t was in high school that I first learned of the idea of the universality of literature. Jane Austen, Maya Angelou, William Shakespeare, Amy Tan,  Sandra Cisneros, Truman Capote, and so many more. These writers delivered powerful messages that were ageless and timeless—messages that are as relevant today as they were when they were first written. Now in our 132nd year at Winchester Thurston School, it is clear to me that the mandates of our founders, Alice Maud Thurston and Mary A. Graham Mitchell, share this same universality. “Think also of the comfort and the rights of others,” and “Gentle in manner, strong in deed” are powerful beacons for our students.

As an institution, we have remained steadfast in the universality of the kindness that our founders’ words require of us. And, as I reflect on WT’s past in order to craft the future, it is impossible to separate our great successes from the core of who we are–that the only thing more powerful than what our students learn is why they learn it and how they work to make the world a better place having spent time here.

As I reflect on WT’s past in order to craft the future, it is impossible to separate our great successes from the core of who we are–that the only thing more powerful than what our students learn is why they learn it and how they work to make the world a better place having spent time here.

In this issue of Thistletalk, you will see a story about two young alumni (they’re still in college!) who have developed the project they conceived in Research Science—a device designed to mitigate the negative effects of cholera—and taken it to Uganda to do further testing.

It is real-world applications like this that have made City as Our Campussm a launching pad for many more great things to come. But what does that look like?

A starting point is sharing our learning with other educators as we did this past summer in our coLearn Conference. As community-based learning takes off across the country, we are committed to sharing the expertise we’ve gathered during nearly 15 years of making this city our campus.

And, our strong commitment to social justice in our coursework means that cholera isn’t the only fight our students will be taking on. As they encounter injustices in the world around them, they are seeking ways to address those and to restore a sense of equity and justice. In a recent visit I made to our Upper School Urban Research and Design course, students were engaged in discussions about the changing landscape of Pittsburgh and how it impacts the affordability of living here. Our Middle School Diversity Club is developing goals to promote supporting all identities, and our Lower School has created cross-grade-level “dens” of students who will work on character education and building an even closer community throughout the year.

More broadly, the coming months will see WT engage in the creation of a new strategic plan that will inform our future successes. This plan must provide the structure needed to solidify our presence and positive social impact on Pittsburgh and to expand our nationally recognized City as Our Campus program to encompass the region, the nation, and the globe; it must guide the transformation of our learning spaces so that they are adaptable to the changing needs of our teachers and students not just for 2018 but for 2028, 2038, and beyond; and it must chart the course that will move our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion from discussion to action, transforming our community and our world. With the universal charge of our founders front and center in this planning, we are committed to, and excited about, the important work ahead.