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Graduation Speech 2020: Marti Champion

Epidemic… Pandemic… Quarantine… These were words found in history books that somehow became a reality in 2020. These words then led to new terms like self-isolation, social distancing and new normal which then caused us to not only speak but feel words like uncertainty, compassion, empathy and grace. All of this has happened in a span of two and a half months. Who knew?!
Our inability to gather in-person to celebrate each of you should not tarnish what you’ve accomplished in your educational career at Graland. If we think all of the way back to the beginning, there was the Kindergarten Rodeo, the Biography Tea, the Chief Mountain hike, the Unified Neighborhood Games, the art show and in Middle School there was Knighting, the Southwest trip, the athletic competitions, the band and choir concerts, Alzheimer’s and Memory Boxes and the Civil Rights trip. And of course, we can now add Virtual Graland to this expansive list. In order to engage and fully embrace each of these experiences, there was probably a bit of trepidation on your part. It was the first time you had to speak in front of the entire school. It was the first time you had to walk further than around the block. It was the first time you slept away from home for more than one night. It was the first time you had to bring a special relative or friend to life on the page. And, it was the first time you had to engage in remote learning. 

As we mark the end of your time as an eighth-grader, the pandemic, this spring and Virtual Graland does not define you as an individual or this class as a whole. This class is a sum of all of its parts, and those parts are rich and full of experiences that have taught you what courage over comfort looks and feels like. Each of you has the ability to look back on your experiences at Graland and know that you grew as a person because you faced the unknown with courage. It’s not necessarily the process you should focus on, but the joy you felt once you’d gone through that process.

We began this school year with the theme “Humankind. Be Both.” When reflecting on your time at Graland, in which of these experiences was it the first time you had to extend beyond yourself to give a hand to another for the greater good? “The common bond of humanity and decency that we share is stronger than any conflict, any adversity, any challenge.” What is the story you will tell about your time at Graland? How did you take advantage of the opportunities that caused you to embrace that which was uncomfortable in order to bask in the joy you felt because you challenged the unknown and faced your fears?

Yes, we continue to face lots of uncertainty when we think about the future. What is this “new normal” of which we speak? The bottom line is, we do not know. But this does not mean the future is bleak. As you enter high school for the first time and encounter many more first time experiences in life,  I ask that you see the boundless possibilities within the wider world and tap into the unexplored possibilities within yourself. And always, always, be a good person who extends a hand, kindness, compassion, grace and empathy - not only to those in need but also to yourself.

And finally, I will say what I said to you all when I became Head of Middle School for the first time at Graland in August of 2017. Sawubona (sah-woo-bone-ah). I see you. I see your personality. I see your humanity. I see your dignity. As an educator, I am in the precious position of working with young people who possess many unique qualities, needs and dreams. I see you. I see you as a complex young person trying to find their way as a student, friend and family member. You are enough and you have so much to offer those whose paths you’ll cross in your lifetime. I see you.

Thank you for being an unforgettable class in so many ways. Here’s to a good summer and a whole new adventure called high school. I look forward to hearing about the amazing young people you become. Good luck.
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Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.