Awards & Graduation Celebration
Program and Transcript
Welcome to our second annual EWoW awards and graduation ceremony. I asked our parents and graduates what I could do to make this event special for them, and one of the specific requests that I received was for tissues, hence the tissues on every table. This tends to be an emotional event, one that has become a favorite day of the year for me, personally.
There is so much to celebrate and it gets more elaborate every year. Many of you may remember that when Shea and Jackson graduated, this wasn’t even a thing. Believe me, I heard about that a lot last night! But acknowledging hard work and community spirit publically is important, and I LOVE giving out awards, so there it is.
None of this would be possible without parental support – your support. On each diploma this year, there are two signature lines … one for me and one for the parents, because each parent is the principal or head of school for their own families. I am just an advisor – the kids’ teachers and I really are there to give advice and mentor, but it is the parents that are ultimately in charge.
Study after study shows that the one consistent factor in a successful educational experience for children is parental involvement. Socio-economic factors, geographical factors, disabilities, can all be overcome if there is a dedicated parent involved in the process. So, please give yourselves a round of applause. It has been a great year!
Special Recognition Award
This award is given to a student who has shown significant grit this year and a remarkable strength of will. I have known Ethan since he was, maybe, 7 or 8 years old, but it wasn't until he joined us at Education without Walls that I really had the opportunity to get to know him well. It has been quite a journey, I think, for both of us. He is an incredible young man with a great depth of character, insight, and intelligence. He is very charming, athletic, and fierce in the defense of those he loves. He certainly has the ability to accomplish anything he sets his mind to.
When Ethan first came to Education without Walls, he wasn’t really sure that this was the right fit for him, but he was willing to try it for a year. He was not sure that college was in his future, he didn’t really like school, and his social life was his most important agenda item. The next year was a similar conversation. Ok, but only for one more year.
Today, Ethan has just successfully finished his fourth year here at Education without Walls, having accomplished a great deal. Last year at this time, he was accepting a special recognition award for his work in mathematics; today, we would like to acknowledge a much broader accomplishment. His transformation over the past four years is hard to overstate.
Ethan has had to power through a lot, not the least of which involved concussions and broken bones. Yet, in spite of his struggles, he has chosen to challenge himself academically, this year successfully completing college-level work. Socially, he has become a leader and mentor for the younger students, who truly look up to him.
Ethan is an incredibly insightful young man, who has a unique voice, particularly in his writing. No matter where life takes him, I am confident that his hard work has set him up with a foundation for future success. Congratulations, Ethan!
House Hunt Awards
We will be posting a video of Max's presentation shortly.
Honorable Mention: Brumbelin (Bella Brodsky, House Captain)
Bronze Medal Winner: Snowpex (Campbell Coughlin, House Captain)
Silver Medal Winner: Pandor (Brianan Dowler, House Captain)
Gold Medal Winner: Legendaw (Tucker Coughlin, House Captain)
Presentation of Middle School Diplomas
Here at EWoW, kids are placed according to their maturity level and academic ability, not by age. These four students are ready to move up to a more individualized and self-prescribed curriculum. They have worked very hard this year, some academically, others, socially. We are very excited to see where their high school careers take them.
8th Grade Diploma Recipients
Isadora Clementine Naples
James David Irish
Ben Lyons Awards
Here at Education without Walls, we have several students who work harder than anyone else. For these kids, on some days, just walking through the front door is the hardest thing that they do all day. I feel like it is very important to acknowledge their courage and commitment to their education. Across the street, at Fineline, they have an award that is named after its first official recipient, so this award is now dubbed the Ben Lyons Award for Strength of Character, Tenacity, and Perseverance.
Ben, I am sure that you are totally unaware of the effect that you have on others and how you inspire all of us to push through when the going gets tough. Thank you.
Strength of Character
Medals: Academic, Special Recognition & Citizenship
An 'A' is a reward in its own right and we congratulate all of our students who have demonstrated academic excellence with exemplary grades! This award is for students who have shown something different. These are given by teachers to students who elevate everyone around them by showing grit in their studies and by supporting both their peers individually and their class as a whole.
Kitty Frazine for Exceptional Creativity
Isabella Brodsky for Photography
Leo White for Photography
Amelia Carney, Book Club
~ Special Recognition ~
Ethan Ciesielski Photoshop Dedication Award
Mickey Ciesielski Photoshop Dedication Award
~ Citizenship ~
Dmitriy Marker: The Flash
Tucker Coughlin: IT Guru
Brianan Dowler: Radix Assists
Leo White: Foreign Language
Presentation of High School Diplomas and Gifts
For Recognition of Past Accomplishments
Your diploma signifies hard work and transformation. Congratulations!
An Assignment for the Present
Just the one summer reading assignment because, while I know you are all exceptionally well prepared for what comes next, I still have a little voice telling me I need to teach you more. So, I have gotten you each a book. In each book I have included a copy of your recommendations, to remind you how I see you, and what you are when you are at your best.
Leo Rachael White
From her recommendation: Leo is intensely interested in communication and human interaction. She is considerate of the feelings of others and strives to include everyone, with an innate ability to perceive injustice as it unfolds. Leo is a person who immediately welcomes a newcomer warmly and without prejudice. She is also a person who will stand up to defend someone she barely knows and who will offer a genuine apology when she has erred.
Leo’s gift is a book of poetry, for the loving rebel that you are. The lesson is that, while rebellion often drives change for the better, forgiveness is still truly divine.
Maxwell Louis Ringer
From his recommendation: One of the most noteworthy things about this outstanding young man is the way in which he throws himself into a project, making everything in which he is invested his own. In classes, he creates elaborate games to help his fellow students engage with the material. Socially, he creates complex collective structures and competitions to foster inclusion and community. He gives his time, energy, and innovation freely with no expectation of recompense.
Max’s contribution to our community has been considerable. Where he goes, others follow. He is popular, obviously, but his appeal is much deeper and more significant than this. He leads by example and his example is excellence, although he often seems unaware of his effect on those around him. Max is that individual, the one you want on your team, every time, win or lose.
Max’s gift is Going for No! For the ultimate team player, a book about embracing and, even, seeking out rejection. The lesson is that, while wanting everyone to be happy is an admirable goal, rejection or just the word ‘no’ will often open doors where once there were only walls.
Brianan June Dowler
From her recommendation: An initial meeting with Bri gives the impression of subtle eccentricity, while a closer examination reveals a complex and formidable young woman. She is extremely independent and capable, requiring very little instruction to complete a task well and with alacrity. Bri is organized, has strong personal boundaries, and is very clear about her goals, as well as her predilections. She is totally unaffected by external personal pressure. She also brightens a room like no one else, supporting those around her with a willing and open spirit that makes her a joy to be around.
For the young woman who has more friends than anyone else I know a book about using your network effectively. The lesson is how to ask for help effectively because your friends want you to succeed as much as we all do!
Benjamin Harper Lyons
We are very fortunate that Ben will be here with us for a few PG classes next year. He is also planning to take a few classes at Western, as well. So, I get another year to ruminate and hound him about what I think he needs before going away to college, and to pick out a book for him. I have already talked about what a special person he is, so I won’t gush further.
Looking Towards the Future
Each graduate has been gifted at least one compass as a symbol of finding your way home. I hope that you all consider this your second home and that you will all visit regularly!
Finally, for each graduate, there is the gift of a ridiculously large eraser for "Very Big Mistakes". Keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes. It is expected. This is how we learn. Learning and growth are impossible without mistakes. If you need help dealing with a huge mistake, I am always here for you; your parents are always here for you. You have a community to fall back on, one that is ready to help you work it out - whatever 'it' may be. Please know that you have a safe place to regroup for the next battle, as needed.
Presentation of First in Class Awards
See if you can guess the student before they are named ...
Academically, this student will be graduating in three years and takes a very challenging schedule of classes. She is a quiet, even reserved young woman, who leads by example, is a wonderful listener for her peers, and looks deeply into the social currents that run through Education without Walls. Her presence helps to ground the other students. She is always happy to help when asked, with her amazing photography skills; she was co-editor of the yearbook and is hosting this year’s prom. I look forward to collaborating with her even more next year. Congratulations, Isabela Brodsky!
My son Tucker says, quite often, that this young woman deserves everything wonderful and beautiful in the entire world. Anyone within hearing distance, including myself, always agrees. She is a tenacious person who loves life and this planet fiercely. She works ridiculously hard, is a very talented actress, and a successful small business owner. You know you are in real trouble with her when she gives you a huge smile. She has, by far, had the biggest impact on the way people behave here at EWOW, as evidenced by the confused, often forlorn looks on the faces of people standing in front of the trash and recycling bins. Congratulations, Maddy Stevens!
Many of you have heard me tell the story of the first time I met this next student. She did not like school, did not like classes, really, did not like much of anything. At the time, she will tell you, the traditional school model had beaten the love of learning out her. It took her a good year to recover, but she still was adamantly opposed to taking any foreign language.
Fast forward to her senior year - this past year - when she volunteered to teach the Japanese Language Lab to the first year students. We have discovered that she has an ear for foreign language and that she is, rather ironically, a wonderful teacher. She also was happy to jump in and substitute teach for the lower level Spanish classes whenever needed.
This young woman is another excellent listener who leads, very often, by example, and by stating her thoughts very clearly and, often, vociferously. Her senior project was putting together the EWoW student showcase, which was a huge success and very gratifying for me, personally. She is an extremely talented photographer, who, in her photographs, is somehow able to capture a love for laughter and life. Congratulations, Leo White!
First in School
I have had this student in the classroom since he was 10 years old. It all started with a writing class in which he was, well, a little bratty. I love telling this story and repeat it often, so, many of you may have heard it before, but indulge me just this one last time.
I have this kind of bratty kid in my class and he is, by far, the youngest one in the class. So, I contacted his mother to let her know that he needed to make some behavioral adjustments. The next time I saw him, he was the best-behaved kid in the class … and it stuck. Fast forward to the next opportunity I had to teach him. He was 12 or 13 and the same exact thing happened. He was a little bratty, I talked to his mom, and suddenly he was the best, most polite student in the class.
This is one of the many ways that I illustrate that parental involvement is of paramount importance in a child’s education.
This student has earned this award several times over, in so many ways. Academically, he is hard to beat, with a ridiculous number of APs on his transcript, very high standardized test scores, and an Ivy League letter of admission to his credit. He volunteers to coach younger students and to mentor teams, and I am sure every kid that he works with wants to be just like him. Oh, the charm.
But, behind the charm is a very sensitive kid who really wants everyone to be happy. I think this is one of the many reasons for his amazing work on the House Hunt the past couple of years. When we need a morale booster around here, Max rallies the troops for a party or, the ultimate collaborative game, House Hunt.
I could go on and on, but I will suffice to say that I would not have made it through this year without him and I will miss him very much!
Final Thoughts from Our Seniors
Thank you, seniors, (and your parents!) for your very kind words and thoughts. It has been an honor. We will be posting a video of their remarks shortly.
Max will be attending Cornell University in the fall and will be studying business and hotel administration.
Leo will be attending Central Connecticut State University in the fall and will be focusing on International Studies and Japanese.
Bri will be attending Hampshire College in the fall and will be studying Theater and Performance Arts.
Ben will be taking a PG year to finish up a few classes at EWoW and take a few classes at WCSU.