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Celebrating the Class of 2024

June 11, 2024—In a soaring tent in the Winsor courtyard Head of School Sarah Pelmas welcomed the school community to the 130th Winsor Commencement, which honored the group of 66 seniors who make up the Class of 2024. “Over the past several years, they have been true leaders who have shown all of us how to find silver linings and celebrate one another,” said Ms. Pelmas. “They have led the school with energy, creativity, and the trademark Winsor generosity.”

Seniors have a lot of say in the commencement ceremony, including readings, speakers, and songs. Selected by the class, Eva LaFond ’24 read a selection from Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! that offered advice to the graduates: 

“You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, ‘I don't choose to go there.’
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
You're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.”

Led by Choral Director Andrew Marshall, Upper School choir Illumina—performing for the first time without the seniors—sang “Blessing” by Katie Moran Bart. As students sang “until we meet again my friend” some seniors became emotional and boxes of tissues started circulating.

Emphasizing how important groups of women are, President of the Winsor Board of Trustees Allison Kaneb Pellegrino ’89, P’21, ’22 welcomed the Class of 2024 to the Winsor Alumnae Association, which she likened to a safety net and a security blanket. She told seniors, “today you’re graduating but becoming a part of something much larger,” referencing the alum network of nearly 4,000 Winsor graduates.

The whole school attends commencement and the students from Intermediate and Advanced Rock On led Classes I throughVIII in singing “Vienna” by Billy Joel, this year’s senior song. It was a fitting choice—”You got your passion, you got your pride / But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?”—for seniors who are embarking on their next chapter. It was also a tearjerker that had Ms. Pelmas and Ms. Brady-Lopez passing out boxes tissues for a second time. 

In her remarks, Ms. Pelmas shared, “I think you all know this is a bittersweet moment for me because I arrived here with those of you who started in Class I. We have all basically grown up together, and so you have a very special place in my heart because of that.” Calling the students “brave, smart, feisty, funny, [and] generous,” she praised the seniors’ “strong sense of themselves.”

Recalling the senior theme of rockstars and rock’n’roll from Convocation, Ms. Pelmas urged the seniors to make a playlist to lift them up during a bad day or when the troubles of the world threaten to overwhelm. “You want your playlist…to pick you up and set you back on your feet. But it’s also a reminder that happiness is so very important; upbeat songs—songs that make you glad to be alive—need to be part of your everyday experience. And it’s ok to seek out happiness and joy, to celebrate and delight in things, even when times are bad,” she explained. 

A diversity in music that is “complex, beautiful, rich, and celebratory” is a simile for the Class of 2024. “The senior class has shown us, not just this year, but since you first arrived on campus eight years ago [that through] your diversity of personalities, backgrounds, opinions, lived experiences, and values, you have enriched one another and the entire school… It hasn’t been the easiest journey in the world at times, but no journey worth making is ever easy.” She added, “Whatever comes your way from here, you are already, without question, Rockstars, people whose voices and vision will indeed make the world a better place. And we are proud of you.”

After singing “Jerusalem” by C. Hubert Parry accompanied by Ms. Brady-Lopez on piano under the direction of Mr. Marshall, student speaker Desiree Winston-Johnson ’24 took the stage. Chosen by her classmates to be their commencement speaker, she shared, “My peers are some of the brightest, most talented, focused, driven, and inspiring people that I'll ever meet. But they are also kind-hearted, empathetic, supportive, uplifting, confident people who will stand up and fight for what is right. I genuinely believe you guys will make the world a better place in this lifetime, and we’ve really already begun, from solar panels installed on [the Lubin-O’Donnell Center] roof to eco-friendly thrift businesses and everything in between.”

The “Class of ’24 are notorious complimentors” said Winston-Johnson, “every day warm embraces and compliments are just handed out like Halloween candy… Giving someone a compliment is like a chain reaction. At Winsor, you will get a compliment and pass it on.” She added, “A single compliment a day goes so very far, and in seven years, you guys have loaded me up with enough confidence and love to instill it in me permanently, and I will never forget it, long after we leave here today. I will never stop giving out love because of the Class of ’24.”

Senior Small, performing for the last time in their senior whites, sang an a capella cover of “Cover Me in Sunshine” by Maureen McDonald and Amy Allen. “Shower me with good times / Tell me that the world's been spinning since the beginning / And everything will be alright” they crooned. 
American feminist, ethicist, and psychologist Carol Gilligan was this year’s commencement speaker. Touching on topics like rejection, self confidence, and curiosity, she shared stories from her life, like the time the Harvard Education Review rejected an article multiple times. That article was the precursor to one of Dr. Gilligan’s most influential works, In a Different Voice, which has since been translated into 20 languages and sold over 700,000 copies worldwide. “Trust yourself and stick to your guns, because it was, in truth, a battle,” she said to students of the experience, adding, “to have a voice on your own terms is a battle worth fighting.” 

Dr. Gilligan may not have attended the Awards Celebration, but she shares in English Faculty Samantha Simpson’s belief in the power of curiosity. “Notice what happens when you replace judgment with curiosity,” she told the tent of nearly 1,000 members of the Winsor community. Not only did she encourage students to “develop the muscle of curiosity,” she invited them to “pay attention to what surprises you, because that is the doorway to discovery.” 

Giving “credit to the exceptional teachers who taught me what I know and [how to] find a way to say it,” Dr. Gilligan urged that “voice is the alternative to violence,” and told graduates, “there is nothing more needed than a fresh perspective. Be the generation who cares…because this world is so desperately in need of your care.” Relationships are key, she told students, “Don’t do it alone, find the people who will be with you.”

Recalling a story from her childhood, Dr. Gilligan spoke about her mother’s common refrain, “Darling, you know”—a reminder to “trust your experience and what your body is telling you.” In closing, she played on the senior theme and told the Class of 2024, “May you continue to rock and roll, to sing it out loud, and to have fun. And darling, you know.”

After Ms. Pelmas, Head of Upper School Kimberly Ramos, and Class VIII Dean Shannon Calamari-Kirwan conferred the diplomas, the Class of 2024 and their guests enjoyed refreshments on the Lubin O’Donnell Center patio. 

Congratulations to the Class of 2024!