Good luck, Class of 2019!

The Beaver Class of 2019

To the BVR Class of 2019:

As the summer months come and go, and you prepare to embark on your post-Beaver adventures, we wanted to say GOOD LUCK! Wherever you go and whatever you do, we know you’ll be great.

And if you need a little extra reminder that you’ve got this, we recommend reading Ms. Gonzalez’s speech from Senior Night 2019 and Ronan O’Callaghan’s graduation speech below. Feeling extra nostalgic? This post also includes the 2019 senior slideshow + the senior video.

So, best of luck Class of 2019! Remember to keep in touch, and email Katie Shore at with your updated email address so you’ll be in the loop on all BVR alumni events.

We can’t wait to see you back on campus!


Yolanda Wilcox González, Senior Night 2019

I would like to extend a welcome to the entire Beaver community. To the class of 2019, I thank you for the honor of speaking to you on this day. Standing here before you, I am reminded of my own high school senior celebration in June of 1984. While I can not recall all of the details of the day, I can recall the specifics of my high school years and the individuals who left a huge impression on me. From teachers, to coaches, and all members of my school community, I have vivid recollections of how people made me feel and those memories have not been erased from my mind.

I have spent a couple of weeks thinking about what I want to say to you. Often, when people are asked to make a speech at an event such as this, it is so difficult to stay away from giving advice and telling the target audience what they should do in order to be successful in the future. While I was lured to do just that, I kept thinking that if I was sitting in the same chair as you, as I did in 1984, I would want to hear about the impact I had on the person speaking to me. And so, I decided to tell you about the influence you’ve had on me and those moments where you have made me feel that becoming a teacher was what I was destined to be.

I will admit that while I won’t provide you with a formula for success, I do have a few requests of you that I will share later.

Class of 2019, as I tried to teach you everything from the history of mass incarceration, the current opioid crisis, developing an ethical mindset, the difference between equality and equity… to examining moral dilemmas as seen in today’s social and political climate, you have taught me a few things that can not be found in a Google search or in a book. I am appreciative of your support and want you to know that I am a better teacher and person because of you.

You have taught me the value of patience and perseverance. I have learned that no matter how much I may have challenged you on a particular assignment, being flexible and listening to your needs was just as important. In life, patience and perseverance will provide you the ability to face any challenge that comes your way and the opportunity to learn from those moments that did not turn out as you plan. The rewards for facing those challenges, if not immediately apparent, will be meaningful and purposeful.

You have taught me that the experience we have in the classroom is not one that just belonged to me or you, but one we shared collectively. Your interests were as much mine as I hoped my interests became yours.

You have reminded me that giving and receiving direct feedback provides a multitude of learning possibilities. I valued your openness and honest reflection about the work we did, the topics we covered, and the opinions we shared. Since my arrival at Beaver in 2011, you have kept me energized and continue to spark my passion for teaching and learning.

I was the advisor to 8 of you in the 6th grade and of those 8, I taught 7 of you in your senior year.

Of those of you who count yourself as lifers, 28 of you participated in our first ever 6th grade Hunger Games Challenges. I remember those challenges well, particularly the one where I asked you to build a shelter large enough to fit one person with materials you found outside. During this challenge, I thought for sure Mr. Hutton would fire me after a few of you decided you would channel District 12’s tribute Katniss Everdeen and cut down an enormous branch from one of the trees on our campus and drag it across the softball field for all to see.

In the past 3 years, I’ve advised 10 of you and I’ve taught 57 of you.

You have pushed me to reflect on my role in the classroom. I have challenged myself to provide you meaningful lessons that teach you the skills you will need in the years to come and also provide you a view of the world at large while at the same time examining your place in it.

You have been an enormous inspiration to me, and I thank you for allowing me to grow as a person.

Dr. Maya Angelou, one of the most influential poets, novelists, and educators of our time, was also a civil rights activist whose work has influenced me greatly. I was exposed to her writing and activism when I was in high school, and since then her words have captured the true essence of what I want my life to be each time I cross paths with people and we have the opportunity to learn together. From her poem “I’ve learned” Dr. Angelou writes, “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

For me, when I was in high school, Mr. Urbanski, Mrs. Kall, Ms. Green, Mrs. Fogel and Mr. Swales made me feel invincible. These teachers helped to instill my love of reading, learning history, confronting injustice, and underscored for me the importance of making a difference.

As you prepare for your next journey, I have a few requests:
Be courageous
While there is no lesson on teaching someone to be courageous, I ask you to observe those people whose daily practices are grounded in courageous acts and you too will learn what it means to be courageous.

Do not fear failure
Although you’ll find many successful moments in the coming years, you’ll also experience roadblocks and failure. If you develop the ability to learn from falling down, you’ll also learn how to get up. Avoid contemplating the reasons why you fell; also consider the reasons that allowed you to stand tall. Learning from failure will lead to resiliency, strength and growth.

Allow yourself to find a community that will give you strength
Surround yourself with people who will celebrate your achievements, lend a hand in tough times, offer you honest feedback even if you don’t want to hear it and who are always in your corner no matter what.
Similarly, share your strengths with the communities you become part of

Become an upstander
Some of you will bear witness to injustice and face dilemmas where you will need to consider what to do.
I ask that you get involved in the local communities you will find in your college towns, speak up, jump into discomfort, listen to others, and find your own voice even if it does not echo that of your friends.

Avoid distractions that take you away from your true self
Discover your own history, chart your own path and write the next chapter of your life by finding your inner strength

Because of you, I teach to provide a true expression of myself as a human being and my desire for you is to do the same.

I am sure I speak for my colleagues when I tell you how proud we all are of you. Like many of us sitting in the audience, I believe you will reflect upon your time in high school as some of the best moments in your lives.

To your parents and all of those who have been instrumental in supporting your Beaver experience, I thank you.

Class of 2019, although we may not have communicated this with you on a day to day basis, your teachers, the administration and I cared, loved and supported you in a way that may not be apparent to you at this moment but will become evident as you continue on your journey in life. My wish is you let us know from time to time how you are doing.

Thank you!

Ronan O’Callaghan, Commencement 2019

Hello and greetings Class of 2019 and to their various family, friends, and other individuals who have come to attend this momentous ceremony. Now, before I get started, I’d like to make a request to all of my classmates in the room right now: try to remember the person you were before your first day at Beaver. For some of you that may be as many as seven years ago, so really, try to remember as much as you can. Not just what you looked like: what did you care about, what was your favorite smell, what sort of music did you like, what convergence of tiny little details made you, you? Do you all have that memory? (Pause) Good, now imagine for a moment that that exact person is sitting here in your place. That’s absurd — completely bonkers — right? But in theory it almost makes sense, because if we’re judging by traditional, abstract standards all you have to do is get through your high school degree and move on into the rest of the world. Of course, that’s not at all what happens in real life. Because by virtue of living our lives, and engaging with the world around us, we change.

I remember when I first came to Beaver. I was about yea high and had a little bit of a bowl cut going on. But more than who I was what sticks out to me the most about my first day at Beaver is that I was completely unable to navigate the hallways, and for more classes than I’m willing to admit I kept walking past the door until I finally figured out that that was where I was supposed to be going for. Now that idea itself seems very silly, because I’ve now spent six academic years living and working within these halls, and with the physicality of the school itself changing and expanding, I know every single part of this building. And doesn’t just include walls, doors, and rooms, but all of the people within them.

At one point or another, we each saw one another for the first time, and although the when is different, the fact of the matter stays the same: the people we’re imagining sitting among us right now are very different than the ones who are really here. So, naturally, that’s because of change. For instance, you probably look pretty different now compared to back then, but it’s not just the same physical change that happened here: with the laborious process of building the R+D Center. No, the architecture of the soul is not determined by top-down construction, but rather is the synthesis of your surroundings. In the same way that I couldn’t navigate the physical halls and corridors, on the first day of school it was nigh impossible to navigate the relationships between each other. Again, going back to that initial image of who you were when you first came to this school, in all likelihood, you were still trying to figure out how to navigate yourself, while also being plunged into a completely new environment.

And that’s what’s truly remarkable that I want to highlight. Not that we change in general, it’s like gravity, you can’t stop it from happening. What’s worth of celebration is how we grew and evolved collectively. In the grand schemes of things, it hasn’t been a long time since you were the person who first stepped into this school. But ever since that day slowly, inch by inch, we all began to shape the trajectories of the people we would be. In the first few months, from laughing in the lunchroom to discussion in the classroom, we began to see each other as peers and our common peership as a true community. Once you establish yourself as an individual in a community, you develop the liberty to dig into that space and really figure out who you are and what you can do. That’s where we get the firsts. Considering all the time you’ve spent at Beaver, and the things you’ve done here, and you’ll recognize all of the instances where you did something for the first time within this school. Naturally, the events springing to your mind are likely big and dramatic; events that redefined your lives, but all the small things like using a semicolon correctly or taking a divitive. Regardless of the specifics, all likelihood, the first time you did something, you weren’t that good at it, but over all the years you got better at it. But you didn’t do it alone. We were all there for each other, scaffolding and building off of each other. Whenever one of us failed, there would always be another to pick us up, and when one of us won, there would always be someone handing out hi-fives or congratulatory pats on the back. It was that process, compounded over hundreds of days that played the biggest part in our development into the people we are today.

I cannot list what we have all individually accomplished, because we would be here all day, but I can tell you, collectively, we shot for the stars and have redefined what it means to be a student at this school through utilizing all the additions to this space and setting a new academic and moral standards. You shouldn’t just be proud of all the ways you’ve changed and grown since your first day on campus; we should be proud of ourselves and eachother for having molded one another into the upstanding young adults we are today. We stand here today to celebrate and officiate our achievement and our identity and all the achievements we accomplished together. We did it!

Of course, the sweeter the victory, the more bitter the disbandment. In a matter of moments, the collective will I have talked about today will be acknowledged and in short order scattered throughout the world. It seems as if a force that has dominated and directed our lives for so long to evaporate and will no longer be with us. However, the truth of the matter is not so simple. We have all engaged, embraced, and enveloped ourselves within the collective spirit of each other, and even though we may leave the halls of this school, we won’t ever truly be gone. After all, how could one be expected to deal with the many trials and tribulations of life without thinking back to the very first time one deal with said problems.

One of the most famous phrases in all of human history is “Know thyself.” What the phrase posits that the most important thing in life is to understand who you are, so that you have a better ability to act in the world around you. I think the phrase is effective when it comes to the general idea, but it is a somewhat surface level analysis. Well, as we’ve already established, the people who we are now are the results of the influence of all the people who surrounded us. As a result, it becomes impossible to know thyself — or anyone else for that matter — without considering the context within which you were forged within. As much as it might hurt to part now, what you have to understand is that so long as you stay self-aware about who you are, all of the great friends and memories you’ve made at this institution shall remain with you for the rest of your days.

But enough about the past: what does the future hold? Personally, I have no idea. I’m not fully aware what I’m going to be doing tomorrow let alone years down the line — and making predictions for the other 85 of you, well, that’s just not fair. But, I can say with reasonable certainty, in a couple of years, you will be sitting in a room not too different from this one, listening to someone else speak, and you might just think about the person you are today the same you are certainly thinking about who you were the first time you entered Beaver. So, the natural question to ask is: what am I like? What kind of person do I become? Again, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not going to be who you are today.

Which is naturally weird, and somewhat unnerving to think, but it’s good! Hopefully, when you look back, you understand that you have grown and improved dramatically as an individual. In upcoming years, whenever change seems to be hitting you too fast, or you get ripped out of your comfort zone remember the phoenix. Although the fires of change might scorch your skin as you enter a new and confusing world, it may hurt at first, but that’s just the first step in the process. Because when you are encircled by the flames of change, it is best to embrace them, so that from the ashes of the person you used to be, someone new will always emerge. And when you’re given the opportunity, it is always better to ride the waves of change than to fight them. In doing so, you’ll be able to emerge from the next couple of years in the same way you emerged from Beaver: a new person, ready to take on life in completely new ways. For that reason, I encourage all of you to do the same thing you did hear wherever you are heading next year: building and living within communities where you can continue to grow with others.

From then on, the rest is up to you. We’re all changing, all through our lives, and we’re never really the same person, not even for one day. But that’s good, because that means you can always get better, you can always attempt to the circumstance around you, or even work to make the world around you a better place. So long as you remember all the people that you used to be, remember your roots, all the people that made you who you currently are, then change can only be for the better, because we can keep the best aspects of our past selves with us forever. Class of 2019, I want to thank you all for changing with me, none of us would be the people we are today without each other. On that note, as we head of the for the final time, Class of 2019, my class, our class, I wish the best for you. I wish that for the rest of your life that every memory is sweet, every passion burns like the wings of a phoenix, and that you’ll always keep changing in the best ways. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, which is hopefully a little happy and a little scary. Good news, that’s called excitement, and there’s gonna be a lot of it. Beaver, I let you go.



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