June 8, 2022
There was standing room only under the Commencement tent on Saturday, June 4, as the Cheshire Academy community gathered to celebrate the graduating Class of 2022.
A total of 85 students became Cheshire Academy’s newest alumni, as they were surrounded by friends, family, faculty, and staff during the final milestone of their high school career.
Kicking off the ceremony was Student Body President Jaden Otero ’22, who welcomed guests and wished his peers the best as they continue on to the next chapter of their lives.
Following Otero was Nancy Daoud P’11, ChFC, APMA. A champion of female-led businesses and the power of the American dream, Daoud has received many accolades, including Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors and the Financial Times Top 400 Financial Advisors for 2019, Forbes Best in State Wealth Advisors for 2020, Barron’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors for 2020 and 2021, and was most recently ranked by Forbes as one of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors for 2022.
Daoud is also founder and CEO of Opus: Advice First, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services LLC that employs 18 team members and handles $1.6 billion in assets. Daoud’s son, Christopher, is a financial planning analyst, member of the CA Class of 2011, and has been a member of the Opus team since 2020.
As part of her address, Daoud spoke about gratitude, opportunity, and purpose. She reflected on her parents’ decision to leave war-torn Egypt, when she was just 11 years old, for better opportunities in the United States, her entering the financial services industry shortly after graduating from college, facing challenges yet persevering and thriving in a male-dominated industry, and other significant milestones in her life. She also imparted words of wisdom to the graduating seniors, such as to build trust, do what you say you’re going to do, don’t make promises you can’t keep, and to tell the truth, even when it’s not pretty.
“Have gratitude for what you have and for the people who love you instead of always focusing on what is lacking in your life and in them,” Daoud said. “Grab every opportunity—you may not recognize which one will be the opportunity of your life … and, finally, be kind to each other and to all others. It will build your confidence and strengthen your purpose.”
Siyuan “James” Guo ’22, valedictorian for the Class of 2022, spoke about the responsibility he and his peers have. He spoke about his sister, who is three years younger than he is, and how he is responsible for protecting and serving as a good role model to her. Initially, he didn’t realize his actions would impact how she would act, so when he disassembled mechanical devices at home and played around with the settings of his mother’s cell phone, he was surprised to see his sister began acting in a similar fashion. The realization that his sister looked up to him pushed him to become better at everything he did, including participating and listening in class, completing work on time, making careful and innovative decisions for the CA Math Club, and becoming a member of the National Honor Society.
“Always seek to be a role model,” Guo said. “In doing so, we will become someone that CA will be proud of. Strengthen yourself with all the responsibilities given to you, for you and for everyone in the world. We are capable of and responsible for becoming an elite graduate that everyone can be proud of. Starting today, let’s keep our responsibilities given to us by Cheshire Academy and nurture greater opportunities to assume more in the future.”
Salutatorian Luke Parkerson ’22 reflected on his car ride to Cheshire Academy during his 9th-grade year, heading to the annual Convocation ceremony. He sat in the backseat of the car, fidgeting with his tie, thinking about how he was starting high school, and unsure of what lay ahead. That ride, he reflected, was the first of a few he wished to share with his peers and the audience, which is to pause and be mindful, recognize the things that are important to you, and to appreciate the people around you.
Parkerson’s remaining points were to be grateful for the people who have made their lives better, and to make the absolute most of every opportunity they can find. “…Everyone here will find their own purpose, even if it takes some time to realize what that is. Nobody has to be ‘made’ for any particular subject; we can always work toward any goal without needing the world to drop it in our laps. As we move forward into uncharted waters, I hope all of us can take a step back and savor each moment, and turn the burdens in our lives into opportunities. Starting from the backseat of that car, until this moment, it has sincerely been a pleasure to watch the entire growth of the Class of 2022.”
Head of School Julie Anderson P’19,’23 reflected on the state of the world, which includes the influence of social media, polarization of the United States, gun violence, the pandemic, and climate change. She said that the experience the Class of 2022 had at Cheshire Academy has uniquely prepared the new graduates for a world that “is at a critical juncture.”
“Let these crises teach you that you are adaptable, that you are changemakers, that you have the tools to make the world a better place,” Anderson said. “We all must confront difficulty and challenge; if we do not, we will not grow.”
“The world needs you,” Anderson continued. “You are future leaders, social activists, teachers, nurses, epidemiologists, psychologists, engineers, writers, scientists. You will discover cures for diseases, you will write policy to reduce the impact of climate change, you will push back at the systems that have oppressed human beings based upon race, gender, sexuality, gender identity, religion, or national origin. You will do the challenging work. You will make our world safer and more peaceful, and I know that when we meet up again, whether it be next year or in the more distant future, I will be so impressed and delighted and proud of who you have become.”
In attendance this year to recognize award recipients were longtime faculty member Karen Smith, who participated in awarding the Karen J. Smith Scholarship Award for Scholastic Improvement to John Auchterlonie, and Diane Hassel, wife of William Hassel, who helped in awarding the William A. Hassel Senior Lab Science Prize to James Guo. Also in attendance to honor the Class of 2022 were members of the Board of Trustees: Jennifer Freedman P’15 (Chair), Jared Pinsker ’97 (Treasurer), Ron Bergamo P’13, Angelina Casanova ’00, and Praveen Savalgi ’06.
Photos from Commencement can be found on our Flickr photo gallery.