Rising 9th grade students reflect on their Beaver Middle School experience

Student speakers at 8th grade promotion

It is an 8th Grade Promotion tradition that the class selects four of their own to write and give speeches. Below, you’ll find the speech the selected students—Rylee Barnwell ’26, Raul Cruz ’26, Dany Sidman ’26, and Brody VanDernoot ’26—made at 8th Grade Promotion. You can also watch them in full here.

Dany Sidman ’26

dany sidman

Welcome to the dam!

We all received this message when we were accepted to Beaver. My first reaction was to laugh. When I think of Beavers I think of big buck-toothed animals who make dams out of mud and wood. It was a pretty funny image in my head. Over my three years in Middle School, I have heard lots of references to dams and Beavers, but strangely I knew little about this furry rodent. So I searched on Google, and I found a great description of the beaver:

The beaver helps people understand the dynamics of teamwork and to appreciate each individual’s talents and contributions in order to accomplish anything. They are a builder of the mind, body, and soul and symbolize creativity, creation, cooperation, persistence, and harmony.

The beaver is a pretty cool animal. They work in groups and take care of their community, especially the younger beavers. In our dam, students, teachers, and administrators work as a community to challenge and encourage each other. I have personally experienced other students supporting and helping me. In sixth grade, I played basketball on the Middle School team, which consisted of almost all eighth-graders. These older students welcomed me from the beginning and we all worked together to grow as a team, and in the process we became friends. As I struggled to shoot and was bringing up the rear during wind sprints, they cheered me on. We all worked together towards a common goal.

Beavers are friendly to the environment and have the ability to improve their surroundings. We are all in some way involved in the Hiatt Center—whether that’s hearing about it at Middle School meetings, being a Community Action Leader, or attending monthly meetings before school starts. Many Monday mornings a large group of us attends these workshops and we discuss how as the next generation we can lead the world and create change. We all look to shape our world into a better place. Over the last few years I’ve expanded my knowledge and passion for climate change, and the danger greater Boston faces with sea level rises. As a group during these meetings, we learn not only about the issue but how we can help fix them—just like the beavers in their community.

Having done some research and making connections to my own experiences here at ‘the dam’ I now appreciate the beaver a lot more. Even though they are furry little rodents with orange teeth, I love who they are and that they represent different individuals working together to create a better community. I am proud to call myself a Beaver and hope over the next four years we can continue to live up to the expectations that these beavers set for us.

Rylee Barnwell ’26

rylee barnwell
When I look around at my fellow speakers I am reminded that I’m the only one up here who came to Beaver in 7th grade. “The Covid year”, when everything was hybrid and we had no choice but to quarantine, our classes were split into cohorts, and we did online learning.

2020-2022 have certainly been a crazy couple of years. We as a grade have certainly had to adapt a lot. I know during remote learning my friends and I used to talk on facetime 24/7 … but of course not when the teachers were talking. 😉

The relationships I built while remote learning were some of the strongest because we had to understand that we couldn’t always be together and we found ways to still have fun and make memories while not being in person.

In spite of the challenges, we have found ways to enjoy our time in Middle School, and have made good memories instead of Covid infiltrated ones—thank goodness! We have been in person all year, and having the ability to be in person fully after a challenging year of online and hybrid learning has truly made me so much more aware and grateful for the wonderful education Beaver has provided us with.

When I consulted with my peers, I asked what stood out to them the most about their final year in the Middle School at Beaver. They shared that some of their favorite memories were formed hanging out with close friends, going to the field at recess, and at dam-jam, which is Beaver’s version of a homecoming minus the dance. Whether we were playing manhunt or just relaxing and talking with our friends and teachers we always had a blast. Manhunt was especially popular these last couple of years in Middle School. Everyone played it and we would run so fast we were left huffing and puffing.

Personally, the first music exhibit was one of my fondest memories that everyone can reminisce about. For those who aren’t familiar with the music program in the Beaver Middle School, everyone plays an instrument of our choice or is in the chorus, and several times a year we perform in front of live audiences. At these exhibits, we showcase our development and progression. Normally we have some free time before we all eat dinner and during this time we are free to spend it how we choose. No matter what you did, everyone was there and everyone spent their time in their own way. For me, this was another one of those marvelous times we played manhunt. Playing around is vital as we mature because we must remember how important it is to not be in a hurry to grow up and enjoy this time as children while we have it.

You always get that opportunity to play at Beaver which hope will carry through into the high school along with the joyful and lively attitudes of the student body.

Beaver has helped me grow so much as a person, and I have developed some strong bonds not only with students but also with teachers. Development is such an important stage of Middle School—something we all had to go through (along with puberty and all that lame stuff).

Struggles aside, there are many relationships that students built with each other and teachers that have helped us develop into the responsible people we are today. I’ve built strong relationships with quite a few of my Middle School teachers similar to my classmates I’m sure. Fellow 8th graders, take a minute to think about a teacher you connected with, who supported or challenged you.

I bet everyone here instantly pictured a moment when they were talking to a teacher and thought to themselves ‘wow this is pretty cool’ being able to connect with someone in this way. I know that we’ll create new relationships in high school just as we did in Middle School, and we’ll build on and continue to strengthen these pre-existing bonds.

Raul Cruz ’26

Raul Cruz at 8th Grade Promotion

The BVR Student.

Middle Schoolers have heard that term a lot—and I mean a LOT—throughout their time at Beaver. Over the last three years, I have heard countless students highlight what makes a model Beaver student, a concept which is split into three categories based on the motto, “the Beaver student is kind, works hard, and practices self-care.”

Though our Middle School years have been anything but normal, I still feel I was able to have a full Beaver Middle School experience and become the BVR Student I had hoped I’d become when I walked on campus for the first time in 6th grade. Even though every aspect of the BVR Student may not resonate equally with everyone, it’s hard to imagine that everyone has not tried at least one new thing since they got here. The BVR student goal of “trying new things” looks different for each person; whether it be trying a new sport, making new friends, or even trying something new to eat in the dining hall. Now as I reflect on all of the new things that I tried, I realize that BVR pushed me out of my comfort zone more times than I probably wished for.

When I first came to Beaver, I was in awe. Like most, BVR was not like my previous school. I was surprised at how much freedom we were given at such a young age, how every unit ended with a creative project, and how it felt to be surrounded by kids who wanted to learn just as much as me. This supportive community made me feel like I could take risks in new ways.

For example, I never thought I’d be the kind of person who would run for Student Council, but I actually ran for 6th-grade representative and won. I felt proud to represent my grade. The experience I had that year shaped me and made me more confident as a person. I have also tried to support my peers who have put themselves out there and run for a spot on Student Council as well. Similar to this is how many of us have participated in admissions events. Though I wasn’t always ecstatic about talking to prospective students and families, Ms. Hollos has a way of gently encouraging us to speak on panels or become Admission Ambassadors. While we were all nervous at first, together we built our public speaking skills and helped families realize what’s special about Beaver.

Sometimes “trying new things” means you have to be comfortable with making mistakes and laughing at yourself. One way I have experienced this is through playing lacrosse for the first time. Everyone has the thing they are good at or one sport they feel confident at. Let’s just say lacrosse is certainly not that for me. I remember my first game this year when all the Beaver parents were laughing at me because I couldn’t cradle the ball or shoot anywhere near the net. I found myself letting go and laughing along with them. It was ok to not be the best lacrosse player on the turf. It was all about having fun with my teammates. I may not have ever tried lacrosse if it weren’t for CK and Ms. O who encouraged me to pick up a stick and now I think I may really like it and plan to keep playing next year. This all goes to show you what “trying new things” can do because you never know if it will lead to a new interest or talent.

As you can see, teachers like Ms. Hollos and CK have really helped me step out of my comfort zone.

The best part of Beaver is the connections we build with our teachers. They are the ones who shape us into becoming ‘The BVR Student.’

While we feel the support from the entire Beaver faculty, sometimes we are lucky enough to develop a special bond with a certain teacher. For me, that was G, or Mr. Greenberg. Since sixth grade humanities, G made me feel like I was special and had all the potential in the world. I’m pretty sure he found a way to do that with all of his students. That’s what makes HIM special and an amazing teacher. He pushed us individually to be our best selves and hold ourselves accountable. He made us better thinkers, readers, writers, and just better people overall. He is always in our corner rooting for us. We all have a G, one teacher who’s shaped us and led meaningful classes that we will remember forever.

I can still vividly remember my first Humanities class with G in 6th grade. We did this class activity where he tied us together with his strange collection of men’s ties. This activity was supposed to symbolize the bonds we were going to make during Middle School. I didn’t realize it then, but those bonds we made were real and stronger than I could ever imagine, remaining through a pandemic, through virtual and hybrid learning, and through making new friends. We tried new things and worked together to become the BVR Student, the best versions of ourselves. I’m hopeful that these bonds we have developed will last a lifetime.

Brody VanDernoot ’26

Brody VanDernoot at 8th Grade Promotion

If you were to ask anyone, they would agree that Middle School is a pretty bumpy ride.

We, as 8th graders, all had different experiences due to our different mindsets, the people we hang out with, and everything else that made up our Middle School experience.

This school has given me the experience that I know for sure I wouldn’t have anywhere else, inside and out of school. One specific thing that makes this school special for me is the ability to have my voice heard, which happened in many English classes, through many art projects, and is even happening here today.

But we need to address the size, importance, and weight of your time here.

First, I would like all of you to look behind me at an obstacle course. If you ever chose to attend the course, you would be offering yourself up to be attached to it by a rope. If you fall, it won’t be the end. You will hang by the ropes until you are eventually back on the course.

But in the end, support or no support, there is always going to be fear of falling. Because from there, from the rope, you are gifted a view from halfway down. You would be scared, but you are not falling down. You have the ability to get back up onto the obstacle.

This is analogous to the Middle School experience.

I see the Middle School experience as this obstacle course because there are risks you have to take—and while they may seem scary—there is no way you will fully fall without being able to get back up. I often think that the rope is a metaphor for the strength within yourself as well as the support Beaver gives you. These things will be able to bring you back up onto the obstacle course that we call the ‘Middle School Experience.’

One of those things within the school that I would like to bring to the podium are the teachers, and to narrow down the examples, the ones I have developed strong bonds with such as Ms. Winston allowing me to create an amazing art piece for my mom; Ms. Kosberg who took my way of thinking and writing and helped challenge me with the many essays, projects, and creative writings, vignettes, and poems, many of which are my favorite writing pieces to this day. I would also like to talk about the two amazing women that lead this Middle School:  Ms. Smith and Ms. Hollos. Not only did Ms. Smith lead the Middle School and Students of Color, but she stepped in to observe and teach our math class amongst many other teachers, which is something I for one, wouldn’t know how to manage. Ms. Hollos has not only helped me throughout Middle School as a student but as a person. I would also like to mention that CK was able to give me the opportunity of a lifetime, which was to play varsity tennis as an 8th grader. I’m very grateful for that experience and being on a team with high schoolers because it allowed me to make new bonds that will strengthen when I continue my journey into Upper School.

Being on the obstacle course is scary, but it is thrilling. The Middle School experience is also exciting. For me, the friends that I could talk to for hours on end about absolutely nothing and everything, the teachers and administrators that have helped me as a student and a person, the freedom that this school has given me, is all of which I owe to this school. These past three years have really been an eye-opener for me. I believe we can make the size, importance, and weight of our time for the future grow and develop, just as much as we all have. Because size, importance, and weight, all correlate to not just these past three years, but themselves altogether.

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