The rains subsided, the class photo was taken, and we gathered as a community in the Buckingham Monthly Meeting’s Meetinghouse – at the conclusion of Buckingham Friends School’s 224th year – to celebrate and recognize the graduating Eighth Grade class of 2019.
Beautiful preludes and songs punctuated the overall spirit and meaning of the event, and each Eighth Grader shared heartfelt reflections and humorous anecdotes about their many years at our school.
Melissa Clayton delivered a personal and moving speech, sharing her stories and words of wisdom for the graduates and all attendees to consider.
And, as the close relationships between teachers and students at BFS is at the core of all that we value and the educational experiences at our school, each Eighth Grader was individually recognized by a member of the faculty and presented with their diploma.
I offer the following excerpts from my concluding remarks to the graduating Eighth Graders:
Eighth Grade, although your leaving BFS has always been a part of the plan, and as that plan has always been focused on your successes and prospects for the future, we are here today balancing our excitement for you and your future with a mix of enthusiasm, joy, pride, sadness and impending loss.
You were challenged in many ways while you were here at BFS. Perhaps the most important challenge presented to you was to figure out and express your developing voice and ever-emerging identity. We gather today to celebrate your individual and collective accomplishments, and to honor your uniqueness and originality. We acknowledge your growth and essential goodness while imagining the potential rewards that your efforts, creativity, compassion, and future commitments will bring.
Over the arc of your years at BFS, an incredible group of talented teachers invested in you and oversaw every aspect of your education and the journey to your becoming the graduates that you are today. This special group of people shaped the course of your education – engaging your minds, expecting your best, developing your skills, cultivating your participation as community members, and nurturing your self-esteem along the way.
Remember these incredible teachers and how they individually and collectively nurtured your talents; inspired, cajoled, and pushed you to higher levels of accomplishment and proficiency; and taught you almost everything you know. They always believed in your inner promise as students and people, and they also dared to demonstrate who they were as individuals, sharing with you where their moral compass pointed all along the way. They repeatedly asked you to consider how to become an exemplary person at BFS and in today’s world. These skills are all within you. You carry them forth with you today. They are your toolkit for life.
As much as parents and teachers raise children, so too do children push parents and teachers to grow. You have taught us many things as we have watched you develop. We have witnessed your maturity and kindness to others, and your concern and loyalty for your classmates and friends. It teaches us, just as schools are people places, to learn from you that friends and friendships matter, they evolve over time, and we all have a responsibility to tend to them. You may already be discovering that the classes you take, the things you acquire, the places you go, and the jobs you do, do not love you back. People love you back.
We celebrate and affirm each of you as you embark on the new adventures and the journey before you. Embrace the things that make you and all of us better, and go forward and continue with the work and effort required to succeed and to make a difference – in big and little ways – to the things that matter most to you and our world. Further develop your pursuit for knowledge and the truth, and be generous in all ways, especially in who you are. Extend yourself and your sincere interest in others, and maintain quality in your relationships with one another and the many new and different people you will encounter along the way.
Thank you, Eighth Grade – I for one stand here now aware that I am a better person for knowing each one of you.