Semester 44: Virtual Family Weekend

This spring, Semester 44 has faced a challenge unique to their semester: having to leave HMI’s campus early due to COVID-19. Although Semester 44 has physically left Leadville, they are still very much immersed in the routines of HMI throughout their day to day life. They are taking virtual classes with their HMI teachers, having cabin meetings with their apprentices, participating in morning exercise (AMX), and helping around the house by doing chores. While we know that remaining invested in the HMI experience virtually has been challenging at times, we are continually impressed by the amount of spirit that our students bring with them every day. Semester 44’s Family Weekend was no different.

Take a virtual tour of campus!

Family Weekend is an HMI tradition that Semester students and families look forward to each fall and spring. Family Weekend offers an opportunity for student’s families to travel to Leadville for a glimpse intor life at HMI. For Semester 44, although families were not able to physically travel to our campus, we were still able to host a “Virtual Family Weekend” to show them what HMI is all about. As Amy Roberts, our Director of the HMI Semester and Academic Dean wrote to families prior to the start of the weekend, “Our hopes for a normal family weekend are that you get to see a window into what HMI is about—both for your student, but also the impact that we hope to have on the world writ-large. I hope that these virtual gatherings and family adventures help you to feel a little more connected, a little more inspired, and a little more hopeful about the next generation of leaders that this school is helping to shape.”

Danny O’Brien, Head of School, greeting families at the start of Family Weekend.

Virtual Family Weekend kicked off with a community meeting led by our Head of School, Danny O’Brien. Danny started off by giving some context for the purpose of HMI. He said, “The mission of HMI has never been about being in Leadville, but what our students do with what they learned during their time at HMI. This mission remains the same.” This sentiment is more true now than ever before as Semester 44 is faced with the challenge of living the HMI experience away from Leadville. Danny went on to say that, “There are so many outcomes I see as important [for our students]… confidence, independence, leadership skills. But here are a few tangible outcomes that I feel everyday: collaboration, communication, and trust. In sum, I am not interested in simply producing good students—what we seek to do well is produce great adults. Adults making a difference in the world.” 

After the community meeting, students and families split into small group rotations. Several groups split into their respective English classes with Liz and Jacob to share poems that the students had written about their time at HMI. Sharing poems is a tradition at HMI and listening to what the students have to share is always a highlight of family’s time spent on campus.  Despite being scattered across the country, students still wrote and performed their Family Weekend poems, this time via video call for their classmates and all of their families to hear. Consistent throughout the poems were themes of perseverance, gratitude, growth, and love. Tears of pride, loss, and joy were shed by students, families, and teachers alike as students reminisced on their time in Leadville, how it impacted them, and what they plan to bring from their experiences at HMI into their everyday lives. 

Jacob, one of HMI’s English teachers, introducing Family Weekend poems.

While not in English class, students became LODs (leaders of the day) and led their families on an adventure of their choosing. These adventures ranged from watching our virtual campus tour with added narration from students, to cooking a backcountry-style meal, to going on a “hike” around the neighborhood. Whatever adventure students chose to lead their families on, we encouraged prioritizing intentional time spent together in the spirit of HMI. 

Sam, a Semester 44 student, leading his family on a hike around the neighborhood.
Harry, a Semester 44 student, cooking a backcountry-style meal for his family.

Virtual Family Weekend closed with a performance by our very own math teacher Izzy, a music video made by several Semester 44 students, and a slideshow highlighting all of Semester 44’s adventures to date. 

Izzy, one of HMI’s math teachers, singing her original song “On the Loose” for students and families.
Family Weekend concluded with a slideshow highlighting all of Semester 44’s adventures thus far.

While Semester 44 is currently back at home across the country, we felt so grateful to spend several hours together on Saturday afternoon sharing and celebrating the amazing community that they have built. To our Semester 44 students and families—thank you for your patience, perseverance, gratitude, and joy. We are so grateful for each and every one of you and all that you continue to bring to the table.

Amy Roberts, Director of the HMI Semester and Academic Dean, wishing students a happy spring break!