On May 19th 2018, Keystone Academy graduated its first cohort of seniors from the Class of 2018. The graduation represented an important rite of passage for these young graduates, and marked a major life transition in front of their peers, teachers, families, and members of the faculty and staff at Keystone.
For many of the students in this cohort, they arrived at Keystone several years ago, in 2014 during the first year of the school’s founding. These graduates, and their families, entrusted Keystone, a new school at the time, to educate, nurture, and inspire students to think critically, globally, and to find the path best suited for them. On this special day, all members of the Class of 2018 sat underneath the school’s archway, a symbolic representation of a bridging of their past, and their futures.
In preparation for the final farewell, students and faculty convened in the Multi-Purpose Room the day before the ceremony for a Senior Brunch. Students were smartly dressed as they conversed with their Grade Level Advisors and peers. During this pre-graduation festivity, students embarrassingly laughed and chuckled when a time capsule video, taken two years prior when they were Grade 10 students, appeared on the large projector screen in the room. The audience listened to the then Grade 10 students share their hopes and dreams for the future, and as the video montage played, students endearingly turned to Mr. Baldeep, High School Physics Teacher, to thank him for the light-hearted interrogation two years ago.
Following the Senior Brunch, two new traditions were implemented at Keystone. The first was the “Farewell to Keystone”. Before the final Head of School Meeting, graduates paraded throughout the school one final time, saying goodbye to their younger peers in the primary and secondary school. The goodbye parade ended in the foyer of the secondary school, where the graduates handed a rose to faculty and staff members, who waited to cheer them on and wish them well in their future endeavors.
The second new tradition was the “Archway Celebration”. All Grade 11 and 12 students congregated underneath Keystone’s archway, not far from the main cast iron gates of the school. Student advisors and faculty members watched one by one as Grade 12 students passed on the “torch of leadership” in the form of a single rose to their Grade 11 peers. This exchange of leadership between the two grade levels is emblematic of compassionate giving, and silent, moving leadership. As Grade 11 and 12 students marched timidly towards each other beneath the archway, they shared a silent acknowledgement of the gift of the single rose that brought them together. Hugs were exchanged, as well as tears of happiness and joy in front of faculty and staff.
Moderating the momentous event was Head of High School Dr. Diana Martelly, who enthusiastically introduced key speakers, student performers, and guided parents and guests from the beginning until the end of the ceremony. This year’s commencement speaker was Dr. Yigong Shi, founding president of Westlake University in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. As an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Foreign Academician of the American Academy of Sciences, Mr. Shi shared with graduates the importance of academic achievements, balanced with good character and humility. “Life is always full of challenges and surprises, but it will always be exciting and unpredictably rewarding for those of you who bravely pursue your dreams with heartfelt gratitude. You will be with yourselves, but you will never be alone,” remarked Mr. Shi.
Acting Head of School Mr. David Beare also gave wise words of encouragement to the young graduates after the processional, in which they proudly marched towards the archway in uniquely designed gowns and stoles. “You are not a given. You could continue developing yourself as a truly educated person, committed to cultivating goodness and your ability to act in ways that make a difference for the better. I hate to say it, but you could also become quite boring. We’ll see when you come back for alumni weekend. But from all I have seen from you here, I strongly suspect you will continue the path you have set for yourself by coming to this place. I suspect you will deepen the learning and habits of your heart and mind that you have developed at Keystone, and will respond creatively and sensitively to the new challenges that the world will, inevitably, present to you,” remarked Mr. Beare.
Prior to the conferring of the Keystone diplomas, student speaker Jacky Liang gave a poignant speech to his peers, and guests of the ceremony, on the importance and value of friendship. Liang began, “Almost four years ago, the first members of the Class of 2018 walked into this campus on the morning of September 1st, 2014, through that very gate behind us, knowing nobody around us, and started with a clean slate that left everything in the past, behind.”
Liang continued his speech with personal anecdotes of special moments throughout the years at Keystone, with the audience erupting into fits of good hearted laughter to ease the emotional tension. “To end my speech on a more personal note, I would like to encourage all of you, our graduates, to treasure, to carry, to hold closely onto the torches of friendship that you’ve built and held together. Use your torch to shine light for your friends in the dark when they need you the most. We are indeed individuals, but we’re also one community of shared destiny no matter where and how far we go”.
Before the processional and reception, Grade Level Leader Ms. Audrey Moh spoke to the young graduates before they marched off to begin their new lives. The true hallmark of a Keystone graduate is not how much a school had given the student, but how much the teacher has learned from the student. Ms. Moh cited the numerous ways that her students have taught her important lessons through their tenure at Keystone. She closed her speech, and the graduation ceremony, with wise words of encouragement from her heart. “My dear graduates, as we arrive at the end of the graduation ceremony and as I end off this speech, know that this is not farewell. This is just the beginning of your new and impending journey into the next phase of your lives. We may not be physically there to guide you, but we will be with you in spirit, we will live forever in your memories, and we wish you all the very best. Congratulations, Class of 2018!”