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Commencement Exercises Honor Class of 2023 Graduates

On Thursday, May 25, 2023, families, faculty, alumni, and friends of The Colorado Springs School gathered on the Quad to celebrate the Class of 2023 at CSS's 58th Commencement Exercises.

The ceremony opened with live music from CSS's combined band featuring Middle and Upper School performers along with alumni musicians and directed by Brent Moorhead P'34. Following a grand entrance made by CSS guest speakers, faculty, Board of Trustees members, and graduating seniors, the event kicked off with back-to-back performances of the National Anthem sung by Sara Wren H. '26 and America the Beautiful sung by the Middle School Choir and Upper School Vocal Ensemble, and accompanied by 7th-grader Mia V. on piano. Both were conducted by Music Teacher Emily Michielutti.

Afterward, all were invited to join the Band, Choir and Vocal Ensemble in the singing of the CSS Alma Mater. The 4th- and 5th-grade choir, accompanied by Kindergarteners, also presented a musical tribute – Brave – to the senior class.

Former Science & Computer Science Teacher Andrew Julian was nominated by the Class of 2023 to present this year's faculty Commencement address (see full Commencement Address below). "His passion for education left a significant impact on this class, and we are honored to have him speak," said Upper School Director Tila Hidalgo, Ph.D., noting Mr. Julian's unique teaching style and the ways in which he made even the most mundane class activities exciting. "He was an innovative and well-rounded teacher who incorporated many aspects of science into his classes – spanning from computer science to physics – to ensure that his students had a well-rounded espouse to many fields of study in science."

In his address, Mr. Julian reflected on the Class of 2023's time at CSS and how the experiences and people they've encountered will be of use as they step boldly into the vast realm of possibilities that lay ahead. "While I can’t say the information from this speech is foolproof in ensuring your future success, it is my hope that what you hear today can become a part of the life toolkit you started building," said Mr. Julian.

With that, Mr. Julian left the graduating class with five ideas he hopes they will take away with them as they move on in their academic journeys. They were:

  1. Be curious
  2. Find your community
  3. Seek challenge
  4. Be authentically you
  5. Reflect on the Past, Consider the Future, but Live in the Moment

Mr. Julian concluded by sharing a treasured memory he had with members of the Class of 2023 while guiding their Walkabout in the 8th grade. "The moment I will never forget was the opportunity to share in the tradition of reading the Class of 2023 a story. You all sat in your camp chairs, covered in blankets. And I, I was in front of you, looking at a class that I shared so much time with, knowing that every ounce of energy I invested would be contributing to the incredible individuals you are today," he said. "It is that moment where I feel that you made the switch from Middle School to High School students. But, now you are on a different journey, one that is not as predictable and regimented as before. It is one where you have control over how you act on that journey."

In the spirit of that special moment, Mr. Julian also read a passage from the same book, Earth Speaks, that he had read to the students around this same time four years ago.

Families of each graduate were then called to the Trianon Terrace, where they presented their senior with a single-stem rose recognizing the ways in which their student has thrived at CSS. As a special tribute to another member of the graduating class, Lile Mullins, who passed away in the 1st grade, Lifer Andrew Hedden spoke of the impact Lile continues to have on his own life to this day before presenting Lile's family with a rose alongside Lifer Theo Marple. "I genuinely have a guardian angel watching over me no matter the circumstances. He and I shared a very short time at CSS together, but he has continued to influence my ventures and choices on a daily basis," said Andrew.

Andrew (16 years) and Theo (13 years) were presented with Longevity Awards for having attended CSS continuously from Kindergarten – or earlier – through high school, for a total of 13 years or more.

Additional student awards, including the Faculty Cup and the Margaret White Campbell Award, were granted to graduates Morgan Jarolimek and Sofia Ortega, respectively (see Student Awards below) for their community involvement and overall sense of character. In honor of the closing of CSS's 60th Anniversary year, the latter award was presented by two very special guests – Class of ’65 alumnae, and two of the first recipients of the Margaret White Campbell Award – Anne Clausen Trinajstich '65 and Betsy Long Jones '65.

Three deserving faculty also received awards at Commencement (see Faculty Awards below). They were:

  • Natalie Hanson: Experiential Education Scholarship (NEW this year)

  • Thalley Lindeman: The Mary Flynn Flemke Leadership in Education Award

  • Kaja Reynolds: The Sarah H. Elizabeth Hoiles Memorial Award

In her farewell remarks, Senior Aleksandra Edwards (see Senior Farewell below) reflected on the Class of 2023's time spent growing together in the El Pomar room affectionately known as Cafe Bleu. "That room at the end of junior hall is where we grew up. We went from teenage tornadoes that the school so discreetly and expertly managed to contain in a single room to real adults, planning our futures," she said. "It’s in that room that so many of us made the life-altering decision of where we’d be ending up for the next four years of our lives."

"Café Bleu, I’ve come to learn, is not four walls. It never was. Café Bleu is the Class of 2023 as seniors, freshmen, and every stage in between. Café Bleu is us. Café Bleu is 'home.' Thank you from the bottom of all 19 of our hearts to our peers, mentors, teachers, and parents for shaping us into people that can create home so easily," said Leski.

With that, Dr. Hidalgo, Board of Trustees President Heather Kelly P'30, P'27, College and Career Counselor Erik Playe, and Head of School Tambi L. Tyler joined in the presentation of diplomas. The 19 graduating seniors then participated in a cap toss signifying their rite of passage beyond the walls of CSS.

Congratulations to the Class of 2023: Diego Alas, Camille Atkinson*, Kaylee Barker*, Aleksandra Edwards*, Nathan Garrett, Marek Gould, Taylor Hansen*, Andrew Hedden*, Morgan Jarolimek*, Carissa Lay*, Haegan Malone*, Theo Marple, Landon May*, Sofia Ortega*, Chloe Page*, Francesca Pellicano, Cailan Reid*, River Vincent*, and Aidan Yarros.

*National Honor Society Member

Commencement Address
Student Awards
Faculty Awards
Senior Farewell

Commencement Address

presented by Former Science & Computer Science Teacher, Mr. Andrew Julian

Today, we gather to celebrate a milestone that represents the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and relentless pursuit of knowledge. This is a momentous occasion that marks the transition from one chapter of life to the next.

For those who I have yet the privilege to meet, my name is Andrew Julian and I taught at CSS over four years from 2015-2019 in the Science Department as an Upper and Middle School Science and Computer Science Teacher and Technology Integrationist. During that time, I was also very fortunate to create and lead a high school ECS with Hans Wolfe and a plethora of Middle School Seminars, including one year leading the 8th-grade Walkabout with the incredible students sitting on this stage.

It is an honor to be selected by the Class of 2023 to give a speech at their graduation. In true CSS fashion, it feels only appropriate to reflect on our time here and consider how those experiences can provide insight as you bid farewell to this beloved institution and step boldly into the vast realm of possibilities that lay ahead.

When considering which takeaways would be most valuable to discuss, it was difficult to whittle down the list. This is a testament to the CSS teachers, parents, and community who consistently made the choice to not do what was easy, but do what was impactful and valuable.

While I can’t say the information from this speech is foolproof in ensuring your future success, it is my hope that what you hear today can become a part of the life toolkit you started building. In line with the values of what this institution holds, I've decided on five ideas I hope you’ve taken away from your time at CSS.

Takeaway #1: Be Curious

From the moment you stepped foot into The Colorado Springs School, you were encouraged to question, explore, and seek knowledge beyond the boundaries of your comfort zones. It is through curiosity that you discovered new passions, uncovered hidden talents, and expanded your understanding of the world. Your teachers have done their very best to equip you with the foundation on which you can continue to build, but at some point, you will be on your own. We can all acknowledge – whether we like it or not – that the world is changing rapidly and what we once knew is either outdated, significantly updated, or completely new. In this environment, the facts and figures you memorized for tests will only be the launching point for what will be required of you in the future.

But, this is not something to fear. You’ve been in these situations before. I know this because I’ve seen it. Whether it was your first time programming, using the groover on Walkabout, or the scariest things some of you did, the snowball dances in Middle School; you’ve demonstrated the ability to approach adversity, utilize your experience, and derive a new skill or perspective.

Let me remind you that – for an entire year – many of you were on a wild goose chase working on seemingly incomprehensible challenges, not affiliated with any class, that required you to investigate, research, and collaborate on the path to finding an object I hid on campus, with no indication of a reward of any kind for finding it. While none of you found the object itself, many of you found that the concept of not knowing is not a barrier, but an opportunity. In my eyes, mission accomplished.

CSS perpetually provided you opportunities to explore something new physically, emotionally, and socially, all often outside of your comfort zone. It is through those experiences that you have become the scholars, athletes, and individuals you are today.

Your willingness to be curious and explore new possibilities is what will continue to differentiate you from the rest and I am excited to see what you will do because I have seen what you have already accomplished.

Take Away #2: Find Your Community

Having the opportunity to teach in a variety of educational environments, I can confidently say, without question, the community of The Colorado Springs School is something replicated by few if any other schools.

Recently, I was able to spend a morning on campus during the STEAM day…. and, needless to say, it was easy to feel that the environment was different. I saw long-time community partners, like Cave Dave, sharing their passions and; Upper School students, who otherwise would have the day off, at school volunteering their time in running sessions for Middle and Lower School students.

This gave me an opportunity to reflect on my experiences here and remember the incredible moments where this community lifted and celebrated the diversity of its members and created challenges where all could foster a growth mindset.

You’ve witnessed innumerable moments of the strength of community in action. We have seen how collective efforts can create positive change and how empathy can bridge divides. Whether it was volunteering our time to support local initiatives or simply lending a listening ear to a classmate in need, you’ve seen first-hand the transformative impact of coming together as a community.

Right now, it is my responsibility to remind you that an exercise like this is not limited to just those events. You can always find an opportunity to acknowledge those around you and their influence on your life.

My time at CSS is one of those moments, a time where my success was found while standing on the shoulders of giants in the CSS community. I feel that we can all acknowledge innumerable individuals who had an influence on the people we are today. And, graduates, I hope you follow in my footsteps in taking a moment to connect with those that supported and celebrated you on your journey.

So, I ask that you please indulge me as I take a moment to share one of the gifts given to me during my time here. The gift given to me was trust – trust that I would uphold the tradition of the transformative experience of Walkabout during a time of change. I felt prepared for this role because of the experiences I had working with Roger and Amos, along with many others, who built the program and contributed to many years of success. It is through this gift of trust that I was empowered to ensure that the tradition of Walkabout was maintained for the value of future classes.

In this instance, the community invested its trust in me, and I contributed my willingness to support the community. This mutual relationship ensures that individuals are able to provide for the group when needed, and the group reciprocates in kind, ensuring that all are connected and supported.

As we step into the wider world, let us carry the spirit of community within us. Let us remember the lessons we learned about the importance of fostering connections through the celebration and support of one another. In a world that often seems divided, let us be the catalysts for change, the builders of communities.

Takeaway #3 - Seek Challenge

Instilled in the tenants of CSS is the value of engaging in the pursuit of challenges. Your time at CSS has provided you with countless opportunities that have tested your limits, sparked your curiosity, and propelled you towards personal growth and achievement. Whether it was tackling complex academic projects, participating in rigorous athletic competitions, or engaging in thought-provoking discussions, you have learned that true growth occurs when we dare to venture into the unknown.

Let’s not forget that you spent weeks turning reams of paper into roller coasters, months on your Continuation speeches, and for many of you, years in non-traditional academic experiences across Colorado Expeditions, Middle School Seminars, and Upper School ECSs.

Your educational experience is unlike any other. My school field trips were to the Baltimore Aquarium, not Europe, my science exposures were simple and scripted, yours were investigations into flight by flying. While location and robustness of learning can play an impact, the very nature of your experiences that are different is that they are something that you can only prepare so much for because the experience is the learning. It is in this concept that you must accept risk, uncertainty, and mystery. But, it is also in those concepts that you can find confirmation, validation, and inspiration.

On occasion, I will reference standard education as “the game of school,” where one is focused on accumulating points, mastering a known set of skills, and engaging in activities with predictable outcomes. While there is much to be gained in this controlled environment, it provides little opportunity for challenge.

The difference is that you were in an educational environment that realized that in preparation for a dynamic world, your training needs to be dynamic. It is right in the school’s mission to engage in the practice of equipping you with the skills to support your journey regardless of location, profession, or aspirations.

Sometimes you might have felt uncomfortable with a challenge. Sometimes you might have doubted yourself. To that I say, good. That is healthy. Life inside your comfort zone provides little challenge and little excitement. During your time at CSS, you’ve had opportunities to see how life outside your comfort zone is empowering and exciting. While it is unhealthy to live your life there completely, being able to cross the line between the two will ensure that you have the chance to live a life of enrichment and fulfillment.

Takeaway #4 - Be Authentically You

Speaking of challenges… Life is tough and there is no getting around it. There will be challenges, some big, some small. While that should feel somewhat generic, it is the truth. There will always be influences on your life, most of which you can’t control. Acceptance, tolerance, and empathy are among the skills you will need to practice as the way in which you approach these challenges will contribute to your ability to engage with them.

There is no panacea I can recommend about how to handle these inevitable situations because I am not you and you are not me. That’s not to say that you can’t take insight from my experiences, as that is sort of the premise of this whole speech, but even with my incredible insight and recommendations, you will need to step up to the plate and be prepared to take a swing.

To stick with my baseball analogy here, in this experience, you will also have your own walk-out music, batting stance, and pre-pitch ritual. Each of these elements, individually, may be similar to someone else, but the combination of all the elements will be unique; they will be reflective of you.

Finding success in your future, it is a unique journey that varies from person to person. It is about aligning your actions and accomplishments with your own values, aspirations, and passions. What may constitute success for one person might not hold the same significance for another. But, at the same time, remember that everyone can find success together, so ensure your success does not come at the expense of someone else's.

Being authentically you is not about trying to fit into predefined molds or conforming to societal expectations. It is about embracing your true selves, with all your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and quirks. It is about having the courage to stand tall in your convictions, to express your thoughts and ideas, and to pursue your dreams unapologetically.

It is the individuality of each of you that contributed to the incredible experiences you had throughout your career at CSS. As you embark on your individual journeys in the next chapter of your life, I encourage you to do so with the unwavering commitment to do so in a way that honors the authentic you.

Takeaway #5 - Reflect on the Past, Consider the Future, but Live in the Moment

Graduation is a tradition that is anchored in transition. It is the flexion point between our youth and adulthood. It is only natural for us to reflect on the memories we have created, the challenges we have overcome, and the lessons we have learned throughout our educational journey.

Simultaneously, we look ahead, filled with excitement and apprehension, as we embark on new paths, explore uncharted territories, and chase our dreams. The future beckons with endless possibilities, and we are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resilience to navigate the complexities that lie ahead.

However, in this moment, let us pause and remind ourselves of the significance of the present—the gift of the here and now, as the present is where our lives truly unfold. Let us be present in our interactions, attentive to the world around us, and appreciative of the small moments that make life extraordinary.

There is one memory that I think about quite frequently and this current moment is similar to one I’ve experienced in the past.

After wandering around looking for a place to camp on our last night on Walkabout, we settled on a spot, ate a hodge-podge of our remaining food for dinner, and played like children on the hillside as the sunset. But, the moment I will never forget was the opportunity to share in the tradition of reading the Class of 2023 a story. You all sat in your camp chairs, covered in blankets. And I, I was in front of you, looking at a class that I shared so much time with, knowing that every ounce of energy I invested would be contributing to the incredible individuals you are today.

It is that moment where I feel that you made the switch from Middle School to High School students. But, now you are on a different journey, one that is not as predictable and regimented as before. It is one where you have control over how you act on that journey.

So in the spirit of a moment that I will never forget, I would like to read you a passage from the same book we read from before.

<< Reads Passage from Earth Speaks>>

Class of 2023, when I met you, you were busy little mice, touching your whiskers to the ground, searching everywhere and looking. You were busy as all mice are, doing mice things. And, then you went on a grand adventure, one where you experienced new things; met new people. Now, you are no longer mice, you have a new name. You are Graduates.

I want to thank the class for allowing me to speak today. I am so honored to have been a part of your journey. Thank you.

Student Awards

co-presented by Dr. Tila Hidalgo, Upper School Director, Ms. Anne Clausen Trinajstich '65 and Ms. Betsy Long Jones '65

The Faculty Cup
The Faculty Cup is awarded to one individual whom the faculty recognizes as an exemplary representative of the CSS community.

Morgan Jarolimek embodies this spirit. She has served in multiple leadership roles and has been involved in many clubs, activities and organizations at CSS such as Forum, the girls’ varsity volleyball and soccer teams, band, and theatre. Her role in this year’s production of Little Shop of Horrors was memorable enough that Dr. Moulton gave her the nickname “plant food”!

She led the Green Team’s effort to start composting on campus. Ms. Miller reported that she was a fantastic Full STEAM Ahead mentor for two summers, and a valuable member of NHS for two years where she served as a responsible class treasurer. Additionally, she was a great Senior/Kinder Buddies coordinator this year, planning visits, corralling fellow Buddies, and communicating with all involved.

In her volunteer endeavors, she earned over 265 hours of community service in the past 4 years! In addition to all of her extracurricular commitments, Morgan maintained an excellent academic record all throughout her Upper School career. Morgan is kind and supportive of her peers and deeply appreciates the support of others. She is a committed and resilient individual who has a very bright future.

Congratulations, Morgan, and thank you for being our role model!

The Margaret White Campbell Award
Elizabeth (Betsy) Long Jones:
The Colorado Springs School is, and always has been an anomaly. Who could have imagined that a group of determined parents who gathered in the basement of the Grace and St Stephen’s Episcopal Church to create a school for their daughters, would in fact presage the prestigious school that it is today. The idea was to start small with a handful of girls and a couple of grades and eventually become The Colorado Springs School for Girls, grades 6 through 12.

An anomaly is something, which deviates from what is standard, normal or expected, not easily classified, like forming a new prep school for girls. And yet, they hired a Headmistress from Cambridge, Massachusetts, well known as Margaret White Campbell. There was Colonel Rupp (retired) who had actually been a member of the Horse Brigade. There was Katie Veen, from France, the Pittmans from back east. Miss Roorbach from New Mexico, Ava Heinrichsdorff, and others, who at the time had absolutely no connection to Colorado Springs, but who were inspired to create a lasting blueprint for a school like no other, then or now.

In 1964, in its second year, CSS had a total student body of 40 girls. We were located in a fine old house on Pourtales Road with the highest faculty-student ratio in the U.S. It was a year of firsts, many of which are now treasured traditions. Since that time, there have been many challenges and changes, not the least of which was the inclusion of boys, and then, of course, the need to change the name to The Colorado Springs School, better known as CSS.

Anne Clausen Trinajstich:
There are two things that haven’t changed over these past 60 years. The first is the dedication and determination of the faculty to give each student the best and most progressive education possible. The second is the importance of the life-changing benefits of academic scholarships to CSS students. Thanks to the faith that Margaret White Campbell had in my academic abilities, I was able to enter the first junior class and graduate in 1965 with Betsy, Posey and Chatsy. I do not exaggerate when I say that my two years at CSS definitely altered the course of my life in every good way possible. My 45 years as an elementary school teacher are a direct result of the motivation towards excellence that I received at CSS.

This philosophy has been the cornerstone of CSS since Margaret White Campbell started this school, and I’m here to attest that it will make a significant difference in your life, if it hasn’t already done so.

Anne and I are two out of only four girls in the first graduating Class of 1965. I was honored, and amazed, as a junior, to receive the first Margaret White Campbell Award, originally called the Headmistress Prize. It was awarded to “the girl, who in the eyes of the faculty best exemplifies the ideals of The Colorado Springs School.” Anne was the second honoree in 1965. We understand that the parameters of this award have changed over the years, but it is still a designation of what is important – in the eyes of the faculty – of what it means to be a productive and impactful member of the student body at this amazing School.

We are honored to be here on the 60th anniversary of The Colorado Springs School to present this year’s Margaret White Campbell Award. Anne will now read the description of the extraordinary person who has been chosen for this honor.

Presented annually in honor of the founding headmistress of The Colorado Springs School, The Margaret White Campbell Award today is granted to one student on behalf of the Upper School Faculty and recognizes academic excellence, leadership, service to the CSS community, and general character. Each year, this award is presented to the senior deemed by the Upper School faculty as that young person who best exemplifies the highest model of excellence in all areas.

The winner of this year’s Margaret White Campbell Award is Sofia Ortega. The faculty at CSS have watched Sofia blossom in confidence and skill during her time as an Upper School student. Sofia is an artist and an athlete. She is a student leader in the National Honor Society, and in her senior class where she served this year as president. She has also served as a Full STEAM Ahead Mentor where her leadership of younger learners was calm, kind, insightful, patient, caring, and supportive.

She was awarded the NHS Character Award, which was selected by the NHS membership, and indicates that all members of her community – not just the faculty – admire Sofia. Ms. Miller describes her as a “role model, student ambassador, and the kindest kid around”. In addition to all of Sofia’s extracurricular endeavors, she is a committed scholar who approaches her work with intention, thoughtfulness, and a level of commitment that ensures her success as evidenced by her excellent grades in very challenging classes. Congratulations, Sofia. You embody the spirit of Margaret White Campbell, and the faculty are so proud of you. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

Faculty Awards

presented by Head of School Tambi L. Tyler

The Experiential Education (E.E.) Scholarship
This year, we have the opportunity to present a new scholarship for the faculty of CSS. The Experiential Education Scholarship is a new opportunity that has been provided by an anonymous donor. This scholarship celebrates and honors both the mission and teachers of CSS by realizing that experiential education takes place through every journey. This scholarship will allow teachers to take advantage of experiences and to deepen their pedagogical approaches and see the world from a different view.

How better to learn than to immerse oneself in new challenges, new spaces, and new opportunities? The Experiential Education Scholarship will be gifted to faculty and staff for personal expedition. Teachers must nominate themselves through an application process and be selected by a panel of their peers.

This award will support an individual on their personal experiential educational journey and will allow them to travel and experience something new and share it with the CSS community, which is a mandatory requirement of the recipient.

This year, the Experiential Education or E.E. Scholarship goes to Natalie Hanson, who will be traveling to Cambodia.

The Mary Flynn Flemke Leadership in Education Award
The Mary Flynn Flemke Award recognizes an outstanding individual accomplishment in the education of students and the advancement of the school – a faculty member who leads by example, is loyal to the school, exceeds the high standards of our faculty, and also has the managerial skills to make sure things get done.

Mary Flynn Flemke served as the Head of School from 1989 to 2000 and this distinguished honor lives on in her memory. This year’s recipient began their journey with CSS in 2017. To quote one of her close colleagues, she is the “consummate professional.” She goes above and beyond the job requirements, putting in countless hours on her lesson plans. She is always seeking better ways to gauge students’ understanding and create new methods to enhance their comprehension.

As an advisor and teacher, she is diligent about communicating with families about their students’ progress. She spends most of her study halls working with students who have questions or need help. This individual cares deeply about the well-being of her students, while also setting a high bar that they feel good about reaching with her support.

She is a key cog in the Walkabout program and is masterful about managing the menus and making sure that dietary needs are considered when meals are prepared in the backcountry. She has a logical and analytical approach to her work and to divisional processes and is always willing to offer her perspective or suggestions as to how we can improve. She is solutions-focused, rather than just perseverating on problems. This makes her a positive force for change.

This year’s recipient of the Mary Flynn Flemke Award is Thalley Lindeman.

The Sarah H. Elizabeth Hoiles Memorial Award
We as a school had the honor in 1994 of having Sarah H. Elizabeth Hoiles in the graduating class. In July of 1997, the Hoiles family established an annual faculty award, The Sarah H. Elizabeth Hoiles Outstanding Faculty Award, in her name after tragedy struck their family and they suffered the loss of Sarah. Sarah’s sister Gail Hoiles Sanchez was amongst our 1998 graduating class and Jill Hoilles graduated in 2002.

This year's recipient of the Sarah Hoiles Award finds beauty and creativity in every experience, their surroundings, and exemplifies beauty in our school community. There is always something unique and downright special about the perspective and work of this individual. This faculty member began their CSS journey in 2015 and has always managed to put a glimmer in the eye of any visitor to the CSS campus. You’ve probably heard it said that the artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.

This individual has the depth, the vision, the empathy, the grace, and the compassion of a true artist. She sees and shares her passion for art through the lives of every CSS student. When growing up, this recipient wanted to be a musician and an artist. Isn’t it ironic because when you see this person in action in the classroom you feel as though you can see the melody of a musician bringing everyone together and the striking beauty of art by the lesson planning and guidance they provide to the classroom.

There is no doubt in the minds of her colleagues or in mine that she is a well-deserved recipient of the Sarah Hoiles Award. Yet, before I present this award I must first share the multiple faculty comments that were said in the nominations about this individual:

“When I see her teach, I notice that she is attentive to her students and respectful of their ideas. She teaches skills in a clear way and encourages individual creativity.” (Rebecca Palmer)

“She is masterful at sharing with students both her passion for creating and her breadth of skills across a wide range of techniques and materials. She fluidly moves between teaching 3rd–12th grade all the while engaging with students personally, and with understanding and compassion.” (Hans Wolfe)

“She connects everything I work on in the theatre back to the students. I like how she asks about the kids in the shows and remarks about how much they’ve grown.” (Jonathan Andujar).

“She advocates for our team and the arts program in a way that is professional and effective, making sure that our collective perspective is heard.” (Emily Michielutti)

“She always has a unique perspective, a kind word, and a smile. She knows just what to say and how to say it as she guides her classes through the hands-on experiential creativity that happens daily in her classroom. She knows how to get her students to be risk-takers while being innovative as they explore and create their next masterpiece. She encourages and celebrates the idea of life-long learning and developing skills that students can take with them on their journey. My own daughter often revisits concepts learned during her time in her class and continues to create incredible drawings that she is proud of and [that] leave my wife and me in awe.” (Brent Moorehead)

The 2023 Sarah H. Elizabeth Hoiles Memorial Award recipient is none other than Kaja Reynolds!

Senior Farewell

presented by Aleksandra Edwards '23

Students, faculty, friends, family, and alumni, thank you for joining us today as we celebrate the Class of 2023 and all that we’ve accomplished and will accomplish moving forward. I speak on behalf of us all when I tell you how grateful we are to see all of your faces, and I am so grateful for the privilege of speaking before you today. I am honored to be the voice of the class sharing our story with you today.

Before the room at the end of junior hall was Mr. Playe’s College Counseling Office, it was Café Bleu. Despite its new nomenclature, I can guarantee you with absolute certainty that each and every senior first thinks of the room next to Profe’s with the baby blue walls by that name.

Each time we blink, we see four walls of a slightly lighter color, so subtle that any other eye wouldn’t notice a difference; a pair of whiteboards scattered with the hideously scrawled artwork of bored freshmen; marks above trash cans from smaller, less coordinated arms throwing bottles from across the room with terrible aim; a cheese ball stuck to the wall next to the door, whose presence was constant, steadfast, unwavering for many months…somehow. Those walls watched us throw each other’s lunches out the window in fits of laughter and collective chaos, drop an entire window screen from the second floor and surreptitiously sneak it back up the stairs and replace it with haste.

Those walls heard us blast horrendous music; I’m still not quite sure how it managed to go unnoticed as it permeated the halls, emanating from the hub of untamed Middle Schoolers who had been haphazardly transplanted into the Upper School building, into Café Bleu. By the end of the year, the paint on the walls almost visibly curled away from us in apprehension. Even so, after all the grief through which we put it, Café Bleu helped us grow up. Not monumentally, mind you, but a start; we didn’t hit our growth spurts, both literally and figuratively, until halfway through sophomore year.

The walls of sophomore hall downstairs saw easily as much mayhem as Café Bleu suffered through the year before. But, Dr. Gillon is right about what he says regarding second-semester sophomores; someone flipped a switch in our collective hive mind and by the end of the year we’d managed to raise the money to replace the table we demolished, pulled the pencils from the ceiling tiles, and learned to actually put our trash in the trash can… for the most part.

As juniors we were in the same hall as freshmen, but this time the familiar admonishments about orange peels on the floor and ant infestations were suspiciously absent from our class meetings. This time, our inboxes looked more like “Remember your meeting with Mr. Playe today during study hall!” or “Colleges visiting campus this week.” And, so the paint on the walls of junior hall was just fine that year… maybe a little peeved by our new habit of tacking miscellaneous posters—and other things that weren’t posters—to it, but nothing more.

Café Bleu didn’t see much of us that year; only for the infamous weekly college meeting that we really only recognized at that point as robbing us of a vital study hall. By the time we’d left behind the meringue-beige, eggshell-colored walls of junior hall permanently and returned to the familiar baby blue, we were seniors. Or, technically we were seniors. The sun was still too strong and the wind devoid of the familiar chill of fall, and evidently none of us felt it yet. At that point, we were too distracted by the open window and the subsequent August sunlight flooding the corner of the room to notice our feet, inching ever so slightly toward the precipice of our own respective futures with each “personal statement due tomorrow!” and “finish listing activities on the common app!”

So, there we were in Café Bleu once more, but this time – instead of haphazardly folded paper airplanes that looked suspiciously like homework assignments soaring through the air – it was emails that were flying back and forth, critiques on our essays and recommendations for our college lists. That room at the end of junior hall is where we grew up.

We went from teenage tornadoes that the school so discreetly and expertly managed to contain in a single room to real adults, planning our futures. It’s in that room that so many of us made the life-altering decision of where we’d be ending up for the next four years of our lives. Café Bleu was our first sanctuary as awkward freshmen and our final one as maturing, far more composed individuals.

As we prepare to leave campus for the final time, it’s Café Bleu that we will all be seeing in the rearview mirror—both versions, then and now, of the place that will be a part of each and every one of us forever.

And so, senior graduating Class of 2023, knowing every person on this stage personally, fondly, and as one of your own, I speak for all of us when I give this earnest farewell. We’re off to find Café Bleu’s that are all our own. And, not only to find it but to cultivate it as Café Bleu cultivated us.

Maybe it’s not a room with four blue walls, but instead a single table in a cafeteria. A lounge in a residence hall. A spot beneath a tree. Maybe it’s not a physical place at all, but instead a group of people. A club. A team. Because, after all, it’s not the room that always made Café Bleu so special, but rather the people in it.

Café Bleu, I’ve come to learn, is not four walls. It never was. Café Bleu is the Class of 2023 as seniors, freshmen, and every stage in between. Café Bleu is us. Café Bleu is “Home.” I know that all of the people seated here with me are capable of creating home because they created mine.

And, I can honestly say with great pride that each and every one of us is more than able to do it once again. Thank you from the bottom of all 19 of our hearts to our peers, mentors, teachers, and parents for shaping us into people that can create home so easily.

Thank you for being a part of the Café Bleu that raised us. No matter what part of the country we’re all headed to this fall, we’ll find a new place to grow. It would appear we’ll need to, as we’ve outgrown this one. Those four walls have become just a little bit too cramped now. And in our new homes, I can all but guarantee that we will be the absolutely unhinged freshmen we once were. Because home is for growth. Home is for trial and error; learning and transformation. Home is for leaving orange peels on the floor and getting ants. It’s for throwing paper darts at the ceiling and trying to get them to stick into the tiles. For secretly collecting and stashing away the teachers’ name placards outside every classroom door. Filling the senior prank balloons with water and having to clean up the aftermath. It’s for plastering the walls with newspaper collages and then protesting to no end when the fire department makes you take them down. For starting and sharing pages upon pages of teachers’ quote documents that will stand the test of time.

There will be times when we will reflect on these past versions of ourselves and shake our heads. I know I do; I giggle at versions of us from Middle School, yelling “oombakiki” at one another across the halls, to versions just months old adorning the walls with posters denouncing a certain CEO of College Board.

Such is inevitable in the process of growth. We do it together, often. Never have I felt so close with this group of people than in the moments we reflect on our history together.

Just as we transformed from little kids into the prepared, young adults we are now, we will transform again in college. Being here has taught us to be open to and ready for wherever that transformation may take us. Maybe it’s where we’ve known we’d end up all along, and maybe it simply isn’t. Four years from now, each individual with me on the Terrace will experience a familiar deja vu; by then we’ll have outgrown our next homes, too. We’ll be ready to make our personalized marks on this dynamic world. I am confident that every single one of us is capable of making that mark an immeasurable one.

So, Class of 2023, thank you for creating my home, and thank you for affording me the gift of being a part of yours. No matter where we all are even decades from now, we will all have Café Bleu in our hearts. That memory will always be one we think of fondly. It will forever remain a point from which we measure ourselves and our growth. We’ve all come so far, and I’m proud to have been a part of all of the other distinct journeys being led by these amazing people here with me. And, all of our journeys will go even further still once we part following this bittersweet culmination of this segment of our lives. Thank you, Café Bleu, not so much the room itself but the class, the family, that it has come to represent, for turning me into the person I am today. For turning all of us into the people we are today.

As we all move on from this home here, we will take pieces of it to the new homes we create down the line. It’s only fair to bring some of it with us; Café Bleu, after all, certainly has its own piece of each and every individual on this stage. From here we will go forth, create new homes, and remember the versions of us that lived in the old ones. We will learn from who we once were, grow from them, and carry them with us like we’ll carry Café Bleu. I bid all of my peers good luck and goodwill in the new homes we go on to create. Thank you for being a truly unforgettable, capable, willful group of people. I’m beyond honored to call you my class, my family, and my Café Bleu.