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Two graduating classes enjoy commencements

Chicago City Day School ended the 2020-2021 school year with not one, but two graduation ceremonies.

The classes of 2020 and 2021 gathered on campus on successive afternoons to celebrate their achievements and experiences at City Day. The 2020 ceremony had been delayed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the previous year, and school leaders said they were delighted to host in-person commencement ceremonies for both classes. 

“After a challenging but successful 15 months for the School, these ceremonies were beautiful celebrations of two wonderful classes who exemplified the perseverance and positivity that Chicago City Day School promotes in all of its students,” Head of School Chris Dow said.  “Events and traditions, like graduation, that bring the City Day community together are the embodiment of what makes Chicago City Day School a truly special place.” 

Class of 2020

Though they’d already spent a full year away from City Day, members of the Class of 2020 and their families were visibly happy to return to campus, reconnect with friends, and relive memories. 

As is City Day tradition, each member of the class gave a short speech during the ceremony. The graduates recounted highlights from each grade and paid tribute to the faculty, staff, and administrators who made their experiences at City Day so memorable.

Special tribute was paid to Mrs. Galeta Clayton, the school’s founding headmistress, who retired after the 2019-2020 school year. The class of 2020 saluted Mrs. Clayton, inspiring a standing ovation from all in attendance. 

The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a noted pediatrician, author, and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute. Dr. Christakis, whose nephew is a member of the Class of 2020, praised the group for showing resilience during the pandemic. 

“Class of 2020, you are the first graduating middle school class in the entire world to have  endured a pandemic in over 100 years. In addition to everything else you have done, it's an amazing accomplishment,” Dr. Christakis said. 

He then urged the graduates to be “helpers” — people who make it a point to lend a hand to others in need — as they continue their education. 

“I trust you have found some (helpers) in your own lives, but now, as you transition to adulthood, I want to challenge you all to become them,” Dr. Christakis said. 

Class of 2021

No one could have predicted how the City Day experience would end for the Class of 2021. First, there was the closure of our campus in the spring of the class’s seventh-grade year, as the pandemic forced a shift to online learning. Then, there was the return to campus in the fall for a year marked by enhanced safety measures and altered programming. 

But the class, with help from school leaders, thrived. In their speeches, the graduates, many of whom attended City Day since junior kindergarten, thanked Mr. Dow and the faculty and staff for making it possible to spend their final year at City Day learning together in person. They spoke also about how confident and prepared they feel as they look ahead to high school.

Sarah Swift, parent to five City Day alumni and the keynote speaker at the ceremony, encouraged the Class of 2021 to be mindful, attentive, and appreciative as they move on, noting that seemingly small moments are sometimes the most transformative. She added that the graduates have acquired the tools they need for success in high school and beyond.

“Your foundation is solid, your gratitude profound, and you are clearly ready for what’s next,” Mrs. Swift said. “Remember your roots, and know that you always have a home or four here on Hawthorne Place. We can’t wait to see what the world holds for you!”

Photos from both ceremonies can be found here. The photos were taken by Matthew Reeves, a noted fashion, music, and portrait photographer who graduated from City Day. 

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