The sixth graders in the Class of 2025 felt the thrill of taking a big step toward (young) adulthood, as their journey from Lower School to Middle School put them center stage at the Lower School Closing Exercises on June 5.
The ceremony offered the chance for the entire Lower School community to gather for an upbeat conclusion to the “Year of Friendship.” The event opened with the processional of the sixth graders to seats on the stage, marching to the tune of “Trumpet Voluntary,” played by the fourth and fifth grade string orchestra. Student Council President Brooke DiGeronimo ’25 led the opening prayer, and the first graders stood in their seats on the bleachers to lead the singing of the National Anthem.
In his opening remarks, Headmaster Dennis Manning quoted one of his favorite poets, William Wordsworth, “The Child is father of the Man;/ And I could wish my days to be/ Bound each to each by natural piety.” In that poem, Wordsworth was celebrating childhood as “the highest and best state of our humanity,” Mr. Manning said.
During the ceremony, he also recognized two Lower School administrators who are saying farewell this year, both of whom have worked in education for four decades: Mrs. Patty McLaughlin, who started as Director of Admissions and has served for the past eight years as Director of the Lower School; and Dr. Sandra Harrison, who has served as an Assistant Director of the Lower School and guidance counselor. Both administrators received sustained standing ovations.
The ceremony proceeded with the prizes and awards for grades 1-6, including the distinguished readers, mathematicians, and citizens in each homeroom. That was followed by awards reserved for sixth graders, who are the oldest students in the Lower School; as a salute to the sixth graders’ progress to the Middle School, each one of the 105 students in the class was announced by full, formal name and stepped up to shake Mr. Manning’s hand.
The Sixth Grade Treble Choir sang “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, accompanied on the guitar by Mr. Phil Call, who teaches fifth grade. The president-elect of the Student Council, Tessa Mae Chavez, offered the benediction.
Toward the end of the ceremony, Mr. Manning joked that he was experiencing the “single most pressurized moment that a headmaster can experience at NA...I stand between your children and liberty.” He did not miss the opportunity, while students were keyed up with excitement, to offer a suggestion for carrying forward into the summer some of the practices and principles that young Bulldogs cultivate on campus. “Habits of the heart must be cultivated,” he said. “Strive to be a person of integrity and character everywhere you are.”
And he closed with his traditional, and by now, much-anticipated exhortation: “Read! Have a reading-filled summer!”