Student Ambassadors

Introduction to the Student Ambassador Program

(From Principal Anderson's announcement speech to students:)

Welcome to the debut of what I believe will prove to be an important program for Ridgeview and for the many students I envision participating in it over the many years to come. The ambassador program was designed to cultivate leaders. Interestingly, in the education business the word “leadership” is typically no more than just that: a series of letters signifying very little. Ironically, it is wanted everywhere, yet so few instances are perceived in which average human beings living average or better lives can demonstrate it. Under increasingly loose definitions, either everyone is a leader; or, by a more stringent definition, almost no one is.

When we think of leadership, the most obvious examples are individuals serving in a military capacity. We imagine the world in exaggerated terms, like a photograph whose colors have been saturated to the point of surrealism. If a thing is to be at all, it should be bold. Bold leadership, bold heroism, bold imagination. There is no room for the ordinary man. His achievements are dwarfed not so much by the examples of others as by the collective imagination. “And all the time,” wrote C.S. Lewis, “such is the tragi-comedy of our situation – we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible.” For those of you who have taken my classes before, there is a good chance you have read A Message to Garcia, and what follows will make more sense to you than others. The author of that brief pamphlet wrote that, “It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies…Civilization is one long, anxious search for just such individuals.” We, of course, need book learning, but our bases on this are fairly well covered. What we need is our generation’s Isaiah who, when it was asked who should be sent, answered, “Here am I; send me.” What is needed are leaders of a subtler nature than what we are accustomed to seeing in the fictional accounts, though we may take our inspiration from them. We need those who are capable of defending our traditions, inheritances, values, and culture against seemingly insurmountable odds not because they are the brightest, but because they are the bravest and the most convicted. They will be the ones who carve out a modern Iona where future generations can take refuge and flourish, and they are the ones who will pass on an awareness that no “achievement may be taken for granted; [that] yesterday’s gain may be tomorrow’s loss; [that] permanent values require permanent vigilance and permanent renewal.”

These leaders must possess one thing more: they must have hope. They must not be defeated by despair, distracted by the vulgar spoils of modernity, or be undone by despondency. Tennyson’s poem Ulysses marks out what their mood must be:

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, who we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Move earth and heaven, that which we are, we are –
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
A part of that hope is to be found in courage. Unfortunately, we have belittled language and thus our world along with its moral dimensions. So it is with leadership. The more often it is invoked, solicited, branded, demanded, cultivated, and promoted, the less often we see genuine examples of it. We should want to reverse such trends, and return to the common man and woman the opportunity to learn to lead and learn from leading. Not only through studying, but through doing. All of this is to say that the ambassador program is about much more than simply showing prospective students around the building.

I learned a great deal about this school through the nomination and selection process. I learned about why students loved their school, their teachers, their classes, their pet peeves and frustrations. I learned about what Ridgeview had in spades, and about what it needed more of. In this sense, everyone who was nominated and submitted an application packet has already begun serving as leaders of their school.

There has been much speculation about what it was we were looking for in our ambassadors. The short answer is that it cannot be reduced to a single quality. Of course, we tried to avoid picking the sycophants and the ticket punchers. We wanted people who wanted Ridgeview, people who had given serious thought as to why they were here. We sought out people who were grateful enough for the sacrifices made on their behalf that they wanted to give back to the school. We looked for gratitude, good cheer, and perseverance. We did not necessarily pick the students with the best grades, or the students who were the most loquacious contributors in class discussions. Sometimes we picked students who had fallen down and pulled themselves back together. In the end, I believe our scars will count for infinitely more than our awards, medals, and accolades. The voice of a few true friends will matter more than the many acquaintances who used or were used. We did not seek out the full bloom of wisdom, but we did try to see through the veil of youth to find its first buds. We took chances, and granted some second chances. Sometimes we picked gazelles, but more often we picked lions. We wanted those who were eager for a challenge. “One should,” wrote Paul Valéry, “welcome and esteem the difficulties one encounters. A difficulty is a lamp. An insuperable difficulty, a sun.” We looked for evidence of a diversity of experiences, humility, curiosity, and a willingness to sacrifice good grades for a great education if need be. We looked not only for evidence of athleticism, but for a balanced life. We looked for work experience, a history of initiative, for good character, and for evidence that they would have the time to commit to this program. We did not pick all leaders, but all those we felt could become good leaders. We did not pick the most popular, or even the most extroverted so much as the ones who demonstrated kindness and magnanimity. We did not look for perfect people, but for people who understood perfection to be contrary to the fallibility of man. We wanted to discover why they wanted to be a part of this program. We looked for sincerity. We wanted people who were outgoing, amiable, and excited. We did not want people for whom this would simply be another bullet point on their résumé. We wanted to see that their life to date had been about more than building the ideal college application.

None of this is to say that those who were not chosen were not worthy. Many difficult choices were made and we will discover over the course of the next year how well we made our selections.

There are, of course, several perks for these students such as free dress days, a letter of commendation in their student file, and a luncheon, but there are also many responsibilities. They will attend meetings, do reading, attend special field trips available only to student ambassadors, interact more with the community, take courses in etiquette and protocol, speak publicly, host prospective families and students, attend retreats, spend more time outdoors, and have their names inscribed on the walls upstairs. They will even have a new logo exclusive to them and be entitled to special Ridgeview clothing. It is our hope that in time, they will become Ridgeview’s vanguard and work to encourage other students to apply in the future.

The SA Logo

An Explanation of the Student Ambassador Logo

The Student Ambassador logo was an attempt to pack more meaning into a single image. There are several components: the shield that acts as the background, the helmet, the swords, the Hebrew words, the Greek words, the Latin words, and the name of the school.

The shield itself is a rendition of Achilles’ shield, the construction of which is described at length in Homer’s Iliad. Thetis brings what is described as an indestructible shield to Achilles from the god of fire on Mount Olympus. It is precisely that indestructibility that is most important. We wish to protect those things which appear upon the face of the shield. We live in a world that neither appreciates nor acknowledges the values Ridgeview stands for. If concepts such as honor, virtue, arête, eudemonia, truth, goodness, or beauty are to have any future or favor, students must be taught to defend them. We are beyond naïve if we believe that the world will weave these values into the moral relativism that forms the fabric of what we can only very loosely call a society.

To this end the Spartan helmet is more fitting than the Hoplite one. It does double duty by first paying tribute to the current Ridgeview logo and then by paying tribute to what many of America’s Founding Fathers took to be an inspiring example. Samuel Adams has described the struggling colonies and the fledgling American Republic as a “Christian Sparta,” and it was John Taylor in 1814 who would contrast the “virtues of the landed aristocracy of Sparta with the vices of the British commercial elite.” Moreover, it was none other than Thomas Jefferson who, celebrating the courage of King Leonidas and the Spartans at Thermopylae, compared the “inane question of which American contributed the most to the American Revolution with the question, “Who first of the three hundred Spartans offered his name to Leonidas?”

The Hebrew words surrounding that helmet are taken from Exodus wherein it is written that God provided man with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. We should hope that he did, but we should hope also that education is capable of revealing these gifts. More likely is that education is capable of conveying knowledge, and that a person can be persuaded to do the hard work necessary to understand, and that with enough experience, they can attain a degree of wisdom. That journey begins at places like Ridgeview, and the words remaining in Hebrew is intentional for the following reason.

Ridgeview teaches Latin and Greek. The Greek words across the top should be familiar to every student as they are taken from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and mean that “we learn by suffering.” To paraphrase Sir Thomas More rather figuratively, none of us gets to heaven on a featherbed. None of us achieves a meaningful life without hard work and some degree of sacrifice. The Latin, another classical language that Ridgeview not only teaches, but celebrates as integral to its cultural capital, states clearly what Ridgeview is dedicated to: truth and virtue; and as importantly, what it is not dedicated to: utility or popularity. Too many schools compromise themselves because they are dedicated to these evanescent values, which is akin to what separates philosophy from sophistry. At Ridgeview, we strive to be philosophers because we put truth before persuasion, as difficult as that frequently makes our lives. Hebrew is not often enough considered a classical language, and it is not one that we teach in our school, but it is central to our cultural inheritance. There is a good reason that James Madison and others spent the considerable amount of time studying it that they did, and it draws upon the premise that the Western inheritance is comprised of three parts: the Ancients, the Christians, and the Enlightenment. The Ancients have been fairly represented in the logo thus far, but the Christian element should be as well, no more for the devout than the secular because without this inheritance, the notion that we are equal, let alone “created equal,” is ludicrous, and without it, all that follows in our history is little more than a very dark joke.

That egalitarian notion, which we have grown so comfortable with, requires a vigilant defense. Any institution aiming to defend it, let alone one proposing to cultivate students capable of defending it, must recognize that they stand upon a war footing with the world around them. Thus the logo incorporates a pair of swords crossed and upturned, which have historically been used in heraldry and other symbolic works to indicate a preparedness to fight. If they were downturned, they would indicate either death or peace. We are not at peace with the world. Ridgeview stands ready to fight for permanent things, even if all that can be achieved by fighting is to inspire our descendants to regain lost ground and provide the world with “an example of a great people, who in their civil institutions hold chiefly in view, the attainment of virtue, and happiness among ourselves.”

2016-2017 Ambassadors

2015-2016 Ambassadors

Student Ambassadors, 2015-2016

12th Grade

  • Mark Orchard
  • Brittany Buick
  • Jordyn Grant
  • Colin Tweedy

11th Grade

  • Olivia Demberg
  • Logan Broedner
  • Audrey Tsoi
  • Grace Westfall

10th Grade

  • Morgan Sackett
  • Megan Allbrooks
  • Victoria Boehm
  • Shelby Baumbach

9th Grade

  • Diego Carranza
  • Logan Mohr
  • Alison Simpson
  • Catherine Smith

8th Grade

  • Sydney Schimack
  • Sekar Prasetya
  • Alena Schuemann
  • Haddie Baugh

7th Grade

  • Bradley Walter
  • Sophia Schuemann
  • Edythmae Frodl

2014-2015 Ambassadors

Student Ambassadors, 2014-2015 school year (inaugural class):

Jackson Kiesecker
Katharina Prasetya
Alena Schuemann
Micah Spence
Logan Mohr
Sarah Collins
Alison Simpson
Megan Allbrooks
Morgan Sackett
Logan Broedner
Maya Menon

George Smith
Audrey Tsoi
Logan Howerter
Fallon Murphy
Laura Peterson
Caleb Phipps
Sarah Salter
Luke Stephens
Caleb Jhones
Priya Robb

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