Hear from our oldest leaders as these gentlemen reflect on their 9th grade year and time at FCDS.

    • Denny Blake

      Notable Nines - Denny

An opportunity to lead

The ninth grade year is a unique one for Fairfield Country Day boys. As the oldest students in the school, they are expected to serve as role models for the younger boys as well as assuming certain leadership roles within the school. The academic work is more demanding than in the past. Truly, it is theirfirst year of high school. As all those in the FCDS community know, there is more to the experience here than just academics.

An opportunity to grow

While the ninth graders are delegated increased  responsibilities, there are numerous benefits for those boys as well. Some are immediately evident: leading  positions in the student council, yearbook, and the art
and literary magazine; access to certain dining room  options; and the use of the Blue Door, long a Country Day tradition. Other benefits may be less tangible to  the boys at first, but a hallmark of the experience and valued highly by both faculty and alumni. Benefits  such as their interactions with teachers take on a different tone, as faculty accord them more respect. A conscious effort is made by the faculty and administration to assist the boys in understanding and appreciating their new role as the school’s leaders. While many friendships established at FCDS become  strong ones, the 9th grade experience often cements those friendships into lifelong ones.

An opportunity to contribute

Boys who opt to experience ninth grade as “seniors” at Fairfield Country Day learn how best to approach the
academic rigors they face in a small group environment. This creates the ideal dynamic in which young men can engage themselves, their peers, and their teachers in intellectual discussion. At the Commencement ceremony in June, one ninth grader is awarded the Blair Award, voted on by the faculty and  awarded by the Board of Trustees. The Blair Award is  given to that boy that best exemplifies the qualities that Fairfield Country Day values: integrity,
The decision to remain at FCDS for my 9th grade was formative in my growth as a character, student,
and person. The 9th grade experience is an excellent mixture of good times, and challenging academics.
When I arrived at school following my 9th grade experience, I was prepared for the challenges that high
school would bring.
Hayden Zelson ’12, Choate

I would stress that ninth grade gives you the chance to lead: whether it's captain of a team, editor of the
Blotter, president of the student council. That's a rare opportunity for a 14-year old to have at school. I
went into sophomore year at Andover more confident (where the class size almost doubles anyway.)
You don't miss anything by not starting as a freshman; in fact, if I was in their shoes, I'd weigh leadership
at FCDS against "starting at the bottom" again as a freshman. To me, there was no question it was the
right choice.
Tom Balamaci ’93, Phillips Academy Andover, Brown University, Wharton School of Business

My ninth grade year was the only year I woke up every day excited to go to school. I was the first one to
show up each morning and hang out in the ninth grade room. With just twelve other classmates our
genuine personalities really showed, and no one was left out.
Alex Swift ’02, Greens Farms Academy.

"You must learn to cherish FCDS and the amazing things it has to offer, because before you know it, your
time there will be over" 
Sam Runkel ’11, Avon Old Farms School

Speaking for myself, the ninth grade provided the opportunity for exploration and growth as an
individual. We're still discovering who we are at 14 and 15 years old, and having a familiar environment
with teachers and friends whom the student has known for many years certainly helps the sometimes
tumultuous process along.

The ninth grade year also provides an opportunity for leadership as a student that one might not
experience until their senior year of high school. For example, I ran for student council president during
my ninth grade year. I didn't win (or finish second), but the process taught me a lot about myself and
ways of contributing ideas to one's community.

I have attended several educational institutions since I graduated from FCDS, including the Hopkins
School, Boston College, and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. However, to this day, I tell
my friends and colleagues that FCDS and the ninth grade year in particular have contributed the most to
my character, values, and work ethic.
Tom D’Addario ’98, Hopkins School, Boston College

As ninth graders at FCDS we were made to feel special. We had the chance to enter high school after
having had a senior year, in a sense, with additional privileges and responsibilities. The chance to excel in leadership roles in the classroom, playing fields, and on stage made it an unmatched growth
experience that instilled confidence in me.
Ian Hawley ’91

Staying for ninth Grade at FCDS granted me a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow and learn in a very
compact, tight-knit community. I was able to form strong bonds with both teachers and students, and it
played a large part in making me who I am today.
Nick Citrone ’09, Loomis Chaffee School, Carnegie Mellon University

I would add that along with the privileges of staying for ninth grade comes a sense that the kids have
earned those privileges over good work in previous years. Throughout the year I felt a sense of
achievement for a lot of different things.
Matt Koizim ’00, Phillips Exeter Academy, University of Pennsylvania

Before I was able to find what I really enjoyed, I needed to spend more time in a community that
nurtured my growth as not only a student, but a young man. Ninth grade at FCDS was that consistent,
positive change that let me find my strengths and helped build my weaknesses.
Russell Clarida ’11, Hotchkiss School, Stanford

I personally felt like a leader of the school entering into the ninth grade. More than ever, you are looked
up to from the younger students. I felt as if with the privileges and title of being a ninth grader, I had
made a significant accomplishment in my life and became even more so a true representation of the
Ben Paige ’04, Joel Barlow High School, Endicott College

Ninth grade at FCDS gave me the confidence to be a leader. The unique experiences one gets to be a
Tour Guide, Editor of the Harvest or a lead in the Spring Musical showed me what it is like to be a strong
leader and are skills I have now for life. Also the connections one makes with their faculty are ones you
keep for life. They have seen you grown since kindergarten and now see your flourish in ninth grade and
their support is amazing.
Zach Hutton ’08, Canterbury School, Drew University
The 9th Grade French class enjoyed a breakfast of delicious crêpes provided by a parent, who also taught each member of the class how to make these delicious French pancakes.  C’était fantastique.


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