Middle School Closing Ceremony 2019

Good morning students, teachers, parents, and special guests, and welcome to the 2019 Middle School Closing Ceremony. The end of another school year is upon us, and today is a day to celebrate and to wish our eighth graders all the best as they leave middle school and begin the journey through upper school.
First, I want to thank the students for a terrific year. It’s been fun watching each of you grow and learn along the way, and I hope you feel good about your place in our community. Although we all long for summer, we will miss you over the next few months and we look forward to your return in September.

Additionally, thanks to our teachers for a wonderful school year. The profession of teaching is not a job, it’s a vocation. Meaning, a teacher’s role is particularly meaningful and worthy, and I want to thank each of you for your hard work and dedication to our students and school. Please join me in recognizing the great work of our faculty…

Finally, thanks to the parents sitting out there today. Providing a first rate education to your son or daughter requires commitment and sacrifice on many fronts. Thank you for partnering with us in the educational journey for your son or daughter. Eighth graders: please stand and appreciate your parents for all they support they provide you…

About 10 days ago I had the privilege of attending West Point’s graduation ceremony on a beautiful Saturday morning along the Hudson River. A former student of mine from 10 years ago graduated this year, and I was honored to receive an invitation. As you might imagine, the ceremony was filled with pomp and circumstance, and there were many words shared about leadership, sacrifice, and commitment. One of the speakers—in what really was meant as a side comment—encouraged the graduates to always put people first. In context, this line was sort-of lost in his speech, perhaps because he was speaking to a group of young men and women who are willing to sacrifice their lives for our country. But the line was memorable to me, because putting people first speaks to the heart of any successful community.
In the context of education, putting people first means that you, as a student, respect collaboration. It means that you place value on the thoughts and opinions of your classmates, and that you understand that being a member of a strong community requires a commitment to the welfare of others. The future of our society depends on your ability to solve problems that don’t yet exist—solving these complex problems will only happen with collaboration, empathy, and care and concern for the greater good.

As a member of an athletic team, putting people first means that the goals of the team come before your personal goals. The growth of your team is more important than how many points or goals you score. When the team succeeds—almost always through cooperation and selfless play--everybody succeeds.

In your family, putting people first means that the electronic devices go away at dinner time. Playing with your siblings, engaging with your parents or caretakers, and helping with the dishes show that you value the well being of the people in your family.

Today is a day of transition, and transitions always allow us to reflect on what was and to reframe what could be. As you think about your next step—and this message applies to all of us—put people first in your lives. This takes effort and commitment, but when we take care of each other—practically, emotionally, and socially—we all succeed. Communities stay whole when people take care of each other. And when communities stay whole, the potential for innovation and ingenuity is limitless. Always put people first in your lives.

Congratulations to our eighth graders. It’s been a please working with each of you, and we wish you all the best as you move from middle school to upper school. Always remember the lessons you were taught here in Middle School, and come back to visit your teachers often.

For the fifth, sixth, and seventh graders, we look forward to working with you again next year. Do your summer reading and math, help out around your house, and spend lots of time playing outdoors.

Thank you.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.