploring a foreign place,” she said, “and it was all the more fun to share with friends.” Visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, she noted, “felt like I was connecting with history.” Amelia Thompson ’23 said that “The Tempest” was a trip highlight. “It was the best play I have ever seen, and no words can accurately describe the performance,” she said.
Associate Director of College Counseling and Upper School English Teacher Melissa Calkins, who led the sojourn, said, “It has always been my dream to see the places that gave me my favorite works of British literature. It was especially moving to see the graves of William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer, authors I have spent years studying. It was an incredible experience to see this through our students’ eyes.”
A group of eighth-grade students got a taste of Minimester when they traveled to Guatemala. They visited Antigua, sampled delicious food, and scaled new heights during a mountain-climbing excursion. They also participated in a lively soccer contest, took salsa dance lessons, admired the floral "carpets," known as alfombras, that are created by locals, learned how chocolate is made, and visited the Mayan ruins.
Middle School World Languages Teacher Claudia Ramirez led the trip and said, “It was amazing to see the bond between our students and the students in the school where we volunteered in San Juna de la Laguna. Our students painted four classrooms and shared recess with kids aged four to eight. In all, they logged 24 hours of community service during our trip and were extremely proud of their accomplishments … and grateful for the opportunity to give back to a community in need.”
With the theme of “Discover Richmond,” freshmen dove into team-building and community-service activities. Coordinator of Campus Life and Community Stewardship Rashad Lowery and Freshmen Class Coordinator Peter Hurley led Spartans through a fast-paced week.
At Woodland Cemetery, students helped clean up historically neglected sites. Freshmen also learned more about individuals with disabilities as they made connections with adult participants at Jacob’s Chance and SOAR365. They spent a day at the Sacred Heart Center, which advocates for the Latino community, organizing the non-profit’s food pantry; and they helped Blackwell Elementary students with their homework assignments.
Ninth graders also got a taste of college life when they toured Virginia Union University and Randolph-Macon College, where they met with admissions officers. “This was their first step in the college admissions process; they're starting to get an idea of what college is like: academics, food, living, etc.,” said Mr. Hurley. “College visits will help them to make more informed decisions. We emphasize to students that these decisions will be here before they know it.” View the Steward Snaps from Minimester Internships and Workshops, England, Italy, and Guatemala.