This story was originally published in the Fall 2010 issue of Harker Quarterly
The 2010-11 school year officially began on Aug. 23, when the annual Matriculation ceremony took place in the Saratoga quad. Faculty and administration first took their seats behind the podium before each class, starting with the seniors and working downward, filed into their respective rows.
When the students of the class of 2014 made their way to their seats, they were greeted by loud applause from their fellow students, a warm welcome to their first year as high school students.
Christopher Nikoloff, head of school, then welcomed the faculty, administration, Harker’s Board of Trustees and each class (greeted by enthusiastic cheers) to the new school year. Saying he was “honored” to welcome everyone to the new academic year, he promised to keep his remarks comparatively short and sweet, compared to previous years. “This year, I am cutting back to one page of single-spaced, size 12 font,” he joked. “At this rate, by the time I retire I will be delivering one-word addresses.” (For the complete text of Nikoloff’s address, see the article The Exercising of Free Will.) Nikoloff emphasized that the students appeared at Matriculation of their own free will, a point accentuated by the fact that their parents were not present at the ceremony, a tradition that began with the founding of the upper school in 1998.
“We wanted your commitment to wholly represent your will and no one else’s,” Nikoloff said. He concluded by declaring his hope that the incoming students did not take their declaration of the Matriculation oath lightly: “We are taking the oath today as a group, but each of you is beginning a journey that is uniquely of your making …. It is by following your path alone that you will find the entire world.”
Cantilena, the all-female classical vocal group directed by Susan Nace, then performed a lovely rendition of the madrigal “In These Delightful Pleasant Groves.”
Butch Keller, upper school head, began his speech by addressing each class directly, commending each for their accomplishments and expressing his faith that they will successfully meet the challenges ahead. Addressing everyone in attendance, he said, “I wish you the very best year possible, and together we will accomplish things we never dreamed of.”
Keller then introduced associated student body (ASB) president Santosh Swaminathan, grade 12, who gave a brief speech to his fellow students, in which he talked about the transformative nature of the high school experience. “You learn how to handle tough situations, how to manage stress and, most importantly, you learn how to be independent,” he said. Following the speech, Swaminathan introduced the representatives from each class and the rest of the ASB council.
After the students recited the Matriculation oath, the new students signed the Matriculation book as the Harker String Quartet performed their version of “Viva La Vida” by the English band Coldplay.
Then it was time for the ever-popular “Freshman 101,” when ASB members performed a humorous skit based on the popular movie “Avatar”; their goal was to teach the new students a variety of useful lessons about high school life, such as how to manage their time, dress properly and, though it needn’t be mentioned, how to have fun as well.