Congratulations to the Class of 2021
Students, families, and faculty gathered for an in-person ceremony in the Barn on Wednesday, June 16 to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2021. We wish these 42 eighth graders (our largest graduating class ever!) well as they move on to these high schools in the fall: Arlington Catholic High School, Arlington High School, Boston University Academy, Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Cambridge School of Weston, Commonwealth School, Concord Academy, Concord Carlisle High School, Dana Hall School, Gann Academy, Lawrence Academy, Lexington High School, Maret School, Meridian Academy, Middlesex School, Millbrook School, Milton Academy, Minuteman High School, Newman School, Noble and Greenough School,, Phillips Andover Academy, Rivers School, Roxbury Latin School, Walnut Hill School, and Winsor School.
We hope you will visit our Graduation Site for photos and tributes to the Class of 2021.
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 Audrey Wu, Cody Casanave, and Ellora Roy shared their memories and aspirations for the future.
When I think of what BDS has taught us, it’s not about solving algebraic equations, learning to write a thesis, or even the Capstone journey. So what comes to mind when I think of BDS? Shoes. That’s right, I bet you’ve never thought about the importance of the shoes we wear everyday.
There have been so many shoes that have fit the various different versions of myself. The black glittery flip flops I wore on my first day here as a timid and genuinely terrified pre-ker. The white Velcro shoes that fit a second grader who was too stubborn to learn how to tie her laces. Pastel rain boots that grew muddy from a week of working in the animal barns at Farm School. The winter snow boots for sledding on Claflin field during badminton.
And then there was that one memorable year where our shoes didn’t do much of anything–and the people wearing those shoes didn’t do much of anything either, except stare at little boxes of one another on our computer screens. Our shoes have been with us through so much, and 2020 was definitely a well-deserved break for mine.
While these may just be shoes, the ones we lackadaisically slip onto our feet while rushing out the door to first period, these shoes have led me to the most incredible people I’ve ever met.
Walt Whitman once said, “If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.” When I first read this line, I didn’t understand what it meant, I just knew that I loved the way that the words were strung together in such a delicate chandelier-like manner; so intricate that I was worried I might break them.
When I think of leaving this school upon the hill, I think of the thousands of footprints that have left a mark on these hallways, and I think of each of us, imparting a piece of ourselves as well. I like to think as we continue to roam these halls, we continue to traverse through past footprints, each one containing stories and memorabilia, unraveling under our feet.
Empathy is often described as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes–but my definition of empathy after my 10 years here, would hold a different meaning. Empathy is in all the little acts of kindness that have the power to command conflagrations, a single glow that ignites this fire, waiting to be unleashed within us.
Making mud pies in the sandbox. Exchanging smiles with your cross-graded partner in the hallways. The smell of breakfast for lunch wafting through the school from Coolidge Hall. Humphrey, the second grade hamster, and Sheldon, the kindergarten sheep. Mummifying Cornish game hens in fourth grade. Waves and helloha’s. Lunches spent cloud watching or wallowing in the soccer nets and fields. Coursing through the Kiva. Conversations in the library. Choosing prompts in Echo magazine. Getting stuck in the trees by the tennis court.
One of my first memories of this inexplicable feeling was sitting in the PAC, everyone in the entire school packed together in one room, singing along and waving glow sticks in the dark for the annual Share the Warmth assembly. I’d never seen as many lights, and I traced them in my head, hoping that they might be stars, scintillating off in the distance. In this moment, I was one of those lights, and it was the most exhilarating feeling in the world to be a part of something, to be a piece of that galaxy. Of course, there will be so many more little moments that will have me feeling this way.
These are the day-to-day instances that make this place so magical. Out of all the things I’ve seen here, I’m most surprised by the trivial things each of you do to make this school glow with what I can only describe as life and empathy.
I want to challenge each of you to rethink your definition of empathy. In order to explain what this trait looks like, and more importantly, how it feels, I’m going to start at the beginning: my first day here as an absolutely petrified four-year-old. To be completely honest, I can’t tell you what I was thinking when I first entered this building. I might’ve been thinking about why there are so many sheep, or maybe I could’ve been thinking about what I might say to my parents when they asked me how my first day at my new school was.
What I can tell you is that “belonging” is a rare feeling. If you’re like me, you’ll often be told that you’re not what people expect. Walking into this building, in my black sequined flip flops, I expected to have large shoes to fill, and, especially through middle school, I had these impossible expectations for myself and it’s here that I learned that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over our imperfections.
If you’re like me, you’ll be squeezed into boxes and labels, you won’t be liked by everyone, and some days, you’ll spiral off to places you don’t want to be. But in this building, you won’t have to think about being too much or too little. In this building, you can just be. How incredible is it that there’s a place where you’re free to live as yourself, that there are people, who will become your people?
So this trait of empathy isn’t putting yourself into someone else’s shoes, but it’s learning to live in your own shoes, before you try to fit into another’s.
I haven’t always felt comfortable in the shoes I’ve worn, and I haven’t always had the confidence to try new ones. I was searching desperately for the words to even start to explain what these past ten years have meant to me when Ms. Clements came up to me and gave me a book of Mary Oliver’s poetry, titled, A Thousand Mornings. I don’t think she realized how much she did for me by handing me this 70-page anthology. For the next hour, I was quiet, engrossed in Oliver’s labyrinthine words, knotted together like the best of seas. I’d like to read you one of the pieces that stood out to me if that’s alright.
Three things to remember
By Mary Oliver
As long as you’re dancing, you can
break the rules
Sometimes breaking the rules is just
extending the rules
Sometimes there are no rules.
After my first few weeks here, I quickly realized that there aren’t many rules to BDS beyond the “if you kill it, you fill it” rule, meaning whoever ate the last piece of garlic bread was obligated to refill it in the kitchen. By second grade, I started to notice that there were certain societal rules. These rules were harder to follow and nobody ever explained them to you: you can’t talk to everyone and you have to wait for your friends to go out to lunch and recess. But BDS has taught us beyond stereotypes, limits, and borders, and given us the confidence to flaunt our soles–and I’m not just talking about the soles we wear on our feet. So before we walk off this campus for the last time, can we all appreciate how far we’ve each traveled since our first day here?
I’m not going to pretend like BDS is a perfect place, and we all know that we’re not perfect people. In fact, as I’m sure our teachers would agree, we’re probably the most imperfect people. We screw things up, we don’t know everything, but we need each other.
I know I need you all–class of 2021, to make me laugh like I’ll never stop, stand by me through it all, and teach me how to have the time of my life. We’ve fit in and will continue to fit into many more shoes that will take us to many more places–because that’s the thing about us, we’re constantly changing and outgrowing parts of ourselves, everyday merely another stair to figuring ourselves out. And maybe we never will figure it out, and that’s okay too. So as we reach this next step in our journey, let’s live a little, love a lot, and I am certain that wherever you may wander, you will all continue to touch the lives of those you meet, just as you have touched mine.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela.
When I first came to Belmont Day School in sixth grade, I was terrified. Everything was so new. There were new people and new places, and nothing was familiar to me. I felt so alone during my first months at BDS, and I dreaded going back to school every day. Even though I had such a challenging time at the beginning of sixth grade, I made it through, and here I am now, three years later, a significantly changed, much wiser person. So, if I were to give you the most important lesson that I have learned from my years at BDS, it would be this: difficult times usually seem much worse and hopeless in the moment, but more often than not, you emerge from those experiences a better person in some way.
I want to begin by talking about Farm School because it was a big turning point for me in sixth grade. It was the first time that I really opened up at BDS. I was nervous going into it, but the second I got there, my excitement overcame my fear. I got to stay in a tent with a few of my best friends, and we experienced some new and interesting activities, such as milking cows and picking vegetables. I also learned how to felt, which is a way to manipulate wool to make designs. I loved each night when my new friends and I all talked and laughed late into the night. I also enjoyed the various meals that we ate, such as sausages and pancakes, because they tasted delicious and many of them even used ingredients from the farm! I am so thankful that I got to have the experience of Farm School, and I liked learning firsthand how farms work. More importantly, it was the first time that I really spoke more than one word each day and felt hopeful about making new friends.
Clubs were an excellent way for me to try new activities and meet new people. I had never done anything like clubs before, so signing up for them was an exciting but nerve-racking experience. One of my favorite clubs was mountain biking, which I signed up for as my first club in sixth grade. It was challenging, much more difficult than I had imagined, but after some practice, it was fun to bike through the woods, and it unquestionably made me stronger. Another interesting club that I participated in was personal finance, which taught me more about concepts such as investing, and crypto currency.
We hiked Cardigan Mountain during the first few days of seventh grade. The hike up was enjoyable, but the best part was when we got to the very top and saw the extraordinary view. Once we cleared the woods of the mountain, we had to slowly clamber up a large slope of rock. When we got to the top, there was a large, flat area where we could see for miles in every direction. It was amazing.
Another significant experience for me at BDS was Capstone. When I wrote my first subtopic, it wasn’t amazing, and there was a lot of room for improvement. By the time I finished my third subtopic, I had become a much stronger writer. During the project phase, I sometimes struggled with working consistently, and some weeks I felt like I did not do enough. By the end of the project phase, I learned that it is important to consistently do work during a long project, a lesson that will serve me well throughout my life. The presentation phase was neither the longest nor the most difficult, but easily the most nerve-racking part of Capstone. This process taught me how to write a solid script and gave me confidence with public speaking.
Another major part of my Belmont Day experience has been athletics. Athletics was a great way to try a variety of sports, some of which were very out of my comfort zone. One of my most notable athletics experiences was track. I decided to give track a go in the spring of sixth grade. Although each race made me nervous, completing them made me feel accomplished, and I ended up having fun. I also became a much better runner. Another one of my favorite athletics experiences has been soccer. I had a great coach, a great team, and Friday Night Lights was awesome! I became a better competitor, team player, and runner from BDS Athletics, and I am very thankful that I had that opportunity.
The arts curriculum was another important part of BDS for me. The number of interesting classes that we were allowed to choose from was amazing, and I was introduced to so many new and cool things, such as woodworking, painting, bucket drumming, working with clay, and coding. These classes helped me tap into my creative side, and I am happy that I got the opportunity to take part in them.
I have had so many fantastic classes, and there is no way that I could talk about all of them, so let me just say this to all of my teachers: you have been amazing, and I have learned so much from each and every one of you. You all work so hard to create engaging, thought-provoking, and informative curriculums, so thank you all for your dedication, caring, and hard work. It has truly been a pleasure to learn from you.
So, if I want to leave you with one lesson that I have learned from my BDS experience, it is this: trying new and challenging things may seem daunting, and you may want to quit what you are doing, but just remember, you will usually come out of those experiences as a smarter, harder-working, more skilled, and overall better person. Even if you dread what you have to do, push through and you will make it. Thank you for listening.
When I was in pre-kindergarten, our class made paper roses for our graduating eighth grade partners. Ms. Anderson asked me which kind of flower I wanted to make, I immediately chose a rose. It has always been my favorite flower. The complexity amazed me and the layers and structure held such an intricate beauty; I was in awe. Ms. Anderson laid out the tissue paper pieces that would morph into petals and dabbed on glue for me. After a while, I wanted to quit. My rose looked kind of weird and it wasn’t all that I had hoped, but Ms. Anderson kept me going. I eventually turned my paper into a flower. When it finally came time to present my flower to Sarah Jane, my eighth grade partner, in the Moving Up Assembly, I proudly held out my rose to her. On that day, I wondered why she was so sad to leave. Now I know.
You may be wondering what this has to do with my BDS experience. I look at the creation of my paper rose as a metaphor for growing up at BDS. My petals are my core memories that I have accumulated throughout my time here. They layer on top of each other to create my BDS rose: my childhood. The BDS community has been a part of my life since I was four. My earliest memories are intertwined and a bit foggy; I can’t even distinctly remember a time before I went to school here. Just like a rose, it is hard to pinpoint where my petals begin. The stem Ms. Anderson held out for me, is the school community. My life has revolved around Belmont Day School for as long as I can remember. Everything from my closest friendships to my daily schedule and routine has centered around BDS. The glue Ms. Anderson dabbed on for me is my friends, teachers, parents, and brother. My flower would have fallen apart if it wasn’t for them giving me advice, eating Welch’s fruit snacks with me, and comforting me over the past 10 years.
My BDS petals are all equally important to me, but I have selected a couple of significant moments that will hopefully give you some insight into the course of my experience here.
The first core memory is from pre-k. It was recess on the fourth day of school, and although I enjoyed being outside for the most part, recess was torture to me because I was painfully shy. The teachers insisted I find a friend so I began playing with another kid on the big, curvy, blue slide on the side of the playground. I stared at her in awe as she broke the rules and walked up the long slide. She beckoned for me to follow, but I was too nervous so I took the scoop ladder. By the time I got up, she was already gone. I climbed back down and sat on the bench, hoping the teacher wouldn’t notice that I was alone. When Ms. Henry found me, she urged me to talk to a different kid on the playground. I agreed because I saw the girl balanced and sitting down on the wiggley stepping stones, which I had never been able to do before. I walked over and started talking to her. Little did I know that that would become one of my closest friends for the next 10 years.
This second core memory from grade five. We had a part of our English class called ‘Golden Hour’ where we would journal or write stories about anything we wanted. Every Friday, Ms. Juster would have us put our heads down as she read excerpts from our notebooks aloud to the whole class. This was the first time I had ever felt truly proud of my work. I was hesitant at first to allow my writing to be shared, and I’ll admit now that for the first couple of minutes I peeked my head up to see my classmate’s reactions, but I eventually grew comfortable with my writing being shared as I realized that my stories only mattered if they satisfied me. Even though I hoped my peers liked my writing, I found that real importance was in how I felt about it. As the class ended, I rushed to catch up to my friend and whisper to her which story was mine. To me, it did not matter how she reacted. I was confident in my work and that was all that mattered in that moment. Golden Hour taught me how to be proud of and value my work.
My last core memory is from this year, eighth grade. A couple of months ago, there was a graduation event. It was a movie night where we all got to hang out together for one of the last times. While we were waiting for our parents to pick us up, my closest friend and I sat with our backs leaning against the outdoor Barn wall facing the tennis courts with an amazing view of the entire campus. As we started talking about memories we have across the school grounds, I realized I can picture a moment on every square foot of this campus. I’ve spent so much time here that every classroom, hallway, tree, bush, trashcan, and part of Big Blue triggers a thousand memories for me. My closest friend and I are going to different high schools, and although I know we’ll still see each other often (because she pinky promised), it’s still going to be hard to leave this place, and all of my friends, behind.
I would like to come back to my analogy of roses. You may be wondering where my peers fit in, and my answer is that I believe we all created our BDS memory roses during our time at this school. Although our roses are all different shapes, sizes, and colors, they make a pretty nice bouquet. My friends and classmates have impacted my life and my memories in ways I cannot describe. While growing up simultaneously, we are bound to influence each other’s experiences, but my peers have also given me comfort and support over the past 10 years that I am extremely grateful for. Whether it be playing together at recess, writing books about peanut butter, or simply hearing the words, “I haven’t started that assignment either,” my peers have made BDS feel like a place I belong.
My family’s helping hand is what kept me going. I supposed being a fourth-grade dropout was not really an option, but my brother and my parents are what kept me excited to go to school. My brother has always been one of the biggest role models in my life. Especially being just one grade above me, I have always wanted to do what he was doing and get to where he was. Thinking back to my pre-k meltdown about being separated from him, I felt similar this year when he moved on to a different school. Although I always have my friends, school felt so much more safe with him there. It turned out fine and I made it through this year, although there was a lot of emotional support provided at home.
As I stand here today creating my last BDS petal, I can’t help but notice the roses pinned to each student’s clothing. I like to think that these roses represent our own memory roses as we will walk out of this building and take our roses with us, but it is impossible to forget where they came from.