On a brisk morning each fall, juniors stroll into their second-period class, either cradling a plate of vibrant fruits and pastries or cautiously eyeing the new metal band wrapped around their finger. Their eyes trail to another hand across the table, following the popular question-of-the-day, “Can I see your ring?” While some may have already eaten the gem of their ring because of the attractive option of a ring pop, others are more than prepared to share the meaning behind the color, size, and cut of theirs.
The class rings are distributed during the Ring Breakfast, a Woodlawn “coming-of-age” tradition, welcoming the juniors to the upperclassmen rank. Juniors take pride in dressing for the occasion and style themselves to match the personality of their ring. After finishing their conversations with parents and students in the audience, juniors find their seats, arranged in chronological order, beginning with the first of their class to enroll at Woodlawn.
The ceremony kicks off with a greeting from Ms. Katie Brewer, Director of College Counseling and Dean of Upper School students, a brief history of the ring ceremony, and an introduction of the rising juniors. One at a time, faculty advisors share inspiring words with their student advisees as they award them their ring cases. Once instructed to put on their rings, the first member of the class rises and faces the classmate to their left. Classmates turn each others’ bands one quarter to the left to represent good fortune for the future. Once completing the rotation, juniors are figuratively recognized as upperclassmen.
A congratulation is followed by giggles from excitement. Before moving on to pictures and Chick-fil-A, a familiar face around campus joins the class. Parents nod as Mr. Paul Zanowski, Head of School, reminds the juniors of their additional responsibilities as upperclassmen, and juniors smile. More importantly, Mr. Zanowski wishes for them to carry on the values of a ‘Blazer as they begin to prepare themselves for future obstacles, including college careers and life beyond Woodlawn.
“I came to Woodlawn after last year’s ring ceremony, so I did not have firsthand knowledge of this tradition,” MacKenna Hanson ‘21 acknowledges. “It is a big step in my high school career. Being a junior at Woodlawn is challenging but rewarding. My teachers and peers are helping me improve as a person and a student both inside and outside the classroom, and I am grateful to be a part of the Woodlawn family. With this steady support system, they are encouraging me to be the best version of myself and a true lifelong learner, which might sound cliche to those who are unfamiliar with Woodlawn, but is noticeable in my experience.”
Now it is time for the highly anticipated breakfast. Seniors, switched to second-priority, file behind the crowd of juniors around platters of muffins, fruit, bagels, and more. A class photo is taken before classes resume in Woods Hall.
For Section A, it is European History. Juniors forage through their pouches for writing utensils and cannot help but notice each other’s new fashion pieces. They temporarily trade rings to compare sizes and examine others’ choices. “I chose a traditional-style class ring, without a gem, to save space for an engraved Oaktree,” says Natalie Boyle ‘21, the first junior seated along the line. “I’ve been a member of the Oak family tree, one of the three trees representing Woodlawn’s student body, since third grade. Especially being surrounded by trees every day, the tree has played a huge role in why I am passionate about Woodlawn. It reminds me of the opportunities and sense of unity that we have, which makes this place so unique and will always be my second home.”