On a balmy evening in early June, faculty and families gathered to celebrate the graduation of the class of 2027 from Middle School. They processed into the packed Lower/Middle School Flexible Performing Arts Space with sparkling grasshopper ornaments pinned to their formal attire. Once settled, graduating 8th grader Joseph Xu performed Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor, setting the mood for an evening of celebration.
Outgoing Assistant Principal Mayra Diaz, who has served at GDS for more than two decades, proudly welcomed parents and graduating 8th graders, expressing pride in all they’ve accomplished and gratitude for having shared in their journey. Mayra introduced Middle School Principal Debby Previna, who will be moving to a new all-school role this summer.
Debby expressed a special affection for this graduating class. “You are anything but boring,” she said. “I am struck by your brilliance, tenacity, and, most importantly, your resilience.” Their journey through Middle School tested them in every way imaginable.
Debby urged the students to “continue to see your worth” and “claim space in the world.” The world, she explained, needs their voices, their leadership, and their wisdom. She also praised the way they have supported each other and reached out for guidance, whether to a classmate or a trusted teacher.
“Amongst you are those who have served as a grounding presence when a friend has needed you most,” she said. “And you have been infinitely wise to tap into an adult to ask for support, prioritizing your friends’ wellness.”
Four student speakers spoke to their Middle School experiences. Their addresses were interspersed with an instrumental performance and the presentation of certificates. The 8th Grade Wind Ensemble played music from Carmen.
Daniel Wang urged his classmates to treasure time for reflection and appreciation. He recalled thinking in 1st grade that 8th grade was “eternities away” and how quickly it came. “In a flash, we have reached the end of our Middle School experience,” he said. “Live in and enjoy the current moment.”
Willa Wible asked the Class of 2027 to continue learning from mistakes and acting courageously. Teachers have challenged them to exhibit bravery, she explained, as did the founding families of the School. She said, “If we acknowledge and do our best to learn from each mistake we make and strive to lead with courage, we can overcome any barrier in our way.”
William Cromer emphasized the shared triumph, a true team accomplishment, “uplifting each other every step of the way.” Like Daniel and Willa, he spoke of the challenge COVID presented in their Middle School lives. “We have learned to be kind, respectful, confident, independent, to show empathy,” he said.
Alicia Kim recalled the “distinct exuberant, affirming, and lively energy” she encountered when she first visited GDS as a prospective student and the stark contrast to her experience meeting her new 6th grade classmates on Zoom in September 2020. She thanked her classmates, parents, and teachers—whom she called her “guiding lights”—for helping them regain that GDS spirit and reach this day together. She closed with a quote from Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky [we are] to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” she said.
After the presentation of certificates, Head of School Russell Shaw addressed the students with ten pieces of advice for living a meaningful life, which will lead to happiness.
As he shared, the first four—exercise, sleep, go outside, and smile—are well-known and understood to improve our well-being and performance on tasks.
The next—be grateful—he gave as their final MS homework assignment. Thank parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and teachers who, he said, invested in the achievements celebrated today. Russell also took the opportunity to thank Mayra and Debby for their remarkable service to the School.
“Invest in your relationships,” taking time to connect with friends and family. Forgive, he said, and release the burden of grudges you might be carrying. “Be of help” and continue the mission of GDS beyond School in their families and communities to “help heal a broken world.” Studies have shown, he explained, that giving generously can nurture happiness. Strive: “Set ambitious goals for yourself and go after them,” he said. Finally, believe in something, ensuring you “live a life of principle and purpose.”
After the ceremony, faculty and families celebrated and toasted the Middle School graduates during a reception on the LMS Patio.
Congratulations, Class of 2027!
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