San Jose, California, USA - JUNE 09, 2016 — Almaden Country Day School, a preschool through eighth grade independent school, graduated 45 8th graders on Thursday, June 9, on campus in Almaden Valley.
The ceremony kicked off with this year's winning speech, entitled "Aloha," submitted and delivered by 8th grader Juliette Jorgenson. Her speech reflects on the meaning of Aloha, as she came to understand it while living in Hawaii. Aloha is more than hello and good bye, she says. It also encompasses unity, honesty, humility, and perseverance.
Miss Jorgenson closed her speech with a note of gratitude and her hopes: "And Class of 2016, I hope you never forget the unity we have created together. I hope you strive to be honest and to value the truth. I hope you fill your souls with humility and care for others like you would yourself, and finally, I hope you never lose that fire, that perseverance that has brought you here today. Continue to excel in your passions and never lose sight of that 'Aloha' that has flourished within you. It has been a journey, Class of 2016, and we made it! Congratulations and farewell! I bid you my 'Aloha'."
A unique and integral part of the ACDS graduation tradition, tributes about each student and teacher were also shared. The student tributes are a celebration of the student's academic excellence and more importantly, their character growth and gifts. The student-written teacher tributes pay homage to a mentor that made them love a subject, who lifted them up when they were down, and ultimately, helped shape them today.
The school's graduation traditions also include a song sung by the Apple Tree-o, comprised of three faculty members. The song, "Wherever You Go," tells the students that parting is inevitable, that their teachers hope they achieve their dreams and carry what they learn with them "wherever they go."
Almaden Country Day School also gives a "Founder's Award" to a student who most wholly represents the ideals of kindness, service and joy, as originally established by the school's founder, Mrs. Nan Hunter. This year's award recipient was Emily Tablak, who received the award presented by Mrs. Kaitlyn Johnson, middle school faculty member, and founder Nan Hunter.
The new graduates will transition to a variety of public and private high schools in the fall. Assistant Head of School, Gary DeMoss, said this about the graduating class: "I will miss this class as this was a group who always made time to say hello and stop to chat. They have a clear and deep connection to this school." He also offered one last piece of advice. "The real finish line is much further ahead and has little to do with school choice or GPA. What matters is that you are excited about the next step and consider how each step afterward can lead to numerous choices as you hone in on who you are and where your passions lie."
Head of School Ole Jorgenson remarked, "The strengths of the Class of 2016 are its unity, the collective positive attitude of the students, and their support for one another as they encountered challenges individually or as a group over the years. Their leadership included setting the example as caring, concerned, positive role models for the younger children. We'll miss them even as we celebrate this next passage in their educational journey."