Student Leadership Co-President Maude Smith-Montross at Commencement 2020
if the video embedded above does not play, please go directly to YouTube
The full text of her remarks are below.
More on the entire event at www.gordonschool.org/commencement2020
Our grade is known for group hugs. From our goodbye hugs at Farm School to our hello hugs for Ms. Battle in Alabama, we are definitely huggers. We all expected this spring to be full of more hugs: enthusiastic hugs after we crushed the teachers in the Faculty vs. 8th grade basketball game, congratulatory hugs after an amazing last musical performance, and tearful hugs at graduation as we headed off into the world.
Hugs might be hard to accomplish today. It would take some serious hazmat suits and a whole lot of hand sanitizer.
You might look at our graduation today compared to the traditional white tent version and think that tonight will be a bit of a disappointment. But to me this graduation will be perfect, because we are here together.
I once believed that these red roofs and low ceilings held our grade together. But we have now been away from campus for three months, and that has shown me that the red roofs and the low ceilings are what brought us together, but they are not what keeps us together. We are together because we choose each other.
We have chosen each other over and over again during all of our years at Gordon.
It began in Early Childhood. We lost teeth, learned how to dress ourselves, and transformed into “big kids” together. We learned about life as we grew beans in baggies with wet paper towels, and we learned about death when our monarch butterflies died days after emerging from their cocoons. We learned how to be patient waiting for our baby chicks to hatch, and we learned how to have joy in the moment at our Los Pollitos Dicen concert. We chose each other as our first friends.
In Lower School we chose each other to be our adventure buddies as we fell in the pond, fought over who got to push the snack cart, and tackled conversations around race and racism. In third grade I remember crying in the computer lab with some white friends when we learned that people who looked like us were responsible for slavery and institutionalized racism. Fourth grade was the first time we discovered our inner debaters. We battled about whether or not we should really stay quiet during indoor safety drills. We disputed whether we would ever use cursive in our lives. We chose each other as our first advocates and allies.
Throughout Middle School we chose each other to be our shoulders to cry on when the Parkland School shooting occurred; the hands to grasp as many of us stepped on a plane without our parents for the first time; the friends to hold as we bent over laughing in our hotel rooms in Alabama; the people to grow beside as we slowly have discovered who we are and what we believe in. In the Winter, we had Girls A Basketball Spirit Day. When we came out of the locker room, we saw that the rest of the eighth grade was standing together on the bleachers surrounded by kids of all ages, leading the school in cheering for us. They showed all of the younger kids what being supportive looks like. That’s who our grade has become throughout our time at Gordon: leaders.
Part of Gordon’s mission is to, “encourage intellectual leadership and stimulate a drive for positive societal impact.” That goal lives within the colorful walls of Ms. Sluss’ classroom; the happy screams that come from Mr. Ray’s room in the basement; the smell of brownies that always lingers in Ms. Baker’s kitchen; the promise of Cheerios and a friendly face in Nurse Sandy’s office; the caring and supportive spirit of Ms. Horton; the questions that are so deeply discussed in Mr. Anderson’s classroom; the courage and determination that has been instilled in us by Ms. Massey; Ms. Allard’s immense pop culture knowledge; the passion Mr. Burnstein has for community building; the creativity Dr. Thomas-Lopez has shown in reimagining and deepening all we love about our school. And Gordon’s mission lives in the class of 2020. We have become leaders and activists throughout our time at Gordon, and for that we have all of our many dedicated teachers to thank. To the faculty and staff of Gordon School, thank you for modeling how to lead with compassion and to stand by each other no matter the circumstances or challenges.
We have learned to build each other up and we have given each other courage from our first author breakfast in 1st grade to our novel reveal in 7th. We have encouraged each other since kindergarten when we would cheer for each other as we climbed the last hill on bike to school day. We have included everyone everyday just like we did at our first middle school dance. We’ve laughed until we couldn’t breathe while playing in the 8th grade vs. Faculty soccer game. We have learned big things, like the importance of the #MeToo movement, and small things like how much food you can get from a rest stop on a budget of 10$. We have stood together at the women’s march, we have marched together through the streets of Providence at the climate strike, we have walked together across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. And we will keep standing with each other in our fight for social justice. Now more than ever we will stand together and fight to ensure that every life, and every voice is valued.
The first week in September we ran in and showed everyone that we are a team. We have led the school this year by choosing each other. Today, on our graduation day, I still choose you. I choose for you to be the emergency contacts in my phone, the faces that come to mind whenever I hear Soy Yo play, or when I see a particularly distinctive ripped leopard print shirt. And I will keep choosing you.
That is the promise I am making to you all.
This year did not end the way we thought it would. But the fact that we all have each other every day and night, whether here in New England or in France, whether on the happiest days of our lives or the hardest, shows me that we will keep choosing each other. So, I can’t hug you tonight, but tonight I wouldn’t be anywhere else but here.