An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Felicia Wilks, Upper School director

Following is an excerpt from Upper School Director Felicia Wilks’s speech at Commencement 2019.

I have the great privilege of reflecting on the Class of 2019. You exemplify so many aspects of our mission — you are caring, curious, hard-working, and just an overall terrific class.

I want to thank the parents and guardians of the Class of 2019 — first for raising such an awesome group of students, second for choosing to send them to Lakeside, and finally for being such a great parent and guardian community. I am grateful that I landed as a member of your class of parents and guardians. And it is not just me who thinks you did a great job raising these students. According to the staff member who runs a session where seniors learn basic tasks they will need in college, there are many more students in this class who do their own laundry. According to an informal poll, 75-80% of students in this class self-reported doing their own laundry, as compared to 30-50% in other classes. This small detail suggests the group’s sense of responsibility and independence. And even if you are like me, and a part of that 25% who have not prepared your student to do their laundry, there is plenty of other evidence to suggest that this group of seniors is ready for the greater independence they will experience in college.

To the Class of 2019, I feel so lucky to have this chance to reflect back to you the positive imprint you are leaving on this community. In the best of times, you have made things better and in the worst of times, you have also made things better. Your class has a centered strength that plays an incredibly positive role in our community. The stories I heard about you from as early as Middle School suggest you have always been kind, an all-in classthat has consistently said ‘yes’ to whatever is needed. You are true leaders.

Of all of your strengths and talents as a class, I will focus on six of them.

More than anything, the Class of 2019 is defined by positive energy and kindness. So many of the stories shared with me had this thread woven into the fabric. Here are a few examples:

  • One of you was spotted helping your younger sibling with homework on the sidelines during one of your games. Somehow, you were able to both pay attention to the game so you would know what you needed to do when you were called back in, and be a great sibling, and help out with some Middle School homework.
  • One of you has consistently offered to help members of the maintenance crew since you entered 9th grade, and on occasion you have washed windows and raked leaves.
  • You have always taken care of each other, celebrated each other, and supported one another. You sing happy birthday from the sidelines of games, and you go wild when the famous senior band, the Bobert Project performs. You perform in each other’s fashion shows and plays, allowing your classmates to shine. You have each other’s backs and that support is inspiring to witness.
  • In Middle School, those who traveled with you to Broetje Orchards … and to Ancient Lakes recall your great spirit of enthusiasm for whatever task was at hand, and the fun you all had together. You sang cheers as you walked miles to complete chores, and you enjoyed spending time together singing the “Cups” song (with cups) in wonderful harmony, you strove then as you do now to get the most out of every experience together.

The second aspect of this class I will describe is the fact that you are the only group of teenagers I know who are regularly and unsarcastically called a group of “cool kids.” But better than being cool is that you are never too cool — never too cool to take part in whatever is happening or to take time out to spend with younger students. You always say yes: whether that is in response to help, time, enthusiasm, or leadership. There was a consensus among students, faculty and staff that when any member if your class is part of something, it is just better. You are positive role models who lead by example and you use your power for good. Your ability to see beyond yourselves is what truly makes you cool.

  • At the 9th grade retreat this fall, the group of 2019 leaders were fully committed role models who happily shared what they knew with our 9th graders. Senior leaders modeled vulnerability by talking to new 9th graders about your experiences in the high school. At one point, while one of you was describing a personal experience, a rash of inappropriate coughing broke out amongst the listening 9th graders. One of you called out the immature behavior and reminded the 9th graders that respect is a pillar of the school’s community expectations. This was a great example of the ways in which you have used your popularity, influence, and status as seniors to continually look for ways to give back.
  • I recently heard a group of 9th graders say they felt lucky to have you as their seniors, because they never would have guessed before coming to the Upper School that they would have so many senior friends.
  • Tenth and 11th graders feel the same way. You have helped them find their own paths through Lakeside by sharing yours. You have been available, listened, offered advice, guided them toward support, and embraced younger students as equals.
  • After some tough news this year, senior swimmers on the girls’ team spent extra time and care on the younger members of the team. At one point, one of you somehow had four girls total under your two arms.
  • On Student Sponsored Day, seniors participated in each dance class and activity with gusto. Some students were afraid of being so far outside their comfort zones by dancing in front of their peers. But when they saw the seniors dancing their hearts out without pretense, they allowed themselves to have fun dancing, too
  • Likewise, on GSL trips, this class set a positive tone, as one leader commented, the students in this class, “maintained a positive attitude and an openness to the experience that contributed to the positive morale of everyone on the trip.”

In addition to being kind, effective role models, you are also advocates for a wide range of causes. On campus, that meant advocating for younger students and creating more awareness around mental health and healthy relationships. You approached these moments of advocacy with respect and clarity. We have learned from you and appreciate that you were willing to stand for what you believed was right. Your class has used its strength of character to benefit our whole community. This is truly a gift. Here are a few examples of those gifts: 

  • In your time in the Upper School, you contributed to many areas of student wellness, from creating data sets on student stress during key times of the year, to teaching lessons on mental health and healthy relationships to your peers and to younger students.
  • You gave faculty and administrators candid feedback about course content and curricular areas where we can improve - even going so far as to propose classes that other students might benefit from and enjoy.
  • You created the women in business club and hosted meetings for girls interested in business in the Middle School.
  • You also served as affinity group facilitators for Middle School students this year. As a result of your work, our Middle School students reported feeling connected and comfortable exploring topics of identity with you.

Your commitment to service is not limited to your work on campus. Many of you volunteered far more than the 80 required hours, with a class total of over 17,800 service hours. 

  • In addition, one of you earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
  • One of you raised $50,000 to purchase a Mobile Food unit to serve those experiencing homelessness.
  • Several members of this class volunteer in Seattle and around the world to bring hundreds of people clean drinking water.
  • Members of this class volunteer to clean trails, to teach and tutor, to serve at food banks and shelters, to answer teen helplines, and to spend time with the elderly.
  • Members of your class also created a peer tutoring program for Upper Schoolers to tutor other Upper School students as well as Middle School students.
  • You volunteer for Planned Parenthood, visiting many area schools to teach sexual education.
  • You raise money for childhood cancer research.
  • And one of you is a member of East King County Explorer Search & Rescue (ESAR), which is tasked with assisting authorities in locating lost hikers.

In addition to being generous leaders on campus and beyond, you are also incredibly, exceptionally talented — and in a wide variety of areas. In the arts, you have defined your own work, found your voice and thrilled us repeatedly with your artistic expression. In athletics, you broke records, won titles, and cups. What is most remarkable, is that you have figured out how to use your diversity as a strength. Because you make space for each other and support each other, many of you have found unique and impressive ways to shine.

  • You are designers of incredible clothing designs, stylists and style icons, you are rappers, beat-makers, poets, sestina writers, novelists, digital storytellers, designers of comics and games, trivia masters, accomplished painters, photographers, singers, jugglers, and so much more.
  • One of you plays saxophone in the Seattle All City Marching Band.
  • One of you is a state finalist in the Washington music educators solo and ensemble competition.
  • Many of you are also competitive and award-winning triathletes, marathon runners, gymnasts, swimmers, expert log-rollers, alpine ski racers, ice hockey and rugby players.
  • You are also caring and attentive team managers.
  • One member of your class is the most accomplished baseball player in school history.
  • The seniors on the girls swim and dive team won the Metro Championships all four years in Upper School.
  • This year’s seniors brought home two state championships, three state runner-ups, four state academic championships, three district championships, and six Metro championships.
  • And as a result of this success and your leadership, Lakeside won the WIAA Scholastic Cup this year for the first time in the school’s history. The Scholastic Cup recognizes performance in the classroom and on the athletic fields. Sportsmanship is also an important part of the calculation. Thanks for your work as strong and fair athletes and as dedicated students.
  • Your work has won Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and has been published in writing anthologies and prestigious law review journals.
  • Fourteen seniors were awarded ribbons in the state photo contest and three of those seniors won top prizes in their categories.
  • Five of you were in more than 11 drama productions.
  • One of you is among the national finalists for the August Wilson Monologue Competition.

Finally, you are true intellectuals. Your teachers commented repeatedly on your love of learning, your great curiosity and your impressive innovative thinking.

  • Others of you are aspiring linguists, learning an impressive number of languages - one of you is fluent in nine languages.
  • Even in your senior spring, some of you “slacked” by taking over the student area in the science core and turning it into a board game zone. Your excited exclamations as you played Blokus and Ticket to Ride could be heard throughout the day. Your teachers loved that your relaxation involved playing games that challenged your mind.
  • You have created new products, like glasses that project a virtual runner to race against as you train.
  • You have worked to create motorized kayaks and wooden hydroplanes.
  • Members of this class have qualified for the U.S. Math Olympiad fifteen times, and one of you was one of the winners of the U.S. Math Olympiad, the first ever from Lakeside.
  • Two members of this class competed in the Romanian Master of Mathematics competition where the team came in first place and one student in this class earned an individual silver medal.
  • Members of this class have qualified for the Physics Olympiad six times, and one of you was selected to represent the United States at the International Physics Olympiad twice.
  • One of you is an international chess master.
  • Several of you are state champions in chess.
  • One of you is a prolific contributor to Wikipedia.
  • Several of you are award-winning writers in Spanish.
  • One of you is a 2019 Cameron Impact Scholar - one of 15 students nationwide to earn a four-year full tuition scholarship to any university or college in the United States.
  • One of you won both the National Gold Medal (for personal essay) and the American Voices Medal (for memoir).
  • At least one of you reads 12-14 books per week in the summer. And I hope you do that this summer, too!

You are an incredible class, kind, fun, and accomplished. Thank you for all you did for the school over these years — and thank you for setting such a high bar for empathetic, engaged, ethical, hard-working student leadership. We are grateful for the legacy of action and integrity you will leave at Lakeside.

I could go on and on and quite frankly, I am tempted to filibuster us into a few more hours of calling you our seniors, but it is time to let you go. I know you will bring your gifts to your new communities and that makes me so proud and considerably jealous. Know that you will be missed greatly by all of us here. Lakeside will always be here for you.