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An audience looks towards a stage with students, there are mums and red backdrops set up behind them

Autumn has descended on Mount Ida, the changing of the leaves and cooler breezes signaling the ‘end of the beginning’ of the school year, as Head of School Jenny Rao calls the annual Fall Family Weekend activities on campus. Our campus community welcomed families to these gray walls through receptions, special morning reports, class visits, and more as the 2023–2024 school year is underway. 

Fall Family Weekend began on Thursday evening, with a College Counseling workshop and dinner (and bingo) before the early morning Friday Morning Reports. Assembled in the gym, the Morning Reports team kicked off the special gathering with ‘Rao Rumbles,’ a segment during which Head of School Jenny Rao answers questions left anonymously in a box outside her office. During this edition, Ms. Rao answered a question asking for advice when it comes to tackling a large list of things to do when one is feeling overwhelmed. 

Ms. Rao reminded the community of the importance of prioritizing those things that refuel us—exercising, reading a book, baking cookies, alongside tangible tools to help wrangle an overwhelming to-do list like breaking large tasks up into smaller plans and then trusting that plan (but also, a reminder to check in with your advisor if you’re feeling overwhelmed often)!

A woman stands at a podium on a stage with flowers and pumpkins, she is smiling and speaking into a microphone.

Head of School Jenny Rao delivers 'Rao Rumbles' during Fall Family Weekend.


There was one other Rao Rumbles question to answer: “Ms. Rao, what is love?”

“I wonder what this student was thinking when they asked this question,” she started. “Perhaps they were wondering, how do I know when I’m in love, or exactly what the feeling of love is or is not? My interpretation of this question is the sensation of being in love.”

“Love for me,” Ms. Rao continued, “is the cornerstone of how I live. It is powerful, it manifests itself in so many ways: the love of learning, the love of life, of people in our lives. And love involves heartbreak too! I believe courageous people love [...] love is courage.”

Following Ms. Rao’s remarks, Director of Student & Community Life Emily Carton and Dean of Students Shelley Maher took a moment to celebrate the 86 red-tier student leaders for the 2023-2024 class year. Our student leaders are vital resources for Emma students, and there are many opportunities for student leadership across campus. Read more about the student leadership roles at Emma here!

Following those honors, Dorothy C. ’24 and Bhoomi L. ’24, representatives of the Student Diversity Leadership Group (SDLG), spoke to the assembly about Indigenous People’s Day. “The idea for this holiday was first proposed by indigenous peoples at a United Nations conference in 1977,” they began. “Since 2021, Indigenous People’s Day has been a federal holiday in the U.S. after President Joe Biden signed a proclamation for it, supporting a promise of equity and respect for human rights of indigenous people in America and around the world.”

The students noted that the goal of this day is to “shine a spotlight on the strength and resilience of Native Americans who endured centuries of violence, discrimination, and cultural erasure,” while also “celebrating the vibrant indigenous communities that exist today in the U.S.”

SDLG provided the audience with several ways to engage with and celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, including: 

  • Exploring information about the land we currently live on: for example, Troy, NY is land that was stewarded by the Mohican Nation.
  • Listen to and amplify indigenous voices and become invested in the stories of indigenous experiences, sharing your learning with those around you.
  • Educate yourself about actions and words that can have a harmful impact on present-day indigenous communities: for example, seek out indigenous craftspeople and support their work, rather than purchasing from companies who have appropriated those crafts. 
Two students stand at a podium speaking into a microphone.

Dorothy C. ’24 and Bhoomi L. ’24 represent SDLG at Morning Reports.


Morning Reports also saw announcements from Emma Arch for Fall Fest 2023 (including cookie decorating, pumpkin painting, and the highly anticipated Fall Frenzy Olympics!), a competition between current students and parents for “Are You Smarter than an Emma Student?” and an informative segment on LGBTQ+ History Month and National Coming Out Day.

Two students laugh at a clipboard as they attempt to answer questions in a game on stage.

Roya S. '24 and Grace M.'24 compete against parents in a game during Morning Reports.


Maya LC. ’25 and Gisele N. ’26 represented PRIDE, noting that National Coming Out Day “was founded on October 11, 1988 by Robert Eichsberg and Jean O’Leary” commemorating the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987. 

“The day was established to promote visibility and acceptance for LGBTQ+ individuals and to encourage a more inclusive society,” as well as challenging stereotypes and prejudices and providing a platform for members of the community to share their experiences, “helping to break down barriers and foster understanding among the wider community.”

Two students speak into a microphone on stage.

Maya LC. ’25 and Gisele N. ’26 represent PRIDE at Morning Reports.


The Black and Latinx Student Union (BLSU) also highlighted Hispanic and Latine Heritage Month, with an invitation to a celebratory festival taking place later this week with trivia games, crafts, and snacks. BLSU co-heads Zaniyah A. ’24 and Anyla L. ’25 announced that the festival will also host a fundraiser to benefit the New York Capital Region Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Two students smile and speak into a microphone and applaud.

BLSU co-heads Zaniyah A. ’24 and Anyla L. ’25 announce the LHHM Festival at Morning Reports.


Closing out this special edition of Morning Reports, host Ava V. ’26 relayed the list of athletic events for the next few days, noted community birthdays, and let the assembly know they would be dismissed after singing the Alma Mater!

Following Morning Reports, families joined their students in a sped-up version of a day of classes, meeting teachers and getting a taste of what a day at Emma is like for their student. Lunch was back to the gym for the usual delicious Emma Dining spread, before class meetings, conferences, and a chance to be present for Emma history: the Elizabeth “Liz” Parry Field Dedication.

Three students dressed in Jester costumes smile widely for the camera.

Jesters celebrate Ms. Parry!


Jesters abound, and the community came together on the edge of the upper playing field to look down at the Robison Track and the new scoreboard featuring beloved coach, teacher, and friend Elizabeth “Liz” Parry’s name. Attendees waved pom-poms in school colors as we honored Ms. Parry’s decades of athletic leadership and excellence at Emma Willard School (view the whole ceremony here).

Liz Parry and her father pose together at her field dedication ceremony.

Liz Parry and her father pose at the ceremony, in the background family members take photos of the score board with the new 'Elizabeth Parry Field' moniker.


Thank you to everyone who made this a fantastic Fall Family Weekend! 


Find more interesting stories about Emma Willard School on our Newsroom page.