Even within the already tight-knit Concord Academy community, the familial bonds and kinship that the boarding community creates are unmatched. This sense of family comes from both the little moments, like late nights in common rooms, and major traditions, like house comps and boarder cakes. Last year, though, new boarders were robbed of these opportunities by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was said that because the Class of 2022 is the only class to have experienced a full CA year, they are responsible for upholding the culture of CA. Nowhere is this responsibility more important than in the boarding community, where the seniors are responsible for creating and maintaining a home for students.
I sat down with Melanie Tapia ’22 and Shihab Moral ’22, the Head of Boarders (HoB) and Vice Head of Boarders (VHoB), respectively, to discuss boarding traditions and how those have endured and changed during COVID. As HoB and VHoB, the two are responsible for running the Boarding Council (BC) and coordinating boarding-specific events. I went into the interview nervous that CA’s COVID policies would have had a negative impact on the boarding community. After the interview, though, I was reassured that the boarding community had not only survived the pandemic, but found new traditions in it as well.
I started off by asking Melanie and Shihab what their favorite boarding traditions at CA were. Both Shihab and Melanie enjoyed bonding-oriented events. Shihab said, “My favorite’s always orientation, and it’s always just BC members and the new freshmen who come in and it’s always nice seeing them get acclimated.”
Melanie’s favorite was, as she described it, “the donut one.” Continuing, she said, “You have to put the string [with a donut attached] down, and then you watch people try to go at a donut and they just have to eat the whole thing before the other team.”
During COVID, especially at the beginning of the year, an event like this would have been impossible, so boarders had to find new traditions. The boarding community quickly rose to this challenge. During the initial quarantining period boarders had to undergo last year, the houses would have mandatory outdoor time, where boarders would go outside for 30 minutes and walk around campus together. While describing this, Shihab said, “I really liked it, it was a time for the house to bond together.”
Melanie, meanwhile, explained the significance jigsaw puzzles took on for Haines and other boarding houses. “I just put it [a puzzle] on the table,” she said, “and then we had this little routine where everyone gathered around the table and, whether we were talking or we were silent, we were all working to complete the puzzle.”
These traditions have stuck with the boarding community since then. Because COVID restrictions are less strict now, having mandatory outdoor time does not really make sense, but Shihab said, “What we were talking about in our meetings with Annie is having this time where after curfew or after lights everyone can go outside and stargaze.”
Similarly, regarding puzzles, Melanie said, “We’ve tried to find different things for houses this year where it’s like the puzzle, and we try to bring people and attract people to common rooms.”
This year has not been without its challenges. Shihab and Melanie explained that some students have struggled with masking and social distancing rules, and getting used to some of the rhythms of CA, such as required kitchen duty. However, both are hopeful that students will adjust quickly to these CA traditions. Most importantly of all, though, Shihab and Melanie both feel that CA boarding life has gone back to the way it was pre-COVID, with Shihab saying, “I don’t personally see any difference between the two.”