Resilience. Growth. Gratitude. Community.
These themes were front and center during a moving Middle School Graduation celebrating the 61 members of the Class of 2025 as they transitioned to ninth grade.
Head of Middle School Tasha Elsbach welcomed family and friends on Friday, June 11, before turning the microphone over to eighth graders who had volunteered to speak at the outdoor ceremony.
Allison Tarter, Jordan Lee, Matthew Hantgan, Alex Carnevale, Jordan Harris, Madden Osherow, Matthew VanWright, Thomas O’Grady and Sophie Moussapour took the stage to reflect on how they had grown during their middle school years. They spoke eloquently about COVID-19 and how it impacted and shaped this formative time in their lives.
Referencing changes wrought by the pandemic, Tarter considered what defines the Masters community. “It can’t be the Harkness tables,” she said. “Those had to go into storage. It can’t be the campus. It was shut down for months. It certainly can’t be all of the activities, plays and sports programs. Those are gone at the moment.” But, she continued, “We are still here. We are still us. Our core is solid and unchanged. We continue to be a group of people who come together to create an environment of intellectual curiosity; an environment that encourages asking difficult questions, seeking answers, finding connections in them and, most of all, supporting each other as we take this journey.”
Hantgan read an original poem entitled “Becoming a Freshman.” He described the beginning of the school year as “a bit funky,” but acknowledged that “everyone made the best of it.” When students returned in the fall, he said, “I knew people were happy to be back, even though you couldn’t see it under their masks.” As he looks forward to entering the Upper School in the fall, Hantgan concluded: “I do not know what awaits me in freshman year / But I do know that I will be able to take on what’s ahead of me.”
When Elsbach addressed the graduates, she lauded them for their optimism and pragmatism. “You took the circumstances that you’d been handed and made the best of them by maintaining your connections to each other and to the community,” she said. “Even before the vaccine, you were inoculating yourselves and our community against the social and emotional symptoms of the pandemic: isolation, disconnection, anxiety and sadness.”
Elsbach highlighted some of the ways that students fostered community this year, whether it was making Zoom Morning Meetings fun and exciting or raising funds for and awareness about important non-profit organizations. Despite the challenges they faced, she said, “You continued to look out for each other and to help with causes bigger than yourself.”
While her speech considered the many issues the community had faced this year, in a moment of levity, Elsbach sang a few lines from Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” the eighth grade’s chosen class song.
After the students received their diplomas, Elsbach led the traditional Promotion of Classes, and welcomed them to the next grade.
At the ceremony’s close, Head of School Laura Danforth told the graduates: “I am so proud of you. The way you led each other, the way you held us to the highest of standards, the way you took care of the younger students. Thank you. Thank you for your leadership, thank you for being present throughout this remarkable year.”
Danforth ended with the six words that she also says to middle school students at the beginning of each year: “Be kind, be kind, be kind.”