‘An epic day, bro’: NSA holds convocation

Published 9:29 pm Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bernie the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy mascot hugs a kindergartener at the school’s convocation on Thursday morning. The event kicked off the school’s 47th year with speeches and dedication of a new statue.

In an event that was part dedication, part introduction and part celebration, about 750 students joined teachers, administrators, alumni and friends of the school to mark the beginning of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s 47th school year on Thursday.

It’s a year of important changes for the Saints, and students and school administrators alike were eager to commemorate them.

In a welcome speech at the beginning of the school’s fourth annual convocation ceremony, Upper School Student Council President Katy Miller said students should let renovations done at NSA during the summer “inspire [them] to make changes in the right direction.”

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Among the physical changes at the school this year was an extensive renovation of the upper school building, including paint, wood treatments, carpet, ceilings, lighting and lockers, according to NSA spokesperson Ashley Greene. A concession stand has been built in the school’s gymnasium, an outdoor pergola and commons area were created for students, electronic signs were installed and bathrooms were updated in the lower school, she said.

Students and faculty also celebrated the gift of a statue of a Chinese general from the third century B.C.

The jade statue of Gen. Jing Ke, which had stood outside the now-defunct Hampton Roads Youth Center in Suffolk, was moved from that facility when the YMCA bought the property and converted it into a day camp, according to Norfolk developer and philanthropist Bob Carter, who presented it to the student body Thursday morning.

The statue was brought to America by an art dealer who had bought it for a client who subsequently decided he didn’t want it. With a price tag of $30,000 at the time, it remained without a permanent home until a group of people decided to acquire it and move it to the Youth Center “so that every single student who came to that center would see that it would take courage and strength” to improve his life, Carter said.

“In my way of thinking, he was meant to be here. He’s a fascinating individual.”

Another individual introduced to the student body on Thursday will have a more direct influence on daily life at NSA, though.

Christopher Cox, the new Head of School for the Upper School, was introduced by Head of School Colley Bell as “a teacher who was absolutely venerated” at Kent Denver School in Colorado, where he had worked since 2005, before coming to NSA this summer.

Playing on the laid-back stereotype of his native state, Cox told the students, “It’s gonna be an epic day, bro. I’m stoked.”

Turning serious, he told the assembly that he’d been attracted to NSA by the enthusiasm students showed for their school, by the “kind, compassionate” faculty that greeted him during his visit and by all the opportunities available to the students at the academy.

“Choose the appropriate ones,” he advised his charges.

Among those new opportunities, according to Greene, are increased foreign language and physical education opportunities for lower school students, stronger student-centered advisory programs and a new program through which sixth-graders will be given ChromeBook laptops supporting online textbooks and resources.