The Triumphant Class of 2021

Image courtesy of Seth Fox.

By Leah Raymond (‘22)

The forecast said rain; there was no Plan B.  After the senior breakfast, the Class of 2021 headed over to Bloomfield Hills High School to rehearse their commencement ceremony.  The rain clouds seemed to hold off throughout the afternoon, and come evening, there was not a cloud in the sky to oversee the seniors’ final moments as high schoolers.

The ceremony opened with Mr. Lewin-Ziegler leading a string ensemble — Sophia Burroughs, Sydney Kleiner, Caroline Michalak, Morgan Cook, Lily Citron, Tyler Moon, Silvia Dix, and Eesha Gummaraju — in Pomp and Circumstance as the Class of 2021, following the IA faculty and staff, filed onto the field to take their seats in front of the stage.  In the words of graduated senior Alan Daniloff, who will be pursuing architecture at Lawrence Technological University in the fall, “taking our first walk out to our seats felt so surreal — the music, the crowds, all of us in our gowns.”  The cheers from the crowd hardly compared, though, to the smiles that shone on the seniors’ faces.

Once seated, Dr. Smith and Ms. Gibson offered a few words to the graduating class, reflecting on the past four years.  Ms. Gibson featured some words from various IA teachers, as well; all sorts of memories from a heartwarming story by Ms. Fisher, who recounted the class’ kindness extending all the way back to sophomore year, to Frau Schultz’s reminder of the shenanigans that went on in her classroom, most notably an entire-class arm-wrestling competition, and many more stories of genuineness, teamwork, and diligence.  The focus was completely on the students, and rightfully so; as Jonah Liss, who will be studying business and computer science at the University of Michigan in the fall, commented, “the reason I enjoyed my high school experience so much was because of the people.”  Similarly, Wasey Rehman, who will be attending the University of Michigan Dearborn in the fall to study biochemistry and political science, reflected that “being in a demanding environment like IA, graduation is often viewed as a sought after and desired day; it’s a day where you assume that all your worries — at least those that pertain to the immense workload that the IB mandates — end.  In reality, graduation is a bittersweet moment when you realize how fast time goes, and how much you’ll miss the people and memories you made over the past four years — a fourth of your entire life at this point.”

After the addresses, Eagle Scouts Raaj Govil, Mitchell Swayze, and Max Petrosky led the Class and crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Raaj, who will be attending the University of Michigan and studying politics, philosophy, and economics in the fall, said, “as a fairly patriotic person, it made me happy that during my graduation I was able to help facilitate that patriotism in the event.”  This was followed by a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by Cydney Goldstein and Melina Pardales.  Regarding the opportunity, Cydney, who will be studying neuroscience at Wayne State University, said that “singing the National Anthem at graduation was like the last big hurdle I had to jump over for high school.  I thought it would be a great way for a proper goodbye, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do it with Melina, who has been by my side for such a long time.”  In addition to playing a key role in the commencement ceremony, these five also followed a critical piece of advice from the Class of 2021 to fellow IA students, summed up by Jonah: “do things for your own satisfaction and personal development.  Not only will you find more success by doing things you enjoy, but you will also have a happier, more memorable high school experience.”

As the faculty had already addressed the Class of 2021, it was time for the commencement speakers to speak to their classmates.  Anastasia Ilkiv, studying biochemistry at the University of Michigan in the fall, and Adrianna Kallabat, planning to study neuroscience also at the University of Michigan, gave the first speech together, reflecting on all of the growth that the Class has exhibited over their four years at the IA.  Both speakers recalled how hesitant they were to first attend, but then how they had found an amazing education and community that they would not trade for the world.  This sentiment is echoed by many IA seniors and said perfectly by Jonah: “I made amazing friendships and grew more than otherwise possible as an individual by being with a new, diverse crowd.  The world becomes much larger when you leave high school, but it was truly a privilege to go through high school with friends coming from ten districts and other countries.”  Ana’s and Adrianna’s speech was followed by Teya Purimetla, who intends to study economics and government at Dartmouth in the fall.  Teya highlighted the resilience of the Class of 2021 by comparing their ability to work together as “tape, glue, and fasteners.”  She also spoke on the value of an education at the International Academy, and “how bright the Class’ future will be as changemakers.”  Soenke Pietsch, studying economic-political science and sociocultural anthropology at Columbia in the fall, gave the final speech, talking about how dreams can change and how we each create our own success, really emphasizing the hard work that all students have put in.  As put by Parker Jensen, who will be attending the University of Michigan in the fall, “it was very nice being able to truly respect that everybody there had gotten through the rigor of the IA and IB, and with the statements made by superintendents and other staff, it really just became exemplified.”  Each of these speeches encompassed the most important advice that Charles Dickerson, studying engineering at Purdue University in the fall, had for the rest of the IA students: “take it all in.  Every group project, school dance, olympics, etc.  Get close with your classmates and don’t be scared of making those inseparable bonds — they get you through school when everything else is falling apart.”

A musical interlude — St. Paul’s Suite — was followed by the presentation of the 2021 graduates by Dr. Smith.  The graduates were received and accepted by Superintendent Pat Watson of Bloomfield Hills Schools, who addressed the graduates on their high school experience and next steps in life.  Mr. Watson urged all of the graduates to take a minute and look to their left and right, and take it all in.  In the words of Wasey, “I’ll never forget the point that Superintendent Pat Watson said the reality that graduation is the last time that I’ll be able to see my class as a whole; it’s probable that some may not make it back to reunion” — truly a bittersweet moment.  One by one, to the cheers and pride and sometimes tears from the crowd, the graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas.  As Charles said, “graduation was the moment for me that really hit.  I realized I was done, but walking across the stage, something clicked and I realized that I was no longer a kid — I was walking into adulthood.”  After the last senior crossed the stage, the bleachers, filled with family and friends, positively erupted in cheers and applause, as the graduates stood to face the community that had been their rock and family for the past four years.

The ceremony finished with an address from Ms. Dittus to the Class, focusing on being true to yourself.  She emphasized Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “what you seem to be, be really.”  Wishing the seniors all the best, she encouraged them to take all that they have learned from their time at the IA — academically, but even moreso, about themselves — into their bright futures ahead of them.  To finish her speech, Ms. Dittus gave a count of three, and the Class of 2021 moved their tassels from the right to the left side, and the crowd cheered once more to celebrate the new graduates.  149 caps flew into the air in a celebration of four years of hard work.

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