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Graduation 2018

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Congratulations to the 22 members of the Class of 2018, who graduated on June 2 at Mid-Pen’s 38th Commencement Exercises.

Instead of selecting student speakers, it is a school tradition to welcome any student to speak who wants to. This year, four students took the microphone to share very different stories about their Mid-Pen experiences.

Referring to his love of cooking, Ryan Burton ’18 drew a parallel between success in the kitchen and success in school. Just as not every recipe turns out a masterpiece, not every assignment results in an A. “High school has prepared me, and hopefully all my fellow graduates,” he said, “not to be deterred by these perfect failures and keep looking ahead to the next masterpiece.”

Aidan Lloyd-Tucker ’18 spoke about community. “Your community is like a climbing rope; everyone attached has a difference background, but everyone is tied together by the rope,” he said. “If you slip or fall, remember that you are still connect to this rope, and your community will pull you back up, and help you adapt and continue. With a strong community behind you, you can face the unknown. Looking forward, as we go into the world, I hope that all of us can find that special community that allow us to try, fail, and learn.

Having come from China two years ago as a sophomore, Jiaxan Li ’18 always aspired to speak at graduation after watching High School: The Musical and thinking that giving a graduation speech “looked cool.” She described the challenge of learning English and her reluctance to speak in public, until finding her voice in Laurie Miller’s Socratic Seminar senior year. “With Laurie’s help, I no longer felt nervous,” she recalled. “Socratic Seminar gave me the courage to give a speech in front of all of you here…. My home is not here, but Mid-Pen makes me feel comfortable and safe.”

Schuyler Zandbergen ’18 recalled the many times he has eaten lunch in one of the hammocks under the willow tree behind the school. Even on the quietest days, there is always a little bit of movement. “Whether it be from the wind or the motion of my breath, I can never lie perfectly still,” he reflected. “To turn this hammock into a metaphor, you can’t go to school and remain entirely unchanged. Little my little, I’m moved…. There was not great movement that changed me into older me, just a steady inclination towards maturity. Now that I look back, I can see how far those movements have taken me.”

This year’s alumni speaker was Jeff Gielow ’98, who for the past six years has been a middle school counselor with the Palo Alto Unified School District. A few days before graduation, he attended the traditional Senior Dinner, where he was touched by the reflections and expressions of thanks the students shared with their teachers.

“I want you to know that these students shared their thoughtful feelings with their teachers about their deep appreciation for being seen for who they are, believed in, encouraged, and accepted by the Mid-Pen community,” he said. “These are big-ticket items for any of us, but I would say especially for teens, particularly for ones who may not have received recognition and validation at their previous schools. As I heard these stories, I realized Mid-Pen gave us all something special. It gave us a place to be heard. A place to be seen as we are. A place to be real, as well as held to real expectations for success.”