On the morning of Friday, June 11th, the Pamela McLean Graduation Garden was host to yet another beautiful ceremony. After a full school year of in-person learning, the entire eighth grade gathered with their families to celebrate their successes. Faculty felt a sense of joy and relief as they watched happy and healthy students receive their diplomas.
Our youngest students in Pre-k were with us to lead the graduates to the ceremony. The traditional graduation bells rang while the breeze gently rustled through the trees, adding to the magical atmosphere we all associate with graduation at TPS.
Students and their families intently listened as speakers took to the podium one by one. Our guest speaker, Fatima Sanandaji, class of '94, eloquently shared three lessons for students to live by, lessons that TPS taught her 28 years ago.
One – Believe in Yourself: "Today is just the first step on your journey. If you don't know by now, you'll learn soon: nothing in life comes simply. There will be peaks and valleys, bumps and scrapes. And while it may be a cliché, it is a fundamental truth: a powerful belief in yourself is important because you are your strongest ally."
Two – Be Kind: "Don't confuse kindness with politeness. Don't confuse being kind with being nice. There is a lot of nice out there. But there's not a lot of kind. Being kind has been part of my success. In the world of finance, a lot of people work hard. That isn't a unique characteristic. But kindness? And Consideration? A rarity. So, what is kindness? Being kind is having empathy for others; for realizing that people are like tips of icebergs -- you see the top but not what's going on underneath the surface. I found I earned respect from my team, colleagues, and clients by being kind by being thoughtful, thorough, and caring. Being kind fosters positivity and trust, which is then felt by everyone else. Being kind was one of the key tools that helped me advance in my career and keeps me grounded. Being kind is a sign of strong character. Being kind is a beautiful legacy to leave behind."
Three - Be Present: "I'm going to give you four words you don't want to hear: PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE. If there's one thing you should take from this last year, it's the importance of being present in the moment, of those face-to-face interactions we have not only with friends but with the physical world around us. Challenge yourself to carve out time during the day that is phone and social-media-free. You can start small at first – like 30 minutes. I know going cold turkey for a day would send you into panic attacks. Instagram and Facebook will not disappear. I know, I checked recently, and they're still there. Put down your phones so you can start having more authentic, more present human interactions."
Serena Mueller, Associate Head of School for Academics, shared this beautiful and important reminder:
"Stay true to you are and who you are becoming. Move forward with confidence, humility, and joy, with kindness, fairness, and responsibility. Maintain your high moral standards, inspire others to do better, and lead with love. Each day is a new opportunity to conquer unknowns and leave a positive mark on society. Take charge, be just, and move forward with purpose."
The ceremony ended with the Valete speaker, Emily Sharff, thanking the 7th and 8th-grade teachers for embracing, loving, and allowing the students to fully be themselves in order to grow.
Students then not only "completed the circle" (part of the TPS graduation tradition) but danced their way around the circle to the song "Celebration" by "Kool & The Gang." It was the perfect reminder to the viewers—you can be accomplished and professional, but never take yourself too seriously!
Congratulations to the Tuxedo Park School Class of 2021! In the words of Gabi Biamonte, another of our 8th-grade class speakers, "I am proud of every single one of you guys. Good luck and have fun wherever you go."