For teachers and school officials, watching each class of seniors graduate can be the best day of the year, and one of the hardest. For private schools such as Walsingham Academy, as Angie Baker, director of Walsingham’s Upper School points out, it can be harder than most when some of those students have been there since kindergarten.
On June 1, Walsingham’s Class of 2019 graduated in a small ceremony at the Upper School, and of the 42 Trojans graduating, 15 had been at the school since kindergarten or pre-K.
Then, after a prayer invocation and a couple of songs — Green Day’s “Good Riddance” and the Walsingham school song — graduates were sent off into the world, diplomas in hand.
“I had the privilege of teaching many of these kids when they were students in the eighth grade, and to have watched all of them grow into the wonderful, intelligent adults they’ve become today,” Baker said. “Watching each of them walk across the stage, I cried, I cry every year, but it’s a joyful sadness, because seeing them grow up and then seeing them off, it’s part of our role as teachers and mentors to these young people.”
The graduating class earned nearly $5.3 million in merit-based scholarships, and they will head to dozens of different colleges coast-to-coast, from Clemson University to the University of California, Irvine. Graduates also will attend college in Virginia, including a group that will attend the College of William and Mary in the fall.
“We’ll actually have six seniors who will be attending William and Mary, a new high for us. It’s unusual to see so many of our graduates staying in Williamsburg for college,” Baker said. “Another academically interesting thing about this year’s graduating class was that we had co-valedictorians, which is incredible given they had tied GPAs to the hundredth place.”
Those co-valedictorians, Mary Catherine Chason and Tatiana Hanks, along with salutatorian Katherine Elizabeth Miller, are among those who had been long-time Walsingham students. In her speech, Chason compared her time at Walsingham to the way the Norseman forged prized Ulfberht swords.
“An intense weapon must be created through an equally intense process: the use of a crucible, where what enters was dirt and what leaves is steel,” Chason said. “We entered this institution as unrefined youths, and we have emerged as young adults, resilient enough to take on whatever the world may throw at us.”
In addition to academic success, 15% of the senior class has committed to playing college athletics, which, given the role some of these seniors played in helping the Trojans take home their fifth consecutive girl's track and field state title and second consecutive baseball state championship, isn’t a surprise.
While the teachers are sad to see another group of seniors go, along with that sadness, according to Baker, there is a great swell of pride and excitement to see where life will take these young men and women.
“They are, in every way possible, the word of our hands, our hearts and our minds, over the past many, many years, and we couldn’t be prouder of these seniors, or more excited to see where they go now,” Baker said. “We are confident in their ability to move to the next level academically, we are confident in their moral awareness and desire to make a difference in the communities they will eventually live in and serve.
“These young men and women that we’ve turned out, they’re our gift to the world, and we hope the world cherishes them as we have.”
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email email@example.com, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.