Over the last week of the school year, the class of 2019 celebrated and reflected on their time at Nueva. From the “Lifers” who attended the school since early in the Lower School to the seniors’ sentimental songs and speeches, it all culminated on Sunday, June 9, with a joyful ceremony to commemorate the twelfth graders’ achievements.
The graduating seniors gathered at the Upper School one last time Sunday before leaving for the Hillsborough campus for the ceremony, where they donned their traditional caps and gowns in the heat, share their creative and personal cap designs, and run gleefully from the school doors out into their bright futures.
“We are 76 high schoolers who, over the last four years, have grown, have evolved, and in the words of Michelle Obama, we are becoming,” said senior speaker Anjali S.
“The class of 2019, like the classes that have come before in these founding years, has made a tremendous impact on the culture of the Nueva Upper School. They shared their hopes for the experience of all students. They provided a roadmap for younger classes to follow. We will miss their spirit, confidence and passion.”
— Stephen Dunn, Upper School Head
The week of celebrations began on Monday, June 3, when the 14 Nueva “Lifers” came together in the Hillsborough mansion ballroom to remember their time at the Lower School. Beloved teachers like Carolee Fucigna and Laraine Ray shared memories and photos from their students’ earliest years. PreK teacher Carolee spoke of Louis B., whose love of theater began in her class during “dramatic play,” where he created scripts and stories his classmates acted out. Louis came full circle to star in Shakespeare’s Hamlet at his Upper School culmination last week.
At the dinner, Middle School writing teacher Karen Tiegel remembered another “Lifer,” Maddie M., as a “deep, serious thinker” and quoted a story Maddie wrote in sixth grade at Nueva about her experience making friends at camp. In her graduation speech, Maddie shared:
“Nueva has always favored the lifelong learner who appreciates that which they don’t know just as much as that which they do, who reaches for the skies of wisdom, who resides in un-ignorant bliss.” Maddie continued, “Nueva taught us that we were never hopeless, in fact, Nueva taught us to trust hope, and trust it blindly. Which is why I know that we all are fully equipped to take on our respective next quests, whatever and wherever they may be, with unbridled curiosity, spending everyday chasing after the horse of wisdom that energizes our souls.”
On Friday, June 7, seniors and their families gathered in the Upper School gym for the annual senior dinner—a night Innovative Teacher Program Director Allen Frost described as the “Golden Globes” of graduation season.
There were several student performances, including a Vivaldi opera piece sung by Noelle F. with Kameron D. on keyboard, and a rendition of I Will Always Love You performed by Maddie M. with Audrey K. on harp. Two faculty speakers, Twelfth-Grade Dean Claire Yeo (who confessed she came ready to be sentimental) and Allen (who announced he was going to “spill the tea,” revealing several amusing student emails he had received over the years). The night also featured two student speakers, Ethan S. and Elise M., who both received standing ovations from their classmates. Elise summed up the evening’s sentiment best when she reminded her classmates, “We are each other’s youth."
Nueva faculty were similarly nostalgic, and Allen said, “You—this entire class—have made Nueva a home for me since I arrived, and even as I began working in our other divisions this year, you’ve welcomed me back to this campus with smiles and questions about how I’ve been doing. I will miss seeing your faces in the café, reading your papers, and listening to your discussions. But I won’t forget you. In the archive of my life, which is now twice as long as yours, you have collectively authored a chapter that will stay with me forever.”
Data collected from a recent student survey shows the 76 new graduates scattering to colleges and universities around the globe, including Colorado College, Middlebury College, Harvard, Duke, the Paris Institute of Political Studies, and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Thirty-five percent of Nueva graduates will attend schools in California, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, Scripps College, and the California Institute of Technology. Forty-five percent will pursue degrees in the arts or humanities, while 20 percent will pursue engineering degrees. Whatever path the graduates choose, they have been prepared and inspired to take on anything by their experience at Nueva.
“If you choose to dedicate your life to mitigating climate change, you will have much greater success if you have a rich inner life, a private place of retreat and rejuvenation, so that individual legislative victories or defeats do not hold your peace of mind hostage,” said graduation speaker and Upper School history teacher Arta Khakpour. “If you choose to pursue the arts or academia or business, you will be much stronger for cultivating a place of reflection within which to retreat after the inevitable failures (and sometimes failures and failures) that will precede and succeed and punctuate your successes.”
Congratulations to the newest Nueva alums, the class of 2019! As Upper School Head Stephen Dunn concluded the ceremony, “As you’re off to amazing adventures, please find your way back and let us know how you’re doing. I’ll miss you every day.”
To read the speeches from the Class of 2019 Commencement Ceremony, please click here. To hear more reflections from the Class of 2019, check out an excerpt from the annual “Senior Reflection Video.”