Seniors say final goodbyes at graduation
May 28, 2014
Some have been with the school since Kindergarten, others have only been members of the school community since their sophomore year. Regardless, the Class of 2014 will say goodbye to St. Paul Academy and Summit School at the end of their last year. On June 2, a Valedictory Dinner kicks off a host of celebrations that culminate in Commencement, held on the front lawn on June 8 at 4:00 p.m.
The Valedictory Dinner is held at St. Catherine’s University where “there are some speeches and toasts to the class and the community,” Upper School Principal Chris Hughes said. This year, the main speaker will be US Fine Arts teacher Bob Jewett, taking the usual place of Head of School Bryn Roberts.
“I’ve been asked to talk about the history of fine arts at SPA,” Jewett said. He has been working in the fine arts program since he started teaching in 1973 and will retire after working for 40 years. “[The seniors are] prominently featured. There’s a PowerPoint, actually, and any senior who has been involved in the fine arts will hopefully be shown,” he said.
The other student speakers at the Valedictory Dinner are Alida Mitau, Harrison Egly, as well as two toasts given by US history teacher John Finch and US Science Department Chair Tina Barsky.
“I don’t think the dinner is emotional, but there’s so much excitement…there’s a mix of emotions,” US Dean of Students, Judy Cummins said. “The realization hits different students at different times.” Cummins also stated that students could, and usually do, feel the impact of their upcoming departure at any point as graduation nears.
Senior Project Presentations
The events (following the Valedictory Dinner) are the senior project presentations, held on June 2 and 3. The senior projects are internships which the seniors take part in over about a month or so.
“[Seniors] do a 20 minute presentation…it gets evaluated and it’s a pass-fail, so it’s a requirement for the seniors to pass,” Cummins said.
There’s a schedule posted, and the first session, from 8:30 – 12 am, is held the same day as the Valedictory Dinner and on the second day the presentations will be held from 8:30 – 1:00 pm.
Following the senior project presentations is Prom which falls on June 4, taking place at the Mill City Museum. The Junior Class Leadership Council (JCLC) plans this event and have chosen the venue due to many requests by fellow classmates.
The next event lined up for seniors is the Alumni Breakfast, on June 6 from 8 to 10 am. On this day the seniors have a breakfast and afterwards “… do graduation practices both (inside and outside) and [the seniors] are welcomed to the Alumni Association,” Cummins said. Every graduate of SPA becomes an alumni/ae; it is sponsored by the Alumni but is for the graduating seniors as a way to remind them to stay in touch with the school, giving them connections to keep even as they go off to college.
The final event, marking the end of their senior year, is the Commencement ceremony. The dress code for this ceremony includes blue blazers with white pants with blue and gold ties for the boys, and white dresses of choice for the girls. The actual ceremony is held outdoors, but with a quick-fix backup-plan in the gym incase of rain, and is open to the public. The choir sings and seniors receive their diplomas.
“At the ceremony they give out a series of awards and there are two speakers from the senior class who, this year, are seniors Bilal Askari and Yusra Murad. There’s also one main commencement speaker who, this year, is the Dean [Judy Cummins],” Hughes said.
The speakers were selected for this position by writing speeches which were assessed.
“They had us read our speeches in front of a dozen or so members of SCLC [Senior Class Leadership Council], and a couple of faculty advisors, one by one, all on the same day,” graduation speaker Askari said. “..our messages are generally centric to the ideas of moving on, and what success will look like going forward. We also aim to remind the class that this success is different for everyone,” he said.
The goal of Murad’s speech is somewhat similar to that of Askari’s: “ We’ve gone to a rigorous school, as everyone knows, and sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough acknowledgment of the hard work each student exercises on a day to day level…But more than anything, I want to say goodbye,” Murad said. “but [also] convey that this is not the end. This was one of many stages in our lives and just because it’s over and there are people we won’t see anymore, it doesn’t make it less important than what lies ahead.”
This ceremony and these speeches mark the end of the 2014 school year and another new beginning. “I thought it would be a little sad to graduate, and it will be [sad] leaving my friends at the end of the summer,” senior Zoe Matticks said.
“Of course,there’ll always be a mix of individuals who are either very reluctant or very eager to leave high school,” Askari said. “But either way, Commencement is precisely what the name implies – the beginning of something new and malleable. And that’s kind of exciting.”