Resilient and Ready for the Future: The Graduates of Gaynor’s Class of 2024

Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2024
Stephen Gaynor School Class of 2024

Members of the Class of 2024 are now officially Gaynor alumni, after a Graduate Breakfast and Graduation Ceremony celebrating their accomplishments and their time at Gaynor.

On June 13, graduating Gaynor students were celebrated at the traditional Graduate Breakfast in the Yvette Siegel-Herzog Performing Arts Center. Graduates and their parents mingled with Gaynor faculty and staff for a morning of reminiscing and looking forward. Blue Cluster Technology Integrator Brian Russ was the faculty speaker this year, and as he reflected on being asked to speak to the graduates, he said, “I told myself, you know what — I am up for this challenge. I will give this speech because that’s how these students have been all year long. That’s how you’ve inspired me. That’s what you’ve taught me. These graduating students have been up for any challenge every day all year long. I can honestly say that because I’ve seen it in action; they’re always ready to tackle any problem with their wit, creativity, grace, ingenuity, togetherness, laughter, and a smile.” 

On June 14, the Class of 2024 and their guests gathered at the W83 Ministry Center on the Upper West Side for their formal graduation ceremony. The graduation speakers praised the students for their resiliency and empathy, and reminded them to bring what they have learned at Gaynor to high school and beyond.

Board of Trustees Chair Megan Hogan, mother to Jackson in the Green Cluster, welcomed the graduates, family, friends, and faculty members in the audience to the ceremony. She spoke about the depth of community that can be found at Gaynor, saying, “Gaynor is a special place, and not only because of the academic focus and the rigor of the curriculum, but quite frankly, because it advances the potential of its students across what I consider the most important aspects of humanity: intelligence, integrity, and kindness.”

Head of School Dr. Scott Gaynor then brought student speaker Jacob Abramovich to the stage. Jacob shared a heartfelt portrait of his Gaynor journey, beginning with the story of a kid who was struggling; a kid who felt alone and stymied by his learning differences.

Once he came to Stephen Gaynor School, Jacob said, “The growth was drastic. This kid didn’t recognize himself. His parents didn’t, either. At his old school, math was his worst subject. Numbers didn’t work in his head. It made him angry and disappointed in himself, but during his time at Gaynor he got his first A-plus on a math final. He came to Gaynor, unable to write a paragraph, and now enjoys reading and writing more than any of his other classes.”

Jacob concluded, “I stand before you today deeply changed by the school. We all do.”

Colette Bennett, parent of Gaynor alumnus Grant Bennett ’22 and graduating student Edward Bennett, reflected on her sons’ individual journeys at the school, saying, “At Gaynor they were able to rediscover and find their voices, their confidence, and their sense of self as learners and thinkers.”

Speaking to the graduates, she said, “Besides learning math, English, history, and science, you learned to overcome struggles and find the self-advocacy that comes with that kindness and empathy, self-development and discovery… Take these lessons with you into adulthood. They are embedded in you, and no one can take them away from you. Never forget that you have this amazing Stephen Gaynor School toolbox at your disposal — dust it off, dig in, find the tool you need, and ignite the flame of your superpower. You are incredible, and you will get through whatever challenges you face.”

Alumni speaker Benjamin Mitchell is a member of the Class of 2010. After graduating from Gaynor, he attended high school at Churchill School and Center, and then went on to American University in Washington, DC, where he studied public communications and business entertainment and competed as a Division I athlete. Today, Benjamin works at Universal Music group within their brand partnership division helping pair music artists with brands and companies alike. 

As with the previous speakers, Benjamin spoke of the key attributes of Gaynor graduates. He said, “Each of you sitting here today represents resilience, determination, and the unwavering spirit of overcoming challenges. To be a Gaynor alum is to carry with you the invaluable lessons instilled to embrace your unique strengths and talents, knowing that they are building blocks towards the future, towards your future success in pursuing your dreams.” He continued, “It is also to understand that learning differences do not define you, but rather empower you to approach the world with creativity, innovation, and a fresh perspective.”

Before he invited the graduates to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, Dr. Gaynor reminded the graduates, “You all entered Gaynor at different points, but you share a common bond that you all required a different learning environment to reach your full potential. You all face challenges that many people don’t see until they are adults. You learned to push through, attack them head-on, and find the path forward. Your teachers provided the guidance. But it is you who did the work. You got this.”

He spoke to the students about the importance of listening to understand rather than to win an argument, to get through a conversation, or just to make it through until lunchtime. He remembered a time when he himself was in middle school and hungry for lunch, and his teacher caught him looking at the clock rather than paying attention to what was happening in class. Dr. Gaynor remembered the teacher saying, “Time will pass, but will you?”

He challenged the graduates to sharpen their listening and analytical skills, saying, “I have some advice for all of you. … Listen with intent. Listen to understand. Lean in, don’t shut down to avoid conflict. Be curious, not judgmental. Enter a conversation with a beginner’s mindset, an open mind to learning something new or a different perspective. Ask those clarifying questions instead of peppering the person with your own viewpoint. And sit in the front row. School is the only place where you don’t have to pay more to get the best seat.”

Dr. Gaynor finished his speech with encouraging words for the graduates, saying, “I guarantee, if you do this, you will learn more, have more productive conversations, and your perspective will have more impact on other people. And as an added bonus, time will pass, and so will you.”

As the Class of 2024 bids farewell to Gaynor, they carry with them their unique educational journey and the unbreakable bond they formed with their classmates and teachers. 

2024 Award Winners

President’s Education Award — Eliza Talbot, Zoe Wood

Yvette Siegel-Herzog Community Service Award — Nour Karoui, Maeve Lindsay

Dr. Miriam Michael Award for Math and Science — Jacob Abramovich

Attorney General Triple C Award — Hannah Joe

Gordon Gaynor Award — Henry Romero-Gibbs

Class Representatives — Lucienne Bennett, Sasha Droulias, Gabriella Haus, Hannah Joe, Alexander Mastronardi, Eliza Talbot

The Class of 2024 will be matriculating at the following schools this fall:

Bay Ridge Prep

Birch Wathen Lenox School

Churchill School and Center

Convent of the Sacred Heart

Dwight School

Dwight-Englewood School

Eagle Hill School

Forman School

Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School

Grace Church School

The Hewitt School


Mary McDowell Friends School

The Masters School

NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies

Parisi Academy

Hastings-On-Hudson High School

Quad Preparatory School

Rowland Hall

Trevor Day School

The Winston School

Winston Prep

Xavier High School

Yeshivah Prep High School

York Prep School