Grade 8 Moves Up

One word to describe the Class of 2024 is resilient. “This year has been turbulent enough to tell you that we’ve changed,” said Grade 8 Speaker, MaKiyah Turner-Hicks ’24 at today’s virtual Moving Up ceremony, “but I want to shed light on the fact that we’ve done even more than that: we’ve developed.”

Today, the Class of 2024 graduated from Middle School in a virtual Moving Up ceremony. In a traditional setting, Grade 8 would have stood in Chapel and “moved up” to Upper School, with each grade in turn, shifting physically to new seats. Like so many other events, the Poly tradition looked different this year with students and their families “attending” via Zoom. The students stood wherever they were celebrating with their family and moved up a grade.

Head of school Andre Del Valle

Sharing the ceremony through a Zoom link allowed family and friends from far and wide to celebrate together. Head of Middle School Andre Del Valle P’29, ‘33 welcomed families, friends, and faculty to Moving Up noting 2020 was “full of challenges.” He offered the Class of 2024 some advice and words of encouragement. Always be appreciative. “Find your people,” and learn from them, he said, and reminded that some people tell you what you want to hear and others want you need to hear. “Don’t be afraid to try something new. Move out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.” Del Valle said, “The world is changing around you. This country is taking a cold look at itself… We have left a lot of work for you. Be the best person you can be.”

MaKiyah Turner Hicks ’24

After a musical interlude by Poly’s Grade 8 Guitar class, who performed “Stand by Me” with vocals by The Tower Singers, the Grade 8 Speaker was introduced. In her moving speech, MaKiyah Turner-Hicks reflected on challenges faced on numerous fronts. She recalled teachers and students who have left the Middle School, and said, “I am, in a very literal sense, not in a grade with the same people that I was in the 6th grade when I came to Poly. I find that really cool.”

Although she may still be shy, the student who entertained us with her lively performance of Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream confidently told us, “Poly has changed since I’ve come here. That change was prompted by racial stigma, by pandemics, by mental health emergencies, and worldwide activist movements, but that change was positive and it doesn’t replace Poly’s identity; it improves it. That’s a sign of evolution, and that change, however it was brought on, prompted the creation of affinity groups for people of different religious backgrounds, genders, and racial identities…” She continued, “If I could see you all right now, I would be able to see how much you developed. I would be able to show you how much you developed. I would see musicians, doctors, artists, fashion designers, activists, and athletes. And no, I’m not talking about your potential. I’m talking about what I’ve seen… You all have so much to be proud of,” MaKiyah said, as she recounted the talents of her amazing classmates before saying “a simple virtual goodbye.”

Middle School math teacher Stephen Bates presented a slideshow of the Class of 2024 throughout Middle School before Middle School Deans Amie Bui P’28, Adam Bisceglia, and Peter Soto ’01, P‘31 congratulated the class and wished them well and, after a faculty slideshow of congratulations, it was time for the Middle School to move up. Del Valle asked the eighth graders to stand wherever they were and proclaimed them promoted to Upper School. He led the clapping as he did this in turn for each Middle School grade.

Head of School Audrius Barzdukas P’20 offered the closing remarks, congratulating the students, but reminding them, “You didn’t do it alone,” and asking them to thank teachers, coaches, and parents. He wished the Class of 2024 well as they begin a “lifelong adventure and love affair with learning” and reminded them to read. Barzdukas told them he can’t wait to see them. “We are getting school ready for your return.”

To conclude the ceremony, Grade 5 students sang the Poly Song. Watch the full Moving Up ceremony.