The Class of 2018 describes itself as “weird,” “energetic” and “rebellious.”
It’s a group that, in addition to making a generous donation to the Janet Hartwell Legacy Fund and purchasing charging stations for the Upper School, chose to include in their senior class gifts a few Spike Ball sets as well. It’s a group that danced in synchronicity throughout prom night, “like an amoeba,” according to Head of School Janet Hartwell. Instead of retreating to individual corners of the Lower School before Commencement — as is typical — the class chose to stay together in the Assembly Room, and before taking those first steps down the front lawn they cheered together so loudly their camaraderie was heard out on Beachside Avenue. And, Milo Becker pointed out in his Class Day speech, “We’re the first class that changed its Senior Skip day from the school-sanctioned Skip Day to an actual day of school.”
If they’re “weird,” “rebellious” and “energetic,” the Class of 2018 is “weird,” “rebellious” and “energetic” together.
“We can count on one another for support, just as much as we can count on … our entire class to unapologetically be themselves day in and day out,” said salutatorian Molly Mitchell in her Commencement remarks. “It is the shared experiences, memories and stories that have brought us all closer together.”
The tight-knit community of 82 seniors stepped out onto the lawn June 7 for the last time as GFA students. They’ll now move on to colleges across the country, West Point, and the U.S. Naval Academy.
“We’ll never truly be a class like this again,” pointed out valedictorian Teddy Gartland. Yet, he said, “Each one of us has changed over these past four years and accomplished more than we thought we could because of the guidance we have been lucky enough to receive.”
Citing academic challenges he has faced — an essay on Beloved, interpreting integrals in math and answering DBQs in history — Gartland said these brought uncertainty about the outcome. “But when the time came, I was ready. Not just because I had learned all the material necessary, but because I had supportive teachers, classmates and friends who imparted to me a mentality and attitude that I was in fact capable of accomplishing these things I once thought impossible,” he said.
These experiences taught him how to let fear give way to confidence, and he encouraged his classmates to face upcoming challenges with that same kind of confidence. “In our time at GFA, we’ve all overcome challenges. That’s how I know that every single person sitting in these chairs will not be deterred by the obstacles they face along the way. … It is in these challenges that we learn and grow and realize what we’re capable of … to gain insight into ourselves and to discover what is most important to us and what we think is right.”
Speaking to her peers at Class Day, student council chair Kate Flicker agreed that facing challenges head-on can help you learn more about the kind of person you want to be. To demonstrate, she drew parallels to her spinning class: “Just hear me out,” she laughed. In spinning, she said, she has learned three lessons that translate well into life at GFA:
- Despite our perceived differences, our community is deeply connected. “We share moments of weakness and pain, and we overcome those moments together.”
- We are stronger than we think. “It can be difficult to recognize that our pain shapes us in unimaginable ways and will one day be our source of strength. … We can get through whatever life is throwing at us; no hesitations.”
- We need to learn to celebrate our little victories. “Our own success is probably different than the person sitting next to us. … what really matters is that we push our limits together no matter what they are and celebrate the fact that we can achieve our own success.”
The senior speakers for the Class of 2018 were united in their confidence that through their shared experiences they have emerged as strong, capable adults ready to face down the next challenge.
“I’m sure we all wish that we were done with all the hard stuff, that we could celebrate here today, and tomorrow move off into the sunset where the rest of our lives waits patiently for us to find it and bask in its ease and comfort, but that’s not the way it’s going to be,” Garland warned. “But would we really want it that way? Imagine a life without challenges, without obstacles, without anything to work toward. And imagine how boring that would be. Fortunately for us, our lives will not be so simple.”
To watch all of the Class Day and Commencement speeches, including Commencement speaker Ophelia Dahl, click here.