This article was originally published in the summer 2013 Harker Quarterly.
The baccalaureate ceremony, one of Harker’s proudest graduation traditions, took place on May 23 at the upper school campus quad and was highlighted by heartfelt farewells from both student and faculty representatives. Also in attendance was the Class of 2014, next year’s seniors, who began making the transition to being leaders and role models.
This year’s ceremony began with a pair of performances from a string ensemble, directed by Chris Florio, and the female vocal group Cantilena, directed by Susan Nace.
After Jennifer Gargano, the assistant head of school for academic affairs, opened, Butch Keller, upper school head, introduced the faculty speaker, history teacher Julie Wheeler. “I will be the first to admit that I have been in a state of quasi-denial that you, the Class of 2013, were really about to graduate, say goodbye, and start a new and exciting phase of your life outside of Harker,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler noted the Class of 2013 may find it “downright exhausting trying to explain Harker to those who haven’t experienced it as they may doubt whether the fictional, Oz-like place that you describe really exists,” but “it’s an opportunity to redefine yourself.”
Emily Wang ’13, salutatorian, said the most important lesson she has learned is that “the great things are the quiet things. When I look back at these days, of course I’ll fondly remember the homecoming games, the spirit rallies, the school dances, the spring musicals. But I think that high school is defined by the smaller moments, those brief flashes of time when you look around you and think, hey, I like where I am right now.”
She likened these moments to building blanket forts as a child. “That experience – of sitting under a blanket and dreaming wildly – is perhaps long gone,” she said. “Yet we carry those dreams with us, an indomitable conviction that we can build castles from bed sheets, that we can build anything, that we can be anything.”
New to this year’s ceremony was the addition of a senior student speaker chosen by the graduating class. The first to be selected for this honor was Carlos Johnson-Cruz, who began his speech by recreating a scene described in the infamous Rebecca Black song, “Friday.”
“You see your friends over at the stop, and they’re in their fancy automobile. One guy is ‘kicking it’ in the front seat, another is ‘kicking it’ the back seat, but they’ll get up if you want them to. Now, you have to make your mind up. Which seat do you take?” Johnson-Cruz asked. “Here, you made something, anything of yourself,” he said. In closing, he reminded his classmates to be aware of the choices that they make and how they affect other people as well as themselves. “‘Know thyself,’ said the Greeks. ‘Know thine actions,’ says Carlos,” he finished.
Head of School Chris Nikoloff closed the ceremony with some heartfelt words of his own before the students departed, the seniors no doubt eagerly anticipating their graduation exercises that weekend. The full text of this story can be found here.