On Thursday, July 30th, Gerstell Academy held an on-campus commencement ceremony to celebrate the Class of 2020. Our graduates, despite their high school careers concluding in the most challenging of circumstances, have provided a source of leadership and strength for our entire Gerstell community. Their positive influence on their peers will stand as a high standard for future Gerstell graduates.
While social distancing guidelines and safety protocols were being followed, the class of 2020 was able to enjoy one last celebration together. The Class of 2020 has 48 graduates, 46 of which participated in the ceremony. The festivities began with a procession through the quadrangle accompanied by a solo bagpiper.
Valedictorian Dylan Berman addressed his classmates, expressing appreciation for their close-knit bond that developed over their four years in the Upper School. Camille Clingan, President of the Class of 2020, presented the senior class gift to Gerstell President John Polasko and Founder/Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Frederick G. Smith. A special piece of art, created by Matthew Burdyck to commemorate the graduating class, was also presented.
Three special awards were handed out during the ceremony to graduating seniors. The Norm Smith Leadership Award, given to the student who best represents and exemplifies the Gerstell Academy Leadership Model and is the highest award a Gerstell Academy student can receive, was presented to Christopher (CJ) Kovalsky by Mr. Brian Abbott, Head of the Upper School. After addressing the graduates, Dr. Smith presented the two remaining awards: The Christopher A. Poklemba Award and the Gary E. Slyman Leadership Scholar Award. The Christopher A. Poklemba Award is given to the student who best demonstrated leadership on and off the athletic field, has been a positive influence on the student body, exhibited a passion for school spirit and displayed a sincere interest in humanity. This award also went to CJ Kovalsky. The Gary E. Slyman Scholar Award, given to the student who has achieved the highest GPA in Leadership and Advisory classes, was awarded to Haley Gochnauer.
Mr. Polasko offered closing remarks, charging the graduates to seek their true calling in life and encouraged them to search for meaning on the way to a well lived and successful life. The ceremony then concluded with the singing of the Gerstell Alma mater, which prompted the graduates to partake in the tradition of throwing their college logo graduated caps into the air.
Despite being six weeks later than initially scheduled, the beautiful commencement ceremony allowed the Class of 2020 to have the in-person graduation they requested. Gerstell Academy teachers and administration worked tirelessly to create a safe, socially-distanced graduation for the seniors and their families.
View the livestream of the ceremony HERE.