Bicentennial Commencement Highlights Community, Fulfillment, and Overcoming Adversity

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On Saturday, May 15, 2021, New Hampton School’s Class of 2021 celebrated 103 graduates with classmates, families, faculty, and staff during this year’s Bicentennial Commencement. Following a spirited week with seniors on campus, the energy on campus felt differently this year as we reflected not only on 200 years of New Hampton School history, but also over a year of change, vigilance for health and safety, and seeking a sense of normalcy. To help accommodate the necessary spacing for families and graduates, the ceremony was hosted on Kennedy Field—also a particularly poignant location this year following the loss of its namesake earlier this year. Our graduates began their day with Senior Brunch, a final meal to share, and received their alumni pins to proudly display on their robes and remember their time here at New Hampton School.

Celebrating togetherness

This year’s ceremony was a hybrid ceremony, accommodating for those students and families who were not able to attend in person due to pandemic travel restrictions. Head of School Joe Williams welcomed graduates, faculty, students, and families worldwide. Williams shared remembrances of the last year, beginning with the School’s first pivot during Project Week 2020 when groups were asked to travel within the United States only before leaving for spring break. Summer brought with it a time to regroup and plan for the challenges of 2020-2021, and today, through much determination and focus on controlling the controllable things.
He next introduced Student Body Co-President Emma Robertson ’21 to open the day’s ceremony.

Opening remarks

Emma shared her elation that so many of the graduates were able to be on campus for graduation when at times during the year, it seemed that perhaps in-person was not a possibility. Through all the growth of the student body and their resilience in the face of change, Emma cited the importance of learning from mentors like she did from Mr. Churchill as she explained how he taught her to view obstacles in a new viewpoint—”not as negative, rather [as] steppingstones on the way to something greater.”
To reiterate, some things may seem difficult and daunting at first, but remember, everything is a part of a larger journey and has been placed in front of you not to knock you down, test your limits and push you to become better because of it. This year has put many things in perspective, and it has been a year of exponential character growth for all if you realize it or not. These challenges may have seemed unnecessary and pointless, but weirdly, we have all become stronger because of them, and through the adversity, our class has become closer as a whole and shares experiences so unique to our year together, and that is extraordinarily special.”

Welcoming the Class of 2021

Mr. Williams spoke to the spirit of the class of 2021 and the year they have faced, undaunted and full of energy. The class also took pride in being the bicentennial class—holding a unique place in the School’s history in a year unlike any other. The specialness of this class cannot be understated. Aside from new routines and health precautions, the majority of our school year differed from what we have seen domestically and nationally. “Though we have dearly missed the international students who help round out this illustrious class. Less than 50% of students in America were in-person the way you were; a benefit I know you will likely come to appreciate more as time passes.”

Williams went on to acknowledge the ability of the School to continue to host athletics, “a feat that even a smaller percentage of students in America share with you.” Though long periods of time at school meant separation from parents, siblings, and loved ones, the result was a closer community. The class endured challenging social dynamics and an unprecedented year in the college application processes within the United States.

Ultimately, however, their goal was realized—completing their education at New Hampton School to become graduates today. “I hope you will pause with me to let the significance of your journey sink in. We are here—in our first public event of the year—to honor and celebrate you. Soak it in!”

Williams further welcomed Chairman of the Board of Trustees Karl Kimball ’74 to speak and the Ben Cecil Commencement Speaker Seraphina Hodgson ’21. Sera touched on the gravity of their day with humble words and humorous overtones. Most importantly, she highlighted the importance of holding on to memories, citing a few of her favorites such as games, listening to Mr. Brummer “speak zealously about birds”, and being with friends to witness a New Hampton sunset.

It’s time for me to go…and it’s time for us to go. The passing of our youth, and our going, are spectacular transitions. We are grateful you all—especially our families—can join us today. Yes, our youth is fading but we’ve learned that the flower of our youth must pass, for us to bear fruit. The lessons of this year, require of us as graduates that we seek justice, love mercy, and walk with humility. Our time at New Hampton has been beautiful but fleeting. Let’s embrace forthcoming change and cherish our memories.”

Hodgson closed by reciting Robert Frost’s “Nature’s First Green is Gold”, highlighting the bittersweet feeling ahead of the class. They have reached their goal today, and now life changes once more.

Bicentennial Keynote Speaker

Briana Cardwell ’13 was the honored speaker today, and Mr. Williams introduced her by sharing accolades of her character as a graduate, attorney, and continued collaborator with New Hampton School. Cardwell eased into the speech by reflecting on her experience at New Hampton, the sense of community she found here, and acknowledgment of the feelings that some may experience upon departing campus today. As years passed, Cardwell notes that she “finally realized that New Hampton, and every place you go, go on without you.” But that is not to say that you won’t still consider it a home, because the places you tread will also never leave you. Moreover, the relationships built here will continue to sustain you and she reminded the Class of 2021 to remember those they have befriended and the moments that remind them about the tenets of a true community.

“Life is nothing but moments. You are only in high school for a moment. You are only in college for a moment. This is why you must make the most of every experience you have and appreciate the little moments on the journey.”

Cardwell’s stirring speech delved into wisdom and inspirational advice, while also reminding all of us to try new things, have fun, and know that “you are never alone.” But you alone are “the only person who can live the life that can write the story that you were meant to tell.”

To read the full version of the speech of Briana Cardwell ’13 on NHS Today. Thank you Briana for guiding our commencement today with optimism, spirit, and the reminder to make a difference.

2021 Cum Laude Speaker

In 2019, New Hampton School began a new tradition to recognize academic excellence and to promote a scholarly perspective at Commencement. Selected by the members of the Cum Laude Society, this year Takamitsu Suzuki ’21 had the honor of representing the very best of the academic minds on campus.

As a four-year student, Taka expressed a transformation in his thinking about education and how it is not something to just work through, but something to practice and explore. Not something to check off a to-do list until you can begin your life, but to seek each day. He credits New Hampton School with forming him into a person who believes in lifelong learning. He also shared that while he will remember signature events like Powder Keg, it was the smaller moments with his classmates and building friendships with them and his teachers that he will remember the most.

“I want to thank all of you, my classmates, for making my time here unique and unforgettable. And of course, thank you to all the teachers who made me laugh, helped me learn and grow as a scholar in class. I am a firm believer that experience is what makes a person who they are, so I thank every single one of you for making my experience unique and therefore making me who I am today.  

Today, I still have a vague future vision, but it looks somewhat different from what it used to be. I will not abandon my learning experience today as I graduate from high school, and I am confident that I won’t be abandoning it in the next 4 years either. So far, it looks like New Hampton has successfully made me a “lifelong learner.” So, dear New Hampton, I once again thank you for all you have done for me, and I am excited to see where the next years will take us.”

Student Body Co-President Remarks

Mr. Williams welcomed Student Body Co-President Camden Devlin ’21 before the conferring of diplomas. Cam explored themes of commencement in the truest definition—as a start, a new beginning—while also reflecting on the school’s mission and arriving on campus as an uncertain 14-year-olds who were suddenly responsible for many things like “how to set an alarm for class in the morning” while others had seemingly immediate confidence.

“That first acceptance letter we received from New Hampton gave the mission statement for our task. We all see the same statement on the bottom of every email that comes from school: Where a fulfilled life begins. Those five words embody New Hampton and life as a whole. The challenge of finding fulfillment in our day-to-day life for some will come faster than others, but we all will struggle (through) on that journey. It is that struggle that molds and shapes us. New Hampton has allowed us to struggle and work for what we want, and isn’t that the most rewarding feeling: To finally succeed in something that you have put so much into?”

Cam implores his classmates to continue to meet life’s challenges, to always look for the good, to move forward, to better things, and to never back down from adversity. He concluded, “Rather than focusing on one specific moment, I encourage us all to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and I promise you will find the world around you become more comfortable along the way.”

199th Commencement included our traditional awards such as the Meservey Medal.

Congratulations to the following graduates who received distinguished awards for their contributions to the school and their class at New Hampton School’s Bicentennial Commencement.

Commencement Recognitions

Ben Cecil Commencement Speaker: Seraphina Hodgson
Faculty Award: Evan Britton
Faculty Award: Marek Pechr

Commencement Medals

Academic & Personal Growth: Darren John Lombardozzi
Academic & Personal Growth: Jason Henry Feinstein
Intellectual Curiosity: Takamitsu Suzuki
Citizenship Medal: Autumn Muriel James
Citizenship Medal: Camden William Devlin
Meservey Medal: Seraphina Mae Hodgson

The ceremony and program for this event are currently available on the Commencement 2021 page of our website.

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