Ms. Jean's Eighth Grade Recognition Remarks

Middle School Director Cyndy Jean offered these thoughts at the June 4, 2020 Eighth Grade Recognition Ceremony.

Good morning My name is Ms. Jean, and I am the Director of the Middle School. Welcome faculty, staff, Middle School Families, and the Class of 2024.

I stared for a long time at a blank page in preparation for this morning’s ceremony. I thought deeply about the message I wanted to deliver to this amazing class, a class I have come to admire because of the selfless acts of so many of you as well as the courageous acts of kindness you have demonstrated over the years.

I stared for a long time imagining what this address could mean for you. Would it uplift you during one of the most uncertain times of your life, would it empower you to live into a life bold and unafraid, or would this address attempt to make you laugh when so little in the world feels humorous right now.

Like the blank page, we can’t foretell what our lives are meant to be. We can’t scroll forward to determine where the story will lead us. We just have to begin and trust that at the end of the journey we have come to a resolution that will have connected all of the dots and missing pieces along the way. That by the time we reach the end, we will have told the story that we have always wanted to tell, we will have captured and expressed to the world a complete idea.

We mourn when the ideas are incomplete. When the story seems to end far more quickly than we had hoped. When the chapter ends before we feel like the story really had a chance to begin. Or when it feels like someone has robbed us of the final chapters because their small mindedness could not dream big enough to allow the story to unfold.

But even knowing that we don’t have control over how the story ends, we can’t be afraid to begin.
8th graders, I want to be clear about one thing: you’ve reached a critical phase in the development of your story. Though you can’t begin to know exactly how the next few chapters will play out, and maybe there’s a bit of trepidation as a result, I want to encourage you to gather up the evidence of the last few years as markers and cautions *for how you continue to tell your story. I know your history and English teachers have taught you this. However you plan to unveil your thoughts, you have to connect it back to the thesis. The point you established early on in the writing. The argument you set up for your audience before even planning out the future paragraphs.

To make my point clearer. Let’s explore this symbol behind me. It’s called a sankofa symbol. “Sankofa” is a word from the Twi language of Ghana’s Akan people. It means, “to go back and get it.” I have been obsessed with this symbol since learning about it during my visit to the National Museum of African American history. The literal translation of the word and the symbol is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” The Akan people believe that the past serves as a guide for planning the future. If you know where you have been, you know where you are going. It also helps that there are iterations of this symbol that look like a heart...and that it’s literal translation reminds us to help up those who have been left behind.

So the rest of your story is unwritten. I know that’s true. For you and for me we have no idea what tomorrow holds. But if we look back at the past for evidence and indication of how we can and should move forward, then we can begin to write the story. Call back on the moments your student leadership worked tirelessly to plan the most epic activity nights in the Johnson Center and in the dining hall, or scavenger hunts at the Bronx Zoo. Look back at the time you participated in protests to protect Mother Earth. Remind yourself of the steps you took to advocate for a friend or made the tough decision to switch up your friendship circles as hard as that was for you and others. Never forget when you were an upstander, when you wrestled with a changing viewpoint or when you discovered you were a lot stronger than you ever imagined. Think back to all of the laughter you have shared with one another. The inside jokes. The juggling competitions. Look back so you can draw forward.

And you will go forward. Always and forever forward. Because your story is the story of bringing forth beauty and light. And like any good book, I just can’t wait to see what happens in the next chapter.

Mr. King, I present to you, the class of 2024!