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A Look Inside a Stevenson Graduation



Click on the names below (pseudonyms used to replace student names) to read graduation speeches given by Stevenson faculty members about some of our graduates.

Henry

It is my honor to talk about Henry. Henry’s one of a kind. Do you know anybody that could play all of the Legend of Zelda’s tunes on piano? Henry does. To anyone in my age group, or for that matter, any other age group-that has to be one of the coolest things anybody can do. Do you know anybody that can play piano without looking at the keys because her hair has grown so long in front that she can hardly see in front of her? Henry does. Do you know anybody that is a classically trained pianist, yet is open enough and driven enough to play in a rock band? Henry did this year. You get where I am headed, she’s one of a kind person; a character; a Stevenson legend.

Henry identifies as being a classically trained pianist, and she has the knowledge and musical chops to prove it. However, I see Henry as a rock star. And when I define a rock star, I mean an individual who’s brave, gives their being in all that they do, and has that quiet, confident, cool factor. Henry’s got it all. I have seen Henry’s courage in multiple contexts. In the classroom, when she goes against the popular opinion in the classroom. During performances, especially the epic song she performed during the Arts Manifest. Anyone that was there can testify how moving and electric it was seeing Henry play. Behind that is a whole lot of courage and hard work. That leads me to the second aspect of being a rock star: Henry’s tremendous work ethic and ability to give her being to her work. Henry frequently states that she doesn’t believe in talent, just in hard work. And she lives this saying. In all my years leading the Rock Band, I have never met a harder worker that pushes herself and others to be their best. Henry gives it all, and we are a witness during performances of the countless hours of work that she puts in. Thank you for working so hard. Its beautiful witnessing the results of your labor. Finally, Henry’s got the cool factor. It’s the Beatlesque hair, the confident stare, the wearing of black, her sarcasm, and, ultimately, her kindness. Personally, Henry on many occasions would come up to me and ask me how she could help and inquire about events that have affected me this year. Henry’s one of a kind, and I could probably continue this speech for a bit longer; however, I am allowed a certain amount of time. Henry, thank you for being one of a kind and congratulations on your high school graduation. I wish you all the best at College next year, where that musical community will become aware of your rock star status.

Rosie

Rosie is a graduate.

To say this, though–to say it confidently, to say it with fervor–one must say it following contemplation. In that, I am reminded of the child who asked Walt Whitman, “What is the grass?”, and of Whitman’s response, which showed us that to question the grass is to inquire–simultaneously–about the oppressively obvious and the endlessly enigmatic. So it is that, on the one hand, Rosie is a graduate. And she is also much more.

This is my first year at Stevenson, but when it comes to Rosie, I learned quickly. I learned with, of, and from Rosie as her advisor. I learned that on many days Rosie felt challenge. She felt illness. She felt struggle, discomfort, uncertainty, and worry. Rosie, though, is not these things.

Amid them–amid all of them–Rosie is perseverance.
As Rosie embarked on the fourth quarter’s final push, she was perseverance.
As she embraced challenge, set goals, and fulfilled intentions, she was perseverance.
As she arrived for the final Student Evaluation day and overcame discomfort to meet with teachers, she was perseverance.
Amid friends and faculty, under a Manhattan sky, and beneath the Statue of Liberty’s steadfast gaze, Rosie’s commitment to camaraderie and embrace of life was perseverance in full.

With perseverance, Rosie is a student, a friend, a learner, a joker, and a leader.
Rosie is the kinetic energy of kindness and the power of politeness.
To see all of this, to say all of this, is to know that Rosie did much more than push herself, for in the process, she inspired me and provided me with a perpetual mantra: When the going gets tough, be as tough as Rosie.

With all of this, I know that describing Rosie as a graduate is an understatement.
Rosie is perseverance.
She is inspiration.
She is success.
And, I am proud to say, that Rosie is a Stevenson graduate.

Kelly

Kelly writes….

Kelly writes for her teachers
She writes for her friends
She writes and wins awards
But most importantly,
Kelly writes for herself.
She writes to shine a light.
She writes to find her way.

Kelly was the only student to take Uncreative Writing for three years in a row. In that time she distinguished herself as the polar opposite of that course’s title.

In that class Kelly was fearless. She was always ready to work outside of her comfort zone, no matter how unconventional the prompt. She pushed herself. She fearlessly shared her work and offered thoughtful, constructive comments to her peers during critiques. She was a consummate group member, quick to make others feel comfortable; hers was a galvanizing, inspiring presence.

No writer can hold to be anything if they don’t consume as much as they produce. And in our time working together I came to know that Kelly is an avid and capable reader. She is able to tease subtle nuances out of complex texts, and she often led class discussions. During a lesson last fall on conceptual metaphors from Johnson and Lakoff’s seminal text “Metaphors we live by,” Kelly was one of the first in the class to grasp and explain key concepts.

Kelly can be fiercely outspoken. She can be steadfastly committed to her beliefs. She can confidently question the reasoning behind a voice of reason. Kelly can also recognize connections, empathize with common struggles, and guide her younger peers. Kelly can do all of this while peppering each comment with relevant literary, political, and pop culture references that exhibit an awareness beyond her years.

All of this means that in the eyes of this English teacher and the eyes of an English teacher thousands of miles away, Kelly is ready to take it to another level. We are truly excited for her. Write on.

Aaron

I have the honor of speaking about Aaron today.

From the start, I could tell that Aaron is one who embodies kind-heartedness. His gentle demeanor, his sensitivity, his caring nature – you know it’s sincere, that it’s from the heart. On Senior Readiness day, he brought a delicious strawberry cake, with a message written, “Good Luck, Seniors.” This is not a surprising gesture, but a typical one for Aaron. He is a giving person, and he doesn’t expect anything in return. Aaron, for those who may forget to say, “thank you”, let me thank you now – for being the sentimental and empathic person that you are. Remind yourself of such strengths, as they will carry you far. And I know you’ve mentioned that Stevenson is a home to you and that you will miss it – but as you’ve said, you are ready to move onto the next phase of life, and you know that you can always visit home.

Larissa

Larissa, I’m about to let you in on a teacher secret. Whenever we’re talking about our students, and your name comes up, someone will inevitably call you “cool.” Not cool in the sense of how Cleopatra is in Clone High or how Lottie wants to be in Snotgirl, but in the sense of having a sense of style that’s all your own and having an interest in art and literature and music that is idiosyncratic and individual, yet you’re happy to share with everyone around you.

Throughout the time I’ve known and taught you, I’ve always known I can count on you to have a different perspective on any topic than I expect, to make class discussion more interesting, and to strike up conversations outside of class on topics running the gamut from social justice to contemporary comics to 90s TV shows. Your empathy, creativity, talent, and deep knowledge always shine through in unexpected ways in everything you do. I know that whatever you do next, you’ll do it in a way that’s entirely Larissa and that you’ll find a way to surround yourself with people who appreciate that Larissa-ness. You’re going to have so many adventures, and they’re going to be entirely in your own style.

As Brian K. Vaughn wrote, “Every relationship is an education. Each new person we welcome into our hearts is a chance to evolve into something radically different than we used to be.” Thank you for letting me be a part of your education. You’ve absolutely helped me evolve as a person and a teacher, and I hope I’ve done the same for you. I am so excited to see what you choose to do next, because I know the path your life follows may not be traditional, but it will lead you to interesting places and that anyone who joins you on this journey will become a better person for it.

David

“Hi Russ.”

These are the words that greeted me anytime I passed, or was within 15 feet of, David. You really have to hear them yourself to appreciate the warmth that they carry when he says them. The comforting inflection is identical every time and is still always genuine. His gregarious nature immediately puts you at ease; David is completely pure of heart, authentic, and sincere. He possesses a level of self-awareness, meta-cognition, and candor that is seldom seen in anyone, let alone someone who’s not yet been eligible to vote in a presidential election..

And David is determined, too. David is an autodidact in a way that makes me jealous. Anytime I saw David I knew that there was a good chance that he’d share with me his most recent project–maybe a fuzz box, maybe a preamp, that mask. Maybe the cover for a truss rod. He learned how to do all of these on his own. Yet they pale in comparison to what came next. The guitar. David designed, shaped, and constructed a solid body guitar. He hand wired it and included a number of circuit modifications to produce a plethora of different tones. He carved the neck himself with precision. And let me tell you, it plays. David has drawn inspiration from personal hardship and used it to fuel incredibly creative pursuits, and shaped them into beautiful and functional pieces of art that will no doubt be used to create music to be enjoyed by all those around him for decades.

One of the most meaningful things about working at Stevenson is not only the effect we all hope to have on our students, but the profound impact that they can have on us. This year I was secretly able to live vicariously through David. He’s rekindled a goal I’d set aside since I was in high school. I didn’t have the mental wherewithal or stamina to believe that I could pull it off alone, so I never got past researching parts and gradually let it go. David did it all alone. Perhaps he’ll be willing to help me with one of my own.

To help him along the way, I hope that this will provide some inspiration.

In addition to David’s approachability, earnestness, and uncanny knack for tinkering, he also possess an unwavering veracity that has made him a stellar student. This is particularly true in the sciences, where his curiosity, sound logic, and thirst for inquiry as to the way things work has led to some tremendous accomplishments. In honor of them, it is my pleasure to present this year’s Outstanding Achievement in Science Award to David. Congratulations!