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During the Arlington School’s online commencement, held on June 11, a 2020 graduate summed up how unique her high school graduating class is. “We are a strange year,” she said, “born around the time of the 9/11 attacks, growing up in a changing world, and, of course, graduating in a global pandemic over Zoom.”
The Arlington School’s 55th commencement took place online on the Zoom platform because of social distancing requirements made necessary by the global pandemic. Many speakers expressed disappointment that students, faculty, staff, families, and friends could not celebrate the class of 2020 in person. Still, as Scott L. Rauch, MD, McLean’s president and psychiatrist in chief, stated, “The one silver lining of this virtual medium is that perhaps some of you who might otherwise have been unable to attend this ceremony in person can now access this wonderful event remotely.”
Overcoming obstacles and facing challenges were recurring themes throughout the event. During her opening remarks, Suzanne Loughlin, APRN, BC, the school’s program director, said that the Arlington School class of 2020 is entering the world in a time of great social, political, and economic change. But, she said, “Out of great challenges come great opportunities.” As they go out into the world, Loughlin called on the graduates to “try to take in the spirit of love, compassion, and admiration this body of friends, family, teachers, and staff are sending your way.”
Rauch followed Loughlin with a message of hope and congratulations for the class of 2020. “Today, we’re celebrating the accomplishments of these 16 extraordinarily talented students,” he said. “I have no doubt that this year’s class will accomplish many great things and perform countless good deeds in their lives.”
Looking forward, Rauch said that “our graduates will be studying a wide range of topics and are aspiring to an impressive array of careers,” including criminology, nursing, working with wildlife, fashion design, animation, and the culinary arts. “We are very proud of each and every one of you for your hard work and perseverance,” Rauch stated. “We have every confidence that you’ll continue to grow and be an awesome, positive force in the world.”
Sasha Forbath, a college advisor for the Boston Public Schools, delivered the commencement address. In her talk, Forbath chronicled her struggles with bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, executive function disorder, and sensory processing issues. “I was not born with resiliency,” she said. “I don’t think anyone is, but much like a muscle, it is developed over time. Through each hurdle life has thrown at me, I have continued to persevere.”
This perseverance has led her to her become a college graduate, a Fulbright awardee, an educator, and an actress. Forbath told the graduates that mentors and a “support system” have been instrumental in her success. “My greatest piece of advice for you today is to find your tribe. All you need is at least one person who believes in you—a person or ideally a team of people who can stand by your side when things get tough and remind you of your strengths. Find your tribe and hold them close,” she said.
Also during the commencement, Mary Grant, MEd, and Ethan Solomon, MEd, Arlington School educational administrators, presented senior vignettes in which they offered personal reflections on each member of the graduating class. A slideshow of student art was presented, and Solomon announced the names of scholarship winners from the class of 2020.