Upper school students kicked off the new year in style at the 2016-17 matriculation ceremony, held at the upper school campus quad on Aug. 19.
It was apparent early on that this year’s ceremony would differ from those of years past. Upper School Head Butch Keller, who at previous ceremonies often spoke of stepping out of one’s comfort zone, decided to recite this year’s speech entirely from memory while standing away from the podium. He explained to the students how fortunate they are to be enrolled at Harker, giving special recognition to the teachers who spent their summers here and abroad learning how to improve at their jobs. “You’re lucky that you have these kinds of teachers … dedicated to being the best that they can be, so that they can make you the best that you can be.”
Keller also mentioned Harker’s extensive alumni network, which many students have used to find support systems during their time at Harker, as well as after graduation. Whether working at the White House, traveling abroad or forming their own startups, Harker’s alumni are an invaluable resource, Keller said. He identified one student with a successful company that he built by reaching out to his alumni network. “He’s making it happen because he’s relying on Harker alums all over the nation,” Keller said. “So they’ve gotten to where they are because of work ethic, humility and compassion. So they’ve set the stage for you.”
The ceremony was also highlighted by a welcome speech by ASB president Sandip Nirmel, grade 12, who said to the incoming freshmen, “Welcome to the big pond. Opportunities abound, friendly upperclassmen are plentiful and senior year twinkles in the distance like a little star. How I wonder what you are.
“Now is the time to set the tone for the next four years,” he continued. “Do you want to be remembered as the most awesomest class of all time?” The freshmen replied in the affirmative, to which he responded with, “Well, may the force be with you.”
Nirmel also addressed the other classes in attendance, offering his unique brand of advice to each group of students. He greeted the senior class to uproarious applause. “If this senior year is a carrot,” he said, “let’s extract as much juice from this carrot as possible. We want to be the very best like no one ever was!”
Apart from the speeches, the ceremony also included moving performances by the Susan Nace-led upper school women’s choir group Cantilena, whose version of “This Little Light of Mine” got the crowd amped prior to Keller’s speech, and The Harker String Quartet, directed by Chris Florio, which performed a stirring version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.”
To send the students off on a high note, this year’s student council officers put on their yearly “Freshman 101” skit, in which they assumed the personages of super heroes including Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Powerpuff Girls and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to inform students about various upper school rules and regulations.