On Monday, June 8, the Lower School Closing Ceremonies marked the end of an academic year like no other. Head of School Sarah Pelmas opened the ceremony with remarks on the state of unrest in our nation, standing in support of the fight for social justice, and calling for a moment of silence to honor George Floyd, who was killed by police, the Black community, and all those who have been victim to racism. She also acknowledged the importance of uniting to celebrate community and achievement amid the turmoil, and in particular, the Class of 2024, who worked so hard throughout the year.
Addressing the group, on the cusp of high school, with authentic reflection on the challenges high schoolers face, Ms. Pelmas encouraged, “You are amazing. All your classmates right now could tell you one amazing thing about yourself, something you might not even fully believe, but it’s true. You are amazing.” And she had these lasting words of advice, “Don’t think that you need to become someone else in high school. Please don’t for one second think that you are not whatever enough for high school. You are absolutely smart enough, nice enough, cool enough, athletic enough, artsy enough. You are more than good enough...Inside we are all a little bit insecure. Outside we all look more amazing than we think.” In closing, she offered, “I know you can see the beauty and deep humanity in the people around you, and I want you to know that we all see it in you, too. Be proud of yourselves, and each other.”
Class IV coordinator and science faculty Theresa Evenson addressed her final remarks to the class, applauding them for their perseverance in the face of what was certainly an unusual set of circumstances. “As students, you were challenged to learn via Zoom, perform Shakespeare remotely, and complete your 8th grade year without the company of your friends and classmates...You have stepped out of your comfort zone (especially in regards to technology - as it has been used for more than just texting and Netflix), and yet you have continued to take risks, be persistent, learn from your mistakes, and develop confidence.”
Suzanne Pogorelec ’24 was elected by her peers to deliver the Class IV address. Recalling her first day of school, when the senior class lines the halls to greet students, she says could hear the cheers from across the Riverway, and felt a little intimated. But what she remembers most, despite the chaos, was “it made me feel welcome...Winsor seniors took the time to greet the younger kids with grins and cheers….there are so many other memories like this, and the theme of smiles and laughter runs through them all.” Recalling moments shared throughout the years, she reminded, “Laughter and smiles can transform the most challenging day. ….and will help us perservere through High School and beyond.” She also extended appreciation to family, friends, staff, and the teachers, especially during the trials of distance learning. “You checked in with us, and put our well being before any missed test or forgotten quiz,” closing with congratulations and gratitude for the Class of 2024. “I am so lucky to have met such generous classmates.”
Alex Lee ‘21, rising president of the Class of 2021, welcomed the Class of 2024 to the Upper School with some words of wisdom. “Always be your true and authentic selves. I’m confident you will find your place here,” she said, adding that the move to Upper School will bring “a lot more freedom to choose what you want to do and who you want to be.” Encouraging the students to take advantage of opportunities to try new things, and step out of their comfort zones, she added, “you are going to have a great community behind you every step of the way.”
The outgoing student council heads Beatrix Picotte ‘24 and Ciara Leonard ‘24 also reflected on the challenges and triumphs for the year, bidding farewell to the Lower School. And Maddie Glynn ‘24, one of the heads of the Class IV Legacy Club, revealed the Class of 2024 Legacy Gift. Hoping to encourage students to use free time on campus to put down their technology and go outside and play, the class is donating outdoor games and athletic equipment. A musical solo by Aimy Hunyh ‘24 was a meaningful and memorable highlight of the celebration.
Sharon Jones-Phinney, Head of the Lower School, addressed the class one last time, emphasizing the importance of using their voices, and the difference they can make. Referencing student feedback collected over the last few months, she shared, “Your reflection on your experience will make us a stronger school. We need to hear from you, and we appreciate and honor what you have to say.” In closing, she shared, “Our combined reflection on our mutual experience is essential to strengthening your learning and our teaching. As my graduate school professor, Robert Kegan said in his book, An Everyone Culture, ‘Better Me + Better You = Better Us’... As you move into your next year in the Lower School or into the Upper School we want you to use your voice, whether it is quiet, loud, soft, serious, humorous, outspoken, or reserved...because as a part of this community, you can and do make a Better US, a Better Winsor.”
View the slideshow celebrating the Class of 2024 and their years at Winsor!