Matriculation throughout ASF is always a valued and exciting time. ECC students move on to the Lower School. Grade 5 students “step up” to grade 6 in the Middle School, and grader 8 students “step up” to grade 9 in the Upper School. The Stepping Up Ceremonies celebrate an educational advancement that swells the pride of ASF families. The Lower School Stepping Up Ceremony will be held on June 6, while the Middle School Stepping Up Ceremony will take place the day before on June 5. Each of the ceremonies created pomp and circumstance as a milestone in an educational career was marked. The most formalized and traditional matriculation on the ASF campus is that of the Upper School convocation, signifying the end of a 12-year educational journey and a coming of age event into adulthood.
The Upper School graduation is a week of events culminating into the actual Commencement ceremony. The Senior Awards Assembly on May 20 is a ceremony where seniors are recognized for citizenship and academic achievements. The valedictorian and salutatorian for the graduating class are identified at this ceremony.
The traditional Capping Ceremony followed on May 22, after the Senior Breakfast. The capping is a solemn ceremony where seniors select mentors, coaches, teachers among others to “cap” them. It is a way for a graduate to thank those who supported and helped them. Senior graduate, Claudio Álvarez, explains his choice, “I chose Mocte because he's become a good friend to me who has helped me when I needed it and is always there to help me with what he can. I'll always be grateful for that." Álvarez asked Moctezuma Carlos, Upper School Librarian to cap him. “I am honored to do this. It shows I had an impact on him and his experience here at ASF.” Carlos shared.
The Athletic Excellence and Sportsmanship Award Gala followed on May 23 in the Fine Arts Center. Graduating senior athletes were recognized individually for their accomplishments and by their teams. This is organized by the Bear Boosters. The Gala also recognizes from each team Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, and Athlete of the Year. The selected Athlete of the year becomes a new inductee into the Wall of Fame.
All of these events led up to the culminating convocation and the awarding of the diplomas on May 25. Held in the Jenkins Foundation Wellness Center (WEC), the event welcomed family, friends, faculty, honorees and graduates. The 201 graduates adorned in their club and honor tassels sat and waited for the moment to cross the stage and ascend into their determined and undetermined futures.
Planning all the ceremonies takes time and is a coordinated effort of a campus-wide team. For the Upper School commencement, Chad Schwaberow, Head of the Upper School, turned to Chris Muller, Dean of Students of the Upper School and Student Activities Specialist, Jennifer Byrnes. For Muller this was familiar territory but for Byrnes this would be her first time spearheading the organization of commencement “This is a big thing - since January we have been organizing and planning this.” Considering that decorations, flowers, catering, sound and lighting, caps and gowns were all part of the early stages of planning, Byrnes was quick to contact and contract vendors to ensure the formality and importance of the event. Beyond the vendors, Byrnes worked with closely with the Operations office to coordinate all of the “iron in the fire” Byrnes shared. Last year, ASF organized the first graduation held in the WEC, as in previous years, graduation was held on the Upper School Field where wind and rain and a Mexican sun dictated the atmosphere of the event. Byrnes explained, “We could just control more when we didn’t have to worry about the weather. It’s much more formal in here (WEC).”
Unique to this graduating class, 99 students are considered “old timers”, students who attended ASF from the beginning of their educational journey. The class of 2019 is made up of 12 nationalities, has five sets of twins, and identifies 11 couples who are attached. For each graduate, each parent, each teacher, and each member of the ASF community, graduation is marked by memories and shared stories, feelings of accomplishment, and the small sting of nostalgia for what was.
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For José Alaníz, Upper School Science Teacher, and his son, graduating senior, Ian Alaníz, this is bittersweet. This day closed a chapter in a 10-year father-son working relationship. While Mr. Alaníz headed to his classroom to teach, Ian Alaníz went to his classroom to learn. “Since Ian was in grade 3, we have been coming to campus together. This means preparing lunch for both of us, waking up and having breakfast together and many time driving in the car and chatting, singing, or listening to the news.” Mr. Alaníz shared. Once arriving at school, they both would reflect and pray about the day before they left the car. Ian explains the impact of the ASF experience, “ASF has taught me to explore all of my abilities: from acting in a musical, to playing football, to making a complicated analysis of a global problem in a couple of hours. I learned how to achieve my goals through perseverance and strong relations with the members of our community.” Pride understates Mr. Alaníz’s feelings, “I feel excited for the opportunities Ian will have as a future student of Medicine. He has fought so hard to get to his first choice of college. Being accepted was the first triumph of his early career!” Ian has plans for a surfing trip with his best friend to Puerto Escondido, “We are going to celebrate the beginning of a new adventure with quite the adventure on the Mexican waves.” After the waves, Ian intends to pursue his medical career.
The road to graduation is not always an easy one. For Yankel Leib Gelman, walking across that stage was an achievement. “I struggled this year. I took on more than I could handle.” Gelman at the start of the year was eager to get involved. Under the advice of Lauren Walters, Upper School Language Arts Teacher, Yakel backed away from several commitments during the second semester. “She told me not to be a jack-of-all-trades but rather a master-of-one-or-two. That made sense to me. I was spread thin.” Gelman is considering a gap year, a year of self-exploration and redirection. “I am not sure, but it would be nice to focus on one or two things before I go off to college.”
For Fernando Hadad Aiza, Upper School Counselor, this was a proud culmination of four years of work developing close relationships with the 2019 graduates. Each of the four counselors ascends with their initiating class. Hadad was assigned to this graduation class when they were freshmen. Having worked with them for the past four years, Hadad describes them as “respectful, committed and generous - they are a special group.” Hadad was also chosen by the graduating class to speak at the Senior Lunch and Capping Ceremony. “It was an honor that they asked. To think that I made a difference that they thought about me so that I can share my thoughts about the relationship we created.” Hadad shared. His speech touched on the earliest shared memories of being with them during their Week Without Walls and how that became a formative time that would guide and inform them for the next four years.
Chad Schwaberow, Head of Upper School, oversaw his second graduation ceremony here at ASF, “I still get nervous, but it is such a joyous event to see them walk across the stage and see them full of pride.” A chance to gush over the success of ASF students, Schwaberow reflects on his time here at ASF, “After the class of 2019 departs, I will initially retreat and recover from a busy and eventful week. . . I will feel the absence of so many terrific people, fun moments, and great memories. Though there will be other final moments, that will be one that will stick with me as I depart and will embody the wonderful students that make ASF what it is." Schwaberow will oversee other graduations as his career further develops in Texas.
This time year in an academic calendar is filled with intense emotions. Teachers look forward to a well-deserved break, undergraduates look to another bump in their progression, and graduating seniors face the greatest emotional challenge as they look to their futures with uncertainty, trepidation, and overwhelming excitement. The class of 2019, like 130 graduating classes preceding, offer great potential to the growth and development of Mexico and the world. They too will challenge the status quo, set new bars, and reframe the issues of their time with clarity and grace. Congratulations to ASF 131st graduating class of 2019!