Students Share Inspiration and Gratitude at
2019 Graduation Ceremonies
At Rowland Hall’s fifth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade graduation ceremonies this June, student speakers shared funny, reflective, and inspiring stories with those in attendance.
Senior Ben Korngiebel spoke of the strong supportive community the seniors created and Sydney Young spoke of human kindness and connection. Eighth-grade students Maile Sunhee Ling Fukushima sand Rodrigo Fernandez-Esquivias shared the many events that shaped their collective Middle School memories. Several fifth-grade students thanked their teachers, family, and friends for helping to create a supportive and engaging learning environment in the Lower School.
- Ben Korngiebel, Co-Valedictorian
- Sydney Young, Co-Valedictorian
- Celia Davis, Student Body President
- Maile Sunhee Ling Fukushima, Eighth Grade
- Rodrigo Fernandez-Esquivias, Eighth Grade
- Fifth-Grade Speeches
Ben Korngiebel, Co-Valedictorian
Four years ago, if you had told me I would be standing here giving a speech at graduation I probably would have said something like “Haven’t I graduated already?” but alas, five years of high school later, here I am. Following my accident, I was faced with the difficult choice of either trying to cram my junior and senior years into one year or fall back a grade in order to fully complete my final two years. Already the “new kid” at school, I was terrified at the prospect of also having to switch grades. However, in the end, I decided to take the long road, and standing here looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. No, not because of lessons of perseverance or strength or all those things that I went on and on about in my college application, but because it has allowed me to graduate with all of you, the best senior class I could have hoped for.
At many schools there is this idea of kill or be killed, and while this grade is certainly not lacking in competitive spirit, these seniors have formed a tight knit community that watches out for each other. At Rowland Hall, we as individuals are faced with many challenges, Wiley sets with no solutions, books that aren’t on SparkNotes, but because of the way this community operates we never have to go through them alone. I want to thank you all for making my time here unforgettable, from more personal things like walking into college counseling at 7:30 am each morning to find Celia already there drinking tea and doing homework to more class-wide things like Josef’s Lunch Adventures. Additionally, I would like to thank the faculty for facilitating such a wonderful environment at Rowland Hall. Each of you not only made learning enjoyable but also continually put us first, sacrificing your time in order to be available before tests for questions or to offer feedback. And finally, I would like to thank the administration for doing the hard, behind the scenes work that allowed the school to run so smoothly during our time here.
I could stand here and talk for hours about how each and every member of this school has impacted my life, but because of time constraints I can only highlight a few. Firstly I would like to thank Mr. C who was not only a terrific mentor but also a fantastic friend. Secondly, to Michelle and Mr. Samson for tirelessly working with me through my junior and senior year to get me to where I am today. Thirdly to all my junior year teachers, Xu laoshi, Ms. Croft, Mr. Hori, KP, Dr. Halloran, Mr. Birchler, Dan, and Mr. Mellor, who helped me, pushed me, and believed in me in a time where my future was uncertain. And finally, thank you to all you seniors. In a time where my life was full of uncertainty you made my transition to this grade as seamless as possible. Now, as we prepare to go our separate ways, I am faced with a bittersweet goodbye. As sad as I am to be parting ways with all of you, I am equally as excited to see the amazing things each and every one of you will undoubtedly accomplish. Class of 2019, thank you!
Sydney Young, Co-Valedictorian
Good morning everyone, and congratulations to the Class of 2019! The idea for this speech emerged one evening on an interim trip last week when Josh Kesling, Allison, and Sofia brilliantly suggested that I write about love and its adversaries. I took their advice. But fear not — you are not about to hear my own musical rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” while I reference the “I’m Flying” scene from Titanic, nor will you have to suffer through any summaries of popular Hallmark Channel films. I am referring to a different kind of love: The kind of love shared when Josef Sueoka committed to going out to lunch with every person in the grade before graduation when Emmy Blumenthal organized a school-wide walkout to protest gun violence, or when Atticus Hickman surprised Ali Puri and Blair Alley with tea one morning. I am speaking about the love shared when our English class snaps to celebrate a particularly insightful comment or compliments someone for flexing their literary muscles. In other words, this speech is about love as quotidian acts of human kindness and connection.
Unfortunately, we all find ourselves confronted by a modern drive for productivity that depicts love as a wasteful, superfluous inefficiency. In this culture of accumulation, the emphasis lies on streamlining our lives — growing more productive, making more money, and wasting less time. Overwhelmed by to-do lists, many forget to smile at the stranger standing at the crosswalk or forget to appreciate art because the effort is an unnecessary expenditure. This is why the world needs Emmy, Josef, and Atticus. It needs Rylee Usher’s and Ella Baker-Smith’s wonderfully kind compliments, Ethan Kovnick’s delightful sense of humor, Claire Hyde’s poetry, Seth Thomas’ diligence and hard work as a member of stage crew, Robin Zeng’s sketchbooks and paintings, Claire Sanderson’s piano prowess, and Austin Topham’s photography and violin mastery. The list goes on, but in short — the world needs the Class of 2019’s sense of love.
Classmates, I am thankful for how you inspired me every day to be the best version of myself, and I am infinitely grateful for all the Rowland Hall faculty and staff who have worked tirelessly to teach us how to show and share love in the face of a search for efficiency. I will always remember the life tips Dr. Halloran sprinkled into her lectures, the “quotes of the day” Mr. C wrote on his board, and the many hugs that KP gave to anyone having a rough day. I will never forget when Mikee Shackelford brought me a cup of honey-sweetened tea when I was losing my voice at a debate tournament, or when Mr. Hori told all of us to pause work on our physics labs so he could tell us that we are all brilliant, valuable human beings who should never dare to think otherwise. I cannot thank all of our teachers and parents enough for being role-models of kindness.
Their lessons over the years have sparked my firm belief that many of the global challenges we face today could be ameliorated by dedicating time and energy to protect beauty and all of its manifestations. Class of 2019, as we enter the next stage of our lives, we must hold on to our commitment to sharing love with those around us. The average person will meet and interact with at least 78,000 different people in their lifetime. That’s 78,000 acts of kindness per person. Multiply that by the number of people in our graduating class, and that’s around 5 million smiles to strangers at traffic lights, to baristas at local coffee shops, to classmates in lectures, or to co-workers at the office. This network of social interactions constructs the world and its institutions, giving us the ability to collectively shape the norms of what is considered just and fair. As we grow older, these values will guide the decisions we must make about our environments and communities. As we make these choices, may love be our compass while reason and sagacity fill our sails.
So let’s go paint, write laws, play sports, sing, dance, debate, act, write poetry, teach, learn languages, study science, read and write books, all with a sense of purpose. Let’s smile at strangers we meet and make change where change is needed. Let us always find the courage and resolve to withstand opposition as we hold firm as bulwarks against inequity, and may we never treat ethics as a secondary concern. And of course, let’s not procrastinate on anything as much as I have procrastinated on obtaining a driver’s license (I still don’t have one, by the way — catch me tearing up the town on the classic Walmart scooter popularized by fourth graders nationwide). But above all, let us always seek out the love woven into the crags and crevices of living, for efficiency will never compare to the simple elegance of authentic, human connection.
Celia Davis, Student Body President
Writing this speech proved quite a challenge. Sitting in the back of the rental car driving from New Jersey to Pennsylvania last week, I realized that writing this speech was such a challenge because I didn’t want to write the wrong speech. I had so many started drafts up to this point about memories, routine, and snippets of sentences, I couldn’t decide which one to write. Challenges, like this, arise when choosing one erases the possibilities of the others.
This year, the challenge of choosing a path to pursue after high school created the same issue for me. I can visualize my life’s outcome from each of those decisions, preferring to live in the future over the present. I believe this is something we all struggle with: the challenge of choice. The challenge of choosing what we believe is right because it would make others happy or because we think it’s correct. We make this decision striving to become something without great reflection on who we are in the moment or what we truly want. A fear of failure or regret.
I worry over what the future will hold. I am deeply concerned that at the largest junction so far in my life, I will have chosen the wrong path. But as a very wise friend told me, you can’t know your future and being able to live within the not knowing is the hardest goal to achieve but the most stress relieving when we reach it. We are going out into the world, exploring who we will become, wandering down our chosen paths. All we know is how our past decisions have brought us to this moment in time. Little moments of past like Hire’s chocolate milkshakes after closing night of a show, smiling pictures with debate trophies, coffee runs with blaring music, and early mornings in the college counseling office. And now here: graduating on this lawn in green robes and sunglasses with loving people surrounding us.
Class of 2019, I urge you to reflect on who you are instead of attempting to jump into the future. Trust yourself. I am so excited to see where we go from here. Congratulations Class of 2019!
Maile Sunhee Ling Fukushima, Eighth Grade
It was June 2016, I remember sitting excitedly in the chapel for our fifth-grade graduation and getting ready for the next three years of our lives. I would have never thought that they would go by so fast. So, we may be moving on to different schools or different places, but we will always have the memories of the Rowland Hall community. And we’ve always had the people in our lives that made our middle school experience better, whether it be a friend, a teacher, or a sibling, they’ve all helped us grow and succeed throughout the years.
In sixth-grade, some of us were exposed to a new language, and new teachers that we would have for three whole years. I had Tyler Tanner, and I will say, I was a bit afraid of him at first, but now he’s one of the most influential and supportive people I know. Next, the sixth-grade teachers like, Ms. Lewis, Ms. Lawlor, Ms. Marker and Ms. Larson, slowly introduced us to the new environment and without them we surely wouldn’t have as much success throughout the other years. These teachers were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and they were always there to help and support us when we needed it.
In seventh grade, we had faster pace learning and had great teachers, like Mr. stern who would never get mad at anything, Ms. Vasquez who tried to get mad at us, but was too nice, Ms. Miller who got us woke, and Ms. P, speaking of, I’m going to give a quick piece of advice that I learned from Ms. P, just in case of an earthquake, always bolt down your furniture, and put all the heavy stuff on the bottom shelf. Seventh grade was a great year filled with great people and great memories.
This year in eighth-grade, every single one of us have changed, yet changing isn’t a bad thing. It’s us maturing and getting ready to enter high school. Our eighth-grade teachers all prepared us for not only high school, but life as well. That shows in Mr. Robs and his tips of the week, “be the hero of your own movie”. Ms. Donnelly by giving a lot of group projects, so we’d have to work together. Ms. Schones and Mrs. Friedman prepared us for life because we use math every single day. And oh, by the way, Mr. T prepared us by setting a harder environment and always expecting our best.
Middle school has shaped us into the people we are today because we were here for three years. That may seem like a short amount of time compared to your 14 years of life, but they have had a huge impact. Our friendships with each other grew as we got to have more classes with people we never did before. As we left fifth grade, I’m sure we all had our different friend groups, I know I did. As we entered sixth grade, we made new friends, and started branching out more, which helped us make lasting memories of international night, running around the school for twelve minutes, and worrying about when the math test would be graded. I made friends with one person at the beginning of sixth-grade and they’re still always there to support me no matter what. She’s helped me grow and become a better student by always pushing to study harder during classes, (math especially) and just supporting me overall, so I would like to say thank you Ruchi. So, it’s always important to take a second to remember the times your friends or family or teachers who helped you to become a better person.
As we move on to high school, I’ll give you some tips. We have to remember the memories that have helped shape our lives, we will always have people to support us, and we need to be supportive as well, don’t procrastinate, etc.! Speaking of the word etc., in Latin, Et means and, and cetera means the rest. So, we’re done with one chapter of our lives, and now we have the rest to look forward to. Et cetera.
Rodrigo Fernandez-Esquivias, Eighth Grade
A Million Reasons
Lady Gaga is my music, Michelle Obama is my inspiration, Four Square is my sport, and Rowland Hall has become my home. Back in August, being a new student and not knowing anyone in the school, Rowland Hall sounded like it was going to be solely about academics. Today, however I realize that Rowland Hall to me has become about the friendships I have made and the experiences I have had.
As Tim McGraw says in his song (I don’t know who this is but my mom likes his music!), when we move forward in life we cannot forget to look back, and to thank everyone along the way, teachers, administrators, family, friends...we have to stay humble and kind.
When I look back to this year, I see only good things. I see Camp Williams, boy that water was cold! I see the Shamrock Bank, and all those generous students donating for the cause (or in my words blindly giving me shamrocks that will benefit me and only me). I see our Mars landers, how many eggs did we lose in that experiment? I sacrificed at least two of them, Eggothy and Eggtonio never saw that chair coming. American Studies: the World War II newspaper, the music parody project thank you Mikel for that catchy song his name was Martin Luther King and he had nothing but a dream , the Holocaust museum in DC….Mahalo Tatomer….
Finally, I would like to take a moment to commemorate Lennie, he didn’t do notin’ wrong George, he only wanted to tend the rabbits. Lennie and George, what an odd pair they were. they were the best of friends, although they had little to nothing in common. This is exactly what Rowland Hall is built on, not similarities but differences. We are all different from one another, yet that's what makes us a community, and that's what brings us closer together. It’s learning to cope and accept these differences that make each of us so unique.
DC….what a trip to remember, treacherous roads from the Harrington Hotel to the Reagan Center. And...do you remember the fish smell from the stairs to the lobby, I mean what was that?! You all probably remember the sound of MUSTER in DC...if you look up the definition of MUSTER in the dictionary, it means to assemble, in preparation for battle. That is what Rowland Hall is doing for us, preparing us for the battle of life. Every challenge we face in the future, we have been prepared for by our teachers, our peers, and our families.
As I stand here today, and I look around, I can proudly say that we have all changed for the better. We’ve all gone through our own journeys. Each and every one of us has faced challenges along the way, but we made it, we are graduating middle school. Rowland Hall, MUSTER!
My journey Through Rowland Hall by Bo Lowrance
Hi, I’m Bo. Being in the Lower School has been some of the best years of my life. I’ve had such amazing teachers and have had a great time throughout my years here. I was really lucky getting Susanna in first grade, Katie Schwab in second, Jazmin in third, Mr. Stack in fourth, and this year, Mr. O. He has been the best teacher you could ever ask for and I wish he could be permanent...thanks for a great year and GO PACK!
Fifth-grade was the best of all my years here. It changed school from ehhh... to awesome. I’m not really a big fan of homework, but all of the projects we did were amazingly really fun, from our explorer reports to the science share. Another highlight of Rowland Hall is all the friends I’ve met, who for some reason nicknamed me susage this year, and all of the cooks and monitors. When you’re getting your food or walking by, when you’re at recess, they’ll ask how you’re doing which is always great. I’m obviously sad to leave the Lower School, but I’ve only heard good things about the Middle School. When fifth-grade recently went to the Middle School for a day, I got a lunch there: beef gyro and pasta, oooh man, it was delish! We were all introduced to the classes and they seemed fun. I liked the new campus a lot and am excited to be going. I’ve had a great experience here since 2-pre-k, and that will never change. Thank you.
How I’ve improved at Rowland Hall by Brooke Copinga
Hello, my name is Brooke. I have been at Rowland Hall since 4PreK. I’ve learned so much, not just academically, but emotionally. I will be so sad to leave the McCarthey Campus and go to middle school, but I have had administrators, teachers, and peers to prepare me.
It all started with Elizabeth, Natalie, Katie, and Vicki, my Beginning School teachers who made me feel like I was a big kid whenever I helped them with something. I also loved going to a tea party with Carol Blackwell.
Then we came to the Lower School, which meant we were becoming big kids with big kid ‘’’sponsibilities.‘’ My first day in the Lower School was fun. Mr. Sparrow and Mrs. Tatomer would greet us every morning.
My first-grade teacher was Dave. On the first day, I was nervous, then Dave made a joke about how I was going to crush the year. I went on to second-grade and Katie was my teacher. I was so happy because that meant not just one class hamster but two - Harry and Nigel. I had Jeanne in third- grade, who taught me how to have high standards for myself and work hard. In fourth-grade, I had Ms. Jenkins, who taught me to be responsible and do the work because I had pneumonia.
Last but certainly not least, in fifth-grade, I have learned so much. Mr. McCandless prepared me and shared so many stories about how not be late and how you can build a marble ramp in your desk at home, not at school. Most importantly, Mr. McCandless has given me confidence in things that I found very hard, and taught me how to self start and not get as distracted. I could go on and on about how my time at the Rowland Hall McCarthey Campus has been an amazing experience.
Thank you for your time.
Growing Stronger by Catherine Seagrave
Hi, my name is Catherine Seagrave, and I have been at Rowland Hall for five years. When I first came to Rowland Hall I was so scared. I was scared to go to a new school and because I didn’t know a lot of people. However, I had one friend whom I already knew. This friend was very positive; she always helped me see the good in things and always made me laugh when I was sad.
In second-grade, my teacher was Katie Schwab. She helped me in many ways. She talked to me when I was sad; she rewarded me when I did well; most of all she made me feel loved. During that year, my mom had a heart attack, and I know without the help and support of Katie I never would have made it.
In third-grade, I made another friend. She was sweet and strong, but most of all she was determined. I needed someone to help me stand up for myself and my friend helped me explain my feelings to my class.
During fourth and fifth-grade, when people said rude things to me, my first instinct was to say something rude back, but I had someone who helped me stay kind. This person was sensitive, generous and kind, and having this person as a friend helped me have a little more of all those traits.
As the years went by, all these people and others helped me stay strong through the good and the bad, and now I am ready to start a new beginning in middle school.
What I’ve Learned By Jacob Conover
Hello, my name is Jacob Conover and I have been at Rowland Hall for seven years. Rowland Hall has taught me the benefits of cooperation, the art of public speaking, and the value of hard work. Being at Rowland Hall with my peers over the years on this campus has changed my life for the good. The experiences I’ve had here have made me into the person I am today.
Starting in first-grade, we were introduced to working with others by trying to figure out math problems as a group or just playing a game without arguing. I think working with others is one of the best skills to have as you’re going through school or working when you’re older.
Rowland Hall has also taught me public speaking. In third-grade, we selected a person to create an oral presentation about to present to our classmates and parents. From then on we have done various presentations to help us with public speaking. This helps us convey our thoughts clearly in a public environment.
The most important skill I’ve learned is hard work. In fourth and fifth-grade, we’ve had numerous projects, not just to help us with public speaking, but to teach us dedication. I worked many hours on my projects, and in the end, I see my work and admire it. Being hardworking is one of the most useful traits and we will all leave here with this trait.
I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to learn these skills at this amazing Lower School and will continue to use them in the future, as I enter the Middle School.
My Tenth Year by Lizzy Weiss
Hi, my name is Lizzy Weiss. I would like to tell you about my fifth-grade year. My amazing teacher, Mr. O has taught me so much and has really improved my confidence. This year was my tenth year at Rowland Hall and I have made some amazing friends and I will miss them. Some of the good memories that I have with my friends here are like telling the most hellacious jokes. All of my friends are sisters or brothers to me. They accept me for who I am and I will never forget that. I am moving to Arizona this summer and I will never forget them - they are like my second family. I really want to say thank you to my specialty teachers because they have done so much for me. And Chuck White and Linda Tatomer, you guys have done so much for me and I want to thank you for it. This year was so much fun. I met a lot of new people and have one last year at Rowland Hall. The three people that I want to thank the most are my mom and dad and my sister, they have done so much for me this year and my whole life and my sister has been great even if she was not there all the time to help. I love all of these people in different ways that make them special.
Best Years of my Life by Milana Teter
Hi, my name is Milana Teter and I have had an amazing opportunity here at Rowland Hall, so wonderful that I would like to share it with you. Because I don’t have all the time in the world, even though I wish I did, I’m just going to share the best moments I have had here.
When I walked into the classroom on my first day of kindergarten, I found that I wasn’t the only Milana, but there was another Milana and a Milan all in the same class. One of the best things was that we were always there for each other, not just because we had the same name, but because of the community.
Not just the students at Rowland Hall care, but the administration couldn’t possibly be any better. One of the things I will miss most about Rowland Hall is Mr. Sparrow. He is the kindest and most generous headmaster ever. This part hasn’t ever happened to me because I keep my self safe, but I hear that when someone gets hurt, Mr. Sparrow sends a get well card. He is the person I will probably miss most because he is retiring and even when I visit he won’t be there. I will miss his good mornings to us, when he comes in and reads to us, and of course his ties. Rowland could never even come close to replacing him.
Just when I thought that things couldn’t possibly get better, I got Mr.McCandless. At first, I wasn’t super close to anyone and I’m still not, but I have something better. I’m friends, not best friends, just good friends to everyone in my class. I couldn’t have asked for a better community to be in during my last year at the Lower School. Thank you.
Rowland Hall: Making Us Who We Are by Raneem Alsolaiman & Milan Mickelson
Hi, my name is Milan and I’ve been at Rowland Hall since 3pK.
Raneem: Hello, my name is Raneem Alsolaiman and this is my fourth year at this school. Do you remember the first day you came to Rowland Hall and you felt like you had butterflies in your stomach, not knowing if you will fit in or make friends?
Milan: If so, you're not alone. We all felt that way. Who was the one who helped you overcome these fears? Was it a teacher, a fellow classmate, or other people in the school?
Raneem: Rowland Hall has pushed us forward, challenging us, and making us try our best. If you get something done you are given something harder, so you can learn so many virtues like persistence, hard work, tenacity, and more.
Milan: Even if things are boring to some students, Rowland Hall has taught us to make the best out of everything. They make learning fun and mistakes something good, so you can learn from them.
Raneem: Rowland Hall has tried its best over several years to teach children and others about community work and teamwork. Each grade has done one or more community service projects for others. The school helps us as students to learn about community service, teamwork, and how to help the world in general.
Milan: Some of our favorite service projects were The Rainforest Conversation, Utah Food Bank, and knitting the hats in third grade. A lot of the adults at Rowland Hall have worked so hard to help students through all obstacles. Here are a few: Dave Sidlow, Jazmin Adamson, Stuart McCandless, Rebecca Filion, and Marianne Jenkins, are only a few of the amazing adults.
Raneem: These are only some examples of Rowland Hall helping us with our education.
Milan: We are so excited for the next years at Rowland Hall. Thank you.
Seven Years by Sarah Shakib
Hello, I’m Sarah Shakib. I have been going to Rowland Hall for seven years now and throughout all those years I’ve changed and grown as a person because of all of you. I am, at times, a little questionable and unorganized but almost all the things I love most about myself I was taught by one of you. In first-grade, Dave Sidlow taught me that if you work at Rowland Hall you have a mini dream house in your cabinet, and we had many fun moments as we started off our lower school experience. School became a second home. In fourth-grade I had Mr. Stack. We learned about Native Americans, Utah’s water sources, and so much more about our home state. Now I’ve landed in fifth-grade. Mrs. Button (my name twin) taught me that research shows a lot of important things. She teaches us HOW to think, not WHAT to think. All of my teachers in some way made the Sarah you see now standing before you all. They taught me how to read, write, do math, and even how to help others learn and grow like I did, and will because of all of my truly incredible teachers and friends. I look back at what has happened throughout our Rowland Hall Lower School experience and now, my very last day, I am immensely proud of what we have all become, and looking forward to seeing what life will make of us all.
GRIT by Tyler Lehman
Grit is what it takes to make it through life. Grit is what it takes to finish that darn never-ending math homework. Grit runs this school. Hi, my name is Tyler Lehman and this is what grit means to me. As we make it through the road of lifelong education we must have grit. We need to persevere to finish that project. We need to have a growth mindset to face the grueling task of taking ERB’s. That is what grit means to me.
When I was little I had to show grit. I have dyslexia and I had to have grit to make it through that. Though I didn’t really know what grit meant, Rowland Hall showed me the importance of it. As we finish the year, we need to remind others to have grit and to not entirely slack off during the summer. I think Rowland Hall has the example of grit everywhere and it teaches it very well. Though I will be leaving this year, and so will others, we can still be together in our memories. And one final word to the fifth-grade class of 2019: we did it!