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Celebrating the Accomplishments of Steward's Classes of 2028, 2025, and 2021

The Steward School recognized the achievements of all students for the 2020-21 school year, especially the classes of 2028, 2025, and 2021.
As we look back at the 2020-21 school year, it's easy to be reminded of how different the year felt in the classroom, in our homes, and in the world around us. But looking back is also a great opportunity to recognize that, despite a global pandemic and daily uncertainty that lasted for months on end, our community stuck together closer than ever before, creating a truly unforgettable experience for Spartans of all ages.

The Steward School took this past week to celebrate the accomplishments our students achieved this year, specifically focusing on our fifth-, eighth-, and 12th-grade classes. Read on for a summary of each of the major end-of-year recognition events.

Lower School Recognition Ceremony

The 33 members of Steward's Class of 2028 were honored at the Lower School Recognition Ceremony on Friday, June 4. In Director of Lower School Ingrid Moore's opening remarks, she reinforced how remarkable it was to see the students adapt to countless changes.

"You have been part of something historic this year," she said. "How you choose to look back on this year makes all the difference."

Mrs. Moore encouraged the fifth-grade class to think of silver linings: everything they accomplished that didn't seem possible last spring, like adapting to virtual learning and embracing COVID-19 safety precautions as part of their everyday routines.

"You've come through the other side," she said. "I will celebrate your humor, your spirit, and your resilience."

Next, faculty members handed out department-specific awards.

  • Art teacher Lynn Zinder presented the Art Award to Henry Pietrantoni '28;
  • Spanish teachers Jen Blanco and Jose Luis Reyes Lopez presented the Spanish Award to Jack Niemas '28;
  • P.E. teacher EJ Watkins presented the Sportsmanship Award to Mason Smith '28;
  • Music teacher Samson Trinh presented the Music Award to Malcolm Walker '28;
  • Theatre teacher Craig Smith presented the Theatre Award to Emily Stefanick 28;
  • And Lower School librarian Carlee Cutchin presented the Library Award to Kayla Ayala-Delgado '28.

Mrs. Moore then presented the Lower School's most prestigious award — the Linda Dunville Award — to the student who best demonstrates extraordinary effort, cooperation, kindness, and school spirit. This year's Linda Dunville Award winner is Presley Letellier '28.

"We have watched with wonder as [Presley] has blossomed into an incredible young lady who looks out for her classmates, treats teachers with kindness and respect, and who cares deeply about her work," Mrs. Moore said.

Gabriel Zepeda '28, this year's student speaker, reminisced over the various projects, field trips, and events he shared with his fellow Lower Schoolers over the years like Mini-Economy, Hands-on-History Day, and a second-grade project on Greek mythology.

"Lower School was our introduction to the Steward family," he said in summary. "We learned that Steward was the best place to be."

Director of Middle School Susan Atkinson then officially welcomed the Class of 2028 to the Middle School, wishing them a wonderful summer.

Click here to see photos from this year's Lower School Recognition Ceremony.
 

Middle School Recognition Ceremony

The 62 eighth graders recognized at this year's Middle School Recognition Ceremony on Friday, June 4 have lots to be proud of — a fact Mrs. Atkinson reinforced during the event's opening speech.

"They have represented our school very well," she said of the Class of 2025. "They have been wonderful stewards." 

Despite one being a first-year Spartan and the other having joined Steward as a junior kindergartner, student speakers Luna Forlano '25 and Braylan Rice '25 dedicated their opening remarks to what they appreciated most about the Steward experience: the dedicated faculty and staff.

"It's been a difficult year for everyone, and this school year wouldn't have been a success without the hard work of teachers, administrators, and faculty members," Braylan said.

"Whether you've been at Steward forever or just a year, we all know of teachers who inspire us and encourage us," Luna added. "Especially this year, our teachers deserve a tremendous thank you."

Kaylyn Whiteside '25, one of the first two winners of the Impact Scholars award, took the stage next on behalf of the Middle School Student Council to present the class gift to Head of School Dan Frank: "upgraded" Field Day T-shirts for faculty and eighth-grade students made from recyclable materials.

The ceremony then shifted to its musical interludes. The eighth-grade chorus sang "Leave it All to Shine," followed by a performance of "Land of a Thousand Dances" by the eighth-grade band.

Mrs. Atkinson returned to the podium to discuss what cultural commentator David Brooks calls "the great unmasking" — the state of the world as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and return to public life. 

"Your Middle School years certainly have been memorable ones, including the 15 months we have been masked," Mrs. Atkinson said. "I personally look forward to the day that I can always see everyone's smiling faces again."

She read from a selection of quotes from Steward students as they reflected on the lessons they learned in Middle School and how they would approach life during "the great unmasking." Some advice included:

  • "Sometimes you have to give things up to achieve your dreams."
  • "Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and take chances and risks."
  • "Family is really important."
  • "Avoid running backwards. Always move forward."

Middle School Academic Dean Scott Ludlow announced students who earned Honor Roll and Headmaster's List this year, followed by the presentation of the Outstanding Progress Award — awarded to the student who has shown the greatest overall growth and improvement in all areas of school life throughout the year. This year's winners were Pedro Lujan '25 and Shreya Natarajan '25.

Mrs. Atkinson presented one final award — The Steward Award, the most prestigious award given to a Middle School student who best exemplifies the characteristics of integrity, commitment to academic achievement, high moral standards, and sensitivity to others — to Nathan Gu '25.

Closing remarks came from Nathan and Pedro, who both spoke admirably of their classmates' resilience as well as the support they received from friends, family, teachers, and coaches. Pedro referenced the Frank Sinatra hit "My Way" as inspiration for his speech, tying the song's lyrics to the experience of finishing this unordinary school year. 

"The end is near, we're at the final curtain. But through it all, we stood tall and took the blows," he said. "We did it our way."

"We've all had our share of failures and wins, but most of all, we made it through together," Nathan added. "As we move on to the vast land of Upper School, let's take one more time for all of us to laugh and smile together. And most importantly, let's thank those who made this dream possible."

Director of Upper School Adam Seldis congratulated the Class of 2025 for completing Middle School and officially welcomed them to the Upper School before the ceremony's end.

Click here to see photos from this year's Middle School Recognition Ceremony.
 

Graduation

Finally, after celebrating their accomplishments for the last few weeks, the 75 members of the Class of 2021 walked across the stage on Wilton Lawn to become the most recent members of The Steward School's alumni community on June 7.

Upper School teachers and Class of 2021 sponsors Sarah Dwelle and Karen Hudson opened the event with an invocation, after which Dr. Seldis welcomed the students, families, faculty, and staff assembled for Graduation. 

Alex Eiben, senior class president, presented Mr. Frank with the class gift — six new Adirondack chairs to be used as a gathering space outside the Upper School.

Senior speakers George Goldstein and Nicole Odibo were chosen by their classmates to give remarks during Commencement, and both offered an uplifting message that looked hopefully toward the future.

"These buildings, these grounds, this field — they are all places where you feel welcome and safe, and it's a mindset and spirit that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life," George said.

In her speech, Nicole implored her classmates to take risks and overcome self-doubt. "Class of 2021, as we grab our pens to write the next chapter of our lives, I encourage you all to write your dreams, your passions, and your fears so that we can say we lived with no doubt and died with no regrets," she said.

Numerous awards were then presented to the graduating seniors, including a recognition of the class' 20 K-12 "lifers" — the largest such group in Steward's history — as well as Steward's highest honor, The Dixon Award. This year's Dixon Award winner was Drew Thompson, whom Mr. Frank described as a skillful student, leader, and citizen.

Graduation also included a selection of musical pieces. An Upper School concert ensemble performed a rendition of "Pomp and Circumstance" with Upper School music teacher John McAlister during the processional, and Laya Koder, who is headed to Temple University to study vocal performance in the fall, provided a solo choral performance of "Con te partirò (Time to Say Goodbye)." During the recessional, the concert ensemble played a version of Green Day's "Time of Your Life"

Following the presentation of awards, Mr. Frank gave his Commencement address. Like usual, it was replete with musical interludes and personalized messages to each member of the graduating class.

"Good luck, Class of 2021," Mr. Frank said. "In your futures, know that your time here will continue to influence all of us. And I believe that, likewise, you will call on your time here as you slip from these storm-tossed seas into the shimmering harbors of your next endeavors."

After the conferring of diplomas, graduates and their families drove out of campus along the carpool route during the New Alumni Drive-Thru. Steward faculty, staff, and families lined the carpool route to cheer them on, many driving off in lavishly decorated vehicles, as they exited campus for the first time as alumni.

Click here to see photos from this year's Graduation.
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