Upper School

Upper school kicks off year with annual matriculation ceremony

The 2023-24 upper school academic year kicked off on Friday with the annual matriculation ceremony, which took place in the Harker Athletic Center’s Zhang Gymnasium.

In his opening remarks, Head of School Brian Yager expressed his hope that the Class of 2024 would continue the successes of past graduating classes. “This is the year in which you take your place among the ranks of leaders past and in which you have the opportunity and the responsibility to lead this institution. It is our charge to you to do so in a manner that builds upon the efforts of the 130 years of graduates preceding you.” He also encouraged incoming frosh students to “enjoy and embrace this process, [and look to] to the students in the grades above you for guidance and inspiration, as well as for examples of what will be expected from you in the years to come.” Yager then introduced the upper school vocal group Cantilena, directed by Susan Nace, who performed Rosephanye Powell’s “Still I Rise.”

After expressing appreciation for the work of faculty and staff, Upper Division Head Paul Barsky recounted the story of “The Book of Charlie” by Washington Post reporter David Von Drehle, about a doctor who lived to be 109, and how he exemplified Harker’s tenets of excellence, knowledge, character and service throughout his life. Examples included personally speaking to the dean of Northwestern University after being rejected from its medical school and volunteering to have his tonsils removed so that his fellow doctors could witness a renowned doctor at work. “Service to Harker and your community does not have to be that dramatic,” he said. “But you can give your time and your energy to a community need. … Remember, it has been said that all sorrow comes from thinking about oneself, and all joy comes from the thinking of others.”

Associated Student Body president Daniel Lin, grade 12, was then called to the stage to address the assembled students. While discussing his otherwise uneventful summer, Lin confessed to becoming addicted to watching videos about how people prepare for their day, and emulated his newfound obsession by doing a live makeup tutorial, starting with foundation. “My foundation is the community here,” he said, explaining that he looks forward to seeing his fellow students around campus every morning. “The next step of my routine is mascara,” he continued. The process, he said, helps him understand how people see one another. “Please don’t make the mistake of avoiding eye contact when you pass by someone you don’t really know too well,” he said.

Next, members of the Student Diversity Coalition – seniors Dina Ande and Iris Fu, junior Ruhan Sahasi and sophomores Elie Ahluwalia and Arushi Sahasi – spoke on the organization’s goals and initiatives for the upcoming year. “This year, we plan to continue past events, such as Culture Week and [Student Diversity Leadership Gathering],” Fu said. “We will also focus our efforts in organizing speaker events. And Open Meetings pertaining to recent occurrences, personal reflection and building empathy and compassion.” They also reiterated their call for student participation, whether it be attending conferences, setting up a booth during Culture Week or participating in assemblies.

SDC then invited Brian Davis, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, to the stage. Davis, now in his second year as DEI director, shared his appreciation for the Harker community. “Something that I love so much about community here is how vibrant it is,” he said. “The community welcomed me with open arms and I truly believe that this is such an important place to be.” One of Harker’s biggest successes, he pointed out, was increasing the number of upper school affinity groups from two to eight in the last year. He expressed hope that this trend would continue, asking the students, “how will you use this year to expand into the best version of yourself? How will you water the seeds that you planted last year whether you are here or at another campus or at a different institution? How will you cultivate the garden which your peers have established?”

Lin returned to the stage to introduced the 2023-24 school year’s student officers, and following the recitation of the matriculation oath by ASB Vice President Ella Lan, grade 12, students began signing the matriculation book as The Harker String Quartet, directed by Jaco Wong, performed renditions of “Stay with Me” by Sam Smith and “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay.

As with every matriculation ceremony, the student council and honor council officers closed the event with a series of humorous skits, which saw students performing as characters from The Lego Movie and Pokémon to inform the Class of 2027 about various aspects of upper school life, including clubs, extracurricular activities, athletics, the performing arts program, spirit and the honor code.

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