Members of Madeira School’s Class of 2022 only will feel free and unburdened once they acknowledge that some things are out of their control, student speaker Kathryn Chamberlin told classmates at the June 3 commencement.
“If I believe in anything, it is in each of you,” she said. “We have had truly an insane four years. We’re prepared for anything now.”
Chamberlin, who will study writing and literature at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., recalled how during her freshman year she could not get through one meeting about college without crying.
“No one knows with absolute certainty what’s coming next,” she said. “There’s something quite beautiful in it [that is] unifying . . . The unknown does not mean the unconquerable. You have to believe goals are possible.”
Madeira for the second straight year held the ceremony in a spacious tent set up on the lawn near the front entrance, instead of the traditional amphitheater in the woods. The school’s campus is in the middle of construction of a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Academic Center, officials said.
Madeira senior Elshadye Bussie led off the proceedings with a moment of reflection celebrating the graduates’ “strength, resilience and shining achievements.”
For Board of Trustees chairman Gaither Deaton (Class of 1988), the day was all about gratitude.
“We don’t give up,” she said of the class and school. “We only get better.”
The 80 graduates continued Madeira’s traditions of wearing white dresses at commencement and carrying 13 roses, which honored the original number of boarding students at the school, Deaton said.
Students receive their class ring during junior year and point the ring’s starburst rays at themselves, to symbolize the wisdom they are receiving. Upon graduation, they flip the rays around to indicate they are ready to give their contributions to the world, she said.
The graduates were accepted at 178 colleges and universities and will enroll in 61 different programs in 18 states and four foreign countries, said Head of School Gretchen Warner.
Class members have been “ambitious, passionate and kind” and risen to challenges, including the pandemic, with eagerness, Warner said.
Warner cited a study that predicted future workers will need to be able to do three things: Create new value, reconcile tensions and dilemmas, and take responsibility. Class members have exemplified those traits and “applied energy to maximize performance and lift others up,” she said.
“Be wise, take care of yourself and be true to your roots,” were Warner’s parting words of advice.
Keynote speaker Angélica Infante-Green, who was introduced by her goddaughter, Class of 2022 member Peyton Miles, told how her mother had taught in a one-room schoolhouse in her native Dominican Republic while it was under dictatorial rule. Her mother’s experience taught her the value of perseverance and the impact teachers can have, she said.
Infante-Green, who is the first Latina to serve as Rhode Island’s commissioner of education, recalled how she refused to wear suits during weekly press conferences and instead stuck with her preferred dresses. She received some grief for that choice and responded by wearing brighter dresses.
“Don’t let anyone define you, stop you or tell you who you should be,” she said.
Infante-Green urged the graduates to bring their talents to the decision-making table and predicted they would “create a table for decisions and invite people to it.”
“Sit up straight, walk in and take charge,” Infante-Green said. “We need teachers, especially in Rhode Island. I will hire you all, I swear.”