It is so easy to live in a bubble, here at Kents Hill School. Last month, however, once again our bubble was pierced by events far away and overseas, and I am reminded again of the importance of community.

One by one last week, our students from Japan returned from March vacation.

When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, Kents Hill School was on vacation, and many of our Japanese students had returned home. Others were with host families both here and abroad, and we also had American students visiting their friends or living in Japan.

Even though the school was on vacation, the administration worked tirelessly to track down everyone and make sure everyone, including our alumni, were all right.

Our friends at the Readfield United Methodist Church prayed for the safety and well-being of our students and alumni. Parents called, offering whatever help they could. Thankfully, all of our students and their families were and remain safe.

When the students returned to school, they were greeted with hugs and cheers all around. Amidst the chatter and buzz of reunion, they talked about the importance of Facebook, and how so many of their friends reached out to them from all over the world during the dark days following the earthquake.

At the school, we had also been busy putting into place some plans and ideas to help them return to school and to help the school understand and support their experiences.

Morning Meetings last Monday and Tuesday were devoted to the crisis in Japan.

On Monday, the headmaster and school chaplain spoke to the students and staff, updating everyone on what had and is happening and ending, with a moment of silence for all who lost their lives and for all who are bereft.

On Tuesday, the Japanese students hosted a Dress Down Day to raise money for the Red Cross Japan Relief Fund and ended up raising a record-breaking $1,000. They also gave a stunning presentation about the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor crisis.

Speaking personally and movingly to the students and staff, they thanked their friends and teachers for their unending support. They reassured us all that they were all right and that they, their families and their country “would get through this.”

In private conversations with friends, nurses, counselors and advisers, the students have shared the stresses and strains of continuous shaking, destruction, shortages of water and power, radiation scares, unending tragic news coverage, and fears for friends and family.

Once again, we realize the reach of our global community up here on the Hill in Maine. I was glad and thankful to see our friends from Japan return to us safely. I am continuously glad and thankful for a community that watches out for all of us, wherever we are.

Anne K. W. Richardson is director of college counseling and the international and English as a Second Language programs at Kents Hill School. She also is Amnesty International adviser and president of the New England Association for College Admission Counseling.


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