A standing-room-only crowd gathered to celebrate and recognize our upper school students at BCD’s 72nd Closing and Awards Ceremony yesterday. It was meaningful for me to witness the students be so present and supportive of one another – a reflection of the vibrant community our talented teachers do to sustain it every day.
Special thanks goes to everyone who spoke from the heart about each departing eighth grader. I could hear and feel how powerfully they know about, care for, and love the students. The character of each speaker was an affirming reflection of everyone else who works at BCD.
I offer the following from my remarks to the departing Eighth Graders:
“Eighth graders, the time we have been looking forward to, and the moment we have been sadly anticipating, is upon us. Anje, Halle, Jamie, Aurora, Symaira, Abbey, Donald, Esme, Alex, Will, Clara, Chase, Sean, Ryan, Henry, and Keely, we are proud of each of you, who you are, your accomplishments, and your many contributions to our school community. We are excited about what the future has in store for each of you, and it is difficult to imagine what BCD will be like without you here.
You have met with success in the areas we value as a school – as learners, as original and critical thinkers, as members of the community, and in your ability to develop as individuals and express your originality. You have approached learning with creativity, taken risks, and done your best. We applaud your accomplishments and are grateful for the ways in which you have had an impact on those around you.
Similarly, we appreciated your earnest participation and teamwork in our athletics program. With heart, determination, leadership by example, always leaving everything out on the field, you played with sportsmanship, intense effort, and for the good of the team – every day and every game. Special appreciation goes to departing eighth graders Jamie, Clara, Donald, and Chase, for playing all three seasons this year – your contributions to the culture of our program meant a great deal.
And, this year, my last, we all depart from BCD together. Chase and Aurora, as you recall, we started at BCD ten years ago. You were so cute then. My, how you’ve both grown! Each year, the class grew, with so many great additions over the past nine years, and everyone experienced so much together. It has been a joy for me to greet all sixteen of you each morning, to observe you in classes, on stages, on our playing fields, and to watch each of you develop and flourish at BCD.
To every one of you, one thing I can imagine we all have in common as we prepare to venture forth on the next leg of our journeys – is that we are each experiencing and feeling a hefty measure of uncertainty. What lies ahead? What will be asked of us? Are we be ready? Will we make new friends? Will we be able to weather new storms, celebrate new successes, and realize fulfillment after we move away from the many people here who have supported, encouraged, challenged, and cared for us over so many years.
Perhaps you don’t know this, perhaps you do, these are some of the existential issues and concerns that everyone – regardless of their age – and no matter where they are in their lives – is dealing with –: the search for meaning and purpose, how to live with times of aloneness, how to come to terms with our limitations and mortality, and how to recognize and fan the burning embers of our self-will.
One truth that I have been reflecting upon for the past few months – as I explore the range of feelings that are the result of experiencing uncertainty – is that the antidote for uncertainty is gratitude. Here’s how it works. The more we express gratitude, the less doubt, hesitation, and insecurity we feel. By sharing our appreciation and thanks for the people who have: fortified and inspired us; provided steady hands on the tiller in stormy seas; expressed unconditional love and an unwavering appreciation for who we are; cheered us on to continue being our best version of ourselves; who held us with quiet care when we faltered and made mistakes; and who never settled for less knowing that we could move forward and attain new successes – we reconnect with what makes us individuals. And, we connect with others and those powerful moments in our memories in ways that both strengthen us and ensure that their mark upon us has been indelible. We find the courage to move forward, the conviction to continue to grow and succeed, and the humility required to be both self-aware and inter-dependent. The antidote for uncertainty is gratitude.
For many weeks, as I thought about that and prepared for this moment, eighth grade, what kept coming up for me was my sincere and individual gratitude for each of you. School is a shared endeavor. Respect goes both ways. Everyone carries a piece of the truth – each one of you sure does – and we all learn from one another. So, I’d like to take a few moments and express my heartfelt and sincere appreciation for each one of you.
Alex – Thank you for taking risks and for being willing to put yourself out there on the field and on the stage, a model for others. I also admire the way you look inward and express humility and a sincere sweetness.
Ryan – I appreciated how you humbly discovered the ways in which you are smart, always played with heart, shared your sense of humor, and expressed your steadiness as a friend.
Sean – I was grateful to witness your tested resilience, smarts, and the ability to stride purposefully anew the next day. And, thanks, too, for letting me see your inner charm and twinkle.
Keely – Gratitude alone may fall short in affirming your commitment to excellence, and with courage and daring, how you singularly set and reach for high goals, balancing drive and confidence with being humble.
Halle – I value your steady kindness, your ease with people and maturity, your intelligence, and your concern for, and service toward, others. I appreciate how you’ve always played your part and shared these gifts with us.
Symaira – I admire you for not tolerating injustice, for fiercely being loyal to friends, for finding that powerful voice and speaking up, and for finding success – able to express the broad palette of emotions and a huge smile.
Chase – It was a source of inspiration to experience your earnest determination and ability to follow your moral compass, and, I do not just mean your height – for rising above the crowd. I admire your work ethic and concern for rightness.
Jamie – Thank you for your huge heart, accessible goodness, helping out without being asked, and your proven personhood and perseverance, on and off the field, and for your drive to succeed.
Donald – I am grateful for how you demonstrated that being approachable, positive, polite, and good-humored are rock solid ingredients for success. I respect your gentleness and kind manner.
Abbey – I celebrate how you realized each day, that by approaching everything with determination and a ready smile, and an accessible sincerity and effort, you found leadership and rose to great heights.
Aurora – I am grateful for your grit, your sense of self, your laugh, and how you engaged with flourish and motivation. I recall that you knew how to both laugh at and be true to yourself and to focus on the things you care about.
Anje – I appreciate your earnestness and clarity, skills as a friend, and your approach each day with can-do and candor, tools that have served you well as you conquered challenges, found your stride, and came into your own.
Will – Thank you for all of those sleepy morning handshakes, for showing us your gifts of humor and qualities as a friend, and for sticking things out even when the going got tough – I value that as I do you.
Clara – I celebrate your grace, kindness, poise, and assurance, and the special ability you have to lift yourself and others around you. It is easy to see your selflessness and to hold you in high regard.
Henry – I so appreciated your dry wit, poker face and ready smarts each day, and your keen and resolute approach to finding your voice and identity. It was fun to applaud your successes and engage with you.
Esme – It is a sincere pleasure to affirm the depth of your goodness, all that you are and have accomplished, and the impact your talents and qualities of personhood have had on your friends, our school, and your teachers.
Thank you eighth grade – I am a better person for knowing all of you.
Now, I invite each of you to reflect on what you are grateful for. You don’t know, or exactly what it’s going to be like, where you are going – but, you do know where you’re coming from and where you’ve been. So, be appreciative – show your gratitude.
I express thanks to hundreds of community members every year, and I can tell you from experience that you can never say thank you enough. Today will offer you many opportunities to measure your successes and achievements for years to come. You will be showered with pride and praise from others, who will congratulate you and express their sincere regard for all that you have achieved. But, it is important that you seize the opportunity to express your authentic appreciation to the many individuals who have invested so much in your success as a learner and as a person. They provided for you in countless ways, made great sacrifices for you, and have had an immeasurable impact on you and your life.
I encourage you all – to assess how wonderful all of that was for you, and to measure yourself in these moments by how many individuals you seek out and thank today. These moments are yours to make, they will be fleeting – no one can create them for you, Find your teachers, move toward your parents and relatives, search for your friends in the crowd, move in really close and tell them how you really feel.
As you prepare to depart, I wish for each of you so many things. And, I want to share a special book with you. You know, some books are about a single wish. Some books are about three wishes. This book is about endless good wishes. (go forward and read I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal)
In closing, may your wishes come true. Embrace them and only the things that make you better. Go forward and continue with the work and effort required to succeed and to make a difference – in big and little ways – to the things that matter most to you and our world. Be generous in all ways, especially in who you are. Extend yourself and your sincere interest in others, and maintain quality in your relationships with one another and the many new and different people you will encounter along the way.
Thanks again goes to the faculty, the staff, our students, trustees, our generous parents, and the many family members and friends in attendance today. I am so pleased that we could all be together to share in this moment and to recognize and celebrate our students.”
Certificates for completing the course of study through eighth grade were presented to Aurora Benson, Symaira Elliott, Donald Miller, and Will St. John, Pittsfield; Abbey Boyd, West Stockbridge; Anje Capala, Spencertown, NY; Halle Davies, Lenox; Esme Lazar and Ryan Sonsini, Great Barrington; Jamie McDonnell, Old Chatham, NY; Clara Mollerus, Otis; Keely O’Gorman, Lee; Alex Rodriguez-Benjamin and Sean Sylbert, Monterey, and Henry Van Schaick and Chase Vermeulen, South Egremont.
In addition, eighth graders were recognized for academic accomplishments.
Anje Capala, Anna Zaffanella French Prize
Halle Davies, Marilyn Orner Cromwell Art Prize
Symaira Elliott, a Steffi Fletcher Creative Writing Prize
Esme Lazar, Eighth Grade Science Prize
Clara Mollerus, Excellence in History Prize, Ned Douglas Mathematics Prize, and Eighth Grade Spanish prize
Keely O’Gorman, Viv Murray Caputo Vocal Music Prize and a Steffi Fletcher Creative Writing Prize
Seventh graders were also recognized for academic accomplishments.
Sam C., East Chatham, NY, a Eugénie D. Fawcett Classics Prize
Gus G., Great Barrington, a Seventh Grade English Prize
Miles G., Hudson, NY, Virginia I. Peterson Citizenship Award
Rafi K., Hudson, NY, United States History Prize, a Eugénie D. Fawcett Classics Prize, and Seventh Grade Growth in French Prize
Eli M., Craryville, NY, Theater Ensemble Prize and a Nancy Cowhig Growth in Mathematics Prize
Lilah O’N., Stockbridge, MA, Seventh Grade Growth in Spanish Prize
Petra O., Ghent, NY, Seventh Grade Science Prize
Samantha S., Richmond, a Seventh Grade English Prize