The Class of 2020 differed from previous classes in many ways — it was the largest graduating class in Gaynor’s history, and it was the first graduating class to include students who started in the Early Childhood Program.
However, above all, the Class of 2020 were pioneers, setting themselves apart from previous classes in that their final year at Gaynor ended over the computer screen.
With the move to distance learning due to COVID-19, graduation got a new look — moving from a two-day, in-person celebration to one that was completely virtual.
The festivities began on Thursday, June 11, with a virtual Graduate Breakfast, followed by a virtual graduation ceremony over Zoom on Friday, June 12.
The virtual ceremony combined pre-recorded speeches with a photo of each graduate and a video montage at the end to honor and celebrate the students. Hundreds of people tuned in from parts of the United States, Europe, and Canada.
The chat was also open during the Zoom session so family, friends, faculty, and staff could all share their congratulations and well wishes throughout the ceremony.
The ceremony began with the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” played by Gaynor faculty and staff members and accompanied by a photo of each graduate. After the virtual processional, Head o f School Dr. Scott Gaynor welcomed everyone to the ceremony. “I want to acknowledge how you have all shown a great deal of resilience in making the transition to distance learning and successfully completing your last term at Gaynor. You are soon-to-be graduates of Stephen Gaynor School. The diploma you receive today signifies that you are battle-tested and ready for your next academic challenge. Persevering through your academic challenges makes you infinitely prepared for the obstacles that lie ahead.”
Following Dr. Gaynor’s introduction, Board of Trustees President Grant Duers, father of Orange Cluster student Anna and alumnus P.J., congratulated the graduates on overcoming an unprecedented school year. “I have to say that in my ten-plus years at this school, this year has been, without doubt, the most challenging. The good news is, you’ve gotten through it, and you’ve come out on the other side as a better person. This attests to your ability to adjust, to adapt, and to persevere under very trying conditions. If there is a silver lining from this pandemic, it will be that you have been able to add these new skills to your life skill set that will help you as you move to the next stage of your educational career.”
Student speakers Lilyblue Prince-Ramus and Aidan Schwartz both presented their speeches, expressing their gratitude for the Gaynor community and the confidence the school gave them to go forward and tackle the next chapter of their lives.
“Gaynor’s foundation of friendship and connection is interwoven into all of us, and it’s something that lives within every member of the Gaynor community. It keeps us connected beyond the building, no matter where we are.” — Lilyblue
“I came to Gaynor not speaking, and here I am, delivering a speech to the Graduating Class of 2020. Gaynor has taught me to read, speak, advocate, interact, socialize, and succeed. I could not have done any of this without the unending support of Stephen Gaynor School. I am more grateful than words can express. Gaynor has turned out to be more than a home for me. Gaynor has helped me to have a chance at life.” — Aidan
Susan Wine Bender, parent of graduating student Madeline, talked about dropping her daughter off for her first day at Gaynor, and how far all the students have come. “Thanks to the vision and commitment of Yvette Siegel-Herzog and Miriam Michael, our children read novels, write essays, solve algebra problems, conduct science experiments, play sports, and perform fearlessly in front of audiences. It’s hard to think about life after Gaynor, but thanks to Gaynor, you, the Class of 2020, will succeed in your next school and beyond.”
A few alumni speakers also provided some words of advice for the new graduates.
Joaquin Consuelos ’17 advised, “Don’t be nervous. Don’t be scared. High school is a massive opportunity to better yourself, and turn yourself into the architect of your own success. Take chances, and know that Gaynor has trained you well.”
Elise Mordos ’04 instructed, “Focus on being your best self, and don’t compare yourself to others.”
Caroline Watters ’14 encouraged, “Cultivate those Gaynor relationships. Continue to grow with them, because those are going to be some of the best relationships you’ve made, ever.”
Aden Wiener ’13 informed, “Gaynor is going to do so much for you guys. It’s done so much for me, and it was a huge stepping stone in my life, and I’ve learned so much.”
Dr. Gaynor returned to give one last congratulations to the graduates, remembering a trip he took in 1996 to trek through the Himalayan mountains. After recounting the joy he felt at reaching the base of Mt. Everest, he noted that everyone’s journey is different. “We all have our own peaks. Today graduates, you reach the end of your middle school trek. Hard work, determination, and a little help from your teachers and family got you to this peak. Take a moment to admire the view from here.”
He then introduced Director of Upper Division Christine Karamanoglou. “I’m so proud of this class of 2020. Their determination and resilience in the last few months has been so impressive, and I’m so proud to be able to be part of this graduation.”
She then read out the names of each graduate as they appeared on the screen, awarding them their virtual diploma.
After this, Director of Education and Co-founder Yvette Siegel-Herzog gave a special congratulations to the Class of 2020. “As we go into the future proud of our accomplishments, sad at our parting, yet full of hope for continued friendships, forged in laughing together, competing with each other, and sympathizing with one another, we become more and more the men and women we are meant to be. I salute your accomplishments and in my dreams the images in my mind are walking hand in hand with you to the next chapter in our lives.”
The ceremony ended with an instrumental rendition of “Here Comes the Sun,” performed by Music Teacher Michael Piedmont, and a video montage of the graduates.
2020 Award Winners
President’s Education Award
Aaron W. Kuper
Lilyblue Blink Prince-Ramus
Comptroller Community Service Award
Helen Rosenthal City Council Award
Andrew Jacob Ferrante
Gordon Gaynor Award
Hayden Ross Gere
Andrew Jacob Ferrante
Aaron W. Kuper
Sofia Elle Nossel
Lilyblue Blink Prince-Ramus
List of schools Gaynor graduates will attend in September*:
The Beacon School
Berkeley Carroll School
Brooklyn Friends School
Eagle Hill School
Grace Church School
Greenwich High School
The Heschel School
Léman Manhattan Preparatory School
Mary McDowell Friends School
NYC Lab School
Princeton High School
The Summit School
Trevor Day School
Winston Preparatory School
York Preparatory School
*This list is accurate as of June 10, 2020.