writings and Reflections

Commencement Remarks to the Class of 2022: Creating Your Own Path
Tara Christie Kinsey

When I close my eyes and think back to my own experiences in the classroom, the image I most readily conjure up is my teacher standing at the front of the classroom talking, as students sat silently in rows, listening, taking notes, and occasionally responding to a question. It was controlled, orderly, and sometimes (if I’m being completely candid) a bit boring. It was a scene of a one-way flow of information from teacher to student. 

We know that acquiring content knowledge from the teacher is important, even foundational. But if that’s all that’s taking place during a class, it can make for a pretty miserable learning experience. The Irish poet W.B. Yeats is reported to have said, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” Yet to be “on fire”–to be moved, inspired, or animated–about learning, we know we need to be actively involved, engaged, and curious. 

Fortunately, in stark contrast to my own experience in school, when I close my eyes and imagine the Hewitt classroom of today, I see a student up at the front of the classroom, convening and leading the discussion. She’s not only answering questions, she’s posing them.

Never before have I seen a senior class at Hewitt take such ownership over the kind of experience they wanted to have in the classroom, outside of the classroom, and even here, on this very day of their graduation from Hewitt. To watch this senior class in action is a powerful sight to behold. This senior class embodies what former captain of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team Abby Wambach said: that if the “old rule” was to “stay on the path,” the “new rule” is to “create your own path.” This is exactly what these seniors have done. They have seized this moment to make a longstanding tradition their own, and rather than receiving the Commencement program, they have created their own. And what you are about to experience is the happy product of their thoughtful self-determination. 

Led by Senior Class President Ellie T., Senior Class Vice President Alexa R., Student Council President Maya B., and Student Council Vice President Amber N., these seniors from the Class of 2022 are the true architects of today. They have co-designed their Commencement so that it has become a truly student-centered event, and in doing so, have created a powerful legacy for the senior classes that will come after them. As our student leaders shared in this announcement, they designed their Commencement around the theme of home, choosing Claudia Chan ’93 as their Commencement speaker because of her “first-hand experience of the home students find at Hewitt” as well as her “dedication to authentic, productive leadership.”  

Claudia Chan ’93 is the CEO of SHE GLOBL, founder of the leadership conference SHE Summit, and author of This is How We Rise: Reach Your Highest Potential, Empower Women, Lead Change in the World. In her Commencement remarks, Claudia shared five key pillars of leadership to help guide the Class of 2022 as they venture forth from their home at Hewitt. First, she reminded the seniors to continue discovering and refining their purpose-the thing that they are not only good at, but which brings them “radical joy.” She spoke about vision as the roadmap for achieving one’s purpose, and encouraged the seniors to be innovative in order to achieve things that have not yet been done. Claudia also encouraged the class to have faith in themselves, especially during times of change and challenge, as discomfort often leads to growth and discovery. She emphasized the value of community, noting the critical importance of the people and relationships in our lives that bring us joy. Finally, Claudia urged the Class of 2022 to prioritize their own mental, physical, and financial wellbeing-to take care of themselves so that they can bring their best selves to all they will accomplish. 

We are grateful to Claudia for coming home to Hewitt to help us celebrate the Class of 2022, and for inspiring the seniors to continue growing, leading, making change, and achieving their goals beyond Hewitt. 

Interested in reading more 2022 commencement remarks?

Read May You Always Find a Home in Change-Making by Maya B., Class of 2022

Read We Are Home by Carley G., Class of 2022

The Class of 2022 poses in navy graduation gowns alongside Tara Christie Kinsey, Elizabeth Stevens, and Claudia Chan

Commencement speaker Claudia Chan '93 with Head of School Tara Christie Kinsey, Head of Upper School and Assistant Head of School Elizabeth Stevens, and the Class of 2022

Tara Christie Kinsey and Claudia Chan '93 smile at the camera sitting in front of a light brown wood paneled wall

Tara Christie Kinsey and Claudia Chan '93

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