The official event of the Bench will happen on Tuesday, May 10. In the summer of 2020, Belmont Hill formed a School History & Symbols Task Force along with the creation of the school’s Diversity Action Plan. In its mission to foster an inclusive environment for everyone, the group evaluated Belmont Hill’s history and campus. In the process of addressing the school’s history and campus, the Task Force identified the bell in the former location of the Bench.
The bell, which had been given to Belmont Hill in 1925, was used on a Cuban sugar plantation to manage the work of enslaved people. Though the history of the bell had circulated through the student body, it was only in the late 2010s when an Advanced History Seminar led by Ms. Zener and Mr. Hegarty shed light on the history of the bell on a broader scale, prompting responses such as the middle school’s newspaper changing its name from The Bell to The Hill in 2020. In the same year, the Task Force decided to remove the bell and incorporate it into the Robbins House Museum in Concord, Massachusetts.
With the bell’s removal came the question of what would be installed in place of the bell. When asked about the process of planning the Bench, Mr. Schneider remarked that “our goal was to create something reflective and purposeful, and we wanted to be sure that we were always aware of the bell’s former presence in that space on campus.”
Complemented by a reflection garden, the granite bench is inscribed with a message from Task member and MAP Director Greg Paul ’09: This bench represents our clear intention to engage with ideas and symbols from our past and establish a future that reflects inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all boys at Belmont Hill. The inscription is a “powerful statement about our intentions to make sure all boys at Belmont Hill feel a true sense of belonging.” Mr. Schneider believes that “the presence of the Bench will remind us that we always have work to do in creating the culture of authentic belonging that we want on our campus. Hopefully, it is an expression of commitment by Belmont Hill to always trying to improve as a community.”
As Belmont Hill approaches its Centennial, the Bench signifies the school’s effort to critically analyze its past and its commitment to move forward in the next hundred years.