Originally published in The Weekly Packet, June 17, 2021
GSA graduates 76 at June 13 commencement
Seventy-six members of the George Stevens Academy Class of 2021 graduated on Sunday, June 13, in Blue Hill.
by Jeffrey B. Roth
Fair skies, seasonal temperatures, hugs, tears of joy, cheers and optimism set the tone for the George Stevens Academy Class of 2021 commencement.
“Today is a fine and beautiful day in a young person’s life,” Timothy Seeley, GSA head of school, said. “There are two terms used for today’s ceremony—graduation and commencement. The word graduation looks backward as a word and emphasizes that one is finished. Commencement, on the other hand, looks forward…today marks the beginning as much as an ending, and for this reason I prefer the term.”
An audience of about 300 applauded the 76 graduates—the majority from the Blue Hill Peninsula, along with several international students—as they mounted the front steps of the historic GSA building on Union Street. The event was also livestreamed.
After thanking Hancock County sheriff deputies for blocking traffic, Seeley said that GSA’s board of trustees has been working hard to secure a “sustainable financial future” for the private nonprofit high school that accepts tuition students from sending towns in the area. He also thanked area voters for approving the school’s request for a $1,000 per student tuition increase for the 2021-22 school year.
“After everything we’ve been through, I had a hard time deciding what to speak about,” Seeley said. “Ideas were not coming together. I wondered, should I talk about the pandemic and how it affected our school year and our seniors? I could run through all the things we did, all the ways we adapted, and the lessons of resilience I hope our students take from this year. But I hope this year has taught them nothing external can beat them down forever.”
Following Seeley’s remarks, Juliette Claybaugh, the First Honor Essayist, welcomed everyone to the commencement ceremonies. She added that she was grateful that “we are all able to be here on the front steps of GSA.”
“Like hundreds of past grads, I never thought that I would have the chance to speak at graduation,” Claybaugh said. “It’s been a hard year for everyone, but we pulled through, thanks to the support of everyone around us. My generation was born into a countdown…with 25 years left…until there’s no turning back, with our Earth permanently scarred. Many of us have grown up with a sense that we will inherit a broken world in every way.”
The future, she noted, depends on how her generation meets the challenges of climate change, increased violence against women, assaults against LGBQT+ rights and other looming issues. Claybaugh explained that the top 1 percent of the wealthiest individuals accounts for 50 percent of carbon emissions.
“We can hold them accountable for the damage they have done, while also doing our best,” Claybaugh said. “One of the easiest ways to help protect Earth is to go out into the world and observe nature…I feel by doing this, it helps build a relationship with Her, so we are more inclined to protect Her.”
Grace Broughton, salutatorian, talked about her experience running cross-country and how it taught her to overcome “competition anxiety” by replacing fear with the satisfaction of finishing the race.
“Although cross-country caused pain and discomfort, it did contribute a lot to my personal growth,” Broughton said. “I learned how to be a leader, how to speak up for myself. I learned that pushing through discomfort is the only way to discover the best experiences and memories waiting on the other side of what I want to consider my limits. So, to speak to my classmates: Don’t let the fear of experiencing discomfort block you from doing the things you want to do. Don’t let your fears and discomforts become facts of life. Find the things that make you uncomfortable and challenge them.”
Class valedictorian Evan Chapman said the past 16 months included many dark days, and the pandemic required tremendous sacrifices. With the advent of COVID-19 vaccines, health officials, he said, have indicated the worst of the pandemic is over.
“We can officially say we’ve made it through the worst of the pandemic,” Chapman said. “We are sitting here today because each and every one did their part to make it work. Thank you all for your sacrifices. And so our class had this last celebration.”
To view the GSA Class of 2021 commencement ceremonies, visit seasoncast.com/GSASportsLive/recording/recording_eotpPgfpYp7A9zw96h1L.