Among the 145 members of the Flint Hill School Class of 2022 are those who excel as equestrians, entrepreneurs, sailors, EMTs, fashion models, researchers and mentors.
Even one who decided to learn to play the French horn because, as a musical instrument, it looked too cool to pass up.
They were a class “that had to navigate through some amazing, troubled waters” but came out the other side more united and with a humble sense of confidence,” headmaster John Thomas said at the commencement exercise, held June 10 on campus in Oakton.
The Flint Hill Class of 2022 is “methodical, meticulous and very conscientious – tenacious, determined and resourceful,” said Thomas, who soon will be retiring after 17 years at the school, part of a half-century in the education field.
The Class of 2022 hails from 10 states, the District of Columbia and nine countries. Six have been at Flint Hill for the 14 years since entering in pre-kindergarten, another 10 having been there since kindergarten.
They are headed off to institutions of higher education in 29 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.
“Is the world ready for this class?” Thomas wondered aloud. “They are going to do incredible things.”
Among those set to embark on that journey is valedictorian Qiyang Yu, who is headed to study at UCLA.
“I could never have imagined how unique these four years would be,” he said. “How grateful I am.”
Before the pandemic, Yu didn’t necessarily think much about the daily rhythms of life at the school. “I took it for granted,” he said, only realizing its importance after students found themselves locked down and had to learn from their own homes in the spring of 2020.
“We came back strong,” Yu said of the learning-to-live-with-COVID world of today, urging his classmates to “embrace the challenges – and count your blessings.”
That theme of resurgence was echoed by salutatorian Anna Guethoff, who is matriculating not to Los Angeles, like Yu, but in the opposite corner of the nation. She’s headed to Brunswick, Maine, where she will attend Bowdoin College.
“Today’s Flint Hill is very different from the Flint Hill we enrolled in,” Guethoff said, praising faculty for sticking by students despite the unforeseen challenges that arrived in March 2020.
“Thank you for all you’ve taught us – a new perspective, an angle we hadn’t thought of,” she said.
Seventeen springtimes ago – a time when today’s seniors were learning the intricacies of diapers rather than those of quantum physics or Advanced Placement foreign languages – Alicia Waller had sat in the same gym, preparing to graduate as a member of the Class of 2005. Civil-rights pioneer Dorothy Height was that year’s commencement speaker.
This year, Waller (a classically trained soprano, jazz musician and bandleader) was asked to deliver remarks.
Waller told students that adults, no matter their age and no matter how much it might seem from the outside looking in, are never truly finished products. “We are, to varying degrees, simply further along,” she said.
To move the growth process in a positive direction, Waller advised the new graduates, be smart and be shrewd. Flint Hill, she said, “has prepared you in ways you can’t even imagine.”
“I know that you have a passion. Go for what you want” and set your own goals, she said. “Don’t be ashamed of them, don’t waste time apologizing for them. Contribute whatever your own ‘secret sauce’ may be. Believe in your worth.”
Waller said external success emanates from an internal equilibrium.
“Seek balance within yourself,” she counseled. “Treat yourself kindly, and honor and respect yourself.”
Headmaster Thomas told the audience that, as he in recent weeks had been preparing his remarks for the day, he had asked students what advice they’d give to their fellow grads to make a successful transition from high school to what has been something of an unreal “real world” of late.
One response had a prescience far beyond the years of the student who provided it.
“You will never be criticized by people doing more than you – only be those doing less than you,” the soon-to-be-graduate noted.
Thomas said another key lesson that the Class of 2022 learned during its years at Flint Hill was the power of coming together collaboratively and working toward a goal.
“You’re always part of a team,” he said. “Someone always has your back.”