By: J.P. Jacquet
12th Grade Dean
Wow, the Class of 2017, how should you be described? When you started as freshpeople you were the single biggest grade in the school’s history. Most of the subsequent classes now average around 80 students so your grade became the new normal for BC. It is clear the experiment worked. As a class you have a little bit of everything. There are several lifers in your grade, but you also had a new student, who joined just this fall. Regardless of when each of you arrived at BC you have all worked to make your mark both as individuals and as a grade. In a bit I will focus on your work in our classrooms, the athletic arenas and performance spaces, but I think it is right to start by stating that at its core this is a class of Berkeley Carroll dance trend setters. You made this known even in the 9th grade as the first class to start the now annual freshpeople spring dance. More moves were displayed throughout your high school career including several grade-wide flash mob dance videos. The class as a whole definitely showcased rhythm at prom and your latest dancing exploit occurred in the US Atrium Library during your last day of academic classes. I admit I was a bit surprised when several portable speakers started blasting music, but frankly, I should have known that your senior prank would be a farewell dance party to the school.
Having taught many of you in the 10th, 11th and/or 12th grade, I have appreciated the first-hand view of your personal growth, intellectual curiosity and spirited drive. As your senior class dean I can attest to the academic achievements your grade accomplished, in spite of some lateness speed bumps, which were surprisingly not cured by my 6 a.m. Google Classroom daily reminder. I guess I will have to go back to the drawing board. Tomorrow’s Recognition Assembly, which starts promptly at 10:10 a.m., will recap some of the instances of academic excellence you have achieved. This recognition will be based on internal BC measurements and external measurements by organizations like The Cum Laude Society, the Scholastic Art and Writing Organization, the National Latin Exam and the National Merit Scholarship Program to name a few.
In athletics, this grade helped our school achieve new individual and team honors that have cemented our strong sports presence throughout the state. Throughout your high school tenure we have seen increased participation numbers in girls, boys and coed teams. Your grade ushered in the era of our female sports teams competing in the very competitive AAIS league. The members of the Class of 2017 helped start and develop a girl’s tennis team, a coed frisbee team and most recently a Spirit Squad, which has injected large amounts of energy and enthusiasm into the overall BC community. In total, your class earned 31 all-league honors, set 11 individual swimming records, won nine ACIS league titles and one NYSAIS athletic state title.
Turning to the arts, the past couple weeks have provided a great taste of the accomplishments of this grade. Senior Arts Night, the dance performance, the night of jazz and the choral concert were all wildly successful events, in large part to the work, dedication and talents of your grade. Your grade also helped christen the new Sterling Place performance space last winter and you helped elevate the level of dramatic performances in this fall’s rendition of that not-to-be-mentioned Scottish Play that starts with an “M,” “Macbeth,” this March’s “Blood Brothers performance” and the memorable, student-directed production of “The Laramie Project.”
Unsurprisingly, your facility with spoken word and language has continued on the speech and debate stage. I never knew that that speech and debate was a combat sport until I recently spoke with one of your coaches. It was then that I learned about the severe breaking that gets done to reach prelims, octo finals, quarterfinals, semifinals and hopefully finals! You also “get hit or do some hitting” when you find out the next round’s opponent. And if a judge “discloses the round’s result” you either break or you drop. I am sure that if a student did any of these actions during the school day that student would have to meet with me or Mrs. Moore about their violent behavior. But as a former wrestler, I can appreciate why these actions would be rewarded at a speech and debate tournament and I am not surprised that this crop of seniors have done phenomenally well in these linguistic battles.
Yet with every accomplishment achieved or thoughtful gesture provided, you and your classmates have been a bit different this year. As seniors, by necessity, you have spent the year with one back foot firmly planted within this community, which you have helped shape and develop, while you look for a landing spot for your front foot. I know your college counselors have often used the phrase “college is a match to be made and not a prize to be won.” In my conversations with them and you, I know that you have truly taken this to heart. As the office recently shared with me, your class will be attending over 57 different schools of various student body sizes, across an array of different geographic regions. The few highlights of numerous other achievements I just shared stand as proof that each of you are ready and poised to tackle the world beyond the gates of Berkeley Carroll.
So about that piece of advice I promised to share. As many of you know I am the father of four young children, and therefore I get numerous opportunities a day to read some of the finest literature around. A current favorite of my oldest daughter is the Pete the Cat series by Eric Litwin. One book is titled “I Love My White Shoes.” For those familiar with the series, you know these books are set to song. The rest of the audience should be grateful that no singing will occur in the next few minutes. In this particular story, our main protagonist, an indigo blue-hued kitten is really excited about his shiny new pair of white lace-up sneakers … think Converse All Stars. Pete begins our story by singing about how much he loves his “white shoes.” Pete is a very energetic and busy cat and over the course of the day he walks through a strawberry patch that turns his sneakers red, a blueberry patch that turns his sneakers blue and a mud pile that, you guessed it, turns his sneakers brown. As Pete completes his harrowing hike he realizes that he “loves” his sneakers. He loved them when they were white, red, blue, brown and, spoiler alert, he loves his sneakers at the end of the story when they are wet … courtesy of an encounter with a large puddle. I love this story, I mean, my 3-year-old daughter loves this early age bildungsroman, partly because of the wonderful illustrations, partly because of the annoyingly catchy lyrics and mostly because she has a heightened awareness of the importance of appreciation and the value of optimism.
In reality, I know that these traits are not yet cemented into the fibers of any of my children and frankly, I am not sure if I have cemented them in my own core, but I do believe they are important. Life throws a lot at us and over the next few years I know that you, the members of the class of 2017, will experience great highs and some lows. That has been the case during the high school career of each member of this class, and it will be the case in college. Frankly, part of going through life is dealing with these ups and downs. I do believe that if you can keep in mind the individual good fortunes that you have, and continue to propel forward with a sense of optimism, you will be able to meet life’s challenges even if it means you are wearing soggy wet shoes.