Together Again, for Packer's 174th Commencement
At the end of this pandemic school year, on a very warm evening with the threat of rain, the celebration of the Class of 2021 proceeded joyously — almost against all odds.
In any other year, the unique hurdles that the event required — vaccination cards, health screenings, social distancing, and an unprecedented location: the rooftop of the Brooklyn Children's Museum — might have felt daunting. But at the end of a year that seemed to test us all, the atmosphere at this year's Graduation was remarkably comfortable and relaxed.
Students were seated with their family members in the audience rather than in their traditional position on stage. This gave parents the chance to give their graduates' hands a squeeze, and they took it.
To ensure that other family members and loved ones could "attend" the event, the ceremony was live-streamed. Nearly 400 people tuned in.
Four members of the class offered exquisite musical performances: classical Spanish guitar by Graham Hall-Keough and an arrangement of "Isn't She Lovely?" by Q and the Windsor Boys (Ethan DiPietro, Alex Kleftodimos Smith, and Q Rael). This was not the first Graduation to occur in scorching heat, but it might have been the first where graduates removed their caps and robes to come on stage. Self-care, 2021-style, and nobody objected.
In another departure from tradition, the Class of 2021 opted not to invite an outside speaker. Instead, their grade dean, Larissa Dzegar, was added to the line up of speakers. And in a nod to 2020's virtual graduation, when two senior speakers delivered shared remarks via split screen, two students stood at the podium this year, capturing with humor and wistfulness their remarkable, historic last year at Packer.
Enjoy excerpts of all of the Graduation speeches, with links to the full transcripts below.
You are among a new historic group of Packer students. You have braved a global pandemic that shifted almost every aspect of your final chapter at school — you supported each other — through sickness, through loss, and you carried on with resilience and determination. At the same time, you confronted the realities of systemic racial injustice. You brought your advocacy, your perspectives, your leadership to our school. You were generous in sharing your experiences — the good and the bad — helping us understand many aspects of all that we are together at Packer, and what we can become — as we seek to make this school even better for students in years to come.— DR. JENNIFER WEYBURN
HEAD OF SCHOOL
I believe those moments summarize what Packer is as a school and community: friendly, caring, supportive, and inclusive. We are so lucky to have so many people in this community that care about us beyond the classroom. This has allowed us to not only do well academically, but take risks, step out of our comfort zones, and grow as people because we feel safe and comfortable. From school security to our teachers, each member of this community is invested in making sure we feel heard, seen, valued, and happy. They make sure that we actually enjoy going to school, and that it is not just a place we have to go to, but a place we want to go.— JORDANA SAMPSON
To our entire grade: go out, dream big, chase your dreams. The worst thing one could do is to give up on a dream because others tell you that you can't achieve it. In reality, you control your own destiny, and I know from the bottom of my heart, that each and every one of you is capable of some pretty amazing things. We have people who fight for justice, work to make our society a better place, and I know for sure that our future is in good hands. It is the people around us today, and especially students who will lead us into the next generation. A generation that will be more equal, just, safe, and pick up where the generations before us have left us.— ABE ROTHSTEIN
Class of 2021, you are well prepared for this [post-pandemic] world. At Packer, you have been challenged intellectually and emotionally to think deeply about issues that impact your life and the lives of others. Your teachers and mentors have encouraged you to voice your opinions about human rights, climate change, and other global issues. And so, today, in what we all sincerely hope are the waning months of this pandemic, you are poised to become active, involved, and empathetic citizens of the world.— OHSANG KWON
CHAIR, BOARD OF TRUSTEES
What I cherish in you, Class of 2021, is that you are more than a single story — individually and collectively. You embrace and represent the many different ways to be a Packer student. Even in these two short years together, I appreciate how you’ve grown in your understanding of yourselves and your acceptance of others whose stories are different from your own.— Maria Valentina Nunes
Upper School Division Head
The chapters of your life so far have been at times written entirely by other people. Your family, teachers, and other important people in your lives have done a lot of the writing. This past year, as a senior, you had more of a say in what happens next. You were the lead author, though you still had plenty of help and support and, dare I say, meddling. And you’ll always have that help and support and meddling. We are always here for you and we cannot wait to see how your lives unfold.But now the pen is in your hands.It has been my life’s greatest honor to be your dean, my sweet ‘Dzegees’ and it is now my greatest privilege to write the final lines of our chapter together:‘The Class of 2021 used their power for good, and they lived kindly ever after.’— Larissa Dzegar
Dean of the Class of 2021