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Celebrating kindness at the upper school Rise and Shine Breakfast

Celebrating kindness at the upper school Rise and Shine Breakfast
Celebrating kindness at the upper school Rise and Shine Breakfast

Senior Kaytlin Small took a deep breath from her spot behind the podium and looked out at her mom in the front row of white folding chairs that held the audience.

Senior Kaytlin Small reads a letter to her mother.

“Dear Momi,” she began. “Thank you.”

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to become the person I am today. Thank you for always being there for me no matter what the circumstance is. Thank you for being there through all my injuries, my bad days, and days where I made you feel like being a mother was the hardest job in the world. …Thank you for being involved in my life and cherishing our relationship every day we are on this planet together. ...I can’t thank you enough for being the wonderful, amazing, nurturing, mother that you unapologetically are.”

Gratitude was in abundance on the morning of Oct. 24 as upper school students gathered along with their mothers and other special women in their lives for Harpeth Hall’s annual Rise and Shine Breakfast. Students recited poetry, performed orchestral and choral music, and paid tribute to the moms in the audience. Through each speech shared and each song sung, it was clear that the young women of Harpeth Hall admire their mothers’ strength, giving nature, and, above all, kindness.

Sarah Hart '90 shows her great-grandmother's Ward Seminary diploma.

For one mother, Sarah Roberts Hart ‘90, giving kindness was always in her nature.

“My mom is not just my superhero, but she is others’ superhero as well,'' senior Mason Hart said while introducing her mother, who is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, working closely with children experiencing mental health crises. “I can wholeheartedly say that she is the strongest, most selfless person I know, and the inspiration for all I do. Day in and day out she gives to and loves those around her. …To know her, is to love her.”

When Ms. Hart was a student at Harpeth Hall, she was dubbed the “mom” of her friend group. She was the helper, the caretaker, the driver. She wanted to make sure everyone was always happy. She was a giver of kindness.

It was always hard for Ms. Hart, however, to accept kindness in return.

“We are taught to be independent, strong, self-sufficient, and all of these things are amazing. When we are kind to others or help others, we are maintaining control. We have the upper hand. Yet, when we receive kindness, there is an element of vulnerability. We may feel less than capable with our inabilities exposed. Receiving kindness can be difficult, but it is not a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of strength,” Ms. Hart said. “The bravest and strongest thing you can do is ask for help.”

There is strength in kindness.

As the keynote speaker for the Rise and Shine Breakfast, Ms. Hart encouraged students to learn to receive kindness, to feel the goodness and generosity that others want to give. The act of taking in kindness, she said, is critical to our well being and it makes others feel good. Accept help, she said, accept compliments or kind thoughts, and reach out to others when needed. This is all a part of being kind to yourself, she said, which can only make you stronger.

Senior Chloe Graham sings Taylor Swift's "The Best of Days." Check back to see video of her performance.

Strength also comes from the sisterhood that endures through generations. At Harpeth Hall, the “village of women who gather around each other to celebrate, to laugh, to cry, to sit in silence, to collectively scream, to tend, to nurture, to nourish each other” is a display of the power of the school’s community, Ms. Hart said. A community that supports each student long after they walk down Souby Lawn at graduation.

With the 2023-24 school year nearing the halfway mark, and the seniors who sat at the front of the audience during Wednesday’s program have already begun making plans for the future beyond Harpeth Hall. Regardless of where their journey may take them, Ms. Hart shared a final sentiment:.

“Our home is always open. No matter where you are in this world, our arms are open. You are welcome here. Harpeth Hall is also your home and will also always be your home.”



you before me
by Iara Kullock

my warm and comforting bright sun
on the cloudiest days.
the one blossoming daisy
in a meadow full of grass.
my protecting shelter in the coldest storms.

last people I talk to before bed
the first I want to see when I wake up.
turning my frowns into little girl smiles
turning my tears into infinite laughter.
the calm and soothing voices pulling me out
of my head that plays the same song on repeat.

the only two people I will always put before myself.

because that's what you will never stop doing
for Me.