Lower School Closing Exercises 2021

By Alice Roche Cody

In this week's Lower School Closing Exercises, Kyle Armstrong, Lower and Middle School Director, reminisced about an extraordinary school year with a remarkable fourth grade class that shifted to outside lunches and art in homeroom.

Mr. Armstrong warmly welcomed fourth graders and their parents back to the Athletic Center as well as those watching remotely, including our Preschool through third graders.

Watch the 2021 GSB Lower School Closing Exercises

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"Today's program represents our mode of operation all year, one built on adaptability and creativity," said Mr. Armstrong. "Today is the day to recognize the close of a most unusual school year filled with challenges and uncertainties, and also a year filled with positivity and hope. In fact, positivity and hope are two concepts displayed by our fourth graders, led by the terrific tandem team of Ms. Jurken and Ms. Hoffmann." Academic highlights he mentioned included Kindness Squad quotes, the new Mentor Program with Upper School students, and the stellar Biome Project

"It's time to spread your wings and fly to the faraway downstairs Cox building," said Mr. Armstrong. "We know you can do it. Just remember to take things one step at a time." Then, invoking the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he said, "You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."

Before the Presentation of the Fourth Grade Class, Zack Castiglione '29 introduced Jill Fedon, Lower School Dean of Student Life, who shared her insights. "This year's fourth graders are thoughtful and conscientious," she said. "They are kind and inclusive friends, and when the inevitable disagreement occurred, they worked hard to work it out. They are talented artists, musicians, athletes, mathematicians, horseback riders, writers, readers, problem solvers, and engineers. They are energetic, creative, fun, and very funny. They are joyful about the little things, like Dress Down Days and Ice Cream Thursdays. And they are serious about a recess game of soccer but always ready for an impromptu dance party. They are the outstanding leaders of the Lower School."

For the pin ceremony, Head of School Sid Rowell handed out Excellence Pins to each student, with Ms. Fedon, Mr. Armstrong, and fourth grade teachers, Ms. Jurken, and Ms. Hoffmann, onstage to congratulate all recipients.  

After a delightful video montage of snapshots from throughout the year, Mr. Rowell awarded Annalise DeBiasi '29 with the Amol Ajinkya Citizenship Award. This marks the most prestigious LS prize awarded, in honor of Amol Ajinkya, a Lower School student who was admired by teachers and students for his thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and generosity of spirit.

Mr. Rowell also offered thanks to the rising fourth graders and their parents. "Without you, we would not have made it through this challenging year," he said. "I thank all the teachers – those here today and those watching in the Cox building, Hockenbury, or Conover – for the sacrifices you made this year, to give so incredibly and willingly, in such an incredibly difficult environment."

For parting advice, Johnny Tuohy '29 introduced his mom, Zoe Tuohy, Lower and Middle School Dean of Academics. "My advice for Middle School: Make good choices," she said. "Every choice, every day, this will help you develop who you are as a person."

In closing, the Kindness Squad presented a poem; Luca Buono '29 and Brooke Ramos '29 shared final remarks; the audience sang the GSB Alma Mater; and Kathleen Burke, piano teacher, and Elizabeth Carney, LS music teacher, played the recessional.

Congrats to everyone!!

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