Editor’s Note: This is the Continuation speech delivered via Zoom to the Colorado Academy Eighth Grade class on June 1, 2020, by Middle School Principal Bill Wolf-Tinsman.
What a year at Colorado Academy! It started out so “normally” in the Middle School—kids learning, kids growing, kids having fun together, and then the pandemic—shelter-in-place and Zoom school. Unprecedented is the word that has stuck in my head. This year has been unprecedented.
All of that is true, and I would like to recognize this class on the day of their Continuation to high school for their kindness, their far-reaching academic abilities, artistic skills, and athletic achievements. This is truly a talented group of young people who have shown up this year, both in person and virtually, and allowed us to see what they are made of. As legendary coach Lou Holtz reminds us, “Everyone goes through adversity in life, but what matters is how you learn from it.” I am certain that each of us will look back on the Spring of 2020, perhaps not fondly, but with recognition that we grew together as a class and community, because of the shared experience of living at a uniquely challenging time.
Today I would like to use artwork made by your peers to remind each member of the class just what is inside you and what the future has in store. Because we are CA, I had a wide variety of types of outstanding creative works from which to choose, but I was struck by a photography display from the first half of the year. The project involved the use of the manual settings of a DSLR camera in order to shoot a person floating in the air.
The first two photos were not twinned in the show, but I would like to show them together. Yes, one of your tasks as a person and class is to develop a moral compass. We have tried to help you along the way by providing opportunities for discussion and mentoring during our time together. The truth remains, though, that you will be faced with important decisions in the near future. Decisions about the kind of person you want to be, whether you will be inclusive or exclusive, whether you will be someone who can be counted upon, or someone who folds the tent when it gets uncomfortable or the stakes are high. Because you are human, you will be tempted more than once to take a moral shortcut. My hope for you, though, is that you will listen to your better angels and steer a path towards integrity, based upon the values you believe in.
I also know that you will be challenged in the coming years. While we hope to be sheltered from adversity, the reality is that our metaphorical umbrella will sometimes be blown out of our hand, and we will receive the full brunt of whatever storm is raging. At these times, I hope you will remember the strength that I see in each of you and turn toward one another for community and support. There is a strength in this class that you can draw upon. Just as we have supported each other this Spring, you will be able to turn towards your classmates to receive the help you may need.
I love this picture, because it shows such purposeful effort to stride ahead. I’m not sure I could literally or figuratively catch up with Domonique when she has that look in her eye. That said, there is also a smile on her face, like there so often is. I see in this photo a reminder that working hard and with purpose matters. But what will matter the most will be whether we helped others, built relationships, and found time to smile along the way to life’s finish line.
And finally, I am putting Hudson’s and Alex’s pieces up as a reminder to all of us that there is more to life than running fast. I wish for each of you in high school and beyond many moments of bliss, reflection, and joy: joy in your classmates’ accomplishments, in the fruits of your own efforts, and with friends and family.
You have grown so much these past three years. It is a great feeling to think about each of you, knowing that you are ready, and that it is the brightness of your future that is truly unprecedented!
As you know, this Continuation marks an important milestone in each of these young people’s lives. It signals the successful completion of Middle School and recognizes that each has met rigorous academic, artistic, and athletic standards, and, in the faculty’s eyes, are ready for new challenges and novel experiences as high schoolers.
Please join me in congratulating the Continuation Class of 2020!