On Thursday, June 14, the graduating class of 2018 gathered on the North Building play deck to pose for a final group picture before putting on their caps and gowns. Soon, they would head down to the gymnasium where approximately 300 people had gathered, ready to celebrate the success of the graduates.
Dr. Scott Gaynor opened the ceremony, welcoming everyone before passing the remarks to the co-president of Gaynor’s Board of Trustees, Grant Duers. Duers reminded the crowd of Yvette Siegel-Herzog’s mission and vision, so consistently carried out with each graduating class. “To be effective, we must reach every Gaynor student where they are, nurture them and prepare them for what comes next in their lives,” Duers said.
Siegel’s mission was embodied throughout the ceremony in the student, parent, and alumni speeches. Matthew “Mateo” Levin, a class representative, reflected on the changes he has gone through in his time at Gaynor. “I feel so prepared to leave because everyone in this school has truly done their best to prepare me for this moment. I believe I speak for all of my fellow graduates when I say thank you to the Stephen Gaynor School, and all the teachers and administrators who have helped us unlock our true potential.”
Mary Ross, parent of Philip Ross ’18 and Vicky Ross in the Silver Cluster, and managing director of JPMorgan Chase, addressed students directly. “The gift you have now is you are a team, and you can go forward in life and find the other people who may have challenges. And you’re not only going to be advocating for them, and yourselves, but all of the people out there.” Then she turned to the entire audience and said, “Philip told me, I wish there was a Gaynor for every child out there,” which was met with thunderous applause.
Alumni speaker Elise Mordos ’04, an investment strategies analyst at Bessemer Trust, stated that in just a few short years at Gaynor she found confidence and discovered her true passion, mathematics. In her speech, she left the graduates with three mental frameworks that have helped her over the years since leaving Gaynor: perspective, persistence, and positivity. “The tools that you’ve learned here and the confidence you’ve gained will propel you forward through to the new academic institutions that await you this fall and beyond,” she said.
Dr. Gaynor closed the speeches by reminding students, “Today and going forward we ask you not only to study hard and get good grades, but to be an advocate as well. An advocate for yourself, your peers and the world. As a self-advocate you learned about your own strengths and challenges and how to speak up for yourself when you need accommodations in school. As an advocate for your peers you participated in events such as the GSA day of silence. And as a global citizen you get to choose which causes matter most to you. I am not here today to tell you what to fight for, but that you must fight for something you believe in.”