On Saturday, May 20, the Class of 2017 graduated from Parish Episcopal School at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. The young men sported tuxes with white coats and red rose boutonnieres; the young women wore white dresses and carried bouquets of red roses with baby’s breath. There was a mix of emotions: happiness and sadness, jubilation and trepidation. The graduates, including 24 lifers, walked across the stage to receive their diplomas and officially moved from Parish seniors to Parish alumni. (Watch graduation highlights and senior memories)
“We never thought this day would come,” said Jaya Gupta ’17 who gave the welcome at the commencement. “Many years turned to months and weeks, then days as we counted down the time until this moment. Now I wish time would slow down because it means we are leaving a place that has shaped me and the class of 2017 into the people we are today.”
During the student address at commencement, Wallis Dean ’17 encouraged fellow classmates to soak in the moment and to “look up and take in where they are, and what’s ahead.”
“Whether you walked onto the Parish campus 15 years ago or just last year, we have taken many steps together,” remarked Dean. “The next few months bring big changes, new schools, new faces, but I promise we got this. Sometimes making sure you don’t fall on your face is important, but it’s also okay to take a stumble every once in a while. Get up and carry on.”
Prior to graduation day, the seniors spent the month of May in a whirlwind of activity: ParishBridge (Hear more from seniors) and Senior Dinner (Photo Gallery by Wiley Williams) on May 16; Senior Send Off from Lower School students at the Hillcrest campus on May 17 (Photo Gallery) and Baccalaureate (Photo Gallery), May 18.
“This Parish family is a family I know I will have for the rest of my life,” remarked Abbi Larkin ‘17 during the Senior Dinner. “Of Course, everyone has their separate friend groups, different interests . . . [but] we all stick together. When it comes time to do something as a class, or when a classmate is going through a hard time . . . our whole class is there to have each other’s backs.”
During Baccalaureate, Whitney Wheeler ‘17 spoke about her heartache over leaving Parish. It's been a place that has allowed her to explore her passions through schoolwork, the Rosettes and Parish Rover.
“I am about to physically walk away from people who I have known for seven years and walk away from a community that’s become home,” added Wheeler. “My father always talks about ‘investing in people’ and that’s what I think I’ve done during my time here at Parish; I’ve invested my time, effort and passion into people and trying to help them as much as they help me. And I think that’s why this is still so hard for me to accept. So hard for me to accept that I won't be there in August, yet I do know that Parish will always be a home for me.”
Family and coming home was a central theme for so many this graduation year. Michell Lyon, Provost & Head of Upper School, watched her son J.C. walk across the stage this year, while Craig Savage, faculty member and head soccer coach, said goodbye to students and family.
“Today I’m going to speak from the heart because my relationship with this graduating class is different,” said Savage, who was asked by the students to give the commencement speech.
“Among this group of 103 seniors are 40 of my AP psychology students, 20 of my AP biology students, 19 of my Psychology of Leadership students, 16 of my soccer players, 14 of my four year advisees, one of my nephews and my daughter,” he added.
Savage wanted to convey to the students, the joy and turmoil that parents feel when it comes to their children; the emotions of fear, hope, humility, pride and the lasting lessons that parents want kids to carry forward.
“If you could climb inside our hearts and minds, you would find we are a bundle of contradictions,” remarked Savage. “We are excited for you to go, but we don’t want you to leave us. We want you to grow up, but always stay young at heart.”
Savage assured students that without fear they’d be reckless to the point of their own demise, but that it’s okay to be afraid sometimes; just do it anyway. He encouraged them to remain humble and kind; be compassionate and forgiving and live with discipline, not regrets.
“Whatever your individual talents allow you to do, embody the tenets of Wisdom, Honor, and Service that your school has encouraged in you,” said Savage. “Our hope is that you never see yourself as a finished product. Instead always be in a state of becoming.”
“Remember that everyone you meet knows something you don’t. Remember that winning an argument doesn’t make you right. Remember to keep asking questions,” he advised.
“But today, while we can no longer cradle you in our arms, we still look at you with amazement. Competent, confident, intelligent, kind, beautiful young adults and we wonder: how it is possible . . . that we may have played some role in helping form who you are?”
The class of 2017 has accomplished much during their years at Parish through academics, leadership programs, arts and athletics. In the farewell to students, Class President Jack Dienes ‘17, assured his classmates that they will always be welcome to stop by 4101 Sigma Road.
“Whether Parish has been your home for two years or 15, you are considered part of the Panther family, and will be forever,” said Dienes. “I would like to quote my grandmother who often says: ‘Wherever you wander, wherever you roam, be happy and healthy, and glad to come home.’”
While Parish Episcopal School will always be a touchstone for so many of the graduates and their families, it will also be remembered as a place that helped shape their future, for which they are now responsible.
“Throughout my years at Parish, I have grown to understand the importance of kindness, respect, service and finding a passion,” said Gupta to the audience.
“We haven't just learned math and English and reading skills, but forgiveness and generosity, how to make a mistakes but also how to learn from them. These are the skills that the class of 2017 is taking with us into the world. And I hope that wherever we travel in this life, we will always keep these values close by.”
“We are all growing and learning every day, facing new challenges and obstacles,” noted Dean. “And, when things get tough, we can reflect on the lessons we learned at Parish.”
Each student will take valuable lessons and cherished memories with them as they explore life beyond high school. Yet, it is still so hard for everyone to say goodbye to what is familiar.
Wheeler commented, “While we may think that this weekend is all about us, I want y’all to remember that this is as hard on our people as it is on us. Letting go and sending us off is painful, and they are grieving because they are losing us. Don’t bottle these feelings; I encourage you to feel them. Be happy, sad, in pain and anywhere in between.”
“Parents, while we’re never done parenting, today we need to pat ourselves on the back and say, ‘So far, job well done,’” noted Savage. “Congratulations on shepherding these children into adulthood. It’s time we let them go and trust that they’re ready to take on whatever comes their way.”