Convocation speech delivered by Katie Kowalyshyn '20, student Co-Head of School.
For four years, I have been living by the SBS honor code. Four years of respect to myself, others, and our community. And yet, I have found myself torn when writing this speech as to what the honor code truly means to me.
Originally, I thought of the honor code as something that limited our actions when I first signed it in ninth grade. It is literally a list of things you have to do. At first, when I encountered this, I thought it was way too restrictive.
Soon, though, I experienced the effects of the honor code on our community: everyone leaving backpacks, iPads, books, and more around the school with no worry of someone stealing them, people leaving their doors unlocked (which, now, as an RA, I will not condone, but I can’t say it doesn’t happen). This establishment of trust from the start furthers the freedom people feel in general to express who they are at Stoneleigh-Burnham, simply because we all respect each other and our belongings. Living the honor code is what has really made me see the benefits of it, and to be honest, I have become extremely comfortable at SBS because of it.
An honor code that I once saw as restrictive of student life is now one of the most important facets in my day-to-day life. It allows me the freedom to be who I am without being disrespected, knowing that everything I have earned has been earned fairly, and yes, being able to leave my stuff in the library while I go to dinner. Really, this structured set of four rules is more freeing than it is restricting.
So what does the honor code mean to me now? Well, it means a school full of trust, of faith in each other, and the most close knit community I have ever been a part of. It is a staple in the actions that many of us would already do, but have a name for. It is something to live by, not just here at Stoneleigh-Burnham, but beyond. Frankly, as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that the honor code does not get enough credit.
Speaking about individuals, I’d say that each person influences others more than they know. It isn’t just because we are a small community, but something I have witnessed as an older sibling for my whole life is that when someone sees someone else do something, positive or negative, they think that it is okay. Because of this, our practicing of our honor code among students must start at the highest level. I call on you, seniors, the most iconic class of all Stoneleigh-Burnham history, to uphold this community value. As the Big Sisters of the school, I know you are all more than capable. Juniors, sophomores, freshman, eighth, and seventh graders, don’t think I forgot you. Your actions impact others as well, and although the seniors have historically been very influential as a whole, I have seen a lot of younger students step up and represent the honor code as well. I mean, even the faculty follows the honor code and sets examples every day. The point is, everyone changes everyone. We can be successful or as unsuccessful in tying our community closer together by the number of people who abide by the honor code.
I’ve seen this community thrive when everyone follows the honor code, when we respect each other. We are all our best selves, and our community is the most happy and productive that it can be. As we go into this new school year, be mindful of it. Live by it, because your actions impact WAY more than you know.