Another benefit of the Keystone experience: lifelong friendships

Apr 20 2023

Another benefit of the Keystone experience: lifelong friendships

You don’t have to have anything in common with people you’ve known since you were five. With old friends, you’ve got your whole life in common.
-Lyle Lovett

Every year at this time, we observe the mixture of emotions for seniors as they look forward to the next step in their educational journey but also realize that they will be leaving the school, the teachers, and perhaps most importantly, the friends they’ve had for many years.

Fourth graders write in their Outdoor Education journals while hiking in Government Canyon.

That mixture of emotions comes through in the latest episode of the Cobra Radio podcast. In it, seniors Quincy and Stella share with Keynote co-editor Caden stories of meeting in kindergarten, how they played basketball and volleyball with each other, and how they had a “divorce” in 8th grade, but soon got back together.

The episode illustrates a sincere friendship that spans most of these young women’s lives, and it’s worth a listen.

So is a previous Cobra Radio interview with seniors Ana, Hazel, and Maya. They visited with co-editor Aleena for a podcast episode, and their free-floating conversation included lower school classes, middle school teachers, and high school sports and clubs. It was easy to laugh along with these four soon-to-be graduates as they recalled their thirteen years together.

At Keystone and other independent schools, these students are called “lifers.” They are young adults who have spent their formative years of schooling with each other and grown up together. They have cheered for one another in moments of triumph and consoled each other in times of hardship.

They share experiences and adventures and revel in describing them. I can’t wait to hear the tales from this year’s fourth graders who learned to pitch their own tents and endured a thunderstorm during last week’s first-ever Lower School Outdoor Education overnight camping trip. When I texted Lower School Head Ms. Matthews during the storm at 1:30 a.m. to check in, she immediately responded, “They’re all awake but no one is upset or scared. Letting them talk quietly until it passes, and they all seem pretty good. I’m impressed.” Thanks go to Ms. Matthews, Dr. Wittwer, Ms. Christiansen, Ms. Sobieszczyk, Mr. Tijerina, and seniors Quincy, Andrew, and Asher for chaperoning the trip.

These brave 4th grade students will undoubtedly follow the example of other classes whose outdoor ed trips included braving the elements; the legend around whatever they experienced, takes on greater and greater status as the years go by. Four years ago, members of the Class of 2023 spent an entire day hiking in the pouring rain at Olympic National Park in Washington. At times, we were slogging through the kind of mud that can pull your shoes off if you haven’t laced them tightly. Similarly, last year’s seniors faced unbearably hot weather and swarms of mosquitoes in Florida during their senior OE trip. These shared adventures become part of the lore of each class, and they recall these adventures with a combination of laughter and pride that they survived.

Reminiscences, such as those from our seniors in their podcast interviews, and experiences from Outdoor Education trips, can help form the foundation of life-long friendships. One of the beautiful elements of Keystone is the relationships children form with each other, beginning at an early age. Sometimes starting at the Little School or in kindergarten, children befriend one another and then quite literally grow up together. They see each other through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.

Over the years, I have witnessed Cobras literally scream and run around the gym when one of their classmates learned that he received a prestigious full-ride scholarship to his first choice college. I have also observed students wrap their arms around a classmate and fiercely hug them as they grapple with a tragic loss. Students enduring hardship but still coming to school have explained that their Keystone classmates are their family and friends, and it’s the community that enables them to make it through adversity.

Speaking with alumni from the 1960s to recently, we hear how they have maintained these relationships over the course of their adult lives. Their friends from Keystone have seen them along the way through their professional careers and personal journeys.

Friendships like these require time. They develop through the sharing of significant events that form unforgettable memories. However, they also arrive in the smaller moments of just being together, like Little School students showing off their Fiesta Parade floats, lower school boys and girls running laps around campus during the See Us Run and Girls on the Run programs, middle schoolers dressing up and attending a dance, and high schoolers studying together over an early morning cup of coffee and shared treats at Extra Fine Bakery. Listening to the Cobra radio podcast brought smiles as the seniors recalled major events but also the quotidian occurrences that comprise our lives.

In addition to outstanding teaching, challenging and interesting academic courses, and excellent extracurricular activities, one of the elements that makes Keystone unique is these beautiful friendships that blossom and stay with students forever. It’s a joy to see them begin and watch them flourish over the years.

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