Commencement should remain on campus

Keeping graduation at SPA upholds a tradition that every student at SPA has come to expect

Though high schools often choose venues off campus for Commencement, it has become a tradition at St. Paul Academy and Summit School to hold graduation on campus, one that has existed for years. Valid concerns were raised regarding the various potential venues for graduation at SPA in a statement issued on April 16 by head of school Bryn Roberts. Even so, there is something to be said for the closure that the graduating class receives from ending their SPA journey where it began, as well as upholding traditions at SPA, especially with all of the changes that will come with the completion of the Schilling Math and Science Center.

When the Schilling Center is finished this fall, math and science classes will be relocated there, and humanities classes to the place math and science classes currently occupy. This will mean a significant shift for SPA that begs the question, how much change is too much? And at what point does SPA become unrecognizable?

The fact that SPA was established in 1900, over 100 years ago, gives it an amount of history unparalleled by newer schools. It is the responsibility of SPA’s students, faculty, and administration not only to build up and grow SPA, but also to maintain important traditions so that they live on and don’t become relics of the past. On campus commencement is one of these traditions. It has gone on for years, giving hundreds of seniors closure of their time at SPA before they continued on into the rest of their lives. Scrapping this tradition would reduce it to a thing of the past, and would represent SPA’s failure to maintain vital traditions.

Having Commencement on campus is a tradition that allows students to close the high school chapter of their lives at the place where it took place, as opposed to a venue that they have no connection to.”

Isabel Toghramadjian, a 9th grader who has attended three SPA graduations, one in the gymnasium, one on the lawn, and one in the Huss Center for the Performing Arts, said, “The front lawn was really hot, but it was also more classic and that’s how graduation is intended to be… it used to be the default location, that’s how it has been.”

Commencement is the culmination of students’ high school careers. The majority of students in the graduating class have spent the whole of their high school careers, if not more, at SPA. Having Commencement on campus is a tradition that allows students to close the high school chapter of their lives at the place where it took place, as opposed to a venue that they have no connection to. It is as if by having Commencement on campus, students are given one last chance to say goodbye to their high school, and by extension their high school selves. This sentimentality is not possible at an off-campus venue, meaning that students will leave Commencement without as much of a sense of closure.

The word commence means “to have or make a beginning,” so Commencement is the time when seniors can make a new beginning, but it is also the end of something. It is a lovely notion that the end of something is really just the beginning of something else, and it is even more fitting for the seniors to begin the next part of their lives in the place where they experienced the last phase. It gives the impression that life is cyclical, which ties back into the importance of maintaining tradition. Though the seniors are moving on, some things in their lives will remain constant. This is exactly what must occur with Commencement at SPA: it should be the end of one era, the beginning of another, and a constant. Commencement should continue to be held on-campus.