Apart, but together a central theme during 227th Convocation Ceremony
September 1, 2020
The feeling of community was prevalent during this year’s Convocation Ceremony, held on the Cheshire Academy campus on Aug. 30.
For many members of the Cheshire Academy community, the annual tradition—which is a culminating event celebrating the beginning of the academic school year—was slightly different. Rather than the annual walk along Main Street to St. Bridget of Sweden Parish as has been done since the fall of 2006, members of the Class of 2021, led by Senior Masters Karen Smith and Chip Boyd, strolled from Slaughter Field to the Armando Simosa ‘08 Athletic Field and Track, where seats were organized in a socially distanced fashion, and a podium was stationed near the grandstands.
Jenna Purslow ’21 said it best in her speech to her classmates: “Today, we mark the beginning of one of the strangest school years we have ever experienced.”
Purslow, along with three of her peers—one of whom was remote—addressed the now-senior class. In her remarks, Purslow offered her classmates words of advice for the upcoming semester. “I would say to be optimistic, flexible, and continue to make connections with the diverse and interesting students and faculty that make up the Cheshire Academy community … This year, flexibility is needed in all aspects of life on campus, at home, and around the world.”
Jonathan Velasquez ’21 took the opportunity to speak about racial injustice and inequality taking place around the United States. Velasquez, who is of African American and Puerto Rican descent, urged those listening to eliminate hate and, instead, bring more positivity to the world.
“We are the generation the world is depending on to resolve these problems, and we can change it now,” Velasquez said. “Our actions in this world have a domino effect, and if we change and decrease racism in our world now, then the next generation will follow … So let’s make the change now. Let’s make it start here. Let’s put effort into doing the right thing. We can be the start to a new and better world.”
Ben Goth ’21 urged his peers to listen to Cheshire Academy administrators, the state of Connecticut, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure they can remain on campus, learning in person. When Cheshire Academy transitioned to remote learning in March, Goth began to speak less frequently with his friends, and hadn’t seen some of his classmates since before spring recess.
“Cheshire Academy, as it is for many others, is like a second home to me, and for some it’s their first,” Goth continued. “My guess is that none of us wants to be away for another few months so, please, for the sake of public health, for the sake of your friends, for the sake of your family, wear a mask and wash your hands. If we all chip in, we will be able to have a safe, happy, and somewhat normal school year.”
Nicole Hao ’21, who is learning remotely from China this semester, left a message for her classmates through a pre-recorded video. In her speech, Hao reflected on the changes the pandemic made to her life, including being unable to visit colleges and universities, and participating in a science competition. Despite the global changes, Hao proposed to her peers that they still strive to do the best they can.
“I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to look back and take pride in how they responded to this challenge, and those who come after us will say Cheshire Academy students responded to this unprecedented pandemic with optimism, self-discipline, and a sense of togetherness. We are all in this together—no matter where you are right now.”
Rachel Wright, assistant head of school for academic affairs, reflected on the unique situation the 2020-2021 academic year has presented for students. She said this year is the first of its kind, as is the traditional convocation ceremony, the countless Zoom meetings, and other situations that have taken place.
Wright told the senior class that they are not empty vessels, meaning that every student comes with their own experiences, knowledge, and understanding. She implored the students to bring their own knowledge to the table to better the experience for themselves and their peers. “I encourage you to share your understanding; recognizing that someone else will understand differently; ask questions, not just of your teachers, but of each other; think out loud; engage with what your teachers are putting in front of you. The more you give us to work with, the more we can give back to you that will push you to the next level.”
Head of School Julie Anderson spoke specifically about communities, and the different communities from which every student arrives. A student’s community could be their hometown, team, ensemble, or affinity group. Cheshire Academy, too, is its own community, one that Anderson implored students to make a good one, despite some students being remote.
“We need the strength of our community more than ever,” Anderson said. “Be intentional in joining communities; if you are studying remotely, become involved in clubs, music, theater, leadership. If you are attending school in person, take advantage of not only what is available to you here on campus, but reach out and join the communities outside of campus. We are one school, one Cheshire Academy community, despite the physical distance.”
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