On Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 22 eighth-graders graduated from Manhattan Country School. During a ceremony shared with faculty, staff, family and friends, the graduates offered the following thoughts about their time at MCS.
When I came into the 4-5s classroom on the first day of school, I didn't know anyone. I was pretty shy and decided to join a table with the stackable bears rather than people. Besides this, it didn't take too long for me to be invited to a game of Star Wars reenactments, though most of the times we made up our own stories. I experienced the accepting spirit of Manhattan Country School only a few days after stepping into the old school's courtyard for the very first time. I've rarely been the one to take others under my wing; I have always waited for an invitation to join someone when meeting new people. I hope that in high school I will be able to be that person when needed. I have learned so much about social bonds throughout my time here and I hope that with this knowledge I can learn to be the one to invite that stackable bears kid to my Star Wars role play (metaphorically). One of the things I have always found challenging when thinking about graduating is having to leave all my friends and my amazing relationships and start with a clean slate. That I will have to go through all of the awkward stages that lead up to having relationships this strong. However, I think that with everything I have learned here I can make that process flow much more smoothly. I think I am ready to graduate because MCS has prepared me for it, and MCS has been preparing me for it, ever since a few days after stepping into the old school's courtyard for the very first time.
I've learned so much being at MCS. I’ve learned that young people can be the best type of activist. I’ve learned how to argue against racism, homophobia, sexism, and colorism. I've learned so much history and have written so many essays. MCS is the only school I’ve ever attended. Going to a new place is scary, but I believe that MCS has given me the tools I’ll need. I’ll miss the farm, my friends. I'll miss how there were so many things to learn that Nassim could never fit it all in 45 minutes. Every time I have a question, he seems to know the answer. Thank you, Nassim, for being so knowledgeable and also for giving me a hug when you had to tell me that my writing needed a lot of editing. Overall, thank you for being a great advisor, even if I didn’t always show it. I’ll miss how many times Tom says, “MLA format,” even though I forget every time to add it to my essays. I'll miss how Carolina complains about our teenage attitudes. I’ll miss how many times Maiya had to tell me to spit out my gum.
I hope that at Rudolf Steiner, I leave class upset when my teachers don't get to finish the hundreds of things they planned to teach me. I hope I make friends as I’ve made here. We have cried together and screamed at the top of our lungs together when we found out what high schools we got into. We've studied together. I can't picture going to class every day and not seeing everyone. I’ll miss MCS and everything that comes with it. Goodbye, MCS! I'll never forget you.
I have completed all of what MCS has to offer me: all of the classes and all of the curriculum. During my six years at MCS, I have been introduced to several subjects. In the 8-9s, I learned estimation and we studied the encounters between Native Americans and Europeans. I learned how to estimate before solving math problems, which gave me an idea regarding the solution. If I was close to the estimate, I knew I probably did the problem right, whereas if my answer was much higher or lower I knew I made a mistake along the way. In our learning about encounters, we wrote a letter to the school asking them to change the holiday on the calendar from Columbus Day to Fall Weekend. In the 9-10s, I was introduced to research papers and persuasive writing. In 5th grade, I continued learning about and writing persuasive arguments that included debates. In 6th grade, we started a more formal research paper. I choose to work on the Farm Workers Movement. In 7th grade, we had combined classes with 7th and 8th grades. We also had our first activism campaign. In 8th Grade, we were introduced to robots and wrote a short story. I learned how to code and build robots, and I wrote a short story I was really proud of.
During my time at MCS, I have grown as a person. A lesson I have learned at MCS is that sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to grow as a person. For example, I volunteered and went to the climate strike with Kellyn and Nassim. Typically, I am on the quiet side and let other kids take the lead. During the conference, I participated and spoke about the Green New Deal. I also led a separate part of the workshop by myself. From that experience I felt myself participating and learned that I am capable of leading and having a speaking role. Another lesson I learned that I will keep forever is you get more done as a community. Last year when we went on our activism trip we had to raise money to go. By myself I could not raise the money. As the 7th and 8th grade classes we could not raise all the money. Nassim opened the fundraising up to the entire community, and all of us together, we were able to raise what we needed. We went to Albany and had an amazing trip. Also I have learned that what you do, as individuals, impacts others. For example, at the farm if someone does not clean the stall well, the next person has to clean even more, and they will have a more difficult time. Something else I have learned during my time at MCS is how to be analytical. MCS has made me see that everything has bias. Recently, we did a project about fallacies. We had to figure out which fallacies the author was using and what was their bias. The project helped me see that fallacies and bias are in television, news, movies, books, and basically anything else you can think of, so it is important to analyze the information we receive. For that, I am forever grateful for MCS.
I’ve been going to MCS for 10 years, my whole life until tomorrow. I can’t imagine not being able to have the luxury of waking up at 7:45 and going three train stops to MCS and walking through those all too familiar MCS doors and seeing all my friends' smiling faces. I can’t imagine not walking into school and being greeted by George with an enthusiastic “Good Morning”. I can’t imagine not getting an email from Tom every Thursday saying, “Hi Carlo, below is the work you are owing. Let me know if you’ve got questions.” But one thing won’t change -- I probably still won’t eat lunch. I remember Sarah telling me, “You need to eat, Carlo,” but rebellious 4-5 me didn’t eat lunch. I’ve learned so much at MCS. I’ve gained the ability to speak my mind, disagree and have fun learning. I’ve made everlasting friendships, and my last year at MCS was all I could've ever asked for and I will miss all of you. But one thing I will never gain is the appetite for the lunch.
When I first came to MCS in 5th grade, I came from a place where I wasn't able to be myself. Where, every day in school, I was mocked and made fun of. It was easy for me to feel comfortable in the MCS community. I felt accepted. After years of not knowing who I was, MCS taught me that I could be myself. MCS taught me that my flaws are important. Over time, MCS has taught me how to become a better person and how to view the world from different perspectives. I have learned how to build close relationships with my friends and how to solve my problems on my own. I think I am ready to graduate because I have learned who I am with the help of MCS. Last year, when I was in London, it was a sobering view of the reality of the world, and when I came back to MCS I was able to be myself again. Last year wasn't easy but I think I am comfortable enough with who I am, so that when I go off to high school, I won't let anyone ruin how I view myself. Everything that has happened to me led to this moment, the moment where I am graduating from MCS. My father and my aunt went here and then my brother and me. Every story I have heard and experienced in MCS will always take up a part of my memory. MCS has given me laughter, tears, smiles, and crazy memories. Thank you, MCS. Thank you for everything that you have taught me and given me. Thank you for teaching me to be a better person.
With what’s happening in the world right now, it's important to have a school like MCS. MCS is a place characterized by diversity, a tight-knit community, academic rigor, and a commitment to social justice. Throughout my 10 years here, I've learned how to make lifelong friends, fight for the things I care about, and advocate for myself and others. Academically, I've also been taught what I need to know in order to transition into high school.
I’m ready to graduate because I’m ready to take all of these skills to a new environment. I’m ready to make new friends, broaden my experiences, further my education, and grow as a person. MCS has given me a valuable set of skills and friendships. I am grateful for this and am excited for the next chapter of my life. Even though I’m graduating, these life lessons and life friendships will stay with me.
When I look back at the last nine years, I see that many of the moments I remember are at MCS. It makes me realize how much I appreciate this school. And as much as I want to relive those memories, at least I will always remember them. I think I am ready to graduate from MCS because I can take what I have learned along with these memories and apply them to the rest of my life. I have learned how to voice my opinion, for example when we studied habitats in the 7-8s and built on it in the 8th grade when we marched to stop habitat destruction. Being in a community has been an invaluable learning experience, too. Working closely with my classmates for nine years has made me feel comfortable to take risks and experiment. I've also gotten to know kids of other ages in the whole school through reading buddies. I was read to by older students and I was able to share with younger students later. I also had a special bond with the 7th grade because we have been in mixed classes. The reason why I love the vision of MCS is that what I've learned has equipped me. Thank you, MCS.
Am I ready to leave MCS, let’s see. My relationship with MCS is one where I give my time, energy, intellect and ideas, and in return I receive an education that has shaped me over the years as an informed citizen, a confident speaker, a person who knows a whole lot about the civil rights movement and a young activist. What MCS and its curriculum have given me, is me. Without the teachers, my fellow students, the curriculum and the lively discussions we have here, I wouldn’t be me. The me who is conscious of who holds the power in any given situation or the me who feels comfortable explaining the Haitian Revolution or the me who eventually learned how to play Mancala. During my journey through MCS, I’ve learned a tremendous amount of academics, but one thing MCS has taught me, that is prevalent in many aspects of my life, is recognizing the importance of diversity and how privilege, race and power play a role in almost everything. Using this lens, while either looking at high schools and noticing who makes up the classroom, or having lively discussions with my family, I am very aware of how my identities and privilege can affect any situation. This lens is simply a part of me. MCS has given me a foundation to begin to comprehend many big ideas and develop sensitivity and empathy to and for other people’s life experiences. Here at school I’ve experienced an environment and a community that encourages conflict resolution and has fostered, for me at least, independence, creativity and the confidence for self-advocacy. No, I'm not fully ready to leave. I can't imagine not seeing Tom every day or eating lunch with my friends, or hearing ANIKA every five seconds. Yet here we are. But I know stepping into high school, I have already found my voice and confidence, I will let it guide me. Thank you to all the teachers over the years who have all had an impact on me and my voice. Thank you to the seventh grade, who even through the stress, made everything laughable and fun. Lastly, thank you to my class, from my first day to the last, you have all supported and guided me. All the memories and I mean all of them I will forever cherish and reflect upon.
I have been here at MCS since I was 4 years old. I have learned a lot during my time here at MCS, but it is time for me to move on. When I first came to MCS, I struggled. It was hard for me to sit still and focus and control myself. My teachers and friends helped me with that. I feel like they played a large part in my change from being that out of control little kid into the more controlled older kid that I am today. I have learned so much at this school and I have grown a lot. I have learned how to write research papers and essays. I learned some algebra and coding. I have learned Spanish and biology. But I think I have gotten to the point where there isn't much more for me to learn here at MCS. To be honest, it was hard for me to imagine ever leaving the warm and welcoming community that is MCS. But now that the year is ending and I have been accepted into high school, I realize that I am more ready than I thought. I have learned as much as I could here at MCS and it is time for me to move to a new school where I can learn even more. Goodbye, MCS, I will never forget all the gifts you have given me.
Ten years ago I walked into MCS wearing someone else's skin. Peter Parker’s, to be exact. I didn't pretend to be Spider-Man. I really was Spider-Man, and I really believed that with all my heart. When I was coming to MCS, my mom told me that I wasn't going to be allowed to wear the costume anymore. This came as a shock to me because I literally lived in that costume, and I didn't feel ready to step out of it. We even practiced having me wear regular clothes before the first day of school. Those first few weeks without Spider-Man were difficult, and I missed him terribly. But as the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years, I thought about him less and less. What I didn't notice was that with the passing of time I needed him less and less because with the help of all of you in this room, including my friends, my family and the MCS parents and staff, I was beginning to discover and create my own person. And I didn't need to borrow his person anymore. I wouldn't say it was always easy or fun to be pushed past my comfort zone, and in the moment I didn't always appreciate the pushing, but looking back I have come to realize that I was pushed not for the sake of pushing but with the goal of helping me figure out who I was, what I believed, and what I had to contribute to the MCS community and the larger community beyond MCS. I suppose, then, that it’s time for me to test some of that out. I will be sad to leave all of you and leave so many people whom I truly love. So of course today is in part a sad day, but at the same time there is a way in which you will be coming with me because I couldn't have become who I am without you. Thank you.
In my ten years at MCS...let me just stop and say that again...TEN YEARS AT MCS...ten years of my life with all of these wonderful people. We've moved from the east side to the west side. We have gone from being a small school to a bigger school. But we have not lost sight of what we are. We are a place where you can ask your science teacher about the chemistry behind narcotics. A place where sometimes you have to pretend to be your math teacher’s daughter, so you can get into the MOMA for free...true story. A school where we spend our time in class making protest signs for a Climate March, or a walkout in support of gun control, or to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King because we know when it is our responsibility to rise up. And, of course, this is a place where you learn. I have learned comma placement (though I never really got that one right, sorry, Tom), I have learned algebra, circles of evaluation, the troubling history of the United States, the density of water, the periodic table of elements, and so much more than I can fit in this speech. MCS has taught me so much. And I feel like the most important thing it has taught me is not to be afraid to say I'm grateful for what I've learned here. To not be afraid to say that I feel honored to have shared my ten years here with these people...these human beings...that I have known since I was four years old. I cried all of my tears at our last farm trip, so there is no way I'm going to cry tonight. Of course, I said that during the last farm trip, so we will see how tonight goes. Anyway, whether I cry or I don't, I'm ready to graduate. I am ready to graduate because they told me I can't come back here anymore...I asked...they said no. No, seriously, I am ready to graduate from MCS because I got into a high school...shocker, I know! I am ready to graduate because MCS has prepared me to be who I am, no matter where I am. Even if that is a few blocks away. I'm going to miss the people I have met here. I'm going to miss sprinting up the fire escape on Wednesday morning to sign up for extra IS. I am going to miss the chaos of having chocolate milk for a snack. I am going to miss feeling comfortable and supported by asking my teachers questions. I am going to miss white sheets, even though they sometimes made me want to throw up my hands and declare defeat, and just say, “Maiya Jackson YOU WIN!” MCS and I (Tom, I got the subject in that sentence right!) have had a long, beautiful, crazy, lovely, frustrating, delicious, action-packed, adventurous journey together. I am very ready to spread my wings and fly to 80th street, where I will spend the next four years (high school). However, saying goodbye is exactly like my time here, a little bit salty, but mostly really awesome. Parents, thanks for coming here today to see your children graduate. Thanks for coming to our Upper School assemblies, our Lower School assemblies, our Christmas assemblies, our Thanksgiving assemblies, our MLK assemblies, our spring concerts, our fall concerts, our activism assemblies, and our MLK March. And thank you, MCS, for making all of those things happen...I mean it, thank you, I'm never going to forget this place.
MCS has taught me so much, and not just academically. This community has helped shape who I am today and will forever be a big part of my life. During my time here I learned to use my voice to speak out for what I believe. I have learned to support and respect my peers and teachers. I have learned to look at many perspectives. I am ready to graduate because I can use the tools that MCS has taught me and bring them to high school. I will miss walking into this building and seeing such amazing and inspiring people. In the beginning, I really disliked school. I hated coming in and sitting in a classroom all day. Overtime, MCS taught me to enjoy what I learn and use my knowledge outside of the classroom. The journey here wasn't all positive. There were ups and downs, but no matter what, this community has been the most supportive and caring to me. I have been at MCS for 6 years. I realized that the amount of time you spend at MCS doesn't matter because no matter if you spend 1 year, 6 years, or 10 years here, MCS is one of the most influential places.
Even though I have been at MCS for two years, I have learned so much. I have learned a lot academically and even more about myself and others. At MCS, I grew as a student and as a person. My mentality and how I think has changed a lot and for the better. At MCS, I learned so many more things then I would’ve learned in other schools. Being that I live in the city and I got to go to the farm six times is something that I know I am very lucky to have. At the farm, I learned how to take care of animals and how to be in nature without depending on my phone. At the farm, I got closer with my friends and my teacher, making each trip better than the last. At MCS, I have learned how to listen to other people’s ideas and at the same time express my own. I have learned how to be confident enough to speak up about something I don’t agree with. Here we were taught valuable life lessons that a lot of students aren’t, and I know I am very lucky to have that. When I came to MCS, and as I am ending my time here, I am more than grateful for the lessons it has given me, the lifelong friendships, and the long-lasting memories. MCS made me happy, and even though I haven’t been here for long, I’ve learned more than I could’ve ever imagined. I am going to miss this school more than you would expect, but I know that I am ready to graduate. What I have learned here about how to carry myself and how to interact with others is a lesson I can't forget and something I will use for every step of the way as I continue my journey. As they say, all good things must come to an end, and even though it was short for me, it’s still the end. I will miss how comfortable I was going to Tom, or any teacher for that matter, when I was upset about something. I will miss how annoyed the teachers got at my friends and me but at the same time knowing they wanted the best for us. I will miss the pure happiness and love I felt when I came to school, but I know that I will be taking that with me. I will be taking my memories, my lessons and my friends with me, which is why I can say that I can graduate.
I am ready to graduate from MCS because I think I need to be exposed to a new atmosphere. I adore MCS and all of the opportunities it has granted me, but I think that I need to get myself out into the world and meet new people, and see the world from someone else's point of view. I don't think it is really possible to be ready to leave a group of kids you have spent the last ten years with, or a space that you've grown up in, but it is possible to be prepared, and be excited, and that I definitely am.
There is so much I have learned at MCS, not just in an academic sense, but in the sense of how to be a considerate, hardworking, passionate, and kind person. Of course, I still have a long way to go in regard to these things, but the way that MCS has always encouraged me to learn from my mistakes and to forgive people for hurting me has shaped the kind of person that I am. MCS has taught me to stand up for myself, and to stand up for people who cannot stand up for themselves. MCS has taught me to write, read, solve, speak, not only with a grade in mind, but thinking about how what I am doing connects to the real world. Lastly, MCS has taught me how to take care of myself, advocate for myself, and get myself through tough situations, and that is why I feel prepared to graduate.
When I first joined MCS, I wasn’t sure what to expect. On my first day of school I saw George's kind eyes and inviting smile that masked the huge and intimidating doors to the courtyard in the old building. The sounds of children screaming with joy and excitement warmed up my confidence, and the next thing I knew, I was in front of my new classroom. I started that school year as the only new person coming into a group who had been together forever. Joining the 9-10s class was exciting and terrifying. As soon as I stepped in, I saw a familiar face and a lot of new ones. I was surrounded by the people who would become my friends and second family. When we moved buildings and began school again, I wondered if it would feel like the MCS home I had come to know. With some clear physical changes, the feeling was home. It became clear that it wasn’t the space that made MCS, it was the people. I know what home at school feels like because I have been here at MCS. The saying “Time flies when you're having fun” is an understatement of what happened over the years. The next thing I knew, it was 7th grade and I was introduced to a whole new part of MCS: the fifth floor. In Maiya’s advisement, I was supported through struggles and navigating awkward situations that come with growing up. Then there was the high school application period where my friends and I would try to calm down by reassuring one another that it would all work out and playing games. The 8th grade farm trip was a time I won’t forget because my class got so much closer than I had known. From my MLK speech to the Color of Water essay, MCS has prepared me to bring their mission of social justice and an understanding of how to build community to my high school life and beyond.
I am ready to graduate because I feel I have fulfilled MCS's mission of a progressive education. I think after 10 years here with the same class it's a good time to move on to another part of my life. MCS has given me an incredible experience full of diversity and subjects I would never learn about in another school. MCS's curriculum is truly unique; the fact that it is so hands-on and so inclusive is a real gift. During my time here I've had some incredible teachers from the 4-5s all the way to the 8th grade. I really appreciate MCS's love for activism and the incredible history they teach, shining a light on many "less known" events that happened, not just events in a textbook. The school has taught me about caring for others and noticing differences in communities. Without MCS, I could not imagine who I would be in the world. Going to MCS was an incredible experience where I made so many valuable friends that I will never forget. Because of the size of my class, we all know each other so well, and over the years I have met some incredible people in my class. The school has made my life different and meaningful, and for that reason I am very proud to graduate from Manhattan Country School.
I have been going to school here since I was 5. I have known and loved all of you before I knew how to tie my own shoe. I am ready to graduate because in my time here I have made so many memories here that I wouldn't trade for anything. I have laughed with all of you, cried with all of you, and most of all, I have grown up with all of you. Everyone here has taught me how to be a leader and how to be an upstander. MCS has taught me to speak my mind, even if it might not be a popular opinion. I will miss Tom yelling at us for not cleaning up our tables, and I will miss coming back from summers excited to see all of you. I will never forget the experience and the memories I have had here and the friends I have made. Goodbye, MCS.
I am ready to graduate from MCS because I am prepared for high school and the challenges that I have to face. I am ready because I have overcome challenges and setbacks at MCS, and I want to be in a new environment. There are no more Farm trips so I wouldn't enjoy the school without the Farm, since it is such a major part of our learning curriculum. There are also more places to lobby and protest for social justice, especially with a school like Calhoun. At the Farm, I learned how to take care of animals, act responsibly, and have fun. I also learned how to use several formulas and methods in order to solve a math problem. It is very important that I use the skills I learned here in high school. In a way, I'm not ready to leave MCS. It would be a sudden change. Even though some of my friends are going to the school, it won't be the same without the whole class. I learned everything I need to know in terms of how to write an essay, thanks to Tom. I learned about the importance of history. I have learned what chemistry is all about and I hope to pursue it in high school. I learned the basics of Spanish and way beyond, since I have been learning it for a decade. I will also be continuing Spanish in high school. I am ready to graduate from MCS to face new challenges and make new friends.
I'm ready to graduate in the sense that I feel prepared to advocate for myself and connect with others. This advocacy has been learned through the multiple activism campaigns I've been a part of and all the times I've needed to ask for help. I also feel that I've become a more responsible student during my time here because of the times when the workload was very large and I've had to manage my time very strictly. This responsibility will be incredibly helpful in high school where I'm going to have a lot of commitments and work. MCS has taught me how to identify wrongdoing and injustice and to stand up to people and systems who perpetuate that injustice. MCS has also placed an emphasis on being considerate and caring towards others by putting everyone inside a small community where we can all form really strong and meaningful relationships. Because I learned this compassion, I'll have a smoother transition into high school and an easier time forming bonds with others.
My Manhattan Country School experience has been one of the best chapters in my life. I remember skeptically walking through the front door on the first day of school, scared out of my mind. At that time, I didn't think I would be writing a reflection, feeling very nostalgic about all of the exciting experiences during my time here. Instead, I felt very uncomfortable as I asked myself, "I have to spend 9 YEARS HERE?!" But the years flew by fast, and before I knew it, I was preparing for graduation. I was sitting at a table, surrounded by my classmates who were always there for me. These people helped me with projects and assignments, and always checked in with me. During my time here, I learned that you can't succeed by yourself, but instead, you need others to help you. At first, I wasn't really open to learning from friends and teachers. But as the years went by, I started to open myself up to education. From the Martin Luther King Jr. Speech, to the Climate Change Debate, to the Belief Essay, to the Social Justice Data Fair, Manhattan Country School has trained me to become someone who is not afraid to share my opinion, identity, and values. Manhattan Country School has fully prepared me for the next stages in life. From complex math equations, to learning about density, to learning about the Industrial Revolution, the academics have really helped me to understand the world. I know that the next chapter in my life is about to start, and I feel ready for the new experiences and challenges I will encounter. However, I will remember all the important lessons that Manhattan Country School has given to me throughout all of these joyous years.
I believe that I am ready to graduate because of my ability to be a free thinker. MCS has encouraged and facilitated my development in all areas of learning. Most important, I have been taught to have my own opinion and to strive for what I want to be, instead of what someone else wants me to be. I have learned self-respect and self-decency. I hold myself accountable for my mistakes as well as my achievements, and I am able to stand up for what I believe.
MCS is where I've spent most of my life and gained so much. I've played here, worked here, laughed here, cried here and learned so many important lessons here. I've gained so much from this school, and I've done so many things that I know I couldn't do anywhere else. I've had irreplaceable experiences, and I've made friends that I will never forget. MCS has given me a gift that I couldn't possibly receive anywhere else, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I've learned how to debate, analyze, argue, experiment, and so many more things here. I've grown more than I could possibly measure, and I will grow even more after I leave this school. Leaving this school will be one of the most significant points in my life so far, and it will be painful to do it. But I feel prepared for the future because of all that I've learned, grown from, taught, and gained. MCS will be a bittersweet goodbye, and I can't begin to imagine what my life will be like with this not being a part of it. But now that I've learned everything I can, it's time to leave and learn even more in the future. I'll never forget the experiences I've had here, but it's time for those experiences to end. Our time is up, so it's time for us to go. Goodbye, MCS.