For our Form VI students and their families, the last few weeks before Commencement are filled with celebrations, milestone events, and bittersweet goodbyes.
The Class of 2022 spent their last month on campus celebrating their time at the School and joining together for the Senior Class Gift, while their parents and guardians worked behind the scenes to raise funds for the Form VI Gift. During a time when emotions are running high, these moments of connection and teamwork allowed both students and families to close out the year full of appreciation for their time at the School.
Making spaces for the seniors to connect and build community after two academic years marked by remote or hyflex learning was a priority for this year’s Form VI Class Dean, Vinni Drybala. “The last time a senior class got to experience the usual end-of-year milestones, the Class of 2022 were 9th Graders,” he says, “so this spring was all about rebuilding that senior year experience.” For Drybala, it was crucial that students could close out their time at Fieldston with shared celebrations, and the last weeks of school quickly filled up with gatherings and festivities.
The festivities kicked off in late April with the senior class trip. A picturesque boat ride was followed by a day at the American Dream Mall in New Jersey where students could enjoy ice skating, laser tag, and an indoor amusement park.
At Founder’s Day, the Class of 2022 entered the Adler Hall at Ethical Culture one by one to thunderous applause from faculty, staff, and their fellow students; the Bridge to Bridge Celebration Dinner honored graduating seniors who self-identify as people of color and have been a part of the mentorship program throughout their time at Fieldston; and Field Day saw the Fieldston campus filled with a rainbow of colors as the seniors teamed up for friendly competition. Field Day — their final day on campus — wrapped up with a BBQ and celebration on the upper field, where clear skies and sunny late-spring weather meant students could enjoy lunch lounging on the turf of the field one last time. In the days leading up to Commencement, seniors gathered for the 14 Year Club Celebration, Prom, and the Senior Dinner — three pivotal events as they make their transition from students to graduates.
These traditions and celebrations are cornerstones of the Fieldston experience for seniors, but most of the current Fieldston Upper students haven’t seen them playing out. “One of the key features of the culture of a school is how much is built upon what came before you,” says Drybala. “One thing that was so special about this group is how they were able to model leadership and celebration for the rest of the Fieldston Upper students who had never experienced these traditions before COVID-19.” The senior students, he said, didn’t just have a preternatural maturity, they also were committed to showing the rest of the School how to appreciate being together as a community.
With dances, trips, and dinners behind them, all that was left was Commencement. After arriving at ECFS as students — whether 14 years ago or just this past fall — the Class of 2022 walked onto campus as students one last time. With their family, friends, and fellow ECFS students looking on, the seniors made their way across the stage on the Quad and officially became alumni. After many years of hard work and determination, the newest Fieldston alumni will carry what they learned at ECFS into college and beyond as they head toward their bright futures ahead.
Bringing back the Senior Class Gift — a fund that graduating seniors are encouraged to donate to — was a joint effort between the Office of Alumni Relations and members of the graduating class. In the past, the money raised has gone toward a bench or a similar tangible item gifted to the campus. However, this year the committee “felt strongly about supporting scholarships for the students who come to ECFS after them,” said Sara Hunt Munoz, Director of Alumni Relations. “Everything they raised was put toward the Class of 2022 Form VI Endowment Fund, serving as a powerful symbolic final act as Fieldston students — and impactful first act as alumni.”
The fund not only provides support for the School, it also highlights to students how philanthropic support from donors played a key role in their own experiences throughout their time at ECFS, with gifts going to support general operating costs and financial aid.
For parents and guardians who are preparing to see their child graduate from high school, the end of the academic year can be a mixed bag of emotions. According to Kavita Bordia, Assistant Director of Annual Giving and 12th Grade parent, “it’s a lot of anxiety, mixed with a lot of joy.” For some, that joyful anxiety could be channeled into meaningful action: being a part of the Form VI Gift Volunteer Committee. The committee members rally support among their peers and serve as crucial members of the fundraising team as they solicit support from their Form VI parent/guardian peers.
Modeling philanthropy to the students, the parents/guardians gave generously to ECFS in honor of the graduating class, raising over $385,000 for the School. This money is split equally between the Orange Fund and an endowment fund for the Class of 2022 that will exist in perpetuity, meaning graduates can give to the fund in the future. “The commitment of the Form VI Gift Committee and response from our community reflects the wonderful year that our students had,” says Bordia.
The joy, gratitude, and impact of the Class of 2022 will live on in the form of these gifts, which will help ensure students for future generations will be able to experience the same milestones and celebrations that they did.