Welcoming Our Newest Upper Schoolers

At the end of the 8th grade closing ceremony, no one was standing, but there was still an ovation.

After Middle School Principal Rachel Kane pronounced that the class of 2024 were officially Upper School students, applause rang through living and dining rooms across the Sidwell Friends community as students sat surrounded by parents, siblings, and balloons delivered earlier in the week by 7th grade parents in an effort organized by representatives from the 8th grade Parents Association.

While the newest Upper Schoolers missed some Sidwell Friends traditions—including minimester trips and a live promotion ceremony—they gathered together virtually on June 4 to celebrate the end of their Middle School careers. Kane acknowledged the challenges the students had faced in the last few months, but she also celebrated the innovation, creativity, and drive of the students, faculty, and staff.

“You have not had a normal end to your Middle School years,” she said. “But over and over, I am reminded of this complexity, this paradox of being human, the ways that—if we look in the right places—we will find evidence of simultaneous moments of deep pain and the most beautiful joy.”

During the Zoom ceremony, students and families heard a prerecorded choral performance before their names were read and each appeared on the screen. The connections between the students were clear as the chat box bustled with congratulations, virtual cheers, and simple moments of connections between friends who hadn’t seen one another in person for months—particularly when pictures of the students from their baby and toddler years were juxtaposed with their current photos.

The students and their families undoubtedly would have preferred a more traditional celebration. However, in the virtual gathering—attended by over 400 viewers—the spirit of community and pride was still palpable. Even though the ceremony was virtual, the anticipation of stepping into a promising future was real.


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