'You Have Resilience In Your Blood'

It wasn’t the celebration that the Class of 2020 expected—or wanted—when they began school in the fall. Still, it was a celebration of a class who faced a myriad of challenges and more than rose to the occasion.

“It isn’t fair that your senior year fell apart,” said Head of School Bryan Garman, speaking from the steps of Zartman House, where students had once expected to take the traditional walk. “It just isn’t.”

Still, the Class of 2020 received recognition in one way no class has experienced before. In a new way to mark an old tradition, Upper School Principal Mamadou Guèye spent the week before the official celebration on June 7 making surprise stops to students’ homes to hand-deliver their diplomas (at a safe distance).

After a virtual version of the traditional Meeting for Worship, Garman and Guèye spoke live via video to over 500 viewers—some of whom were presumably family members from across the globe who otherwise would not have been able to see their loved ones graduate. While Garman’s address mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic that caused not only the traditional graduation to be canceled but necessitated months of distance learning, he also touched on the country’s unrest as Americans are coming together to demand racial justice and equality.

“You have been tested,” Garman said. “You, however, have worked ceaselessly to rebound and retool. When campus closed, you began to heal and reshape the community. Members of your class used a 3D printer to make face masks for medical professionals. You designed online workouts to stay fit and stay in touch. You organized meditation groups to reduce stress. You found ways to grow closer to one another and to become one of the most unified and impressive classes that I have ever seen under any circumstances. Your extraordinary leadership and kindness will leave an enduring legacy at Sidwell Friends, and we are all extremely grateful for that.”

During a prerecorded choral performance, viewers saw photographs of students from when they were together on campus; photos of them in classrooms and athletic fields, performance spaces, and simply hanging out. Then Guèye read the name of every brand-new Sidwell Friends alum.

The celebration of a class who, in the words of Garman, has “resilience in your blood,” also included a promise for when the current situation evolves into a new and safer normal:

“We will find a way for you to walk down these steps.”


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