Class of 2020: The Most Unique Journey



Seniors gathered, socially distanced, at a surprise distribution of their caps & gowns in mid-May.

Cary Rivera ('20)

STANWICH ROAD/REMOTE- High school is a time of uncertainty, change, and adjustments.  “You’ve grown so much!”  “We have come so far!”  These are cliches and speakers at commencements all over the country would typically make these statements to students in caps and gowns.

But the statements aren’t being uttered, at least not in the usual way.  Then again, “usual way” is a foreign concept to my classmates and me, the GCDS Class of 2020.  The FOAT: the First of All-Time.

Who would have thought that being the first true-Senior-class alumni of GCDS would be only one small part of the uniqueness of our legacy?

To be in this class is to have seen many classmates move to other schools after 8th grade at The Stanwich School.

To be in this class is to remember the news of the intended academic shift to the International Baccalaureate at Stanwich.  The class recognized and appreciated the prestige of the program and looked forward to adapting to the change of course styles with new options.  We adjusted our AP courses and pathways through high school.

To be in this class is to recall the news of the integration of Stanwich with Greenwich Country Day School in November, 2017.  I remember the Town Hall a few days after the announcement, when I asked Mr. Rohdie some pointed questions – a memorable night for many – and he honored my concerns with full answers.

To be in this class is to go through a year-long school closing and start Senior year with a new high school opening.

To be in this class is to start project-based learning as 12th graders.

To be in this class is to leave school for spring break but never go back as students.

To be in this class is to do remote learning right when ‘Senioritis’ tends to hit.

To be in this class is to have prom cancelled and graduation postponed.

I, along with 11 resilient classmates, have been shaped by our ideal selves in high school, and now we face the new chapter of our lives that will be college and other adventures.

As I reflect on my years of high school, the experiences I mentioned molded me into the student and young woman I am today.

Ninth grade was a gratifying year for my class. If the seven seniors who experienced 9th grade at Stanwich were asked what their favorite year of high school was, the unanimous answer might be freshman year.  This was partly thanks to our advisor, Shaun Fletcher, and partly because of the bonds and memories we created on our class trip to Costa Rica.

Of our original 17 students in this cohort, seven left, and five arrived for sophomore year, leaving the class as the ‘sweet 15.’

The eventual Class of 2020 continued to bond but was surprised and brought closer by the news of Stanwich merging with Greenwich Country Day in 2017.  What had weighed heaviest on the class was the thought of parting ways with teachers we had grown up with for years.  We were connected as a school-family through Triskelion events and Fall Festivals; through challenges and triumphs of small-class sizes.  Those days of not knowing about people’s futures were hard.  Despite this, we were determined to uplift one another with the positives of GCDS: gaining resources, meeting new people, and the experiences we would have coming into our senior year of high school: workout rooms, a dining hall, and prestigious internships.

We first had to make the most out of our final year as part of the Stanwich community.  We appreciated and took into account each of our last moments as Spartans.  The change-of-schools enabled us to understand more all that we had and made us cherish the memories with which each of us had been blessed.

Four of our classmates left for junior year, but we gained one more, making us the trailblazing “dirty dozen” – or “sturdy dozen” – the 12 that we are now.

Jackie Wood, US history teacher who was so instrumental in the transition and in making 12th grade a success even during an unprecedented quarantine and remote learning period, was always there for the dozen of us.

“You all handled the transition with grace and dignity,” she told me.  “While the merge created a lot of disruption, including jackhammering while you were trying to take tests, classrooms being moved, teachers worried about their futures, you were all able to roll with the tide.”

It is nice to know that our teachers – old and new – understood and related to our unique set of challenges.

My classmate Tyler Brown, who is off to Villanova this fall, suggested that the pandemic took a lot away, but also gave us all a new lens.

“Having the remote learning does make me think of my experience differently [and] that is not a bad thing,” Tyler told reporter Kayla Richards in an email interview. “Over this pandemic the 12th grade has had multiple events that have been purely for bonding. We have had movie nights and other group zoom calls. We have also learned about the dedication of the faculty and staff to all of our educations as well as making sure that this year is still special for us even in missing the end of our senior year.”

“When life gave you lemons, you 12 made the sweetest lemonade and I was fortunate enough to watch as your small but mighty grade bonded even more and came together to support each other,” Ms. Wood explained.

By senior year I was nervous about attending a new school for only a year and adjusting to the thought of not graduating with a Stanwich diploma. But this is no longer a challenge and certainly is not a negative.  I can confidently say that Stanwich shaped my core, but GCDS has expanded my horizons.  I am certain that is true for all dozen of us.

I am a student with more confidence than I have ever had and am so excited to see what the class of 2020 brings to their future endeavors.  Each of us has unique perspectives on the crazy time that was our high school career, and we have gained significant life lessons throughout these experiences that will be to enhance our college communities.

The twelve of us share the hearts of Spartans and the pride of Tigers.

UPDATE: In-person Graduation has been re-scheduled for Friday, June 26, 2020. Details TBA.  

From The Chronicle: The faculty put together a tribute video! Enjoy!

Cary Rivera is a GCDS graduate, Class of 2020.  She will attend Fairfield University to study communications in the fall and has two Stanwich alumni brothers, David (’14) and Matthew (’17).

Also contributing to this story:

Kayla Richards is a rising junior who loves art, field hockey, history, and French.