The rising ninth grade class led a procession of fifth, sixth, and seventh grade students followed by the entire RCS faculty into the Graduation tent, where family and friends of the graduates, along with many RCS alumni and former faculty, awaited the start of the ceremony. Once everyone was in place, music teachers Keith Robellard and Bill Fornara launched into “Pomp and Circumstance,” heralding the arrival of the eighth and ninth grade graduates.
Head of School Colm MacMahon welcomed the graduates, their families, friends, alumni, faculty, students, and staff and then recognized families for whom a graduating student was their last child to attend RCS. He also honored faculty with longstanding tenure – including Upper Campus math teacher Missy Swan and Lower Campus music teacher Lainie Zades, who each have taught at the School for 40 years.
“One of the great traditions at Rippowam Cisqua School is the Red/Blue Competition,” Mr. MacMahon remarked before introducing this year’s team captains Lili Azima and Hale Brown, Red Team, and Stefan Darmanovic and Jasmine Pearson, Blue Team. Mr. MacMahon went on to outline the various activities related to academics, athletics, and community service that students participated in throughout the year to earn points for their teams before announcing the Blue Team as the winner of the 2018-19 Red/Blue Competition.
Turning to address the graduates as they prepared to become RCS alumni, Mr. MacMahon noted, “The reach of the RCS alumni community is geographically far and wide and you will run into people who had Mr. Perry for science and Mrs. Swan for math in your travels across the country and around the world.” As he does every year, Mr. MacMahon asked the graduates to “Remember the foundations and friendships you built here at Rippowam Cisqua School, take care of yourselves and make good choices, and come back to visit often as we will miss you.”
As is tradition, the graduating class asked a faculty member to give the commencement address. This year, that honor fell to Grades 8 & 9 English and humanities teacher Jordan Schnell.
Addressing the graduates, Ms. Schnell remarked, “Since you all know I believe in and rely on data, observations, and analysis (cause and effect if you will), after nine-ish months with you, I feel confident in saying I have learned enough about you to share a few more observations about your year, to analyze you just a bit more, and to share some parting insights as you head off on new journeys.
“Each of you has an important story to tell, and each of you benefited from listening to and being part of the stories of your peers, from the relationships you created as a class. And it is in this area that I saw you demonstrate the most growth and it is also the one in which I encourage you to keep growing. With regard to your interactions with one another earlier in the year, at times you weathered the storm, and at times you were the storm. But at some point, as a collective, all seventeen of you made the decision, the choice, that you wanted to learn more about each other, to delve deeper into your stories, to spend your remaining time together crafting the story of your class. This risk-taking, this stepping outside of your comfort zone, this commitment to come together, this willingness to be vulnerable with one another in order to tell the story of your class is the best and most important achievement I have seen you make all year. And it seemed to all come together just in time for our magical trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos.
“It was evident on so many occasions in Quito and the Galapagos that you were a true cohort. Each of us was forced out of our comfort zones on this trip, whether it was climbing a volcano, snorkeling for the first time, dealing with altitude sickness, or being away from home for as long as we were. You laughed at ridiculous jokes together, you let yourselves feel pure joy and awe when we walked amongst the giant tortoises, you played tag on the beach under the stars and jumped through the waves, you stood up for your friends and stood up to your friends, you
giggled with excitement when the sea turtles and sharks swam under us, you ‘mastered’ the egg challenge on the equator, you connected with our wonderful guides, you had great conversations with your peers. In essence, you created and cultivated relationships.
“And this is what I urge you to hold onto, what I hope you will take away, if nothing else from this year: Create relationships, listen to each other’s stories, find people you want to invite to be a part of and who will enhance your story, let people know you want to be part of theirs.”
Another favorite Graduation tradition is the presentation of the class gift. This year, ninth grade Class Co-Presidents Devin Kwarula and Gayle Miranda, on behalf of their classmates, announced the Class of 2019’s gift to the School: “Many of us have been here since JPK and SPK and so to leave a long-lasting mark, we have decided to add something beautiful to our school by making this year’s ninth grade class gift a fish tank. We decided this in the hopes of bringing the community together as well as to start caring more for animals. As the Class of 2019 saw in the Galapagos Islands, people fiercely protected the environment to preserve its original state.”
After receiving their diplomas and being officially welcomed into the RCS Alumni Association by Board Chair and member of the Class of 1991, Peter Freund, the Class of 2019 stood together one last time to sing John Denver’s classic “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which had the entire audience enthusiastically singing and clapping along. Then, with diplomas in hand, the graduates processed out of the tent to a reception in the Dick Wade Gymnasium followed by a night filled with celebration.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Minush Krasniqi