Recollections. Reflections. Remarkable!

Recollections. Reflections. Remarkable!
Danny Stock

R 4th Graders R Promoted from Lower School!


On what Lower School Principal Cami Okubo called a “brilliant, beautiful day to be celebrating the 4th grade Class of 2031,” the community gathered to close the chapter on their Lower School years. As she welcomed the assembled family members, friends, and teachers, Cami asked the students to look around them. “Know that you are surrounded by people who care deeply about you and who are immensely proud of you,” she said. 

As a child in Southern California, Head of School Russell Shaw used to sit for storytime and cupcakes at Halloween in the home of his neighbor Theodore Geisel AKA Dr. Seuss. Quoting the classic Happy Birthday to You, Russell explained to the 4th graders that part of their job in Middle School would be to begin deciding who they are and what they care about because “there’s no one alive who is you-er than you.”

“Being the you that you are, that’s a lifetime’s work,” he said. “There’s a reason that this idea, of being yourself, is written about again and again and again. It’s because it’s so hard and yet so important.”

In closing, Russell urged the 4th graders to remember all the ways they matter and all the ways they make GDS proud. “Remember that who you are and what you believe matters,” he said. “Your voice matters. Your ideas matter. Your values matter. …We believe in each and every one of you, and are tremendously proud of you.”


After the 4th grade chorus performed “Why We Sing” by Greg Gilpin, four students took a turn at the podium to share memories from their GDS journeys so far. 

First-year student Tyler highlighted the welcoming, supportive teachers he’s found at the School and gave a shoutout for the Halloween parade. [photo]

Raffa recalled his 2nd grade Zoom school introduction to GDS and the many ways teachers sought to build community. 

Lifers-so-far Sophie and Solon shared stories from kindergarten, first, and third grades. Sophie spoke of her first school bus ride, her first GDS friend, and an organized nonviolent recess protest in kindergarten. But above all, “My favorite memory from all those years was spending time with friends, old and new,” she said.

Solon wove themes of justice, unity, resilience, and pride into her recollections of a 1st grade unit on segregation, a lightning-related trip cancelation, Field Day, and more. “I hope my fellow 4th graders are excited for Middle School and whatever new adventures it will bring,” she said.

Lower School Counselor Meryl Heyliger spoke of the 4th grade leadership in encouraging ongoing acts of kindness following the Kindness Assembly. She was joined by Jade, who announced her classmates’ intention to begin a new tradition of leaving a gift to the Lower School. “This year, our gift is a Buddy Bench,” she said. “We hope it’s always a reminder for Lower School students to be kind and inclusive.”

Attendees enjoyed a slideshow of favorite memories from each student’s time in Lower School. 


Cami led students Caleb, Micah, Karina, and Ali in readings from Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb. Each student received a copy of the poet’s new book, Change Sings, so that they would be reminded of the power they possess to make positive change in this complex world.

Assistant Principal Denise Jones read the names of the 72 students as they crossed the stage to accept their certificates from Russell and their book from Cami. 


At the conclusion of the ceremony, the 4th grade teachers shared reflections and advice for the “kind, funny, awesome people” that their students have shown themselves to be during their time in Lower School. 

Julia Tomasko ’05 urged the students to continue advocating for themselves and others. “Keep hyping each other up and be your own hype squad, too,” she said. 

Liz Spratley encouraged them to lead with empathy and use their unique gifts to inspire.

Payal Sangani reminded students to listen to others. “Let them tell you their stories and learn from them,” she said.

Finally, Jay Tucker shared his wish that they will take risks and be brave. “Continue to use your creativity to innovate and create to solve problems in our community,” he said.


“Bring these lessons from Lower School with you as we send you off to Middle School,” Cami said. The 4th graders departed the ceremony to cheers and their student-selected song, “Unstoppable” by Sia.

Congratulations, Class of 2031! 

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Recollections. Reflections. Remarkable!
  • Lower School