By Alex Harris ‘14
Good Afternoon, 8th grade! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Alex, and I am Gabriella’s older sister. I’m so happy and honored to have the opportunity to speak to you today as you prepare to leave your mark on the BFS community. Today, your mark will be signified by a brick, but know that in the grand scheme of your time at this amazing place, your mark means so much more than the simple brick that is its representation.
Many of you might not know me or my history with BFS, but I did have the pleasure and the blessing of spending my most formative years here at this wonderful place. Over the eight years that I spent as a member of this community, I grew in so many ways, learned about myself, as well as those around me but most importantly, I discovered how I fit into this great big world. You see, here at BFS, you are allowed to make mistakes and not be judged for them. You are encouraged to grow slowly and to savor the little things in life that are abundant within your life. You are also encouraged to reflect, to listen to one another, to express yourself humbly yet clearly, and to learn by asking questions and exploring all the possibilities. Your time here allows you to cultivate and grow to ultimately discover your role and responsibility in this world.
When I think back to my eight years at BFS, I am reminded of my long afternoons playing boys chase girls at the lower school playground, gym classes with the one and only Mr. B, the infamous Ghost Walk, and last but certainly not least, being taught to whistle by Mr. Pearson himself. And though each of you individually have your own particular memories, and have attended BFS for different lengths of time, what you will all realize eventually, if you haven’t already, is that the value that BFS carries in your life and the impact it has made on you as a person truly doesn’t have to do with any particular memory.
Each and every one of you has had your last year modified to adjust to the changing world. I know from experience how difficult it truly was. As a result of the effects of the pandemic, I know that many of you have lost the opportunity to partake in experiences that you felt to be critical parts of your BFS experience.
For instance, I traveled to Australia in 5th grade with the JEM program, and as wonderful and transforming as the experience truly was, it does not encompass the value of BFS in my life. My trip to Wallops with Mr. B, though such a gift, does not encompass the value of BFS in my life. You see, BFS is greater than any one experience. It is greater than any one person. Though you may have missed your JEM experience or your trip to Wallops, you truly haven’t missed the most critical aspects of what it means to be a student at Buckingham Friends School. Your experience has not been depleted by the fact that you weren’t allowed to partake in these experiences. Rather, in the daily and routine moments of your BFS existence, you were receiving the greatest gift in the world without even knowing it. With every interaction, with every walk through this beautiful campus, with every bounce of the ball in the four square court, with every discussion in Kara’s English class, with every hug from Melissa, BFS was impacting you, it was changing you, it was giving you the very best gift you could have been given, the gift of being a part of the very fabric of this remarkable community.
It was in this community where you learned how to treat one another, where you learned the most intimate details about yourself, where you experienced what it is like to be challenged academically by passionate teachers, teachers who believed in you more than you ever thought someone could. You have been blessed beyond measure to have your role models be some of the most amazing adults you’ll ever ever meet. You got the best of BFS, simply by showing up each day.
What you must always remember is that despite this being the brick ceremony where your brick is the tangible representation of your lasting mark on BFS, your mark cannot be simply summed up with that brick. We all have a light within us that influences who we are, a light which compels us, a light that radiates from us and communicates every beautiful detail of who we are. A part of your Light permanently remains on this campus and in this community. This family of BFS, and its ethos as a community, continually evolves, absorbing within it the impact and presence of every student who is a part of this community.
And likewise, just as you have left an indelible mark on BFS in a way that no other student could, BFS has left a lasting mark on you. That lasting mark is not your diploma that you will soon receive, it is not in the form of your grades or the papers you’ve written or the projects you’ve completed. Take it from me, BFS leaves an imprint on your soul. Just as we each have a Light within us that shines brightly, BFS has a light as well. This light results from every friendship you have made, every relationship you forged with your teachers, every classroom experience, every stumble that you may have had, every success you may have achieved, every person you helped feel special. This light remains in us long after we leave this friendly place. We take it wherever we go, drawing strength, conviction, and comfort from it. BFS changed me for the better. And it didn’t change me into some preconceived notion of what a graduate should look like or be like. BFS nurtured me to change from the seedling I was when I arrived and cultivated my growth into who I was meant to become, into my best self.
Graduating from BFS is just one leg of your journey, but it is a critical part of your story. All the other journeys you will ever make depend on this. This journey truly is your foundation. It is the root system of wherever else you may decide to branch off to. Having these firm roots will enable you to confidently step forward next Thursday, knowing without a doubt that you are good enough, that your BFS family always will believe in you, that you will always have a home at BFS. BFS is a place that will remain in you and with you wherever life takes you. As you leave your symbolic mark on this campus, remember that your light will continue to shine brightly on this campus, in these buildings and in the hearts of your teachers.
Congratulations, 8th grade. Take BFS with you wherever you may go and allow it to help you make this world a better place.