Lower School Celebrates the Class of 2028

“The world is crying out for change, and while there are not a lot of answers, I remain hopeful and confident we can make the world the place we want it to be because of you and people like you, fourth grade,” Head of Lower School Dr. Francis Yasharian told the Class of 2028 on their Graduation day, June 11.

The First Virtual Clapping Out Ceremony

Traditionally, at “Clapping Out,” Grade 4 streams out of the Park Slope building passing clapping teachers and students, out the front door into the sunshine and down the steps to their proud, clapping parents. This year, parents, siblings, and families clapped out the Class of 2028 at 1 PM in an enthusiastic prerecorded video presentation.

“Today’s the big day!” Dr. Yasharian began. “Happy Clapping Out… We hope you had a great time in Lower School and we are going to miss you when you move on to the Middle School. And here we go…”

Each graduate’s name in the video was greeted by sustained clapping and cheers. “Go Poly fourth graders. Great job, fourth graders!”  “Happy graduation!” and “Congratulations!” were heard above the clapping. Some younger siblings even danced for joy.

“We’ll see you in a few hours at the graduation…” Dr. Yasharian said at the conclusion of Clapping Out.

Class of 2028 Graduation

At 6:30 PM, before a closed red theater curtain, Dr. Yasharian welcomed families, teachers, and guests to the “first online Lower School Graduation.” He shared a link to a live-streamed event. Grade 4B Head Teacher Larry Maley invited the audience to comment on the chat feature during the evening before sending it back to Dr. Yasharian. who invited them to “celebrate the learning and growth of these remarkable boys and girls.” This year, he said, he had seen their courage performing onstage, and taking the initiative to write for the first Lower School newspaper or to create a virtual news channel. “I have been inspired by your sense of fairness, empathy, and justice as you have discussed racism, climate change, and injustice of all types… You have grown so much this year and throughout your entire time in the Lower School. And tonight we celebrate you.”

Class of 2028 4th Grade Graduation

Grade 4A Head Teacher Garrett Kennedy commiserated with parents that quarantine may have seemed like living out the movie Groundhog Day, but said the 26 fourth graders had given their teachers “little, yet important, victories each day” with their “perspectives on real-life issues” including the murder of George Floyd. Kennedy said it was important for Grade 4, who had studied slavery this year, to “never forget George Floyd’s name” and to “use this tragedy as a catalyst to truly make this a better place….”

Kennedy closed with a quote from “the great philosopher” Levi D.M. ‘28 from a discussion about identity: “People are like clay. At the beginning of our lives, our parents shape it, but, over time, we have to take over the shaping to form our own identity.”

Clover G.

Kennedy then introduced the first student speaker, Clover G. ’28. Clover, who attended Lower School since Nursery, recalled her favorite memories. One was fourth grade dance, when she had to strike a pose and was then lifted by classmates. She said, “I knew them. They were never going to let me drop.” 

Head Teacher Larry Maley and Associate Teacher Chris Sideli shared a “day in the life of a fourth grader”  in a heartwarming video full of smiles that kept the chat feature jumping with comments.

Mick W. '28

Mick W. ’28 was the second student speaker. He recounted all that Grade 4 had learned in Lower School including reading, counting, writing, coding, choreography, how the Brooklyn Bridge was built, and even fractions. They had visited Ellis Island in their study of immigration, learned about their community and ecology, created Colonial and Native American villages, felted sushi, and started art stools. But of the “long list of incredible things” they learned, Mick said, “The most important was how to be good people.” Mick thanked parents and Lower School teachers before telling his classmates, “You are amazing and you are all going to rock Middle School. Let’s do this!”

Students then shared their free verse poetry about feelings, the wall of names at Ellis Island, the first day of school, fourth grade, being stuck, a perfect place, and “one big game of freeze tag.”

Associate Teacher Mary Rice introduced videos of the students’ favorite memories of Lower School including walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, visiting Ellis Island, drawing club, making Tees to Totes, getting lockers, and meeting new friends on the first day.

Dr. Yasharian then asked parents to have the Poly Prep pin and graduation certificate handy. “When I say your name, fourth graders, please stand up,” he said, before calling the full names of all 26 members of the Class of 2028. He then led a big round of applause.

“We know you are ready for fifth grade and beyond. As a symbol of your growth and preparedness, we present you with your Lower School diploma. Grownups, you may hand the certificate to your child.”

Head of Lower School Dr. Francis Yasharian

“As a symbol of our support, admiration, and love, we present you with a Poly Prep Lower School pin. Grownups, please fix the pin over your child’s heart. May this pin serve as a reminder that while you may be leaving the Lower School, we will always be with you and you with us, in our hearts and in our minds, and you will always have a home in the Lower School.”

A video of photos depicting the Class of 2028 from babyhood to their current tween selves caused the chat feature to go wild at the cuteness and amazement at how fast 10 years can go. Some very exuberant Grade 4 dancing concluded the video celebration.