Fifteen months after in-person school life came to a sudden halt, the Bay Ridge Prep community took its biggest step toward normalcy on June 10 by hosting in-person graduation ceremonies for its 8th Grade and Senior Classes. Framed within the the idyllic scenery of Prospect Park, along with picture-perfect weather, the school’s 23rd Annual Commencement brought together students, families, faculty and staff to acknowledge accomplishments and mark the end of a year and a half defined by the pandemic that has disrupted daily life since March 2020.
“I’ve been doing graduations for 23 years, but this year is different,” said Head of School Dr. Charles Fasano. “We’re celebrating the achievements of these students but we’re also celebrating health and the ability to be together.”
Welcoming families at the Upper School Graduation, Head of School Dr. Michael Dealy acknowledged the changing tide of the pandemic and the opportunities to be in-person while still including those who are celebrating from a distance.
“We are happy to have you here in-person,” he said, “and we extend a special welcome to those of you watching on our livestream.”
Student speakers throughout the ceremony voiced their appreciation for the work faculty and staff of the school have done during this year to make hybrid learning meaningful while putting extraordinary effort into making in-person learning and activities possible.
“Although this is not how any of us imagined our last two years of high school to be, the challenges presented by the pandemic gave us a heightened appreciation for our time together,” said Ariana Solecki ‘21 during the Upper School ceremony. “Despite the pandemic and the challenges it presented, our teachers have never stopped creating ways to make our learning experience as engaging and interesting as possible.”
Aidan Fasano ‘21 also called attention to the educators of Bay Ridge Prep for their work during this pandemic year and previous years.
“I am so appreciative to the many teachers and staff who have helped me be successful,” he said. “I hesitate to name people for fear of leaving someone out, but the fact that I can think of so many is a testament to the devotion and depth of our faculty and staff. I also want to acknowledge those of you who are not as visible, who work behind the scenes to keep this school running.”
Sasha Klempner ‘21 pointed out that while students are being honored, so too should the support team behind each student.
“Every single graduate is being honored and congratulated today for their optimism, passion, hard work, encouragement, perseverance and so much more,” she said. “Every guest and faculty member here with us today should be acknowledged for having a profound impact on our graduates' lives.”
The culture and community of Bay Ridge Prep was also brought up several times throughout both the 8th Grade and Upper School graduation ceremonies.
“When I think of Bay Ridge Prep, it is more than just a school, it is a community,” said Ayva Vitacco ‘21. “Kind greetings upon arrival, fascinating classroom discussions, laughing over lunch with friends, opportunities to engage in arts, captivating sports and clubs, and many leadership opportunities.”
Vitacco added, “there is such a family-like togetherness at Bay Ridge Prep, which I believe is why we all love it”
Speaking during the 8th Grade Graduation, Nicholas Liguori ‘25 told guests his answer when asked what Bay Ridge Prep means to him.
“One word filled my mind,” he said. “ It's a place that we go to everyday, filled with friends or family, happiness and overall what I am proud to call home.”
Also making a speech during the 8th Grade Graduation was Margaux Mayward ‘25, who spoke about her experience meeting community members when she first joined Bay Ridge Prep.
“Everybody I met taught me something,” she said. “I grew and learned to face my fears. I’m forever grateful for the people that helped me that first day, and later in the year.”
Isabella Maiorana ‘21, who started Bay Ridge Prep as a kindergartener, gave credit to the many friends she made along the way to becoming a college student.
“Whether we had classes together and worked on a project, or just met passing on the stairwells,” she said, “I can confidently say each one of you has expanded my horizons and impacted me in ways you would never believe.”
Other students reflected on how the pandemic has changed many individuals’ perspective on time, appreciation of each moment and the ability to persevere through dark times.
“We did not ask to have our high school years fall smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic,” said Deliala Freidman ‘21. “We certainly found a way to not only survive, but to thrive in it.”
Arianna Skopp ‘21 spoke about the experience of going through the pandemic together and the strength gained from it.
“I am so thankful that due to our resilience, we persevered over the past fifteen months,” she said. “We will never get those hopeless days back in our lives, but this experience of something bigger than ourselves has also taught us the power of our fortitude.”
Alexandra Gordon ‘21 reminded her fellow graduates and guests at Commencement to pace themselves as they move forward and have gratitude for each experience, especially coming out of the pandemic.
“When you want to rush time, you must pause,” she instructed the audience. “You must take moments to reflect, even in the hardest times. The more we slow down, the more we can have gratitude for the moments that shape us into who we become.”
Commencement began with a morning ceremony that celebrated 32 eighth graders transitioning to Upper School students. The afternoon ceremony graduated a total of 61 seniors to form the newest group of Bay Ridge Prep alums. The Class of 2021 collectively earned over $6 million in scholarships to universities near and far.
“No matter how long they have been with us or wherever they go next, they will always have a home at Bay Ridge Prep,” Dr. Dealy said, “and we look forward to welcoming them home whenever they choose to visit.”
Dr. Fasano also reminded students that graduation does not mark the end of their time with Bay Ridge Prep.
“Bay Ridge Prep is your family, even after today,” he said. “Stay connected. Come and visit.”
Founded in 1998, Bay Ridge Prep is an independent, K-12 college preparatory school offering exceptional courses and intimate class sizes in a socially-mature and positive environment.