Commencement 2020 - A Historic Event to Remember
The students of our senior class, the Class of 2020, celebrated their time at Waterford School with a carefully-planned, in-person Commencement ceremony. This historic graduation is the first Commencement that has taken place outdoors on our stunning campus. After their time on campus was cut short, as schools around the world resorted to remote learning during the pandemic, students were unsure what their graduation would resemble.
In May though, many areas in Utah, including Sandy City, were downgraded to yellow risk phase within the Governor’s Health Guidance System, allowing Waterford’s administration to begin to plan a safe, and appropriately celebratory outdoor graduation ceremony to recognize the 82 members in the senior class, many of whom have grown up on this campus. By way of a Commencement planning committee, Waterford worked with city officials and faculty and staff to plan a robust, yet safe ceremony that kept the health and wellbeing of the community as top priority.
Students and guests of our limited attendance outdoor graduation chose to either sit on the quad in household units, within their cars, or to watch via livestream. These options allowed each family to feel and be safe. Our graduates and their families also took responsibility to attend by following physical distance guidelines, using masks and hand sanitizer, and being mindful of the guidance provided. The livestream was broadcast on our website for family, friends, faculty and younger students of Waterford School to watch from home.
“Commencement is a cherished tradition. The members of this senior class were motivated to celebrate together, and they have shown the care and responsibility needed to execute a meaningful, memorable, and safe celebration for all involved. I am simply thrilled to have celebrated our seniors on this momentous occasion, as the first class to graduate on our spectacular campus.” - Head of School, Andrew Menke
This unique and unpredictable year was the culmination of many hours of hard work and inspiring determination for high school seniors across the country. And while our own Waterford seniors endured many of the same disappointments as others—missing prom, final concerts, or the camaraderie of teammates at the end of a final game—these seniors showed resilience and determination and finished strong. Our students drew from the well of experiences they’ve had and relationships they’ve built at Waterford and, in turn, cultivated resilience and determination. Graduating in-person on this campus was a silver lining to their final year and a joyous culmination of their time here.
Please watch the full recording of Commencement 2020 below.
Congratulations, Class of 2020!
Each year, the senior class chooses a classmate to give a senior address at Commencement ceremony. This year, Lucas Butterfield gave the senior address, read it here:
Hello everyone. I am so honored to deliver the senior address at this historic commencement, no less in front of a class that makes me so proud. As I was preparing to write this speech, I was thinking about how different commencement would be this year. And I thought about what I myself, along with my class of 80 fellow seniors, needed to hear at this moment in our lives.
On this beautiful day in June, I want to tell you about Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. Every Thanksgiving, my family goes around the table and we each say what we’re thankful for, as most families do. And whenever it has been my turn to share, I have expressed my gratitude for the typical things: my family, my friends, my house. But one thing that I have always emphasized my gratitude for is my education. I have spent 15 years of my life at Waterford. To me, this school has served as a place of curiosity, a place where I can pursue my most intrinsic passions. It is a place where I have fostered some of my closest friendships, and have discovered the most important parts of who I am. In many of my childhood memories, Waterford is the backdrop. On a more personal level, Waterford has served as safe space where I can be openly gay in the red state of Utah. I have no doubt that many of you would also apply these labels to this school, because the truth is that we are all so lucky to have gone here.
However, all of the people listening to this speech, either in person or online, know that these past few months have been anything but lucky. The coronavirus pandemic has not only interrupted in-person classes, but it has also upended many of the senior class’s great traditions here at Waterford. Some of these traditions may still happen; others may not. Our senior year has been cut short. And it sucks. This is one of the times in life where it’s okay to sit back in resignation and say “Wow. This sucks. What are the odds?”. I know I have. We must let ourselves feel these feelings of frustration or sadness or resignation. We each have a right to experience them.
But don’t ever let these feelings ruin your memory of Waterford. I do not want us to remember Waterford by the way it has so abruptly and unfortunately ended. I want us instead to remember the class, or the teacher, or perhaps the coach who helped reveal our passions. I want us to remember the foursquare we played during recess, and the Field Days, and the field trips. I want us to remember the day we received our senior sweaters. I want to remember the feeling I feel when I go into the Lower School building, the building that feels so far away, and the hallways and bulletin boards all seem smaller. In short, I want us to remember the good. We deserve to remember the good.
The challenging classes we have taken during our time at Waterford have taught us perseverance: use it. The years we have spent together and the friendships we have formed have taught us kindness: don’t forget it. The truth is that, during our time at Waterford, we have received something intangible, something powerful, and that is our desire to learn and to keep learning. No pandemic can ever take that away. I believe that we are about to enter a world that desperately needs more education and compassion, and I believe that it is our job to deliver these things. And so, even though it may feel like our time of learning at Waterford is rapidly ending, I promise you that the impacts of our Waterford education are only just beginning.
I’m going to do that cliché thing that a lot of people do when they end a speech, which is to use a quote they like. This quote is by Malala Yousafzai, one of my personal heroes. When Yousafzai was just fifteen years old, she stood up against the Taliban when they restricted young women from going to school in her home country of Pakistan. Since then, she has become a world-renowned activist for unrestricted education in Pakistan and abroad. In an interview, Yousafzai was asked what is the best way to combat the host of problems faced by communities in the Middle East. Her answer to this question always amazes me, and it’s something I always think about when I reflect on my time at Waterford. She answered, “Education is the best way...it teaches you communication, it teaches you how to live a life, it teaches you about history..., and other than that, you learn about equality because students are provided the same benches, they sit equally... It teaches us how to live together. The issues and problems are enormous, but the solution is one, and that is simple: that is education.” I hope that, as we are watching the fireworks tonight, we can each reflect on how lucky we are to have received an education here, and how lucky we are to have done it together.
Thank you, Class of 2020, and until we meet again.