Seniors to don caps and gowns one month early

For the first time in SSES history, seniors will graduate May 19th.

Indre Zalepuga, Editor in Chief

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Before seniors returned back to school to begin their 2016-2017 school year, they were notified about a graduation date change. Instead of having the traditional graduation events occur the first week of June, the senior class would graduate on May 19th and depart before the rest of the school would be let out for the summer, two weeks later.

“When we looked at the seniors’ schedule over the last years, it seemed that most seniors are waved from taking senior exams, so there are many that don’t need to come back to school once they’ve completed their AP exams,” said Head of School Dr. Jan Pullen. “

There’s this gap between those students who are excited about IQ, while some are not as excited about it. ”

— Head of School Dr. Pullen

There’s this downtime for seniors while they’re waiting to graduate, so we thought if we could figure out a way to move the graduate date up a little, it would allow the seniors to actually just finish up and be done.”

Dr. Pullen said that in addition to the weeks after seniors finish their exams, “some students immediately go off to college or have some experience in the summer and don’t have official downtime.” For these reasons, the school decided to move the graduate date to an earlier time in the month to allow the seniors to be fully finished and not to have to just fill their time.

With an earlier graduate date comes the difficulty of managing to incorporate Interim Quest (IQ) into the seniors’ year leading up to their graduation in May. Pullen said, “That’s always been a tradition for seniors to have IQ as a requirement for graduation, so we had to get creative this year to figure out a way to meet that requirement and we did. When we announced in August this was happening, it was a change to what the students’ mindset was, and I think that kind of was a little difficult for them to digest.” She continued, “Some were disappointed on the IQ part of it, but I think most have been very much OK with the change. Change is always hard and we’ve had such traditions with how it’s been done in the past.”

Class of 2015 at Neel Performing Arts Center during their graduation.

Upper School Director Andrew Forrester said the early graduation for the seniors would give more time in the summer before they go to college or university. “Students who attend military academies or go into summer programs, or who want to do internships, or who want to have jobs, and generally prepare for that college experience will have more time in the summer before school starts,” he explained. “There’s a lot to get arranged over the summer, with housing, class selections, finding roommates, and just giving time to students to be able to have some summer and be ready for college is really important for me.”

Senior Ema Viackova, a new student this year from the Czech Republic, said, “I think it’s great to have as long of a break as possible before heading off to college, and I appreciate it just as much as any other student,” she said. “Back in Czech Republic, students would graduate earlier than school is officially over too, but the graduation requirements would always make up for this nice benefit.”

Dr. Pullen said that some of the other things they’ve had to work around with are “having baccalaureate and senior dinner, while the rest of the school is still functioning. In the past we’ve closed and then had those two events.” She explained this meant having some teachers still be busy finishing up the end of the year, who may still want to be a part of the celebratory events.

Seniors will not come back for Upper School closing, so some of the things that were done at closing for the seniors will be done either at the awards ceremony in May and/or put into the graduation ceremony. “This year we’ll learn a lot, but it will be beautiful,” Pullen said. “There’s not anything that we won’t do that’s the same as before because the tradition of senior dinner, baccalaureate, graduation have been beautiful and we will absolutely ensure that is going to happen.”

Together with the graduation date change, the graduation venue has also changed this year from being held in the Neel Auditorium to the Harvest United Methodist Church, where Saint Stephen’s has a second location for kindergarteners and 1st graders.  

Pre-K students sing a song and lead the recent 2016 graduates off the stage.

Mr. Forrester concluded,“I think we will continue to have the seniors graduate early. We have several students looking to go into international schools, we have several students who are international students themselves, and as those populations grow, it’s really important that students have the flexibility to start their schools in a timely manner. If they don’t have a summer, if they don’t have that time, it’s going to be really hard to be mentally prepared to go into college.”

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