Tradition Blooms Again at NFA


Jack Holdsworth, Staff Writer

The campus of Norwich Free Academy has seen many changes in the last 54 years, but one thing that has remained constant has been the canopy of pink cherry blossoms lining the walkway between Allis House and the Slater Building.

When the Cherry Blossom trees were first planted in 1964, neither the Bradlaw Building nor the Atrium had yet been built. The Shattuck building had just gone up, but it would not have a name for another year, until the principal, George Shattuck, retired, and the building was named in his honor.

The trees were re-planted in the early 2000s as part of a 12 million dollar facility improvement project.

Lower Henry Vanase has worked in the Levanto Alumni house during Phoneathons, soliciting alumni donations.  He said that many alumni want to donate specifically to the beautification of the campus, including the cherry blossoms.

“If people didn’t donate to the NFA Alumni Association, there would be no cherry blossoms,” Vanase explained.

Students like upper Alex Dufort feel thankful that these donations go towards these trees.

“The Cherry Blossoms give me hope and make the world beautiful after a long, harsh winter. They put me in a better mood.”

Many NFA students, alumni, and staff agree that these trees are an important part of the campus life.

“When you walk through the canopy of cherry blossoms, it doesn’t feel like you are at school, you feel like you are at home,” said Vanase.

Class of 2017 graduate, Zach Novosad, said that he remembers what the trees meant to him at the end of his senior year.

“To me, it kind of plays the role of the start of the end of the year, and getting ready to move on to even bigger things,” Novosad explained.

Spring at NFA brings the final few months of the school year, and a new energy to the student body.

“The feeling of summer finally starts to kick in, and you are in the home stretch of the school year,” Vanase said.

In the trees’ native Japan, they symbolize the beauty and fragility of life because of the short time between them blooming and the petals falling off of the tree. At NFA, they have a second significance.

“It’s a symbolic beginning of spring,” said Science Department Head Stephani Jones, “It is one of the things that makes our school really unique.”

Upper Leah Mikkelson said that the cherry blossoms “mark the end of the year, and are peaceful encouragement to get through exams. I like them, personally.”

Mikkelson also notices a shift in the morale of students around the time that the blossoms appear, between late April and early May.

“Everyone gets happier when the cherry blossoms bloom. It’s a whole different vibe,” Mikkelson said.

In the spring, the daily notices, Sunday-Night Reminders, and the website reference the cherry blossoms. The course catalog also features the trees.

“It’s part of what makes NFA unique. All of the pictures of NFA you see have them in them,” Mikkelson said.

Many people at NFA feel that the prominence of these trees helps to make NFA’s campus a lively and beautiful place.

Without the trees, “the campus would be more bland- like life had just been pulled out from under it,” Vanase said.

In just one week, the trees went from bare, to bloomed, and now sit with vibrant green leaves lining the campus. Even if the signature pink is gone, they still serve as a reminder to everyone that summer is just around the corner.