A Tribute from the Hearts of the Academy

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Jenkins SignST.JOHNSBURY - Faculty and staff at St. Johnsbury Academy, came together Thursday afternoon at a private special chapel assembly to surprise their students with a song of love.

 Singing "Seasons of Love" from the Broadway musical "Rent," the faculty and staff showed their students how much they care about them. This was particularly important because of  the recent events at the Academy; the passing of former teacher and coach, Melissa Jenkins, and injured Chinese boarding student and senior, Chen Lin.

At the assembly, before students were surprised by faculty and staff, they were shown a home video of Chen, and his progress from his winter season skiing injury. The students applauded the sight of their fellow classmate and the strength that he showed. Chen's progress may give him the ability to walk across the stage at this years graduation.

Stacie Ruggles Beliveau, the Chief Financial Officer's Executive Assistant at the Academy said, "The faculty and staff coming together to send a message to remember the love, that we're all surrounding them, surrounding each other."

The idea of faculty and staff singing to students stemmed from Guidance Counselor, Paige Crosby about five years ago with help from colleague, Alan Rowe. Crosby says that with everything that has happened to members of the Academy community, timing is everything.

Headmaster, Tom Lovett, echoed their feelings, "Even when some teachers are feeling vulnerable, especially to get up there and sing in front of students, that they would kind of let their hair down, and let the students know how much they care about them."

For faculty and staff, singing in front of students wasn't the hard part. It was understanding the words they were singing, and the meaning behind them.

"We found it difficult to get through it sometimes. But we really got to celebrate this time together, and to give us another chance to think about Melissa, and dedicate this to her," said Bill Vinton, the Science Department Chair, and Academy Theater Head.

"The first day after the tragic loss of Melissa, a student just went up to me, and took my hand and said, 'Are you okay Mrs. Crosby?' And that's when I realized that they are here for us and they are taking care of us," said Crosby.

"This year could have turned out a different way, but the kids are so good and their hearts are so good," said Lovett.

The song "Seasons of Love" also echoed Jenkins' slogan of 'Love Wins' and 'To love those the most, who need us the most'.

"Her loss is a heavy burden that we carry, but to have her here present today in spirit, really lifted us up," said Lovett.

"I have goosebumps listening to the words and knowing what she's about. Love wins," said Beliveau.

Although Jenkins was not there physically with the rest of her fellow staff and faculty singing, many said she was there, vibrantly in spirit.

"She heard us loud and clear. She's here in everyone of us. And her energy, happiness, and smile is somehow embedded in each and everyone of us. We're forever changed because of Melissa," said Crosby.

St. Johnsbury Academy Student, Junior, Lucas Robillard, was surprised by the song. "We didn't really expect it. We figured it wasn't going to be a normal thing. And so it was a surprise. The few teachers that started it and then all of them joined in, it was cool."

Classmate and Senior, Mathew Corcoran agreed, and was also surprised, but proud to be apart of this community.  "I'm glad that I am a Senior this year, seeing the community coming together, it makes me proud to tell people I'm from here and from the Academy."

Vinton said this song was perfect, because it keeps the memory of Melissa alive, and her positive energy spreads through everyone.

"The line that resonates is 'It's time now, to sing out, though the story never ends', and I think that's what we're doing is making sure this story never ends," said Vinton.

"Instead of having a morning mourning of silence, we had a joyful ending," said Robillard.

Lovett also announced at Thursdays assembly that Jostens, a major yearbook company, is donating pink tassels in remembrance of Melissa Jenkins for the Class of 2012, and faculty and staff, to wear at this years graduation. The seniors had wanted to wear pink tassels at their graduation, but the cost would have been too high. Moments before the assembly, Lovett received the call from Jostens, who wanted to donate them.

Lovett believes that the assembly was a positive way to end the week for students heading into spring break and to give them the time to rest and heal.

We would like to thank the St. Johnsbury Academy for allowing us to attend the rehearsals for this special event. It allowed us to give you a glimpse at what students were treated to on Thursday.