The classes of 2022, 2023 and 2025 gathered at Davis Field on Aug. 20 for the 2021 matriculation ceremony, which was held in-person after the COVID-19 pandemic forced last year’s matriculation to be held online.
The juniors and seniors were seated before the freshmen, who received enthusiastic applause as they approached to take their seats. Brian Yager, head of school, was the first of the morning’s speakers and remarked about the resilience shown by the Harker community during the pandemic. “It was a tough year, but we bore it, and in amazing fashion many of you thrived,” he said, later commenting on the confidence he had in the community to face the coming year. “Given the host of challenges we all faced last year, we are in the position to have a wonderful rebound year this year, and the ability to benefit from and enjoy this year lies squarely with you, our students.” Yager then introduced the upper school vocal group Cantilena, which performed “Rise Up” by Cassandra Batie and Jennifer Decilveo.
Per tradition, upper school head Butch Keller also took the podium to address the students. He first praised the student leadership who stopped to help out the maintenance staff who were drying off the moisture that had collected on the seats overnight. “That’s what I call a community,” he said. “That’s what I was proud of.”
Keller spoke to grade 9 on how they should define success during their upper school careers. “I hope that what you’re chasing looks more like earning a spot in the fall play, being a good teammate on the volleyball team or the football team,” he said. “Or maybe it looks like being an integral part of the speech and debate team being led by those great coaches.
“I hope what you’re chasing looks more like making lifelong friends,” he continued. “I hope what you’re chasing, whatever that is, is sincere. I hope it means that you’re going to be the best that you can possibly be.”
Dawson Chen, a senior and the Associated Student Body president, then offered the freshmen some key points of advice on how to make the most of their time as upper school students, which he livened with humor, such as when he told them what a proper parenthetical citation looks like. He also encouraged students to make use of the upper school’s incredible resources and to practice open-mindedness. “Be open to perhaps extraordinary or unfamiliar perspectives,” he said, “whether it’s in an English class discussion or a debate with a friend at lunch.” In closing, he implored the freshmen not to “spend four years trying to fulfill other people’s expectations of you,” and to “find friends who are like family.”
Chen then introduced the members of Harker’s Student Diversity Coalition – seniors Uma Iyer and Brooklyn Cicero, juniors KJ Williams and Mir Bahri, and sophomore Dina Ande – who spoke to their fellow students about SDC’s mission. Bahri explained that the SDC is a student organization that is “designed to foster an inclusive environment for all members of our community.” Part of their mission is to provide safe spaces for students and staff to discuss topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The establishment of the Black Student Union and the Latinx Affinity Group last year were crucial to this goal.
Cicero told the audience that Harker’s first affinity group was founded in the wake of the June 2020 protests that erupted across the world after the murder of George Floyd. “We wanted to stop being complacent with the microaggressions and biases that we were receiving on and off campus,” she said. The members went on to summarize the SDC’s activities over the previous year – such as the talks by Leon, a Holocaust survivor and Bettina Love – and promoted the open meetings that all Harker community members are invited to attend. Once a director of diversity, equity and inclusion has been hired, the SDC plans to establish more affinity groups to make Harker more inclusive and welcoming.
Following the speeches, all students in attendance recited the matriculation oath, and the grade 9 students each took their turns signing the matriculation book, while The Harker String Quartet, directed by Dave Hart, performed Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.”
As is custom, the ceremony ended with “Freshman 101,” a series of skits designed to inform the Class of 2025 of many key aspects of upper school life, including the honor code, the many clubs on offer and the spirit competition. Students donned costumes inspired by famous characters from “The Avengers,” the “Harry Potter” franchise, Disney’s “Frozen” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”