Sewickley Academy Class of 2020, you have been dealt a rough hand; there are no two ways about it. I know that many of you are finding silver linings by looking forward to college and letting go of your preconceived notions of a traditional senior year. Yet, we are all aware of what you have lost and sacrificed as your final year comes to a close. And, let's face it —despite your acknowledgement and appreciation of our creative efforts — virtual events and socially distanced celebrations are not really cutting it. Ultimately, you are a class who, collectively, expresses gratitude and seeks to make lemonade out of lemons. I could not be more proud of your journeys over the last four years and of how you have leaned into what is no longer an “unprecedented” time but one which is now a defining historical moment.
In the Spring of 2016, I met my advisees for the first time at our house sorting ceremony. Your class' enthusiasm for the Senior School, our house system, and the overall Academy community was palpable. In August of your freshman year, we pulled you together for a retreat to Outdoor Odyssey. Planning outdoor ropes course challenges, advisory bonding activities, and bonfires, we were bound for an eventful three days. Little did we know that clouds of relentless gnats, overflowing pipes, and shocking thunderstorms would attach themselves to those memories. Still, I remember advisories working together to climb a high wall in the middle of the woods while swatting away the gnats, congregating in the lodge for s'mores and snacks to steer clear of pouring rain and lightening, and playing capture the flag out on a soggy field when the sun finally emerged. It was about this time that I realized, I'll love you forever, Class of 2020.
But those gnats. We never quite got over how those tiny gnats caused such havoc. Eventually, we laughed about it and — despite having no desire to recreate the experience — we were able to appreciate this collective memory, even sharing it with those who joined your class in later years.
Since then, your class has continued to make your memories your own. From the field to the classroom, to the stage you have each made your marks. You've been innovative leaders who problem-solve, bright and ingenious critical thinkers, generous volunteers who commit to your community to make it a better place for everyone, and creative and passionate artists who bring us the beauty of image, art, music, and word. From advisory games, house competitions, dodgeball tournaments, state championships, musicals, yearbooks, overseas travel, flag football, and bingo — these experiences continually reinforced that, I'll like you for always, Class of 2020.
But then, in March 2020, we were reminded of that first lesson. That tiny, almost imperceptible, things much smaller than us can wreak havoc on our life and experiences. They can fly in our face, obstruct our plans, and send us down a different path.
And as I've watched you these last two months, collectively and individually, push forward, excel, cheer each other on, and celebrate each others' accomplishments, your resilience and character were once again called to mind. You have continued to learn and engage, lead the school in creating new and exciting virtual versions of time-old traditions, and mentor those who will follow in your footsteps. You are an amazing senior class and, ceremony or not, we will continue to celebrate you long past June 4, your originally scheduled graduation day.
As long as I'm living, my students you'll be, Class of 2020.*
*Inspired by "Love you Forever," by Robert Munsch (Pittsburgh author), and mentor Nancy Dowling