Mary McDowell Friends School’s second commencement exercises took place on June 9, 2015 at the Brooklyn Museum. Families, friends, and staff gathered to celebrate twenty seven graduates. Remarks by the outgoing Upper Division Director, Kirk Smothers, Head of School Debbie Zlotowitz, senior class speaker Julia Gray, and commencement speaker, Kwame Alexander were personal and heartfelt. Students in the Advanced Music class, most of whom were seniors, performed beautiful renditions of In My Life by the Beatles and Beautiful Day by U2.
Upper Division Director Kirk Smothers, who is moving on with the Class of 2015, was emotional as he addressed the seniors as a group for the last time. He encouraged each of them to focus on and develop his or her individual strengths. Inspired by David Riccardo’s Theory of Competitive Advantage, Kirk spoke of his belief that working to become one’s best self, rather than the best, builds stronger communities.
Student Speaker Julia Gray shared a personal snapshot of each member of the Class of 2015. She paid tribute her classmates by forecasting each of their future successes. Her predictions were heartfelt, witty, and warmly received. There were many chuckles of self-recognition amongst the graduates.
Head of School Debbie Zlotowitz congratulated the seniors on all of the hard work and dedication they put in to arrive at that moment. She acknowledged the enormous achievement of Kirk and the entire upper school staff in bringing these students and the upper school to this significant occasion. In addition to hosting its second graduation, Mary McDowell Friends School celebrated its 30th anniversary during the 2014-15 school year.
Commencement Speaker Kwame Alexander continued the focus on individual vision, passion, and achievement. He was an enthusiastic and inspiring speaker. By way of recounting his own journey beginning with his decision to become a poet to his current professions of author, publisher, producer, and radio host, among others, he urged the seniors to say YES to opportunity, yes to hard work, yes to perseverance, and yes to risk. His remarks resonated with the students and with everyone in the audience. He ended his speech leading the graduates in a rousing YES!
“We are thrilled that Kwame Alexander accepted our invitation to address our graduates,” said Debbie. “We are inspired by Kwame’s passion for sharing his love of language and literature with students.”
This year’s graduates will be attending many fine colleges including Haverford College, Clark University, Savannah College of Art and Design, Guilford College, Muhlenberg College, and SUNY Binghamton.
“Members of the Class of 2015 are eager to take on the new opportunities and challenges that lie ahead,” said Kirk. “Our students see the world differently, with depth of insight that often surprises us. It is their refusal to be placed in boxes and their unique ways of seeing the world that will place them as community, business, political, educational, and artistic leaders.”
Debbie added, “Words can’t express how proud we are of them!”
Click here for more photos of the graduation.