A slight breeze, blue skies, and temperatures in the low-70s; Saturday was only the sixth or seventh sunny day we’ve had since March. For once this spring, the weather matched the occasion (it snowed at Prom a few weeks ago), and as the 115 members of the Class of 2019 gathered in Alice’s Garden prior to Commencement, every face was wearing a smile.
Regardless of the school, all graduations feel special, but there is something different about a Proctor Commencement. It’s just informal enough to keep you on your toes, yet serious enough we all cried at least once. The weekend ensures you exercise a complete spectrum of emotions whether you are prepared to or not. Graduation day turns into a family reunion as alumni flock to campus to celebrate their former classmates and parents of the Class of 2019 obtain a final glimpse into our imperfect family before officially becoming parents of alumni.
In conversation with one parent over the weekend, she noted how hard it must be for us with seniors so desperate to graduate. While assuring her it is, indeed, challenging at times to keep our seniors focused, I also passed along wisdom shared with me during my first few years working at boarding school that is always top of mind this time of year: If our seniors are not driving us crazy by the end of the year, we’ve done something wrong.
Adolescents are designed to outgrow their surroundings. We have done our job when they start to spread their wings and ruffle our feathers. Now that the Class of 2019 has walked across that stage and received their diplomas, they can extend those wings as wide as they want, knowing all the while they have a perch to which they can safely return whenever they want. The words shared by students during Saturday's ceremony reaffirmed our belief that this group of young people are ready. They are ready to make decisions on their own, to tackle hardships, and to surround each other with love and support when needed. They are ready to keep growing, to keep learning, and to keep living to learn and learning to live.
"In life, we don't know what we have until we have to leave it behind. We all like to complain about our current situation, but what Proctor has given me, given all of us, is a gift. We have been given a place that welcomes us, encourages us to grow outside who we think we are to who we could become. And as we go out into the world, each of us will have the opportunity to welcome others with open arms into our lives just as Proctor did to us. We must take the lessons we've learned from our tribe, and use them well."
Cat Krupka '19 | Salutatorian
"From afar it may seem like our high school years are a well laid out four year plan. But, as person who thrives on being organized, I can assure you our years at Proctor are filled with disruptions. As soon as we arrived on campus, we were handed one (Wilderness Orientation). But, these disruptions are by design. They are intentional, and quickly teach us we cannot do life alone. They help us realize we need the support of those around us, and teach us to see this community from the perspective of others."
Ben Charleston '19 | Valedictorian
“The past three months on European Art Classroom allowed me to learn without feeling like I was being taught. Proctor’s motto in action: Live to Learn, Learn to Live. The definition of a student has no age requirement, yet as a society, we too often forget age and ability do not matter, the whole point of this thing called life is to grow. We must never allow ourselves to stop learning, to stop pushing ourselves to master something new.”
Zina Asante ‘19 | Senior Speaker
The gems of wisdom by our student speakers complemented musical performances by Ivy Linder '19, Nelson Makechnie '19, Logan Dunne '19, Margaret Fair '19, and a special performance by Nick's Other Band with Kai Pilla '19 on sax (above), the last of which simultaneously brought down the house and the tissues out.
We were thrilled to welcome past Proctor Parent and current US Senator Angus King P'09 as our Commencement Speaker. His witty, insightful list of ten pieces of advice for the graduates kept us all entertained. Thank you Senator King for taking the time to share your wisdom with us!
As names were called and diplomas issued, we paused during the "Ls" for Hailey LaPointe '19. Hailey's aunt, step-father, and cousin presented her with a traditional Lakota eagle feather and quilt as she crossed this important milestone in her educational journey. Hailey follows a long line of Lakota Sioux and other indigenous peoples to attend Proctor over the past 35 years, and will continue her education at nearby Dartmouth College next year.
DJ showed Head of School Mike Henriques how he really felt about graduating, and we quickly realized we all felt the same way about the Class of 2019: incredibly proud of them, sad to see them leave, and yet knowing full well they are ready for life beyond Proctor. Congratulations to the Class of 2019 (and their parents) on a job well done.