End-of-Year Assembly Celebrates Perseverance & Achievements

Middle School and Upper School Final Assembly of 2020-2021

“We did it,” announced Head of School Audrius Barzdukas P’20. “We all did it.” As the Middle and Upper School students and faculty gathered one more time via Zoom, they celebrated having persevered and made it through this challenging year at the end-of-year Assembly on June 10. Upper School academic and character awards were presented during the Assembly.

In welcoming Middle and Upper School, Michal Hershkovitz, Assistant Head of School, Academics P’16, ‘18, said “We not only survived, but thrived through all the challenges.” She asked them to consider why we celebrate and what there was to celebrate about this “memorable year” which elicited from us empathy, reliance, generosity, innovation and faith. She thanked the students “for taking this journey with us” for sharing a video of how teaching and learning were reimagined this year at Poly. A montage of the Major Awards honors, which were presented at our Middle and Upper School Major Awards Assembly virtually on May 21, was shared.

Student Voices

Director of Student Life Alex Davis shared responses from students about what they will remember from the year of COVID. Among their thoughts were:

“I will always remember the great efforts my teachers put in to make this year somewhat normal and fun for us.  From running around the tents to keep warm, to having dance parties over zoom – my teachers never failed to lighten up our spirits.”

“I will remember the excitement all my friends and I shared taking our first steps inside the building since last March; I will remember all of my new and old friends who helped me smile every day.”

Davis also had students read their reflections of what they had learned.

Brianna S. ’27 will always remember “the amazing friendships and unique bonds I made with each person in my class. She also said that she had learned to ask for help. “This year, more than anything, I needed the help of teachers, peers, and parents.”

Matthew J. ’25 said, “I will remember how important friendship is.” He added that he learned how much he likes creating things and the importance of flexibility.”

Stavroula G. ’25, said she would remember the different environments students learned in, including outside in tents without desks, virtually, in school with teachers, but some classmates virtual, and then back into classrooms. Still, the year was “amazing.”

Sylvie D. ’26 remembers “being able to play sports and games between our classes.”

Leo Yihan Wang ’23 said “The resilience I saw this year from different people and our power as a group are things that I will remember.”

How We Created Art

Head of Arts Michael Robinson shared three videos with the themes “home, place, and resilience” that showed how we created art during the pandemic. First was the Poly Song sung by members of the Class of 2021 to Grade 5, which is an annual tradition. Next, Advanced Concert Choir sang “The Road Home,” by Stephen Paulus, which had been filmed in Chapel. Finally, Poly dancers performed to “Sanctuary” using the Malkin Terrace as a stage.

Moving and Staying Fit

Athletic Director Kristin Cannon shared video of students working out in the weight and fitness rooms and team members practicing out in the fields.

Upper School Academic and Character Awards

Head of Upper School Sarah Bates announced the departmental academic awards for 2020-21 and congratulated the following honorees:


Gilbert Feldman Latin Award:
Senior: Avery Myers ’21 and Mati Hassan ’21
Junior: Jake Zrihen ‘22


Senior French Award: Tessa Weiss ’21
Junior French Award: Jake Zrihen ’22

Senior Mandarin Award: Kahaliah Sandy ’21
Junior Mandarin Award: Jocelyn Lu ’22

Pitkow (Senior) Spanish Award: Tessa Marker ’21
Junior Spanish Award: Jack Lille-Yerington ’22


Computer Science Award: Sam Collier ’21


The Mitchell Prize: Gauri Purohit ’21  and Nacho Novogratz ’21
The Brown Book Award: Alex Dembitzer ’22 and Emma Spring ’22


New England Book Award: Honor Seares ’21
Mayflower Award: Lami Diallo ’22 and Bella Farkas ’22

Senior Math Prize: Mati Hassan ’21 and Gauri Purohit ’21


The Frank R. Hancock Award
For Outstanding Contribution to Music at Poly Prep:  Charlotte Knutsen ’21

The Poly Prep Dance Award: Alexa Nanfro ’21

The Poly Prep Choreography Award: Ella Barnett ’21 and Lola Williams ’21

Winder Drama Service Award: Robert Magnus ’21

The Walter B. Clark Drama Award: Charlotte Knutsen ’21


Sandra Stone Award: Izzy Axinn ’21
Rensselaer Polytechnic Award: Jasmine Kaur ’22
Bausch & Lomb Award: Soph Cimmino ’22


The Poly Prep Art History Award: Mariana Rivera-Donsky ’21
The Poly Prep Drawing and Painting Award: Brooke Johannesen ’21
The Poly Prep Photography Award: Samantha Chan ’21

Upper School deans presented the character awards:

  • Emily Gardiner presented the Russell Trauerts Memorial Award to Mary Lin ’24.
  • Jamie Nestor presented the Sharyn Dolan Memorial Award to Nicole Bogdanos ’23.
  • Doug Wong presented the Dartmouth Book Award to Jake Zrihen ’22.
  • Alex Davis presented the Indovino Memorial Book Award to Ryantony Exuma ’22.
  • Kane Willis presented the Hiram Austin Tuttle Cup to Samuel Marash ’22.
  • Alexis Perez presented the Emmett Gold Routt Cup to Caitlin Lam ’21.
Russell Trauerts Memorial Award to Mary Lin '24
Sharyn Dolan Memorial Award to Nicole Bogdanos ’23
Dartmouth Book Award to Jake Zrihen ’22
Indovino Memorial Book Award to Ryantony Exuma ’22
Hiram Austin Tuttle Cup to Samuel Marash ’22
Emmett Gold Routt Cup to Caitlin Lam ’21
Faculty Reflections

Hershkovitz returned to share reflections by faculty members. She reminded students to think of the faculty who helped them this year with gratitude. Sports Performance Director Richard James said, “At the end of all of this, I hope we will remember that though we may come from different times, places, and circumstances; we are ONE.”

History teacher Virginia Dillon shared things her students might remember from this past year, including, “Remember when you had to hang up your chair at the end of the day? Remember what it felt like to be in the classroom again? Remember when my papers flew over the Novogratz Center? Remember the first time we saw each other in person?”

Art teacher Dan Herwitt reflected, “Students, I am in awe of what you have accomplished in school this challenging year, and I feel honored in having shared in this experience with you.”

Middle School Reflections

Head of Middle School Andre Del Valle P’29, ’33 shared a quote which described this past year: “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” He shared photos illustrating “things we learned in Middle School this year” including that “7th Avenue is Loud, jump ropes have many uses, and we are willing to do whatever it takes to be together.” Del Valle said, “Learning happens everywhere!” For Middle School, that included tents, gyms, Chapel, in squash courts, but “you persevered and thrived!” He added, “Your teachers are superheroes!”

middle and upper school assembly what we learned
middle and upper school assembly whatever it takes
middle and upper school assembly teachers are superheroes

In closing, Hershkovitz said the Assembly had been another hour to be together and reflect on how far we have come and ended the Assembly with gratitude— for who you are, what you do, and what you have learned.