Grade 9 Graduates Celebrate Light of Knowledge

On June 7, at the conclusion of a remarkable school year transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the seven members of Shore’s ninth grade Class of 2021 were graduated in front of their families at an intimate evening ceremony in the Trustey Family Theatre. Billed as “Celebrating the Light of Knowledge,” the first-of-its-kind event was designed by the ninth graders themselves, and featured the students as speakers alongside faculty advisors, Head of Upper School Gustavo Carrera, and Head of School Clair Ward. Attendees wore masks and followed other pandemic safety protocols while indoors but, following recent guidance from the CDC and the State of Massachusetts, were allowed to remove masks to gather in Shore’s Learning Garden following the ceremony.

The event began in Shore’s ninth grade dining room, where the students received white roses before posing together for a group photo on the steps of the historic Winslow Building. They then walked to the Center for Creativity, where their families had gathered. Each student was limited to six guests, which enabled family groups to remain socially distanced once seated in the Theatre. 

The ceremony commenced with a recording of the traditional graduation processional, “Pomp and Circumstance,” after which Gustavo Carrera welcomed attendees. “Tonight’s ceremony is inspired by the words of Margaret Fuller,” said Carrera. “‘If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.’ Margaret Fuller, a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, believed in the transformative impact of education. But Fuller also knew that the knowledge that we gain from our education is more than just expertise. It is about the character we build, a process that starts at school but continues for the rest of our lives.” Carrera spoke of Fuller’s career, first as an educator and writer, and later as an advocate for women. “There is no doubt that learning illuminates the mind and enhances perspective—it has been our pleasure to watch tonight’s graduates growing and illuminating their view of the world. We know that this will serve them well as they take the next steps in their journey.”

Carrera invited the graduates each to light their own taper from the glowing blue Shore candle in the center of a table on stage, and then it was time for each to step individually to the podium to share words they had prepared for the ceremony. 

“I never thought I would be here, having the opportunity to speak at my graduation from ninth grade,” said Charles Dobbins. “The seven of us have come so far. Shore is so special, and we should all cherish it. … I grew up at Shore, and throughout my growth the Shore community has shown me that they will accept me no matter what. I couldn’t feel safer at Shore than I do right now, because the bond that I have with the Shore community has only grown stronger, and is growing stronger by the moment. This past week, I’ve been in a very reflective state. Often I would fondly think about memories from Shore, and I wouldn’t even realize how much I was smiling. Shore is an amazing place that people cannot appreciate enough.”

“I want to thank the Shore employees,” said Jack McVeigh, “for finding a way for us to come to school in person this year—a feat that seemed near-impossible last year at this time. I’m so grateful to everyone here—my teachers, classmates, coaches, and my family—for helping to shape the person I am today. Beyond what we’ve learned in class—and we’ve learned a lot—what we’ve learned about kindness, leadership, responsibility, and much more, will help guide us in the future. When I came to Shore in sixth grade, I had no idea what to expect, but I am so appreciative for the experience I’ve had, and I’m so lucky to have been able to call myself a Shore student.”

According to Marcela Hernandez, “Shore has taught me many skills and morals that I will continue to use throughout my life.” And in the words of Will Sumner, “Shore allowed me to grow as a student, athlete, artist, and performer, and taught me to grasp the importance of self-advocacy and hard work.”

At the conclusion of the students’ remarks, their advisors came to the podium to share thoughts about each of them, and to decorate each with the ninth grade honor cord. Clair Ward presented students with their graduation certificates, then introduced a video collection of congratulations from Shore employees. When Ward returned to the stage toward the end of the evening, she invited the graduates to distribute red roses to their families, and she shared her closing words.

“In many cultural and religious traditions, light is the symbol of peace, enlightenment, prosperity, and the ability of good to prevail over evil. In the Hindu tradition light burns not for itself, but to remind all of us of the most important values it represents. In Buddhism, light is the ultimate reality, and leads one toward nirvana, the ultimate state. Many aspects of Chinese culture celebrate light as a symbol of joy and good fortune. And now Shore is using light to celebrate your personal growth and knowledge. I’m sure I don’t have to illuminate how symbolic it is that our very first annual ceremony of light begins with you at the conclusion of this of all years.”

Ward continued, “Much like we look to the light of the stars for guidance and inspiration, we hope you will look to Shore, the foundation of your educational development. Know that the Shore you see now reflects the fact that you were here. It is our hope that you will always see yourselves in Shore as you remember your moments of growth, your moments of challenge, and your moments of joy. On behalf of your teachers, I want to thank you for the privilege of being your guides and your coaches. Thank you for the lessons you have taught us along the way, and know that this will always be your home.”

Ward concluded, “When you leave this ceremony you will take your lit candle with you. While the candle itself might extinguish, the knowledge, the perspective, and the care that you have received at Shore never will. The Shore candle will burn brightly for you until your return. In the meantime, we ask that you foster your minds and your hearts. Your ability to grow from here is no longer our responsibility; it now becomes yours. So use what you have been given here to make the world a better place. Use what you have learned here to bring the Shore Community Code to the larger world community.”

It was then time for the recessional music, Natalie Merchant’s “Kind and Generous,” during which the graduates took their lit candles and carried them outside to the Learning Garden to meet their families. There the students and family members wrote wishes on small squares of paper, which were ignited with a match and allowed to float gently into the sky. Guests lingered until the evening light began to fade, then slowly departed, taking the light of knowledge with them.

The members of the ninth grade Class of 2021 are: Leonardo DiStefano, Charles Dobbins, Marcela Hernandez, Jack McVeigh, Dylan Olsen, Samuel Porter, and William Sumner.