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Commencement: A Time to Reflect and Celebrate

Our Quaker heritage is at the heart of a George School education. It guides us in all aspects of School life. As the Class of 2021 prepares to graduate on Saturday, May 29, faculty members Becky Hutchins (science department) and Scott Seraydarian ’90 (arts department) reflect on their roles as Class Sponsors and the Commencement traditions they hold dear.

Preparation for Commencement starts freshman year when a class is assigned two adult Class Sponsors. The job of a Class Sponsor is to organize, shepherd, and guide the class through their George School journey. Scott, who is also an alum, understands what this process is like from the student’s perspective. “Sponsors are stewards of the class and it is their task to engage students in a deeper way so that every member of the class feels elevated and prioritized,” explained Scott. “They should feel special and know they can rely on us to support them. Being a sponsor is a lot of work, but it is a very rewarding experience.”

Becky believes building class spirit is critical. “Sponsors help students and the class develop their voice, find ways to advocate for themselves, and leave their mark on George School in a positive way,” she said. “Each class should leave a legacy and fond memories of their class behind as they prepare to graduate.”

For Becky and Scott, Senior Meeting for Worship is a beloved tradition which marks the beginning of the transition from students to alumni. “The windows of the Meetinghouse are often blacked out and seniors wear white. Every member of the community attends but it is usually only seniors who speak during meeting,” said Becky. “It can become a ‘popcorn’ meeting with so many sharing and expressing what George School has meant to them, but this makes it unique and allows seniors to say goodbye while the community bears witness,” she continued. “There is never a dry eye.” Scott added, “It is a profound and special event with a non-stop chorus of sentiment which is cumulative and grounding. For me, it is like a quilt—all have their own comments but there is one shared message, it is both personal and collective. This meeting allows seniors to reflect and bring their George School student days to a close.”

All School Meeting for Worship is followed by Commencement Meeting for Worship which is held the evening before Commencement. Families are invited and given a platform to express their thoughts and sentiments. “Parents and guardians often play a supportive background role during the high school years and this gives them an outlet to share, which amplifies our community,” said Scott. “These two meetings provide opportunities for intentional reflection and communal experiences which enable students to transition and take the next step on their path.”

At the center of George School’s Commencement ceremony are the students. Held during Memorial Day Weekend, Commencement reflects the characteristics of the class and what is important to them. The tradition of students wearing white continues to this day. Six student performances, which include singing, speaking, and playing instruments, punctuate the reading of their names and presentation of diplomas.

“There are no outside speakers and when the Head of School makes his/her remarks the focus is on the achievements of the graduating class and their contributions to the School and society,” explained Becky. “Commencement shows the power of George School,” added Scott. “It shows our diversity, and as sponsors we are there to support and enable the class to share their light in a public way. Months of thoughtful planning go into Commencement and it shows. The ceremony reflects George School and is very affirming.”

With regards to Commencement this year and the Class of 2021, Scott comments, “Becky and I continue to be inspired by the resilience we have seen all year with this special class, especially as they near the end of their time at George School. Encountering this year’s restrictions and adaptations has not diminished their class connection. If anything, it has given them a deeper bond that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Although the road behind has been rough at times, the road ahead is exciting, and Becky and I are really looking forward to celebrating this amazing class and welcoming them back as alumni in the future.”