“What if Victor Frankenstein had gone to Nueva?”
Graduation speaker Lucy W. posed this question to the audience at Nueva’s 2018 graduation ceremony, the culmination of a week of celebratory activities that began with the Lifer’s Dinner on Monday, June 4, and ended on Sunday, June 10, with commencement on Nueva’s Hillsborough campus. Lucy’s reference to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was also an allusion to one of the seminal readings in Nueva’s ninth-grade English curriculum, a reading experience shared by nearly all graduating students.
“[Frankenstein] mentions his ‘thirst for knowledge’ at every moment possible, describing the universe as ‘a secret which I desired to divine,’ experiencing ‘gladness akin to rapture’ upon studying science,” Lucy said. “I see these same traits reflected throughout my Nueva experience. One of the things I most love about our class is the unique way in which each one of us finds beauty and fascination in the most unlikely places… Nueva students share Frankenstein’s sense of rapture.”
These sentiments about Nueva students’ inherent curiosity and love of learning were reflected throughout the week. At the Lifer’s Dinner, twelve graduates who started Nueva in PreK, Kindergarten, or first grade were each celebrated with tributes from their teachers from all three divisions.
“I felt very humbled by the memories and appreciations that teachers shared about me and enjoyed reminiscing on all my years at Nueva,” Austin C. said.
Speaking about Anika K., upper school English teacher Allen Frost praised her “independence of mind and readiness not just to react to the world around you, but to engage with it, and shape it.”
At the end of the dinner, when teachers had completed their remarks, Zack C. revealed that he had prepared to share a memory of each of his Lifer classmates, ranging from a memory of Chip T. towering over a young child at a steel drums event, to a funny hat Austin C. used to wear that all of his classmates remembered.
At Senior Dinner on Friday, June 8, celebrations of the class of 2018 continued and history teacher Arta Khakpour addressed the graduates.
“You did and do geek out,” Arta told the twelfth graders. “Whether it’s about feminist theory or engineering or debate or scary post-calculus forms of math that I can’t really comprehend, or Civ 5. And you were part of a school culture that, unlike most of what I had been exposed to at your age, didn’t stigmatize geeking out, didn’t mock the kid who actually wanted to engage in class, didn’t ostracize the person who spent time trying to craft the best piece of research, the best robot, the best argument.”
At graduation, senior speaker Anna S. led her classmates and the rest of the graduation crowd in a moment of quiet reflection, saying “I hope you can find a moment of stillness in the days and weeks ahead. Actually, Let’s find it now, together. Please join me and breathe in, breathe out.”
The audience grew quiet, reflecting on the occasion and the intensity of the moment, a moment that Upper School Head Stephen Dunn reminded students is an unusual state of liminality.
“In liminality or a liminal space you have leapt but not yet landed. Being at this threshold you are not completely defined by either the starting or ending point,” Stephen said.
Upper school English teacher Claire Yeo, in her speech at the ceremony, recalled a recent trip to Ashland, OR, with Nueva’s seventh grade, where the group saw Henry V: “Shakespeare’s problem at the opening of Henry V is not one of imagination, but of realization: how to make what lives in the mind, alive in the world.”
In her remarks, Claire challenged Nueva’s graduates to “work your imaginary forces. Build the worlds that live inside you. Remember, you are not haunted, but inspired, by the many ghosts of your possible selves.”
Head of School Diane Rosenberg reminded students of what truly matters to their Nueva family: “We want you to know that what we will hold dear is who you are, not what you achieve… What matters to your classmates, parents, and teachers is your strength of character and your personal happiness.”
Congratulations to all of Nueva’s 2018 graduates!
By Lily Brown, Upper School English Teacher
June 27, 2018