Queen Sara Memorial Academy, Arts Center Main Hall
The main hall was practically a building in itself, at one end of the Arts Center that the upper and lower schools shared. We were on time with the main group of students from the train but hadn’t come early enough to get prime seats. The seats normally might have bothered Joel; my own habit was always to take an aisle as far back as possible, and with all the close seats taken he didn’t object.
A few minutes later, there was a quick audio check by a couple of students. A group of eight people followed them onto the stage. The first two we recognized -- the tall, balding Doctor Mittari, who was head of school and who we’d met briefly when we first toured it in the spring -- followed by the short, bearded Dean Jerdew, who had been our first contact with the school and our counselor prior to starting classes. The other two adults we didn’t recognize -- both women, and while a little younger than the first two, clearly faculty or staff. The four students followed -- a boy, and three girls. The last to enter, a shorter blonde, looked like she’d rushed there.
“Is she one of the girls we saw on the train?” I asked Joel.
“I think so,” said Joel.
Doctor Mittari was the first to speak:
Students, faculty, staff, and friends of the school -- I am very pleased to welcome you to our ninety-first opening ceremony. To those of you continuing your studies here, or graduated from the lower division, welcome back. To those of you who are new to the Queen Sara family, simply welcome.
I don’t use the term family lightly. The head of our trustees would have me tell you about our success in one part of our mission -- graduating future leaders of the old Alliance, and he would prefer I talk in terms of Senators, Consuls, and Princes. He would, I think, want you to be proudest of the moments you will have later in life when you see a classmate on the front page of a newspaper. For me, though, leadership comes in many forms, and our mission is not just to graduate future leaders, but to raise the next generation of teachers, engineers, and most of all, citizens.
Thirty-five years ago, in my first year here, I sat where you did. Your classmates come from every nation of the Etciv, and a dozen other nations throughout the world. Your classmates come from every walk of life. Nearly every one of you has joined us by excelling on the entrance exams or an academic recommendation. I have never since enjoyed the day-to-day company of such a diverse and talented group of people, and unless you are extraordinarily lucky, the same is likely to be true for each of you.
I would tell you to do your best with your studies, but very few of you need that advice; most of you would not be here if you were not already very able in that respect. Instead, I urge you to make the most of your time here with one another. Make friends you would not have otherwise made. Learn from your peers, not just your textbooks. Teach one another from your own unique experiences. My own proudest moments coming from graduating this school are not the newspaper moments, but rather the fact that I can run into someone who graduated from Queen Sara years apart from my time there, and be greeted as a friend, or as I said at the start, like part of the family.
I don’t have any announcements to make at this time, so I will now turn over the podium to your class advisors and representatives.
The next to speak was the third-year class advisor, one of the women, who introduced herself as Mrs. Franks; I later found out she was the chair of the literature department. She mostly talked about getting ready for college entrance exams, and the importance of not neglecting your other studies while preparing.
Dean Jerdew was the class advisor for the second year, and it was in that capacity that we’d met with him to discuss our plans a few days before. He emphasized the importance of figuring out plans for our futures, and not leaving that for senior year. He also had some minor announcements; a popular teacher who had taught physics had decided not to come back over the summer, and some of the students who were looking forward to his class booed at this. While Joel and I were to be in a physics class, we didn’t know the old teacher at all.
Last came Ms. Cabral, the first-year advisor. She emphasized that continuing students from the lower school should keep an open mind, and to avoid cliques -- I remembered that the upper school was a good bit larger and about a third of the class was newly admitted. New students in our second year would be much fewer and far between.
And that was that for the faculty; next came the student council president, a senior who had a bit of a cheering section of young ladies in the audience. “Hi everyone,” he said. “I’m Anson Gramm --” and here he had to pause because of shouts of “Anson!” from the same group of young ladies. “--and I wanted to thank you again for electing me to be your student council President. We’ve got a lot of good things planned for this year.
“First, if you’ll remember, I ran on modernizing our dress code and if you haven’t already seen it in this year’s student handbook, I’m really pleased to say that we were able to come to an agreement with the administration to loosen things up a bit.” Quite a bit of applause for that.
“Second, many of you have asked me already about club budgets, and I’ll remind you that we don’t finish those until we have membership counts for the term. For the first years, or any of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I hope you’ll join us for club presentations after classes end on Saturday afternoon, and there are open houses after that.
“Last, we’re all hard at work putting together great festivals for you this year. We’re only a few weeks away from the festival of nations, and I know there are some great booths planned. I hope we get close to 100% participation this year. Student council meetings are, as always, after school on Wednesday and remember you don’t need to be an elected officer to join. Now, let’s hear from each of our class representatives, and then let’s all get out there and do our best.”
The class representatives started with the seniors as well. Their representative was a young woman with very red hair – and quite popular, with more applause than for any of the teachers or the President. “Hey third-year class!” she started, when someone yelled out “Hey Gwen, that should have been you!”
She stood still for a moment, hushing the audience. “I didn’t run, remember? Anson’s got my full support. We’ve got big things planned for this year. We’ve got our last class trip and a ball to plan…” and she went on with a discussion of the upcoming year. College admissions sounded every bit as big a hassle here as they’d have been at home, although it seemed to rest even more heavily on exams. I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to matter for me. I was going home next year, so as long as I found a way to get my SATs done on time, I’d be fine. Doing a year abroad and having a recommendation from the state department folks couldn’t hurt.
Gwen spoke for a few more minutes with announcements, and ended with “and for all of you, from every class, I’ll put on my actress hat and remind you that our theater clubs have some great shows planned this year. The Troupers” -- having not yet seen it written the pun went over my head at the time -- “will be doing the fall performance and I hope you all will come out to see us.” With a round of applause to that, she sat back down.
Ms. Cabral came up again. “Normally, we’d go straight to the second-year class, but we have an announcement that affects both classes. Here is our interim first year representative, Tess Hahn.”
I still couldn’t see well enough to be sure, but she looked a lot like one of the two girls who got on the train not long after us -- they’d both been short, Tess having straight dark-blonde hair where her friend had lighter curly blonde hair. While it was hard to be sure at the distance, Tess was probably quite pleasantly curvy. “Thanks for the introduction, Ms. Cabral! As most of you will remember, forest fires last year damaged the campground we usually go to for the first-year class trip. We found out over the summer that repairs won’t finish in time for the class trip this Spring.” Boos interrupted her from the audience.
“After talking it over with Elise” -- and here she gave a nod to the last class representative -- “and the rest of the student council, we’ve decided that our class will join the second years in the cultural trip this year, and that next year we’ll have a combined trip with the new first years to the campground.”
This got a very mixed reaction. As it died down, she ducked back to ask the advisor a question, and then continued, with the rest of the announcements for her class. It sounded like a lot of the school traditions repeated in each of the terms, with one of the classes taking the lead, so there were a lot of echoes of things that Gwen had said. Finally, Tess finished -- “and last, I should remind you that we’ll be having elections for a permanent class representative and an alternate this time next week.”
She traded positions at the podium with our class representative. “Hello fellow second years! I’m Elise Shevariet. As Tess just said, we’re going to be going together with the first years for the class trip this year. We are still planning things, but we’ve got some exciting ideas. It will be a challenge since it’s a bigger group than usual, and I’m really looking forward to it. We’re also the class taking the lead for the Festival of Nations, and we’ve got our semi-formal in the winter. We’re looking for volunteers from each homeroom for each of the organizing committees.”
She was going on with announcements, but Joel gave me a nudge. “She’s cute, right?”
“Sure,” I said, not really having taken much notice. I could see why he thought so. She was taller either Gwen or Tess, quite slender with long dark hair. Anyone popular enough to have won an election was going to be way out of my league, but I figured I’d play along anyway. “Although I think I’d pick the redhead.”
He snorted. “Really? I was sure you were eyeing the blonde even back on the train.” To make sure I knew what he meant, he made a hefting gesture in front of his chest.
“Crud. And, OK, maybe. Not like we’d have a shot with any of them.”
“There’s no ‘we’ there,” he said, to which I gave him a skeptical look. “Really! I’m going to get a girlfriend this year.”
There didn’t seem to be a good response to that, and the announcements were wrapping up. Doctor Mittari returned to the podium, said a few more words of encouragement and ended with “Now all of you head to your homerooms, and have a wonderful year.”
Joel and I headed off to find the upper school dean’s office to get our schedules; as it turned out, we ended up in class 2-C.
- California, USA
Bio: Amateur SF/fantasy writer. Professional computer geek. Something of a grouchy old man, but mostly harmless.