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Celebrate Mrs. Jessi Wunder's 50th Palio!

Community News Tuesday, 23 May 2023

The time is quickly approaching to celebrate Palio, Roycemore’s longest-standing tradition. 

We’ve come together as a school every year since 1916 to celebrate feats of athleticism and excellence. Roycemore’s Palio was inspired by the Palio di Sienna, which our very first headmistress, Julia Henry, witnessed firsthand. The Palio di Siena is a wild horse race where riders wear colors designating their respective city ward. In Siena, winners become beacons of civic pride; at Roycemore, each student who participates represents the community spirit, leadership, and teamwork that are essential values of Roycemore.

When Roycemore was still an all-girls school, the Palio featured events demonstrating students’ poise, elegance, and vivacity. This initial phase of the Palio created traditions like the march through the school and the presentation of class shields from the graduates to the incoming youngest students. A 1919 yearbook describes events that might seem strange to our modern Roycemore community, like “Walking for Posture,” a “riveting” basketball game between 11th and 12th grades that drove the Griffins “wild with excitement,” and a series of Swedish gymnastics. Over time, Palio began to include footraces, rope climbing, and other calisthenic exercises, but the general form stayed the same. Until that is, Mrs. Jessi Wunder came to Roycemore.

Jessi Wunder was hired at Roycemore as a physical education teacher and athletic coach in 1972. She immediately began to implement a new vision of the Palio. Rather than a simple presentation of students’ skills, Mrs. Wunder wanted the Palio to be a performance event showcasing students' creativity and athletic prowess. The perfect vehicle to showcase both? Tumbling. This activity, which combines the grace of a dancer with the athleticism of a gymnast became the central focus of Palio. Over the 50 years that Mrs. Wunder has run Palio, students have lept, climbed, built human pyramids, and told stories. Palios have included a Phantom of the Opera-themed performance where a student emerged from under the bleachers to shock the audience, celebrations of summer and the beach that featured students “riding the waves” to Beach Boys songs, and even this year’s adaptation of the Lion King. Each year has been bigger and better than the last, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us this year!

Through it all, Ms. Wunder has been an integral part of the Roycemore community and the force behind this event. This year, we celebrate her 50th Palio and her legacy at Roycemore. Our alumni will return to the gym and reminisce on their own experiences soaring through the air under her watchful eye, while our current students will demonstrate the skills she has brought to life in them. Ms. Wunder’s impact on the Roycemore community is almost impossible to put into words, but perhaps the Griffins of the past have said it best. A 1980 yearbook dedicated to Ms. Wunder thanks her for her “patience, efforts, and enthusiasm which have influenced and inspired the entire Roycemore community.” It’s a testament to Ms. Wunder’s spirit that the patience, efforts, and enthusiasm that the class of 1980 celebrated have only grown in the 43 years that followed. 

Join us at Palio 2023 on Thursday, May 25th, at 5:00 p.m. to celebrate Ms. Wunder’s 50th Palio. All current families are invited to join us and alumni can RSVP for a special after-Palio reception here.

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