Click HERE to view photos of Commencement.
Click HERE to view photos of seniors receiving their diplomas.
"I see the glint in your eyes and I recognize it, that feeling that you can take on the world," reflected the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond '96 in addressing the Class of 2017. "I'm here to tell you that you absolutely can," she told her "Winsor sisters" at this year's commencement.
On June 7, 2017, the eyes of the 59 graduating seniors and all gathered to celebrate them were at times beaming, at times tearful, glistening with overflowing emotions.
Held on the Winsor courtyard, the school's 123rd Commencement was an unforgettable morning of soaring music and heartfelt tributes to this year's seniors, their families and their teachers.
The program opened with a passage from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, chosen as is tradition by the class and read beautifully by Sabine Tessono '17.
In welcoming guests, Allison Kaneb Pellegrino '89, P'21, '22, president of the Winsor Corporation, foreshadowed Mariama's words, assuring the graduating seniors that, whatever lies ahead, "you're ready." That optimism "has everything to do with the people you are."
Speaking on behalf of "the strong sisterhood of the Class of 2017," Sofia Vicinelli '17 described their cohesiveness, individuality and near legendary capacity for cheering, singing and dancing together.With pride and love, she recounted a few of their unforgettable moments, concluding that "none of us would be the same without each and every member of our class."
Addressing the seniors, Head of School Sarah Pelmas lovingly described the qualities she has admired in them. "You helped me see what incredible intellectual powerhouses look like. You showed me how a community celebrates and commiserates together. You showed me what sisterhood really is, what commitment means, and what laughter sounds like when it is full-hearted. You showed me what struggle looks like, and why it matters."
With a nod to their "fairy tale" homeroom theme, she shared two wise and different tales—The Paper Bag Princess and Zen Shorts—teasing out the deeper meaning of a wish for a "fairy tale life."
Along the journey ahead, "don't ever sell yourself short by thinking you are not yet ready to change the world," she urged. "Don't think you are too young, or not experienced enough, or not educated enough."
"The world," she noted, "is run on the energy and brilliance of people just like you."
Mariama echoed that point, adding "Not only can you change the world, we absolutely need you to do it."
Her stories from her own work as executive director of Project HIP HOP and now as minister for ecological justice and the interim youth pastor at the Bethel AME Church gave a case in point of how Winsor alumnae are changing the world in powerful ways.
Mariama remembered sitting in the seniors' seats once upon a time, thinking she'd be an international human rights lawyer. While that idea shifted over time, "I was always driven by the idea that my life needed to be about more than me, about more than the traditional notions of success."
She acknowledged the hope of every parent: "that our children will have a better life." Yet she noted that those Winsor seniors with whom she's spoken are "suspicious of notions of success that you see around you,...you believe that there are other versions of success than what you've often been told."
With everything ahead, "you're asking yourselves some deep questions about how you should live your lives."
"In our search for better lives, we've often missed the mark on things of ultimate importance," she contended. As a society, bent on accumulating more and more, "we've facilitated our own spiritual impoverishment," Mariama worried. "We have figured out how to have an app for everything, but we still haven't figured out how to feed everyone."
"My charge to you is to live better,...be better than us by investing in a heart that is so full that it overflows," she implored. "Live your life like you like you care deeply about everyone you know and the billions of people you will never know."
Beyond urging the seniors to care, she asked them to think of the word CARE as an acronym: "Called to Adapt, Reflect and Engage."
She described how her own sense of "calling" has evolved after being reinforced early in life by her parents. She's followed in their footsteps not only in becoming an ordained minister but also in speaking at a Winsor graduation. (The Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond and the Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond P'96, '00, spoke at the 2000 and 2004 ceremonies, respectively!)
"Each of you is unique," Mariama reflected. "I hope, as you embark on this next phase of life, you will not settle for anything less than being exactly who you've been called to be."
On a day filled with memories, Ms. Pelmas ended with "a memory I will have forever."
She recounted sitting in her office on an early spring day, signing diplomas for the first time. "With each name, I paused, almost unable to move, as your face and your presence rose up before me—each of you a bright light in the history of Winsor, a legacy that will be felt in a variety of ways by the generations of young women to follow."
It was one of those moments "where we see you and hold you in our hearts, where we are bursting with joy and pride at the people you have become."
Graduation day was another.