Class of 2019 Moves On
Faculty and families gathered on Wednesday, June 12 to celebrate and bid farewell to the Class of 2019. We wish this exceptional class of eighth graders well as they move on to these high schools in the fall: Arlington High School, Belmont High School, Belmont Hill School, Boston University Academy, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Cambridge School of Weston, Concord Academy, Gann Academy, Groton School, Milton Academy, Northfield Mount Hermon School, John D. O’Bryant High School, Phillips Andover Academy, Pingree School, Proctor Academy, St. John’s Prep, Thacher School, and Winsor School.
Each year three students are selected by their peers and teachers to deliver remarks about their time at Belmont Day at the graduation ceremony. This year Henry Burnham, Sonia Kim, and Elena Dainora Cohen shared their memories and aspirations for the future.
Memories are strange birds, flitting back and forth through time. Some are easy to remember when recalled. Flashes filled with vibrance, close enough that we might touch them. Others decide to stay dull and gray, fleeing the moment we might grasp for them. Forever on the outskirts of our mind as much as we prompt them with pictures, smells, and sounds. Then there are the memories that leave us with more questions than they answer. The ones that have us questioning—when, where, what, how, who? All the time staying near enough for us to catch glimpses of them briefly but not letting us see their true colors.
Memories might be taken for granted. Even though they remind us of who we are and what we have accomplished, but what if we had to keep only a few?
Would we keep the ones we remember down to every blade of grass, or the ones that make a smile fly across our face, or even the ones that we don't really remember but others tell us we should?
I know that some people might simply go the easy route and choose to keep the memories of success. But BDS has taught me that even though we need those, there are always things to learn and ways to push yourself. One thing I will hold dear to me as I go to high school next year is Señor Yepes always helping me ask myself the question; how can I improve in all my classes? Señor was my advisor last year, and no matter how well I was doing in any of my classes, he always pushed me to fly higher and look inside myself for inspiration.
Every year, before we go off to winter break, as a school, we sing “This Little Light Of Mine.” The magical moment when the lights are turned off, and the room would be illuminated by what seems to be millions of blue lights, suspended in the air, would keep me filled with joy for days. In the few minutes when I can barely make out anyone’s face, with the glow sticks swaying, I feel I am part of something bigger, a bigger family. In these moments I felt so strong.
Two weeks ago, the eighth grade went to Drumlin Farm with our pre-K partners. We saw the pigs, the chickens, the cows, the goats, and the sheep. But whenever we were somewhere, my partner Chris, wanted to be somewhere else, we never stayed anywhere for more than a couple minutes. This made me smile, because I remembered, with some prompting from my mother, running around Drumlin from one place to another with not a care in the world. Even though my memories about Drumlin Farm are foggy and leave me grasping for who I was with and what I did, I can picture myself in Chris’s shoes, and can remember what is so fun about Drumlin Farm.
As I think about my life, I find myself thinking about what I have learned. I realize, yes, I learned to identify birds in the wild in pre-k, but how does that impact me now? Every morning, on the way to school when I pass by a marsh I strain my eyes to look for birds, something I have done for almost ten years, usually successfully. I remember when I was in pre-k and rushing through the door to exclaim to Ms. Henry “I saw a red-winged blackbird.” Although I am not jumping up and down exclaiming, “I saw a red-winged blackbird,” when I see one anymore, spotting one on the way to school still brings me joy.
Throughout my Belmont Day life, I have created moments that I want to bring with me next year. I want to find new traditions that will affect me as the Belmont Day ones do, I want to find more people who will help me become my best self, no matter how I compare to others. And I want to find a place where I can look for birds and remember my years at BDS and all the great memories I created. The clear and vibrant ones, like Señor always helping me push myself, or the ones that aren't clear and I will never truly remember, but that I will be able to see reflected in other people. But there were also memories created that will forever be with me, like singing “This Little Light Of Mine,” or looking for red-winged blackbirds on my way to school.
Elena Dainora Cohen
Every Friday in advisory, before we walk out the door, Mrs. Klock asks us one of two questions: “What was something great that happened this week?” or “What is something you’re looking forward to during the weekend?” In some ways, I see graduation as a final Friday, with all the excitement of the upcoming weekend -- but without the comfort of knowing that I will be back here on Monday. There is a lot that I am looking forward to during the weekend that will be high school. A bigger class, more independence, meeting new people, trying new things, and even soft-serve in the dining hall! I have loved Belmont Day, but I am ready to move on.
For the moment though, I am focused less on the question about what the future holds, and more on what has happened during this week of mine at BDS. (It’s crazy how a week can feel like 10 years!) There have been so many memorable things during my years here that it’s hard to write them down. I’m going to be honest here. I had some real trouble writing this speech. I didn’t know how to summarize everything that BDS means to me, because it's been my second home for almost my entire life. So I decided to focus on the main theme that has been brought up over and over again throughout our BDS careers. And even though (now here’s a bit more honesty for you) our class has had some grievances in the past with how the BDS values were so omnipresent, I have realized just how vital they have been during our time at Belmont Day. So starting with the honesty I just gave, I hope to prove to my classmates and you that the values truly have been threaded into everything we have done here at Belmont Day, through some specific memories I connect to honesty, excellence, caring, responsibility, respect, and joy.
Now of course BDS has helped me to flourish academically. I was always encouraged as a reader and a learner, and taught to always do my best on my schoolwork. (A skill I may have learned a little too well, given my tendency to write too much on tests or assignments.) I will leave Belmont Day with a feeling of academic excellence. But in fact, there is another kind of excellence I will leave BDS with, one I never thought I would gain.
BDS has helped me to become an athlete. I never thought of myself as one when I was younger. I was never good at soccer, the quintessential little-kid sport, and I didn’t enjoy it either. I always felt like the bookish girl, not the athletic one. But that all changed in fifth grade, when I discovered field hockey, now my favorite sport and one I don’t believe I’m terrible at. Lacrosse, which I at first thought I would hate, is another sport I love. I’m so proud to be able to say I was chosen to be a captain for both of these teams, and while I am still certainly a bookish girl, I now consider myself an athletic one too. Belmont Day does an exceptional job at letting kids be anything they want to be; these one-dimensional labels are discarded and kids are free to grow as people. I’m so glad to have spent my childhood like that.
One of the defining parts of the BDS experience is cross-graded partners. From my guilt in kindergarten about having a favorite of my two sixth grade partners, to the dismay I felt when I appeared to be that less-liked partner when I was in sixth grade, cross-graded partnerships have been a constant thread sewn through my time at BDS. One particularly memorable event occurred just a few weeks ago, when I was walking back to the main building from the Barn after science class, and the pre-kers were having recess. I saw my pre-k partner walking across the playground with an ice pack on her head, looking very upset. I wasn’t sure she would notice, but I decided to give her a little wave. Once she caught sight of me her entire face lit up and she ran over to give me a huge hug. She walked away a little happier, and I was absolutely beaming. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. It was so sweet and meant so much to me that she cared that much.
I distinctly remember one recess in second grade. Big Blue was still relatively new and my friends and I wanted to go down the slide. But on our way up, another group of kids stopped us and wouldn’t let us through. We pushed through them and went down the slide, only to come back up and see them waiting there still. It somehow escalated into a full-out brawl, with everyone shoving by to reach the slides, going down, and running back up to do it all over again. While this was all happening, I knew what I was doing was not a good idea, but I continued anyway. I regretted this later, when we were all called into the classroom to have a talk with the teachers. I was so uncomfortable with the feeling of being in trouble that I promised myself I wouldn’t do something like that again. I learned to take responsibility for my actions.
Belmont Day has taught us much about respect: respecting materials, others, and ourselves. But one thing I have to thank BDS for is for respecting us. I’m called back to one day earlier this year, when it started pouring rain during recess. We really shouldn’t have gone outside. But being eighth graders with no thoughts about what we should or should not do, a large group of us ran out onto the field. We got absolutely soaked. It was amazing. In the middle of high school applications, Capstone, and everything else, it was a magical moment, and the greatest part about it was that the teachers understood. They didn’t get upset and even gave us a little extra time afterward to get into dry clothes. Our teachers recognized that we are teenagers who sometimes just need a break from life, and respected our conscious decision to let a little craziness into our lives.
Now, as many of my classmates know, earlier this year I carried around a small hand clicker with me all day. When asked what it was for, I’d answer, “I’m counting my genuine, truly happy moments.” Whenever something happened that filled me with joy, I’d click the little button. I did this because I wanted to recognize and appreciate all the happy things in my life. Over the span of thirty-five days, I reached a total of 1,336 happy moments. What I have realized was almost every moment was caused by time spent with my classmates. Belmont Day has fostered such a wonderful community and our class is a hilarious, goofy, sweet, wild, and thoughtful group, and you bring me joy every day.
There are so many things I’m going to miss at Belmont Day. I’ll miss the library and its old stone, the PAC and all its memories of sharing assemblies and singalongs, Coolidge and the courtyard and the Downing gym, the fields and the playground and all of the many classrooms. I’m going to miss how every teacher magically knows your name, how excited the younger kids get when you pass by them in the hall, how Ms. Carey always greets you when you walk in the front door. I’m going to miss the bustle of the Kiva and the shiny newness of the Barn and learning about Shakespeare and the Holocaust and parabolas and chemical change; grammar and civil rights and the human body, pyramids and ancient gods, states and multiplication and haiku and the Wampanoags and chicks, all the way on down to learning how to handle being so very small at a big new school. I’ll even miss learning about Senegal. But most of all, I’m going to miss our class. How we know each other through and through, can anticipate every joke and call back old memories, laugh and learn and live, and how even the people who you were never that close to are going to be very, very hard to say goodbye to. Thanks to each and every one of you for an amazing ten years.
May 8: So, I’m sitting here in front of my computer with the task of writing a graduation speech. Simple right? Well, nope, not for me. How can I even start to write a speech if I have no words to describe my time at Belmont Day?
May 10: It’s been a couple days, and I still don’t have any ideas. I’ve been jotting down as many concepts and themes as I can, and have ended up with nothing. Where am I supposed to start? Do I start at the beginning of my journey in sixth grade when I came to BDS with no self confidence whatsoever? Do I start with the fact that Belmont Day helped me grow into the person I am today? Do I start at the end, right now, right here, in front of you all, so close yet so far away of the next chapter of my life? Or do I start by thanking my classmates for making this ending so hard, for if this were easy right now I would know what to write? I don’t know. See, not any words, not any speech can ever summarize all the smiles and laughs that I have shared. Or the countless hours of stressing out over Capstone. My mind has just gone completely blank.
May 11: I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just trying to avoid the end. That’s why I have no words. I guess, I’ve come back to reality. I’m leaving this place. I’m leaving the halls that I walked down every day. Pretending the white tiles were lava and the blue tiles were the only spots I could step on to survive. Yes, I’m in eighth grade and I still do that. I’m leaving the all classrooms I sat in, contemplating my life. Imagining my teacher was the the captain, my classmates were my crew mates and we were on a dangerous quest as pirates to sail across the ocean, not knowing that the treasure would be all the memories I’ve made and the destination is right here.
I’m leaving all the teachers that persisted in trying to teach my class, which I know wasn’t always the easiest of times. We were basically 33 toddlers always getting on their nerves and complaining, I don’t know how they did it but they managed to cram as much knowledge as humanly possible into our brains. I’m leaving my classmates, the people who have traveled next to me throughout my journey here. The astronauts who blasted off into space with me and explored the dark, empty nothingness up there. But they have somehow managed to make it a colorful painting of blues, yellows and any color in between. They filled the bare universe with laughter and memories I will forever cherish. I’m leaving the people who marched at my side while in the midst of battle and had my back.
Now, our battle has come to an end, and our spaceship is returning to earth, and we have arrived here. The end. The glorious win of our battle. The awaited landing of our spaceship, the triumphant return from our mission as pirates. But even though I knew all along that my path was going to part from this school, I don’t want to believe it. That’s why I’m still still sitting in front of my computer thinking that what I just wrote was not even a fraction of what I’m leaving and what I’m trying to say.
May 12: I’m trying to think of the parts of BDS that I won’t miss to make this easier. To try and find some more words. I don’t think I’ll miss driving about 20 minutes everyday to school, but then again that was precious time with my mom or dad where we would listen to 101.3 The Memory Station and jam out to songs that were written more than a decade before I was born. And we would imitate the guys raspy voice: "Hello and Welcome to the Memory Station." So I guess after all I will be missing the car rides. I won’t be missing middle school, what an interesting time. Going through middle school has made me a different person. Middle school is just an awkward time for everyone. Everyone’s trying to figure themselves out. Have I figured myself out yet? Definitely not, but I have the rest of my life for that. But I have recognized that BDS has helped me discover the bits and pieces of who I am.
If you were to compare the introverted, timid sixth grader who didn’t know anything about the world to the self assure eighth grader I am today, you would see just how much BDS has changed me. Ok, so I guess finding the parts of Belmont Day that I will not miss is harder than I thought. All the parts that I thought I wouldn’t be missing I somehow now miss the most. And again I am at a brick wall, with no words.
May 12, later in the day: So after reading through my speech so far, I still feel like I haven’t even touched on the difference BDS has made in my life. They have shown me I am the future, my class, my generation is the future and it’s up to us to change the world. In Sweden, Greta Thunberg, a 16 year-old girl, is inspiring thousands of children to protest for our planet. Belmont Day has helped show me I can do this too. Freedom Night was my first realization that my peers and I can create an entire play and different projects to help educate people and give them different perspectives on things. And not too long ago my peers and I went through this journey called Capstone. Even though I was overwhelmed with everything, this was so empowering for me. I wrote a 20-page paper, conducted experiments, made a movie, made a 3D printed model, and programmed lights. The list could go on. I never thought that I would ever be able to do this in a lifetime, but it’s Belmont Day that has shone a spotlight on what we can all create.
Once we graduate and move on to high school and then collage, I am 100% sure every single one of us will make a change. We may not notice it, but it was BDS that proved to us just how powerful we are.
May 14: So the first draft of our speech is due tomorrow, but I feel there’s still so much I’m missing and I’m trying to say. The end is here. It’s crazy. I still have no words. The time flew by faster than I ever thought it could. Back in September I told myself that I could make it through this year, and if I persevered I’d soon be at the end and I could move on. But to tell you the truth, it’s not just that simple. Yes, I was right that I would make it through the year. But I was so wrong that I could just move on. I’ve met some unbelievable people here. I’ve learned some pretty incredible lessons. And I’ve bloomed into the person I am today. But now it’s time to say goodbye. This is where we all split paths and journey to new unimaginable places where we will grow even more. If in a few years you see one of these 32 kids’ names on the news, talking about the newest medical wonder they have invented. Or the change they have made in helping our earth return to its original state. Or the justice they have brought to thousands of people. Or the joy they have spread to so many faces, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Some memories I’ve made from the past couple of years I will never forget and I will be proud to look back upon. I literally cannot express my gratitude to each and every one of them, they have all changed my life in every way possible and I am eternally grateful.
May 19: Wow, I can’t believe I’ve decided to write this at 10 o'clock on Sunday evening, the day before the final draft is due. Either I’ve just been procrastinating all week or I really am speechless. And to be honest it might be a mix of both. I don’t know how to finish this off because everything I say just feels meaningless. Excellence. Responsibility. Respect. Honesty. Caring. Joy. These are the six core values that have been burned my brain. And even though many of us just mock them at times, BDS has truly taught me all of these. And I know as my life goes on I will look back at my time here and thank Belmont Day for not only changing everyone else’s life but also for changing mine.