On June 10, 2020, hundreds of Shore Country Day School families tuned in simultaneously to YouTube to experience the school’s first-ever virtual graduation, the culmination of a spring term marked by months of remote learning and campus closure due to COVID-19. Following the pre-recorded ceremony, many families traveled to campus to claim white roses and a congratulatory gift bag—all while following the state’s social-distancing guidelines.
Watch the video, and find photos from the on-campus event below.
Head of School Clair Ward welcomed families to Shore’s 83rd Closing Exercises. “If you are like me,” she said, “this is your very first virtual graduation. If you are like me, you never imagined finishing the last trimester of school in distance-learning mode.” Ward continued, “Graduates, you have amazed us throughout this entire journey. Through it all you have had a chance to demonstrate every bit of our Shore community code. You persevered, you made the best of things, you remained engaged with your community, and you leaned in. … This was quite a trip, and I am confident that while it is not what we imagined, you have learned independence and resilience that you might not have thought possible.”
Ward then introduced the ceremony’s featured speaker, math teacher Kent Vienot, who was departing Shore after 27 years of service. Vienot took as the theme of his remarks the popular YouTube series created by actor John Krasinski, “Some Good News.” “The show reports only good news despite difficult times,” Vienot explained, “and today is all about good news.”
“Graduation is a time when we both look back and look ahead,” Vienot continued. “You are undoubtedly excited to look ahead to your new school, meeting new friends, having new experiences, and I join you in feeling excitement at heading off on new adventures and challenges. I’m confident in saying that you are all ready for whatever may come your way. … But today’s graduation is not only about looking ahead, but also about looking back at what we have gained, how we have responded to challenges, what we are grateful for, what is memorable, what we should cherish from our time at Shore, and what we should take with us from our time at Shore.
“Your teachers and parents are so proud of you for what you have accomplished and for who you are—not just during distance learning, but through all your years at Shore. We have been so lucky to see you blossom in the classroom, excel on the sports fields, and share your artistic, musical, and theatrical talents. Not to mention playing foursquare with you at recess, eating lunch with you, going on trips with you, and basically watching you grow up. It is those moments that need to be recognized and celebrated, especially on this, your graduation day. And that is the true point and beauty of ‘Some Good News.’ Cherish these and all the other memories that you have of your Shore years, for they are truly your stories of good news.”
The Head of School then returned to the podium to read the names of 47 eighth grade graduates, offering individual tributes and words of gratitude to each, and Head of Upper School Gustavo Carrera acknowledged each of the 15 ninth grade graduates. Next, the President of the Board of Trustees, Rayna Lesser Hannaway, offered thanks to the Hoffman family, whose four graduates, including ninth grader Meg, brought the total of their years at Shore to 42. “Thank you so much for your many years of support and commitment to Shore,” said Hannaway.
It was then time for Clair Ward to make her closing remarks. “I am fond of an ancient folk tale about the essence of character—the choices you make when nobody is watching. The story is set in the Far East and features an emperor, who was looking among the youth of his land for a candidate to replace him. As a test of their character, he gave them each a seed and instructed them to plant the seed and bring the pot back to him.” According to the tale, recounted Ward, many of the children soon reported growing trees, flowers, and bushes, while one boy, Ling, saw nothing growing in his pot. But to his astonishment, the emperor chose him to be his replacement. As it turns out, all of the seeds had been boiled so they would not grow. The trees, flowers and bushes that the others had grown were through deception. Only Ling had been honest enough to bring back an empty pot.
“The moral of the story is that honor and reward come to those who demonstrate the finest character,” explained Ward. “We know what Ling chose in the face of challenge, but what prepared him to make that choice? I would submit to you that in order to manage that moment, Ling had been in training. He had been shaped by the people and experiences that he had in his life.
“Today, your graduation day, I cannot help but consider the ways in which your muscles have been trained. For all of your time at Shore, you have been prepared for this moment—the moment in which you would launch into the next important phase of your education and development. In essence, you have been in workout mode—training and growing your character muscles along the way. And we know that you are ready—your training is not complete, but you are ready to move to the next steps. I hope you will take a moment to thank those with whom you are watching right now for their role in helping you grow.”
Following Ward’s remarks, the ceremony concluded with a virtual version of a traditional benediction. Members of Shore’s a cappella groups had used phones and laptop computers to record themselves singing at home, and Shore music teacher Jenn Boyum had assembled their individual parts along with those of Shore faculty and staff members to create a stunningly complete version of the song.
Later in the day, families lined the Oval in their cars at assigned times, ready to emerge one family at a time to pose for a graduation photo. Shore administrators, all wearing face masks, assisted in distributing commemorative bags containing a graduation certificate, a white rose, a keepsake framed photo of the graduate, and, for ninth graders, a Shore water bottle. Families were delighted with the festive in-person campus visit and gifts, despite social-distancing rules that made this event so different from the traditional celebration of graduates. Surely, however, the occasion will remain memorable in its own unique way.
Next fall, graduating ninth grade and eighth grade students will move on to top high schools and college preparatory schools including The Governor’s Academy, Pingree School, Phillips Academy, Phillips Exeter Academy, and St. John’s Prep, among others.
Ninth grade graduates of the Class of 2020 were Arden Berg, Abigael Beucler, Raphael Clark, Ethan Driscoll, Brooke Georges, Eloise Goedkoop, Margaret Hoffman, Lily Iler, Elizabeth Kemp, Benjamin Liptak, Maris Moody, Spencer Sullivan, Camila Torres, Ella Williams, and Othar Zaldastani II.
Eighth grade graduates of the Class of 2021 were Wesley Card, Katherine Carroll, John Charpentier, Lauren Collins, Katherine Cullinane, Joseph DiNanno, Jr., Leonardo DiStefano, Charles Dobbins, Tallulah Doeringer, Gabrielle Edokpa, Owen Faldi, Charles Falk, Dylan Feeks, Nina Finn, Theodore Fritzinger, Marcela Hernandez, Johanna Jenkins, Annika Johnson, Rowan Jones, Any Joyner, Luke Marinelli, Sylvia Marks, Mark McDuffee, Jr., Sophie McDuffee, Jack McVeigh, Nelson Meaney, Elise Minor, Clare O’Holleran, Dylan Olsen, Samuel Porter, Georgia Rossetti, Rachel Ruben, Esme Shields, Caroline St. John, Maillie Staff, Abigail Stephenson, Sadie Styles, William Sumner, Maya Tavares, Andrew Tollman, William Vareschi-Woelfel, Zachary Webber, Alexander Wilkinson, Charles Wilkinson, Seth Williamson, Christopher Young, and Oliver Zaldastani.