This week I’m back in my home state of North Carolina to celebrate something special: the 50th anniversary of my alma mater, Carolina Friends School. But I’ve been telling people it’s a family reunion, and that is not a contradiction.
North Carolina in the early 1960s was as segregated as the rest of the South. When my parents moved here from Caand started a family, they could not stomach sending their kids to all-white schools. Along with a handful of other Quakers from the Durham and Chapel Hill Meetings, they decided to start their own Friends school–Friends being the name Quakers call themselves.
After a year or so of helping to run a pre-K at the Durham Meeting House, my folks donated the land across from our pond for an independent campus. So CFS was born, amidst pines and beeches and poison ivy, with a creek running through her.
I’m the youngest of three girls, but I consider CFS to be my younger sister. She’s the only one I got to watch grow up behind me, from Lower School (a traditional-looking red brick building) to Middle School (classic 1970s open-classroom structure) then to Upper (imagine a cozy ski lodge with science labs).
Today CFS comprises three Early Schools–the original one in Durham, one in Chapel Hill, one on the main campus–plus Lower, Middle, Upper, and an array of sports fields so extensive I’m still adjusting to them. My, how she’s grown.
But at 50, CFS is exactly the same bright-spirited child she was back in 1965. She’s still focused on community, on service learning, on justice, on creativity, on a harmonious relationship with the land. Academics are perhaps more pronounced now than they were back in the hang-loose 1970s when I graduated, but hey–I got into Harvard, OK? So even then they were no slouch. But no one will ever mistake my sis for a prep school, is what I’m saying.
Since my older sisters and I do not intend to return to NC, my parents (still quite vibrant, thanks) have willed their farm to our sister the school when they pass on. So who knows? Someday this scruffy farmhouse I grew up in might be classrooms, or even housing for retired faculty. Or a day care. Or an even bigger school farm, helping to feed the surrounding community as well as itself. I love imagining the possibilities. And I know that, however much she grows, my lil’ sis will always welcome me home again.
Happy Birthday, Carolina Friends School. I’m so proud of you.
If you’re interested, I hope you will click on the link to learn more about CFS. If you’d like to hear more about Quakerism and Quaker education in general, please click here to visit Iris Graville’s excellent blog on those topics.