Seniors celebrate annual ring ceremony

Seniors celebrate annual ring ceremony

Mohona Ganguly ’21 receives a floral wreath from upper school dean Celso Cárdenas from inside her car. The celebration was held for seniors as a drive-thru due to the coronavirus Sept. 13. Credit: Crystal Baik

In keeping up with an 87-year-old tradition, the school celebrated the seniors’ last year of high school with a drive-thru ring ceremony Sept. 13.

The senior ring ceremony, which started in the fall of 1933 at Westlake School for Girls, represents the seniors’ role as leaders at the school.

Senior Prefects gave speeches about changing senior roles on campus

The event started with a series of pre-recorded, livestreamed speeches given by Senior Prefects Brooke Stanford ’21, Navid Ghodsi ’21, Thomas Schramm ’21 and Chelsea Cho ’21.

After reminiscing on nostalgic moments specific to the class of 2021, Cho emphasized that trial, evaluation and growth are the most important parts of the senior class’s journey , reminding students that their purpose and mission are defined by who they are. Stanford said in her speech that seniors should push to become better versions of themselves and embrace their leadership roles on campus.

“I think it was a really nice ceremony given the circumstances,” Stanford said. “I’m also very thankful for the opportunity to give a speech and hopefully inspire some sense of optimism for this coming school year.”

When describing the meaning of the senior ring ceremony, Schramm said that while the ceremony is different from previous years, the significance remains the same. As the seniors climb one final hill to create a positive change, they leave a lasting impact on the school community, Schramm said. During his speech, Ghodsi explained how the coat of arms related to the school’s motto, “possunt quia posse videntur” from Vergil’s “Aeneid,” which translates to “they can because they think they can” in Latin.

History teacher speaks about adapting to uncertain times

After the senior prefects’ speeches, President Rick Commons introduced the senior ceremony speaker, history teacher and Interdisciplinary Studies and Independent Research teacher Dror Yaron. Yaron discussed individuals in history who did not succumb to conventional wisdom or complacency in the face of adversity, but rather acted in ways that inspire us to grapple with challenges and seek purpose beyond ourselves. He said seniors should remember to honor their parents and treat elders with kindness and respect. These difficult times have offered students with the opportunity to introspect, Yaron said.

“A year that has been characterized by confinement, increased anxiety and collective insecurity presents an opportunity for deepening connection to those people closest to us,” Yaron said. “It provides us an occasion for venturing outside and breathing in with all of our senses, breathing in all of our natural surroundings, even under a mask.”

Khyra Stiner ’21 said she is grateful that she was able to experience senior ring ceremony, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really appreciate that Harvard-Westlake actually took the time and effort to give our senior class a really nice ceremony that was definitely memorable,” Stiner said. “I feel lucky to attend a school that wants to give its students the best experience it can given the circumstances and still manages to make us feel special.”

Seniors received floral wreaths, boutonnieres and gifts from the Harvard-Westlake Student Alumni Association and the Harvard-Westlake Parents’ Association as they drove around the Ted Slavin field. Commons congratulated the students as they stepped out of their cars to receive their class rings or lapel pins. Following this, the seniors posed for professional photographs while holding their rings before driving to the final photo opportunity behind a 2021 sign.

Seniors describe what their rings mean to them

“The last section where I got out of the car felt like a good way to kick off my senior year, and it really sunk in that I am a senior,” Quinn Callaghan ’21 said. “The senior ring represents all of the memories I made at Harvard-Westlake that I will carry with me in my college years and beyond.”

Riley Bock ’21 said her ring signifies the end of her high school journey.

“To me, the senior ring is a physical representation of all of the hard work that we have put in over the years,” Bock said. “The ring is a way to signify the beginning of the end and remind us how far we have come.”

Although the ceremony was held in an unconventional manner, Stiner said she enjoyed being on campus.

“Returning to school was a very bittersweet thing,” Stiner said. “I kept getting flashbacks to all the time I spent at school and on the track. It made me a little sad that we didn’t get to physically enjoy the ceremony on campus like the other classes before us. However, it made me feel really lucky and appreciative of the time that I did get to spend on campus and took for granted.”

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