On the afternoon of June 10, Lakeside School presented diplomas to 145 graduating seniors in a sun-drenched ceremony on the Upper School quad. The event marked two significant milestones: completion of high school for the members of the Class of 2021, and the past year’s first, long-awaited, community-wide in-person gathering of students, families, and Lakeside faculty, staff, and administrators. The gathering had the festive feel of a graduation and a reunion while meeting state and local guidelines for safe gatherings.
Lakeside School Board of Trustees Chair Carey Crutcher ’77 Smith formally convened the school’s 96th commencement, acknowledging the special circumstances faced by the graduating students. “We are in awe,” she said, “of their courage, creativity, and resilience as they navigated this challenging year.”
Student Government president William Murray ’21 talked about the lessons he gained from his class’s efforts to adjust and sustain a sense of community during the extended period of remote and blended learning — and how a key part of the Lakeside education transcended the experience. “‘Lakeside Remote’” was specifically not a place,” he said, “but it was still a place of learning. When our oval tables were taken away from us, the engagement, the dialogue, and the learning from one another remained a constant.”
In her speech, Assistant Head of School/Upper School Director Felicia Wilks focused on four of the strengths of the Class of 2021: their leadership, service, talents, and joy, even during challenging times. “More than the impressive things you create and accomplish, is that you are good people,” she said. “You are kind, funny, brilliant, empathetic, and determined. You adapted to conditions none of us could have anticipated — and not just with the pandemic. In each case, you focused on caring for each other and this community. You made it through these hard times and you helped all of us through with the strength of kindness. You exemplify caring leadership and I am grateful for all you shared and for who you were on this campus — in person and remote — over these last four years.”
Dash Barnett ’21 and Denisse Aguilar Sarmiento ’21, elected as class speakers by their classmates, offered their respective perspectives, channeling unexpected inspiration through Nietzsche’s dark advice to wish pain and suffering on those we care about, and in a powerful spoken word performance. “Lakeside is often viewed as a school for the privileged, a school for kids who growing up had social connections and sometimes a guarantee that their future was assured …. And while that is true, I know many of you don’t identify that way,” spoke Sarmiento. “I am proud of you.”
Finishing his 22nd year, Lakeside’s Head of School Bernie Noe challenged the seniors to discover how they can best use their talents to benefit others. “I believe everyone here is optimistic because we are sending 145 members of the Class of 2021 out into the world to be ethical, thoughtful leaders, good parents, good life partners, good citizens, good people,” said Noe. “You will work to create a more just and equitable world for everyone wherever you are and whatever you do. You have done that in your time at Lakeside and you will continue to do so in the larger world.” He presented each graduate with a book: a copy of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.
In what has become a Lakeside tradition, the graduating seniors also offered a gift to Bernie Noe: this year, an abstract painting created in the moment. Just before stepping onto the stage to receive their diploma, each member of the Class of 2021 picked up a paint brush and added to a canvas that soon filled with swirls and lines and bright bursts of color, each one leaving their mark.