Students Share Inspiration and Gratitude at
2023 Graduation Ceremonies
At this year's twelfth-, eighth-, and fifth-grade graduation ceremonies and end-of-year events, student speakers shared reflective and inspiring stories about their experiences at Rowland Hall.
The group included twelfth-grade graduation speakers Layla Hijjawi, Student Council representative, and Charlie Frech, Bishops' Award recipient; Senior Celebration speaker Anna Hull; Senior Chapel speakers Aileen Robles and Anthony Sanchez; eighth-grade graduation speakers Sofia Drakou and Paulina Ize-Cedillo; and several fifth-grade speakers.
- Layla Hijjawi, Student Council Representative
- Charlie Frech, Bishops' Award Recipient
- Anna Hull, Senior Celebration Speaker
- Aileen Robles, Senior Chapel Speaker
- Anthony Sanchez, Senior Chapel Speaker
- Sofia Drakou, Eighth Grade Speaker
- Paulina Ize-Cedillo, Eighth Grade Speaker
- Fifth-Grade Speeches
Good morning, everyone! I’m Layla Hijjawi, and I’ve given hundreds of speeches in the past four years as a debater. So for my final speech of high school, I thought I might take the easy route out, one our teachers have begged us to avoid throughout the year. Rather than heeding their advice, I immediately went to ChatGPT and asked, “What does one say in a graduation speech?”—teachers, I am so sorry, and you were right because I was offered vague platitudes at best.
In my unsuccessful attempt to cheat my way into a free speech, I was reminded of the senior class’ grappling with this question of artificial intelligence … versus what makes us human, programming versus people, a question we’ve been asked to consider this year by faculty like Dr. Hickman and one I’m sure many in the audience have considered as well.
In class, some of us chose to define humanity in terms of achievement-striving, our propensity for greatness, what many of us think of when reading the portion of the mission statement that says “pursuit of academic and personal excellence.” After all, the class of 2023 has an array of athletes and mathletes, musicians and poets, advocates and volunteers, and most importantly, arm wrestling champions—own that—there is no doubt that the students who sit behind me have thoroughly fulfilled this aspect of Rowland Hall’s mission.
But what about the part of our extended mission? That Rowland Hall students also flourish as people. What makes us human and our experience at Rowland Hall surely can’t just be boiled down to a few achievements in a vacuum. In fact, I know it can’t. Because at Rowland Hall, I’ve watched my peers offer eager support to the community through events like the Sunnyvale refugee clinics and Half Day, Whole Heart and endless student fundraisers like the Make-A-Wish effort. I’ve seen them celebrate all student achievements, rather than just receiving accolades themselves, including celebrating the debate team’s accomplishments with enough enthusiasm to mistake us for a football team—only at Rowland Hall, folks. I’ve seen them engage with teachers who know us by name and ask us how we are, including those like Coral Azarian who follow up asking how we are by asking what “I definitely slept enough last night” really means. I’ve watched them offer empathy in droves, whether it be tackling the infamous ad project together, dwelling in the mutual sorrow of college essays (won’t miss those…), or embracing what it means to fail together in the face of the Hamlet multiple choice quizzes this winter. And lastly, I’ve had them show me what it’s like to thrive in a community where I am celebrated for who I am and where I come from.
It’s these moments of apparent mundanity, these irreplaceable small kindnesses, that have filled our time at this school. It’s these irreplaceable moments through which we’ve carved a space in our lives where we practice not just what it means to be seen and heard by our peers but what it means to be encouraged to make ourselves visible, to be loud, and to do the same to others, something possible only through an environment of consistent kindness. This inspires us to share ideas, to try new things, to balance on the fine line between failure and success with the knowledge that there is a community that supports us indiscriminately. This makes the achievements of today and the achievements of tomorrow for this class possible.
Thus it’s through these small kindnesses that we flourish as people, and it’s that flourishing as people, that flourishing of character, through which we enable those around us to flourish too—that is what it means to be a student at Rowland Hall and now we can finally answer Dr. Hickman’s existential question of what it means to be human.
Thanks are in order. As tools like Chat GPT proliferate into society and our graduation speeches, I find the world being increasingly divided into the “e-replaceable,” my dad’s phrase for things replaceable by electronic technology, and the “irreplaceable,” with an I. ChatGPT might be able to replace the grammatical editing or syntax that went into this speech, but the people, the relationships, and the little moments that have shaped my experience at Rowland Hall firmly fall into the second category of irreplaceable kindness. So thank you, students of the class of 2023, for an incredible high school experience—we have all grown in ways I never imagined. Thank you, teachers and staff, for making us who we are today—you have believed in us when we failed to believe in ourselves. Kindness isn’t a given, it’s observed and learned like calculus, AP Psychology, and, for some of us, parallel parking—others should really stick to the senior lot—you teachers and staff have cultivated that kindness in the classroom, cafeteria, and school halls so that it can flourish beyond them. Thank you to my family and all of our families for being the place where these kindnesses were born and for celebrating us in our greatest moments and tolerating us in our most patience-testing moments of teenage angst.
Students—we all have been given the extraordinary gift of the community I’ve done my best to describe—that gift is also a responsibility. It’s a responsibility to take these lessons in how to be kind and to export those to wherever we go next—as great philosopher and scholar of our time Timothee Chalamet says, “You have to realize life is coming from you and not at you,” and you possess the ability to take the kindness you’ve learned here and inject it into the life that will come from you as we move into the next stage of life—by the way, I’m 90 percent sure Timothee stole that quote, 10 percent sure he used ChatGPT to generate it. Sorry to my Chalamet fans in the audience.
So as my final request to my fellow students of Rowland Hall, take this infinity of irreplaceable moments with you, defined by your class, your candor, and most importantly your kindness—in doing so, you will continue to create communities like the one we’ve found in Rowland Hall, becoming the people the world so desperately needs in a time when tolerance and compassion are so scarce in all aspects of society but so desperately needed to solve the challenges humanity faces today—the resolution to this problem starts here and it starts with you in ways smaller than you might have imagined. Congratulations, class of 2023. I believe with my whole heart that you will go on to do extraordinary things because you are all extraordinary people. Thank you.
Good morning, everyone, and congratulations to the class of 2023! I am extraordinarily honored and humbled to be the recipient of the Bishops’ Award this year and have the opportunity to speak and, given that I will be living in Music City next year, sing in front of everyone here today.
As I began thinking about this speech, I reflected on our conversations from our AP Literature class with Dr. Hickman this year. Specifically, in an age of ever advancing AI, we explored the central question “What makes us human?” And no, this allusion does not mean ChatGPT wrote this speech. French existentialist theorist Jean-Paul Sartre states that our humanity is rooted in the idea that our existence precedes our essence. Let me say that one more time: our existence precedes our essence. In other words, initially we as humans are merely concrete physical beings. However, we must have the freedom to live our lives and interact with others to discover, define, and develop who we are (our “essence”). So as I sat at home, contemplating existentialist theory, and yes that statement does warrant a double eye-roll and a heavy sigh in this sweltering heat, I wondered, what defines our essence, collectively, as members of the Rowland Hall class of 2023?
To answer my question, I emailed a representative simple random sample (shout-out to Mr. Birchler, our statistics teacher who taught us this concept) of members from our grade and asked them to tell me about their high school experiences. Immediately you may be wondering, “Wow, Charlie Frech, that is a daunting task. Asking seniors with the treacherous ailment of senioritis to read AND respond to an email?!” Luckily my endeavors of trying to coordinate our Junior Year Music Video last year taught me how to persevere through this challenge. I must momentarily digress from my conversation about existentialism to shout out Livi Boe, Noah Shewell, and Kate Altman for being the only people to show up for that music video event: I greatly appreciated it. Anyways, returning to Sartre’s theory, after reading the responses from the students I emailed, I decided the best way to present my findings on what I believe defines our collective essence as members of the class of 2023 is through a simple metaphor: life is a game, and our essence influences how we “play.”
So let’s start with a classic game: Monopoly. The goal of Monopoly is to bankrupt your opponents and accumulate the most property. Monopoly celebrates selfish motivations. If you live life like you play Monopoly, in the end you will be lonely and despised. Thus, this game shows that relationships matter and that we must value welcoming everyone: two of the core values here at Rowland Hall. Luckily the email responses I received from my fellow graduates have shown me that a core characteristic of our essence as members of the class of 2023 is we are an interdependent community. Whether it is Jordyn vanOrman who fondly recalls doing AP Chemistry homework with Ryan Aguilar at midnight in the hallways of random hotels during their volleyball tournaments, Maddie Carlin swimming in freezing cold water and quickly making new friendships outside of her core friend group during the ninth-grade class trip, Zachary Klein’s almost boundless positivity that motivated Micah Sheinberg to pursue debate all four years of high school, or Arden Loucheim’s amazing Division 1–caliber golf skills that inspire Katerina Gianoulis, these anecdotes have shown me that our essence as a class is rooted in the friendships we have all cultivated with one another and the lessons we have taught each other. I am personally grateful to all my friends in high school, whether it was Luca Bressloff who taught me the importance of self-confidence as I consistently destroyed him in FIFA, Jack Vitek and Anthony Sanchez, my fellow captains, who taught me the importance of leadership on the soccer field, Evan Jahn who taught me the importance of adaptability when he showed me how to select different items on the Chipotle menu based on my mood, or Kai Dowdle who showed me the importance of humor during the ups and downs of life. I urge you all to continue to make new relationships and friends in all your future endeavors: do not live life like it’s a Monopoly game. And, side note, never let my brother Andrew Frech be the banker if you play Monopoly with him.
Another game that reflects our collective essence is chess: a personal favorite of mine even though I have a 15 percent win rate against Zach Selzman. A chess game is a microcosmic representation of life, spread on a checkerboard of 64 squares. Like life, every decision one makes in the opening will influence the middle and endgames. Thus, chess shows the value of thinking deeply: another core value here at Rowland Hall. Whether it was applying skills like diligence that the ad project taught, perseverance that running from the AP Spanish exam straight to the AP Biology exam required (shout-out to Gwenyth Hodson), or creativity that designing our Senior Lip Sync this year fostered (shout-out to my Vice President Will Lehman), Rowland Hall has taught us all how to think, not only what to think. Thus, another critical characteristic of our collective essence is our ability to think critically, take risks, and solve problems creatively. As we start the next chapters of our lives I urge you to continue to implement these different ways of thinking. Even if you metaphorically blunder your queen, use your abilities to think deeply to create a clever fork that might “get you back in the game.”
The final game that manifests who we are as the class of 2023 is Scrabble. In this game, a player is randomly dealt an array of seven letters which they must use to add to other words already on the board. Much like at the beginning of a game of Scrabble, when we enter high school we have very limited knowledge of the world: our personal Scrabble board is blank. However, as we all progressed throughout high school, our teachers added to our boards. Whether it was how Sarah Walsh and Dan Jones’ art history course altered the way Daisy Innis-Davidson constructs historical narratives, how KP and Dr. Kogan’s jovial spirit during the Denver Ghost Tour Interim trip showed Iman Ellahie and Heidi Paisley that friendships with teachers are possible and enriching, how Mark Oftedal taught Will Cunningham the value of patience and hardwork through their mutual love of cross country, or how Señor showed me the importance of kindness and sympathy as he supported me emotionally while my favorite soccer team, the Tottenham Hotspur,s lost to relegation battling teams, without our teachers we would not be where we are today. As we move into the next stage of life, it is now our job to continue to learn and live with purpose so that we may build on the “words” (or knowledge) that our teachers have laid down on our personal Scrabble boards. Sometimes, you may be dealt an unfortunate hand of Qs, Xs, and Zs. However, Rowland Hall has taught us how to live in a pizzazzy (which is a whopping 49 points) way to persevere and thrive in a dynamic world even when we are dealt with tough conditions that are out of our control.
To conclude, I would like to return to the question I laid out at the beginning of this speech: what
defines our collective essence as members of the class of 2023? I want to take a moment and request that everybody in the audience look at the graduates on stage right now. To quote arguably the most famous high school coming-of-age movie of all time, The Breakfast Club, “You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” Thus, while we all may appear different on the outside because of our unique personalities, experiences, and relationships, the answer to this aforementioned central question is that we all collectively embody each of Rowland Hall’s five core values: we all think deeply, value welcoming everyone, recognize that relationships matter, live with purpose, and have the abilities to learn for life. So let me consequently return to the metaphor I laid out in this speech: life is a game, and our essence influences how we “play.” As we all get ready to roll the dice and metaphorically make the next move in our lives, do not lose these characteristics of who you are and forget the relationships that have forged who have become today: for they have set you all up to succeed in life. I will certainly not forget about you all and the lessons you have taught me, so in tandem with my allusion to The Breakfast Club,
“Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
Don't you forget about me.”
Despite being one of the very few students to have not taken psychology this year, by mere proximity, I’ve learned about how many animals possess unique, incredibly specific, forms of cyclical memory. Crows, for example, remember the faces of those who have shown them kindness or animosity, and pass this information to their children. Cats attempt to return to an old house after their owners have moved to a new neighborhood. Monarch butterflies migrate to the same geographical place every year of their lives, using magnetic waypoints. All of these patterns are justified by these animals’ biological instincts; their senses are overwhelmed by an undefinable force. Many scholars believe humans effectively lack instincts because of our ability to override them in current society. This dynamic means that we return to people, places, and communities, not because we are pushed to, but because we choose to.
I’m sure I’m not the only one in this room who has turned to their friend, at age 18, and realized they were first friends at age 5. Just as we shared colors of construction paper and orange crayons, we now share forgotten books and study guides. These lifetime connections are not required; we are not instinctually forced to do this. Instead, we return to places, and people, where we feel safe, secure, and loved; we find our waypoints in one another.
Our current cyclical friendships are proof that we already choose one another, over and over again, at Rowland Hall. And, class of 2023, I know that we will continue to do so.
If nothing else, I’ve learned at Rowland Hall to use evidence for my claims, so here’s some for this argument: KP posts pictures of old seniors on her Instagram, after they’ve met for coffee. Every art teacher can identify the artist behind a forgotten piece of work from years prior. We can all find each other within the baby photos, even after meeting at age 16.
We stand, clustered and squinting around a collage of faces, aching to recognize one another, imitating the crows. Students return to school, and are greeted with love, and sometimes even jobs. Such as Dr. Kogan, who was taught by my own mother, and then taught me.
I myself left Rowland Hall for a number of years. I did not have to return, but I did. I chose to. I chose to because of my prior happiness. Although I cannot explain exactly how or why I’m best friends with the same people in my senior year as I was in kindergarten, or ninth grade, or last year, I have a feeling I subconsciously chose that too. I decided to fall in love with those people, and those relationships, once again.
We are not monarch butterflies. We will not be drawn by our spines and heartstrings back to this building. But we will choose to find one another again, in some way, due to the undeniable connection that comes with wasting your childhood with someone. I will choose you all again because of my connective duets in dance, because of my giggling English class this year, and because of fire-hazardous parking lot barbecues. And I am confident that you’ll also choose each other again and again, because instinct or not, we have learned the paths homeward-bound, and Rowland Hall was one of our first.
Hello, everyone. Today I was instructed to discuss my time at the Upper School here at Rowland Hall, but I wanna take it back a couple of years, maybe like nine to ten years, when I was in third grade at Roho. At the time a lot of changes had been going on in my life, from moving to having to make new friends since my best friend at the time had transferred schools. However, the most notable change for me at the time was that the school had removed some bushes which for the past two years at the Lower School was where I often played and hung out with my friends. I would just like to note that this removal of bushes was quite a rational choice given that the roots were actually harming nearby trees but I digress. I was left distraught and protested the change—well, protested as well as any nine-year-old could, and in response, the school negotiated with me and provided that to replace the bushes they would add a little rock sanctuary in its place, which looking back is really quite cute. This story has two morals, one is that I really know when to dramatize trivial issues. But two, even through change and discomfort Rowland Hall’s community has remained a pillar of support for me to question my environment and open dialogue about topics of my interest.
When I first entered high school I could not predict the amount of growth and change that was about to transpire in the next four years. In my freshman year, I was met with a whole new faculty and system I was not accustomed to. I went from a grading system of meetings and meeting pluses to a letter grade system. I probably had a whiplash of change or confusion each period on my first day. I took my greatest hit in French. I went from a kind and understanding Mrs. Brigdon to Mr. Wortham who was flinging coins at my face and making other students grade my bad French grammar in real time. I was also met with teachers like Sarah Walsh who completely turned my axis and challenged my way of thinking, quite literally. I don’t think before her class I even perceived the words communism or socialism in my life until I entered her class.
Through my years at Rowland Hall, I got to explore passions of mine through means of debate and political science. Last year, Mr. Shackelford in my political science class had us research legislation that was happening in our state, and I looked into House Bill 374: Sensitive Materials in School. This bill followed a phenomenon that nationwide is occurring more and more often, which is the ban or withholding of information, lessons, discussions, and books from students. Many of the lessons I learned here at Rowland Hall came from questions and the ability for my teachers to discuss with their students openly about “controversial” topics. Let’s be honest here, are you really a student at Rowland Hall if Dr. Jones did not play devil's advocate with you at least once and make you completely reevaluate your way of thinking?
When thinking about what I wanted to write for this speech I kept turning back to HB 374 and what makes Rowland Hall’s community so different from others. And after reflecting I have concluded it is the authenticity of this school and institution. The privilege every student here has to openly discuss and talk about our interests and passions is unmatched. For me being at Rowland Hall meant learning from Dr. Jackson that the Indigo Girls were not just two girls in a band, but actually a lesbian couple at one point, but also for making me listen to my first Indigo Girls song, which by the way “Closer to Fine” is a great song, definitely recommend. It was in art history when my class had to take routine checks out the door to make sure no visitors or unassuming individuals walked in on Sarah’s amazing presentation on second-wave feminism art, which definitely included important but unique pieces to say the least. It was the ability to read Beloved by Toni Morrison in KP’s class and have uncomfortable but important conversations about the issues of historical and systemic racism in the United States. It was discussing the issues of eugenics and the historical and modern oppression of women in the scientific field taught by Dr. Rida and learning about important women in STEM in physics with Mr Hori. It was even giving a more than a 20-minute presentation on BTS in French and another 20-minute Q&A, and despite all that was not able to convince Madame Bentley to become a fan.
Lastly, this past year Coral and Michelle prepared us seniors to question what our next steps are, and I can say with confidence that at no point did I ever feel alone in that process, confused with myself, oh, 100 percent, but I never felt like I was unsupported in the process. Rowland Hall is a community I have had the privilege to be a part of for almost all my life as a Lifer and there has never been a dull moment. From the friends I have made and the mentors who have taught me a life span of knowledge, I and my classmates in the senior year will enter a new chapter in life where we won’t forget the strength and knowledge that Rowland Hall has ingrained in us but use that foundation as a means to continue to grow and aspire change in others. Thank you for these past years, Rowland Hall!
I would like to commence my speech with a quote from Bruce Lee. He says, “Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friends.” I believe Bruce Lee grapples with our ability to adapt to new settings and our ability to put ourselves in the perspective of others. Today I invite you all to experience the last ten years of Rowland Hall through my perspective; I invite you to be water.
I joined Rowland Hall in third grade, and it was a drastic change from my previous school. I recall I would go to school without eating breakfast because my family thought that breakfast was served every morning. For the next week and a half, Kathy Gunderson and my third-grade teacher, Jasmine Adamson, would give me granola bars and apples to calm my crying stomach. Making friends was hard; I did the first introduction projects with my teacher, I sat at the allergy table alone during lunch, and surprisingly was always selected last for the soccer teams. My parents didn’t attend my first Rowland Hall Holiday Performance, where we all played the xylophones, and my grandparents never showed up for Grandparents Day. I felt like an outcast watching my classmates hug their parents as they walked out of the dining hall and when they read books to their grandparents. The worst part was my shame in stepping into my dad's car. The old grey 2005 Chevy Trailblazer, surrounded by the new Mercedes Benz, Range Rover, Audi, etc. I walked towards the car every day with my head down. My parents noticed my struggles during the first half of that year. They sat me on the couch and told me that they supported my decision if I wanted to leave, but with time, I adapted to my new school; I met two amazing friends, Jack and Will, whom I am grateful for because they were the first to open their homes up to me, the first to invite me to a birthday party, and the first to offer me a seat at a table that wasn’t the allergy table. They have taught me how to navigate Rowland Hall from third grade until now while always keeping a childish spirit.
As time progressed, I became more comfortable with the predominantly white institution. Like the Bruce Lee quote, I felt like water, molding myself to fit in with the people around me. I would beg my father for new branded shoes, an Apple watch, and other expensive items that my classmates had. And there he was—working sixteen hours a day, five times a week—providing me with all these fool's gold luxuries. It wasn’t until seventh grade that I realized the real luxury was spending time with him. You see, seventh grade was when I started shaping myself and building my identity; that was the year I joined my first soccer team full of vulgar Hispanic teenage boys and worked with my mother cleaning offices to earn extra money to pay my club fees. I would go to school for eight hours, complete my homework, go to practice, and finish the day by dumping out trash cans, wiping down desks, and hoovering the smallest bits of trash. I recall passing by an office with a familiar last name. When I entered the office to empty out the bin, I was met with a family portrait with a friend from Rowland Hall in it. Like a wave in the ocean hitting the side of a ledge, I crashed. I was caught in a liminal space—between the community of Rowland Hall and my people, the vulgar teenage boys and the people that clean your parents’ offices. I began to think that I did not belong at Rowland Hall, That I was there out of pity.
This thought came across my mind often; it was a whisper accentuating that I did not belong. I regressed to my third-grade self, feared being judged, and thought everyone felt I had no place at this school. But once again, my friends Boden, Jaiden, Luca, Layla, Charlie, Alex, and Ian always welcomed me with open arms. Boden’s optimism and willingness to try new things, Jaiden, Luca, and Layla’s humility, Charlie, Alex, and Ian’s competitive spirit; they always embraced me. A moment that struck me was when I invited my friends to my first State final. I thought nobody would show up, but in the corner were the people I least expected to be there, Livi, Katerina, and Gwenyth. These three showed up to one of the happiest days of my life, and while none of my friends mentioned above said it, they have shown me that I belong.
Faculty members such as Mr. Hori, Mr. Mellor, Ms. Yoon, Ms. Blake, and Lisa Miranda have all done the same. I recall a conversation with Mr. Hori in which he pointed out that all I was doing was surviving; this conversation highlighted that I was taking my friendships for granted. He has also shown me that failure is a step toward improvement and that resilience is strong enough to overcome adversities. Mr. Mellor has supported me for the last four years, giving me the freedom to express myself through colored pencils and providing me with values that have helped me become a better leader. Ms. Yoon, I never took an orchestra class, but I was always in there. Four years ago, Ms. Yoon told me I would be up here giving a speech to the school. Ms. Blake has been the best advisor, showing interest in my studies and extracurriculars, applauding me for my academic achievements, and appearing at every home soccer game. And Lisa, who has witnessed me grow from the shy third grader to the competitive person I am today. She has trusted in my abilities since she met me and has always welcomed my family with open arms—lastly, Lorena. You see, Lorena does all the dirty work here, yet she never complains. She is underappreciated yet returns every day. It is faculty members like Lorena that hold the school together.
To close this off, I would like to return to Bruce Lee’s idea of being water. At Rowland Hall, we are all confined to this cup, this bottle, this teapot. My time at Rowland Hall has shown me how powerful a small community can be, but our small community is so limited to this space. We see things from our perspective, and that’s it. You see, my friends and teachers mentioned earlier all believe in me; the reason for this is that they have removed themselves from this constricted space and stepped into mine. This community has shown me that we can offer so much to others, but first, we must step out of our comfort zone and enter someone else's. I ask you all to do what my friends and teachers have done with me. Be welcoming to those who aren’t in the same cup, bottle, or teapot as you. I ask you to be formless and shapeless and reach out to those who feel alone. I ask you to come together and flow or crash as you reach out to other communities and make a greater change. To the Rowland Hall community, I thank you for morphing into my bottle in third grade and noticing the endless opportunities in me that I didn’t see. I thank you for changing my family's life. Thank you.
The Power of Curiosity
8th grade has left me,
you and I both have questions, I'm sure
ones we harnessed to enter
and to leave with
as I stand here, earnest
my question stands alone, tarnished
with no company but my desire for it to be vanquished
we both have questions
ones we have parted with,
and ones we hold besides us
my question, however
is above me
for this specific question hasn’t left my mind
it taunts me
for i abandoned it,
neglected and unanswered
my question, a reflection of itself
standing there idly being
What does it truly mean to belong?
the idea itself is
“an affinity for a place or situation”
then does this make belonging
Like the warmth of a fireplace,
or the waves of the sea?
Is it a country,
or a city?
does that city have to be your hometown, for you to feel
Or is all this thinking illogical?
for maybe belonging is a what
if belonging is a what,
is that what a word extended to a feeling?
Or is it a feeling shortened down to a word?
perhaps that what is a scent, like the aroma of freshly picked herbs
Or is that what a philosophy, one created merely to comfort us?
if so, is it truly a realistic one at that?
does anyone truly feel like they belong all the time, anyways?
these questions are all pointless
for maybe belonging is not a where, or a what,
but a who
and the laughter they fill you with
or the lightness of their smile
or the warmth of their embrace
But if that were true,
why can a crowd of people surrounding us
paint us blue?
So there it is,
still haunts me,
yet at least its relevance,
for it has shown me
the true importance of curiosity
being the doors it unlocks
For questioning is never a sin,
it’s a key
question the authorities,
question the monstrosities,
even this very poem
for no change
and will ever occur
there is a lack of questioning
Maybe that’s what belonging truly is
One that should be noted, tasted
Find that when and cherish it
For only then can it turn into moments
I now realize
Maybe none of my questions were pointless to begin with
For without curiosity
I would know nothing
My question wouldn’t stand
I leave you with a question
would we even know if what we feel in that moment
is belonging to begin with?
I believe that when most people think of middle school, they think of their friends and the happy moments. However, when I think back to middle school, I think about the experiences, the good and the bad, that brought me to where I am today. There is one thing that most people and I agree with, though: middle school is a transition. The most accurate description of middle school is, perhaps, what I wrote about in my final English assignment. Middle school is like a roller coaster. It is, however, not just a roller coaster, it is also a transition to the next roller coaster: high school.
In my assignment, I wrote it like this, “Eighth grade has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, along the way, there have been several loopy loops and harsh turns that have led to the end of the middle school rollercoaster, which is truly just a step up from the kiddie rides to the start of the high school sky rides that will eventually lead to the college drop tower and then the bumper cars of life beyond education. To reach the height limit or the educational experience, in this case, you have to be ready.”
The memories that I made over my middle school years aren't something I will forget soon, not all of them are good, but not all of them are bad. My friendships, the fun and not fun experiences, the ups and downs, the expected and the unexpected have helped me become a stronger and better person.
At the time I was working on my English assignment, I was just trying to find an intro that was good enough to get the point across and to meet Mr. Smith's grading standards. Looking back, I realize just how true my intro was ... Life is a roller coaster! So buckle up and get ready because there’s no going back. And maybe one day, you’ll be able to look back and say, “Well, if I could, I would do it all over again.” Yes, including the tears, fake smiles, and lonely times. I would do it all over again because you are never alone and you learn to be “strong when everything seems to be going wrong.”
Without the challenges and without the people who held me when I wanted to cry, and even without the people who made me smile because they knew that if they didn't get me to smile, I was most likely to break, I wouldn’t be here. Today I can see how middle school is just a fragment of life with highs and lows, helping you learn to keep perspective. Lows are a bump in the road. Look forward. The tracks continue. It’s not over yet. You have years ahead of you and more chances to face life's fiery temper, and with those future chances, you will grow stronger. And the ability to enjoy the highs to the fullest. As you wait for the next big turn in the forever-moving rollercoaster, don't be scared. You are just on the verge of something new. So lean back and enjoy the ride.
Community, by Talia B.
Hello everyone. I am Talia B., a fifth grader at the Rowland Hall Lower School. Before I came to school, I used to think that community is just a group of people, but I have learned that community is so much more than that. Community isn’t just a group of people, it’s an experience of people being with each other and supporting one another to face challenges. And whether it’s a park cleanup or a potluck dinner, community is visible almost everywhere you go. Whether you know it or not, you are part of a community. Teaching people about these community values is very important. Through all of the Community Sings and community gatherings, the Rowland Hall Lower School has taught everyone to cherish all of our communities and make people smile. These are amazing principles everyone should learn, and learning all of these values will make you an overall better person in my opinion. I am so grateful to Rowland Hall and all of my teachers for teaching everyone about all of the values we all should know. I will most definitely bring all of the things I have learned at the Lower School with me to middle school next year. Thank you so much for listening to my speech.
My History at Rowland Hall, by Neal N.
Hello! My name is Neal N. Today, I would like to talk a little about my teachers and mentors who have been there with me all through my time at Rowland Hall. They have been excellent guides and listening ears anytime and anywhere. They have helped me face my fears and deal with my emotions.They all have taught me how to always have fun and be positive.
Let’s start with Susanna, my first grade teacher. She was the type of teacher who would sing songs and make jokes. She always came in with a smile on her face and made me feel welcome in the classroom. Her classroom was always super colorful, decorated with animals and other mystical people from books. She had a big dragon and a giant on one wall in the classroom. I had never been in such a colorful classroom before. I could tell when I first walked in and saw her mystical creatures, that first grade was going to be joyful, happy, and full of fun. And it definitely was.
In second grade, Dave was my teacher. One of the best things about Dave is that he would always listen to us. Any time that I asked a question, even if it was an annoying one, he would always laugh and answer me. Dave never got frustrated, instead he was always patient and kind. Dave also found fun ways to teach us things. He would use riddles to teach critical thinking skills. He presented us with a really hard riddle at the beginning of the year and asked us the answer on the last day of school. Luckily, Ahmi, Mateo, and I had been talking about it all year, so we were ready. This was my COVID year, and I felt lucky to have Dave because he made school fun, even though it was online.
Oh! And don’t let me even get started with Mr. Stack, he was my fourth-grade teacher. He was caring and compassionate and he was the one who taught me about how to walk away from situations I thought were difficult. I knew I could always go to him if something bad had happened or if I was worried about something. Like Dave, he was also a really good listener. He loved using jokes while teaching. One day in math, we were doing something like math bingo that was based around a dragon. He joked and said, “You can go down Diagon Alley.” I was confused and he explained to me that in Harry Potter there is a Diagon Alley and it sounds like the word diagonally. To sum it up, Mr. Stack made everything fun, cared about us, and tried to lighten things up, even math.
Last but not the least, I would like to give a big shout-out to all my specialty teachers and special thanks to Jij, Emma, and Chuck for being there.
I would like to thank all of my teachers for helping me go to a new grade every year and teaching me important lessons. When I take a look back from the first day at Beginning School till today being the last day at Lower School, “Wow!" I was once in 4PreK and now I am in sixth grade. Thank you again for helping me get through my years at Rowland Hall.
Grateful for Rowland Hall, by Annika S.
In my four and a half years at Rowland Hall I’ve made a lot of friends and connections. I’ve learned math, literature, science, and much more, but one of the most important things I’ve learned is gratitude. Gratitude is being thankful for your friends and family so I would like to give a few notes of gratitude to the people at Rowland Hall. First I would like to thank my teachers, Ms. Liz, Ms. Beverly, Mr. Matthew, Mrs. B, Mrs. Pectol, Ms. Jen and all the others who help me, because they all allowed me to explain my feelings whenever I am sad, angry or disappointed. They also taught me that change matters and if I see a problem I have the power to fix it.
I would also like to thank the staff like Laura, the cooks, nurses, and everyone else who makes this school a success. I appreciate all of the hours you spend to keep Rowland Hall running smoothly. I’m also grateful for your kindness to the students and that you are always willing to help.
Lastly, I would like to thank the students who learn, play, and make lifelong connections here. You inspire others every day. Remember, today’s learners will become tomorrow’s leaders.
Don’t Forget Where You Came From, by Dylan S.
Hello, my name is Dylan S. and it is a true blessing to be speaking to you. Today we celebrate the great achievement of completing the fifth grade. As we move forward to middle school, we should be grateful for this opportunity and not take it for granted. Just over one hundred years ago, my great grandfather stopped his formal education going into the sixth grade. He had many siblings, and money was short. He started delivering newspapers, shining shoes, and even started amateur boxing. So while we may be graduating fifth grade today, my great grandfather was strapping boxing gloves onto his hands to keep his family together. As I move on from fifth grade, I will not let my great grandfather’s perseverance, grit, and hard work be forgotten. I’m sure that every family has a story like this one. A story that should be cherished and be an inspiration to move on through the tough times we may experience in the future. Though some of us are scared or uncertain of what lies ahead, we shouldn’t be scared, but grateful, because it is an opportunity that not all people get. In second grade, the ancestor project encouraged us to dive into our family’s history and celebrate who has contributed to our future. This project greatened my understanding of how every generation before has been working so hard to make sure life is a little bit better for the next generation. Rowland Hall has a new mission: developing people the world needs. The world needs people that are grateful, and people that can be humble. The world needs people that can remember where they came from, people that can push forward even when you have to strap boxing gloves on. These are the qualities that we have formed at the Lower School, and these are the qualities that are going to propel us through the rest of our education. So as we venture into the future, we can’t forget what our ancestors have done to present us with opportunities. We need to remember where we came from as we navigate the road ahead.
Best Teachers Ever!, by Elle W. & Elle H.
Before we introduce ourselves, we would like to say that we are the only two people in the Lower School who spell their names E-L-L-E.
But here’s the catch: we pronounce our names differently.
Hi everyone, this is Elle Hanlon and Elle Wucetich.
My name is Ell-e, not Elle. My friend, Elle, helped me write our speech but obviously my pronunciation is way better.
Although we will argue about whose pronunciation is better, we still have things in common like our friendship, our love for lacrosse, and our desire to celebrate our wonderful teachers. Today, we would like to tell everyone that we will be talking about two teachers that changed our Lower School experience in an amazing way. We would like to thank every teacher and faculty member who has been supportive of us throughout this journey at Rowland Hall Lower School.
We think that someone that was very encouraging and supportive of us was a new fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Sam Johnson. We hope she felt welcomed into our community. She always puts a smile on our faces when we see her in the halls or in class. Ms. Sam pushes me to try my hardest and do my very best. Ms. Sam will definitely be always in our hearts when we move into Middle School and beyond. We were lucky to have Ms. Sam join the Rowland Hall community. Thanks for being the best teacher ever and for a great last Lower School year. I hope that the
future fifth graders love all the fifth-grade teachers as much as we do.
Even though Ms. Sam wasn’t my teacher, I still experienced Ms. Sam’s positive attitude in Math Club. One of my highlights from fifth grade was Math Club. I always loved seeing Ms. Sam in the halls. She always secretly dropped a hint when she noticed that some of us couldn’t find the answer. Another teacher that I loved was Mrs. Spiro. She was always sooo happy and she really pushed me to do my best work. First, in the biography project, when she helped me whenever I needed help, and with anything that I needed help with. Whenever I see Mrs. Spiro in the halls, she always says hi and hugs me. I feel like Mrs. Spiro had the same positive attitude as Ms. Sam. I really want to say thank you, Mrs. Spiro, for being the best teacher I could ever wish for. Thank you, everyone!
My Experience of the Five Values, by Lina S.
Dear parents, teachers, and friends, my name is Lina. I am one of Colleen’s students. At this time when we are transitioning from Lower School to Middle School, I would like to share with you how I felt really connected with Rowland Hall’s five values. The five values are: think deeply, learn for life, welcome everyone, live with purpose, and relationships matter. I would like to highlight a few of them. One value in particular is very clear to me: welcome everyone. My family chose Rowland Hall over other schools because this school welcomes everyone. For example, I felt that my traditions and holidays were as important as any other holiday. The second value is to live with purpose, which I did not understand until I was involved in a Thanksgiving food drive and helped unhoused people with entertainment activities. It felt important to participate in community service and live with purpose besides our daily activities.
I remember when I was in kindergarten and my sister was in 3PreK. Me and my sister’s classrooms were right in front of each other. We’d wave at each other through the glass door. When I was in third grade I would tell my teacher, Sara Dacklin, that I am going to the bathroom but I would actually go and sneak a note to my sister downstairs in first grade. Relationships matter, a key value for sure in this school. As for learning for life, I learned a lesson that sometimes in life things are hard. We had to leave school and go online in the middle of the year in second grade because of COVID. It was very hard because the Zoom links would not work and the assignments were unclear. It was a mess for both students and teachers. On top of that, I remember I was on Zoom with Katie Schwab and the earthquake happened. She said, “Students go under the table.” In fourth grade there were some challenges I faced. I was being bullied and called names by one of my classmates. There was this group of friends that helped me get through every time I got bullied. Fifth grade strengthened these relationships and hopefully we will stay friends forever.
Overall Rowland Hall is very fun. I would like to thank my friends, teachers, and parents for these amazing years. I hope that the next and following fifth graders enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you.
The Impact of Girls’ Education, by Madeline H.
Hi, my name is Madeline. I know that as a girl, I am fortunate to have such an amazing education at Rowland Hall, and realize that girls in other countries may not have that privilege. A few years ago I found out about Malala. She is a girl from Pakistan and is fighting for girls’ educational rights. Every morning I wake up and see my poster of Malala’s quote: “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world.” She’s right.
The impact of girls’ education is much greater than you would think. Just to start, girls’ education helps girls and their families get better jobs to break out of poverty, increases survival rates during pregnancy for both mothers and their children, reduces instances of disease, enables families to better nourish themselves, and creates economic growth. On top of all that, educating girls reduces global warming! “How?” you may wonder. When women get educated they can better decide how many children they should have, leading to them generally having fewer, which relieves pressure from the planet by eventually having less people on earth to make carbon dioxide.
You might be asking yourself, “Is there anything I can do to help?” As a matter of fact there is! The Malala Fund invests in education advocates and activists who are challenging the policies and practices that prevent girls from going to school in their communities. If you also care about girls’ education and you’re able, I encourage you to donate to the Malala Fund and other organizations that are helping to educate girls, just like I have with my allowance money. Not everything has to be big, though. It would even help if you find a friend or neighbor to spread the word. Not everybody may feel like a soldier, but if we all come together to support girls’ education, we’ll become an army that changes the world.
My Time at Rowland Hall, by Samuel C.
Some of you may know me, some of you may not. For those of you who don’t, I’m Samuel C. I’ve been at Rowland Hall since 3PreK. The second I walked in the school I felt immediately welcomed by teachers and soon to be friends. The first few years of school flew by with making friends and learning all about math, reading, and writing. All of a sudden I was in first grade. The main building seemed like it went on forever but once I got lost a few times, it started to look familiar. That year I met Elliott S. and David K., who are my best friends to this day. We bonded so much that our teacher, Ms. April, deemed us the three musketeers. The next year COVID struck but we all pushed through to third grade. The summer between third and fourth grade something happened that I thought would never happen. My mom got diagnosed with a type of brain cancer called a glioblastoma. Just a year and a half later she sadly passed away. My teachers are always there for me during this tough time. I look forward to the many years I hope to stay at Rowland Hall. On that note I would like to say thank you to all my teachers, family members, and friends for this wonderful time at the elementary school. Thank you for listening.
Good morning fellow students, parents, and faculty. Today I would like to speak to you about what a wonderful experience I had at Rowland Hall Lower School. The best part of my time spent at Rowland Hall has been the people and the moments they have created for me. My first year coming from public school I had the privilege to be taught by Mr. Stack. Mr. Stack is everything a teacher should be. He is kind, he challenged me to come outside of my shell to use my voice to direct my own path of learning, he still remembers to this day to greet me every morning and ask how I have been. Mr. Stack inspires me to do the best I can do in my school work. Me and Ms. Sam, my fifth grade teacher, have a lot in common, we are both more book worm than social butterfly. She always has great recommendations for books that I should read. She has made my last year at Rowland Hall Lower School a memorable year that I will not forget. The friendships that I have made will carry on and that have shown me that nothing is more valuable than true friends. I would like to thank my friends for embracing me as a new student last year and creating a group of strong, kind, smart girls that have inspired me in many ways. And lastly I would like to thank my mom because she has inspired me to do my best, she has encouraged me to go the extra mile. My mom has believed in me when I have not believed in myself. My mom is the reason why I try my best. I would also like to thank my grandma for encouraging me to do my best, she has also helped me out in putting my time in to be doing my work so that way I know I did my hardest on my work.
Maia C. and Mackenzie H.
Maia: Hello my name is Maia.
Mackenzie: And my name is Mackenzie.
Maia: We are here to share our wonderful journey at Rowland Hall.
Mackenzie: We would like to thank our teachers for helping us along the way.
Maia: I came in at kindergarten and I would like to thank my kindergarten teachers Marget and Bethany, who really welcomed me to America. My first grade teacher Galen, who taught me more about the world. My second grade teacher Katy, who always knew how to put a smile on a sad face. And my third grade teacher Mathew, who gave me an Introduction to big projects, but sadly left when I moved into fourth grade.
Mackenzie: I came in at third grade and I would like to thank Ms. Spiro for welcoming me to Rowland Hall.
Maia: We would also like to thank our fourth grade teacher Ms. Love for helping us navigate friendships. And our fifth grade teacher Dr. Torry, who prepared us for middle school. We wouldn’t have made it if we didn’t have those wonderful teachers. We would also like to thank our parents for supporting and helping us.
Mackenzie: Becoming part of the Rowland Hall community was an amazing opportunity.
Maia: We have done many projects but the thing we thought did the one we worked hardest on was the American Revolution project in fifth grade. For this project we had to pick a person or an event to research and write a five paragraph essay on it.
Mackenzie: For my project I researched and wrote about Lafayette. I learnt that Lafayette had a challenging childhood and was an amazing revolutionary officer. One of the most interesting things that I learnt about him was that he got shot in the foot and continued fighting.
Maia: I researched winter at Valley Forge. I learned that winter at Valley Forge was really challenging, but it was very important for the army to improve because it built stamina and resilience in the soldiers.
Mackenzie: Thank you for coming today and thank you everyone supporting us.
Hi, I am Will H.
I am going to tell you a little about my teachers from first to fifth grade. I have always hated math but all these teachers have made it fun to learn math.
My first teacher was Mrs. Liz who is now a second grade teacher. She helped me become the person I am now. She helped me take care of problems that I was having and was making learning fun. Then came Katie Schwab she introduced me to finding patterns with addition and subtraction and if you were with her she also gives you gum before tests. In the middle of the pack is Sara Dacklin who introduced me to multiplication and graphs to show my work. She tried to challenge me and when she tried I would normally get all the answers wrong so she would have to walk me through the problems and how could you forget when she would bring out the speaker and we would pick a song and dance and sing to the beat. Then comes Mrs. Pectol. She loves the outdoors and loved when we went on field trips. I loved that she would be a little photographer for us, taking pictures of all of us when we were excited or in a good pose. She sent us a letter on the first day of school and it gave away our first field trip but then it was canceled. She led me through all the field trips we did. She was the first person to introduce me to division and helped me become fluent in my multiplication facts from 1 to 12. My favorite field trip with her was when we went to Ensign Peak because it was so hot that she brought out a spray and we would say follow the spray. Last but not least is Ms. Sam who started me with multiplication and division fractions and decimals. She gave me advice when I needed it and trust me I needed it. The most exciting part of fifth grade is that we got to learn about the American Revolution. She really helped with slowing me down to do my work thoroughly and the most important part was helping edit, that saved me later in the school year. The one thing that Ms. Sam did not like was the stamps. I bet you guys know about the stamps and about how mad we were so when we got rid of the stamps Ms. Sam was cheering like all of us. Before I wrap this up I would like to thank all my teachers for leading me through my Lower School adventure. They made my life at school fun. Hopefully I will see these teachers again.
Hi, my name is Ella K. and I would like to share my adventures through fifth grade, since I’ve only been here for a year. In the beginning I had a rough start but I made friends and want to thank them. I also want to thank my mom and dad, Matt and Lisa K., and my teacher Colleen Thompson, she has been there to help me through fifth grade. I have had an awesome experience at Rowland Hall. I am so excited for middle school but I am going to miss being in elementary school. I am glad to take the responsibility of having a locker or having different classes and electives but I need to move on from my past. In the middle of fifth grade we decided to help the community by having a community project. In this project you get to choose the space that you want to do. Mackenzie, Graham, and I decided to host a park clean-up day. It took a lot of planning but it eventually worked out. We invited fourth and fifth graders to Sunnyside Park during lunch and recess. It felt so good to help the community and to clean the space where the kindergartners/our buddies can have a nice clean space for their outdoor classroom. Thank you so much for making me feel welcome to the Rowland Hall community. And thank you for listening to my speech.
Rowland Hall has been so much fun and so welcoming on my first day at Rowland Hall. On my first day at Rowland Hall everyone was so welcoming and kind when I went into the building and my class. Right when I walked into the classroom one of my classmates invited me to hang out with them for recess. Over the time I got more used to the school and found really good friends who would always include me in a lot of the fun things we did together. Our class went on really exiting field trips and learned a lot about what the places were and what they did. One of the field trips that I enjoyed the most was Space Camp because you collaborated with your team and had to complete many tasks to achieve the goal. Before I was in fifth grade I always thought about what it would be like to be the oldest in the Lower School. When I finally began fifth grade it was so exciting and I learned that you get a lot of privileges. Our class has done many projects like our explorer project or our American Revolution project that we just finished. We also have fun choice projects like the expert talk where you get to share about one topic that you really like doing. I really enjoyed our open houses because you get to share all of your work that you have done with everyone. I have learned a lot from the Lower School and can’t wait to learn even more from the Middle School!
I would like to thank all of the fifth grade teachers for making this year so welcoming and exciting.
I am now at the end of my journey through the Lower School, and, before moving on, I want to share some of my thoughts. You will meet a lot of great teachers that will have a positive impact on your life such as Susanna, Ms. Love, and Ms. Sam. However, let’s not forget the other great teachers such as Beverly and Matthew who left Rowland Hall but will not be forgotten. Thank you to all my teachers
Arriving in fifth grade, I soon realized it was pretty hectic, with homework, with projects, and with activities however … it is always fun, and we are learning a lot of things. But don’t worry. With all the teachers’ help and encouragement, combined with your hard work, I’m pretty sure you will all make it. Just be careful of some of the teachers’ games, they can be tricky.
One of the great things about Lower School and fifth grade are your friends, too. I have so many friends I cannot mention all of them in one speech. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. And it’s thanks to them that I am here talking to you.
Now I’m sure you’ll have a great time, you will learn a lot, make new friends,and have a fantastic year. I hope you will enjoy fifth grade as much as I did with my teachers and friends.
Hello parents, teachers, faculty, and fellow students. As we gather here today, I feel many mixed emotions and feelings about the not-so-distant future. I know that some of the rest of the fifth grade feels the same way! Now, we all know that we are each moving forward in life to middle school. Some will be staying with Rowland Hall, and others are flying off to other places. Either way, everybody is growing up. Since every single one of us have never experienced middle school firsthand, it is like a strange creature, beautiful yet ugly, even if you have already heard about it from older siblings. Also, here’s something else every kid here should know: some abrupt changes are going to happen. Things like falling outs, new friendships, and complicated schedules are going to pop up. This is one of the times where friend groups will fall apart or form even stronger bonds as many challenges will begin to appear and test true friendship found only in the purest of souls. Here’s a tip: remember, everybody here has the purest of souls. Only in different ways.
Every spirit has a friend out there, though. They may be someone you have never met before, or they might as well be the person next to you! Luckily for us, we've had many lessons on how to survive, and when we finally get there in middle school, we will all have helpers to save us in the darkest of times. (Thank you, counselors!)
Now that we are gathered here today, let’s all come together for ONE LAST TIME!
The moment I stepped into Rowland Hall, I felt welcomed. I remember getting my uniform, then walking into the first grade commons to meet Galen, and singing “Baby Shark” with the whole first grade. Now every time I see Galen, I make sure to say, “Hi.” Second grade was a little bit different. The best part about second grade was Beverly Facklam because she helped me get through some tough times including COVID-19. Third grade was when I decided to be mostly remote. My teachers, Mathew and Cheryl, made work fun, so things weren't very overwhelming. I loved fourth grade because of all the teachers, and field trips.The fourth grade staff always made me feel welcomed because they were fun to learn from. Now being in fifth grade, I can’t get to my classroom without saying, “Good morning,” to the fourth grade staff. In fifth grade Jen was awesome, and homework was fun because it helped me manage my time. Rowland Hall has helped me in so many ways, from learning new things, to having fun. I would like to thank friends, family, and Rowland Hall staff for helping me learn new things, and being welcoming. Thank you Rowland Hall for being so kind, and welcoming!
Some people say that the year you graduate high school is a pivotal point in your life. That may be true, but I think that the transition into middle school is another such year. First, though, I would like to thank all of the teachers who helped me through the Lower School. Their kindness and support have guided me throughout the challenges of Rowland Hall. So many teachers helped me along the way. When I was a toddler, I learned life skills from all of my preschool teachers. Next, thanks to Mrs. April I learned to get my work done on time. In second grade, Mrs. Katie taught me so many different life lessons while we had to resort to virtual learning. Mrs. Spiro taught me multiplication so well that I still use the strategies she taught me to this day. Ms. Chen introduced us to taking notes and descriptive writing so that we “wouldn’t turn in boring work.” And last but not least, thank you, Ms. Sam, for taking the final steps to prepare us for middle school. Moving on, all of the students at the Lower School know that the experiences we have here, both in the classroom and during recess, are ones that will stay with us for the rest of our lives, even as we transition into Middle School. It is a bittersweet feeling to be leaving this beloved campus behind us. While the Middle School will surely hold many happy memories waiting to be made, it almost feels like we’re leaving a part of us behind at the McCarthey Campus. Some of us who’ve been here for several years have spent most of their lives at Rowland Hall’s beginning and lower schools. Altogether, the transition to Middle School will make the community surrounding the students and faculty stronger. I think I speak for all of fifth grade when I say that we are ready for middle school.
It all started back in 2018, my first year in the Lower School. I was very excited about the new things to come in first grade. My teacher’s name was Ms. Liz, and she immediately made me more excited for the new school year! Since it was first grade, I don’t have a lot of memories, but I still remember when I finally learned how clocks worked. I don’t know how or why, but I had always thought it was 30:00 24/7, and I have no idea why! So it was pretty nice finally learning that that was never the situation! I had a great time during my first year in the Lower School, and acknowledged the many years to come.
Then came second grade. I was still as excited as I was during the first day of first grade! My teacher was Ms. Beverly, who was a very fun and exciting teacher! She would always have fun activities awaiting us, and would even read books to us! But then came distance learning. I really wasn’t a big fan of it. All I wanted was to be in actual school, but I still got through it just fine! In fact, I got so used to having Morning Meetings on Zoom that I actually started to like it! We graduated second grade inside of our houses, but it was still great!
In third grade, we had the choice to be either on Zoom or actually at school. Of course, I chose to be in the building, which wasn’t a bad idea. My two teachers were Matthew and Cheryl, who were actually pretty good teachers! We would always make jokes that Matthew was really good at math because his name was MATtHew! Get it? Anyway, our classroom ended up being in the library, which was really fun! Also, each Friday, we would have a thing called “Bonus Time,” where we could pretty much do anything! Of course, me and my friends would always choose to play Minecraft! So third grade was actually a pretty good year!
But then, my favorite grade, fourth grade, was next in line! We went back to having an ordinary classroom, and kids would only Zoom for school every now and then. Our teacher was Ms. Pectol, who still remains my favorite teacher in the school! Ms. Pectol had a whole ticket system. No, it wasn’t like our stamps, it was actually pretty much the opposite! If you were on task, had done something helpful or your homework planner was signed by your parents, Ms. Pectol would give you a ticket. You could basically use tickets like money, you could buy a pencil, washi tape, erasable highlighters, and much more with the tickets. We also went on like 20 field trips, which were always exciting! Later in the year, Ms. Pectol let us put our own items up for sale, creating the Student Made Store! People put in crazy cool stuff, like custom erasers, 3D printed objects, comics and much more! And that is when The Marshmallow Kitties (also called MMKs for short) were born! Graham put some MMK merch in the Student Made Store and gained a lot of popularity in our class! It was definitely the best year ever!
Then finally came fifth grade. I was quite excited, being one of the oldest kids in the Lower School. I had Dr. Torry as my teacher, who was actually the mother of my SummerWorks counselor, Emily! But the really exciting part about this year is that The Marshmallow Kitties became an official company! We are still currently working on our website, but we still have some pretty good ideas about what to add! Victoria had a good idea to make stuff out of recycled plastic and donate some of the money to National Geographic. But, let’s get back to the school topic! At first, everything was great! But then, something that I didn’t exactly see coming happened. The work was overwhelming, having task by task slowly piling up, making my head want to explode. I started having trouble focusing, since I just kept having more work and more stuff to deal with. Also, a new stamp system opened up to us. Absolutely nobody liked it, but then, after about a month, we finally got rid of them. Finally, as the year started to come to an end, I ended up making the most of it. and then, finally, the last day of school came. This was going to be basically the last day in the Lower School. So I embraced it, and then, I kissed the Lower School goodbye, as I finally went on to become a sixth grader.
Hello, today I’m here to talk about my experience. I remember when I was in first grade and I thought it was so cool how fifth graders made speeches and now I’m standing right here saying my speech. I have so many people to thank from helping me get to this point: my teachers throughout the Lower School, the faculty and staff, all the students here, my mom, my dad, and lastly my friends. This school is something I will never forget. Some of the things I love about this school are the friends that I’ve made, the buddy program, spirit week, Color Day, and so much more. I’m honestly scared and excited for middle school. But let’s be honest, change is scary and exciting. Just know that even when it's hard to deal with, everyone goes through it a bunch of times throughout their life. The people around me always say that fifth graders are the queens and kings of the school and yeah we are but next year we are going to start back at square one. Now I’m just telling you about change, change from a first grader to a second grader a second to a third a third to a forth a forth to a fifth, and finally you’re at the top then back to the bottom the next year. I’m going to miss this school but never forget what I just told you because when you are sad or angry or worried think of what I told you today.