Thank you to families and community members who joined us on June 9 and 10 for our end-of-year ceremonies at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School to celebrate our students! In particular, our Senior Class and 8th Grade students were honored as they each came to the threshold of a new stage of their educational journeys.
Special thanks to Vanessa Valdez, High School Science Teacher, for sharing these reflections on her first experience of the Senior Inner Graduation, the 8th Grade Celebration, and the Class of 2023 Commencement.
Senior Inner Graduation
I sat in the Music Room, surrounded by the entire HVS faculty, patiently waiting for the graduating class to come in. This was my first time at a senior inner graduation. The mood was reverent and intimate. When the students came in, the High School Chair and Class Advisor, Simon Frishkoff, impressed upon them the momentousness of the event.
In 1924, when the first class graduated from the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany, they held a similar meeting. School teachers and Rudolf Steiner welcomed the graduating eighth grade, and Steiner said to them: “You are leaving school now, but we will meet again in half a year. Each of you can then report how you got on during this time. The memory of your school will accompany you into the life that lies ahead of you, and if, in later life, you come to a point where you are at a loss, at you wits’ end and alone, pondering and searching for help, the spirit of the school will stand behind you, put a hand on your shoulder, and bestow advice and comfort to you. You have asked for a verse, and I have written it down here.” Dr. Frishkoff shared these words and then handed a copy of the quote to each student, urging them to meditate upon it every day.
After this, we rearranged our seats in a circle and the seniors shared memories from their journey through the school. They told us a little about their plans for next year as well as their fondest memories at Hawthorne Valley. Then the teachers spoke of the special moments shared with each of the students. There was a lot of laughter as we all enjoyed this intimate moment.
During the whole event, I was very struck by the mood this ceremony set. It was lovely to see another side of each of the students. Imagine them nervously beginning their journey as first graders, running and chasing each other during third grade tag games, sitting together and being mischievous during a sixth grade chemistry block, or getting lost in Spain on the senior class trip. Everyone was relaxed, joyful, and moved as we wandered back in time sharing memories. This tête-a-tête meeting was the perfect setting to close their chapter as students and to begin a new one as alumni.
Eight Grade Graduation
In the afternoon of our last day of school, we witnessed the 8th grade class graduation. The ceremony celebrated each student as they concluded their eight year journey at HVS. The ceremony began with the graduates singing a song from their third grade year with their class teacher Ms. McKenna. Afterwards, Ms. McKenna took us all down memory lane by calling out each year -- first grade, second grade, third grade… all the way up to eighth grade --and a student stepped up to recall a moment from that year. What a journey as seen from the students’ eyes and hearts. It allowed us a wonderful peek into what their lives have been here at Hawthorne Valley these past eight years.
Isolde Salisbury gave a very moving student address that commemorated their years spent together, and wondering what the future might hold -- for those staying at HVS, as well as for those leaving. The students gave thanks and a rose to the many teachers that inspired them during their school years. And just as these acknowledgments were being given, an unexpected and enormous storm began. The ceremony was then moved inside, where High School Adjunct Teacher Glen Berger and Ms. McKenna shared some words with the students and families. Overall, it was a joyous and emotional event, marking the conclusion of their time in the grades, and announcing a new beginning as High School students. Congratulations to the Class of 2027!
12th Grade Commencement
Saturday, June 10 marked the official ending of the senior class’s journey through Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School. Sitting outside in the beautiful Pavilion, the community witnessed Diego, Lee, Isola, Johanna, Charlotte H, Charlotte K, Ella, Torrin, Anastasiia, Henri, and Sam walk out on stage with matching blue graduation gowns and caps. The ceremony started with the class singing a song together, and then thanking each of the teachers that touched their lives throughout their twelve years at HVS.
Melissa Auf der Maur, musician, artist, photographer, writer, and co-founder/director of Basilica Hudson, gave the keynote address for the 41st class of graduating seniors, reminding them all to be brave in chasing their dreams. I especially enjoyed learning Melissa had gone to visit the students before graduation to get to know a little bit more about them, about what they loved, and what their dreams for the future are.
Two important awards were given, the first one, the Martin van Buren Award, went to Charlotte Herzhauser. The Henriette Reiss Award went to Sam Saavedra, who after receiving it, addressed their fellow classmates with a graduation speech. We wish the eleven graduating students all the best on their new path outside Hawthorne Valley!