Every year, we begin the graduation season with two traditions: the reading of senior plans and the celebration of Senior Breakfast. This year, both of these long-standing traditions had special significance.
First, the graduates of the Class of 2017 had perhaps the most impressive list of college plans in recent memory. They are going to some of the best schools in a variety of fields: culinary arts, fashion design, engineering, auto mechanics, environmental studies, pre-medicine, pre-law, nursing, aeronautics, business, fine arts, electricity, and even seamanship. They are going to some of the top-ranked schools in the world: Ivy League, "Little Ivies", and highly selective liberal arts colleges.
As I read these plans, I was impressed by how diverse these schools are, how diverse the areas of study are, and how good a fit these schools are for our graduates. The members of the Class of 2017 seem to have found something they love to learn and have found a place that will support them as they pursue further studies in that area after the Academy.
One other fact has struck me about these senior plans—their global scope. Our graduates are heading to schools on four continents—North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. They will be studying in eleven countries—the US, Canada, Japan, Spain, Australia, Mexico, Finland, South Korea, Wales, England, and Scotland—and 28 states ranging from Connecticut to California and Minnesota to Mississippi.
In addition to the 190 or so that are immediately entering college or university studies, eighteen others are taking a gap year before entering college—working in retail and industry, doing volunteer work or travel study, or even working as interns at St. Johnsbury Academy Jeju, which is due to open this coming fall. Thirteen others have already landed jobs and will be entering the workforce, and two are going into military service.
All of these facts point to one powerful truth: diversity matters. When young people have a chance to meet, live and learn with, and befriend people from around the world, going to school in far-off places is no longer a scary or foreign idea. In fact, the experience of diversity awakens curiosity and opens up possibilities so that students' horizons become broader and they can see new opportunities. My goal in reading these plans every year is that those sitting in the junior and sophomore sections might see in the example of the seniors what it means to dream big and pursue passions and interests wherever they lead, whether they decide to attend a school across the world or work in a nearby town.
The second tradition—Senior Breakfast—is a chance for advisor groups to eat together and celebrate their journey together. Guided by an advisor, these groups of 8-15 students have learned how to bridge differences, enjoy each other's company, and solve problems together. The breakfast involves watching a video with photos from past years, hearing from a Trustee (this year alumnus Jamie Murphy '90), from the Class Dean (this year Conni Morris), and from me. The day ends with remarks from Alumni and Development Director Tammi Cady, who welcomes them into the alumni family and then plays a game of trivia with them, asking questions about their advisors' pasts and showing senior photos from their advisors' yearbooks. The day is always fun, the trivia questions usually surprising, and the photos often embarrassing.
In my remarks to each senior class at this breakfast, I try to point out what makes them unique among other graduating classes. This year, my remarks focused on traits of particular significance. In many ways, this class resembled others—having won many state championships, garnered regional and national awards, and presented top-quality Capstones; however, this class has shown a unique character.
They have shown resilience, both personally and collectively, bouncing back from disappointments large and small. In recent weeks, they have handled disappointments around their graduation, their prom, and Spring Day with a "let's make the best of it" attitude. They have had thoughtful and honest conversations as adults, and they have remembered to be grateful and gracious as they prepared to leave. Most of all, they have been open to giving and receiving forgiveness, seeking reconciliation where relationships might be frayed.
In the end, I feel excited to think that these young people will be spread throughout the world, taking with them these virtues and all the skills and knowledge they have gained here. I am equally excited to think forward five years, when they will return for their first Reunion Weekend, when I will get to hear all of the inspiring things they have accomplished. I realize we still have two weeks to go before we can fully celebrate their graduation, but there is a lot to celebrate about the Class of 2017 already!