Class of 2024 “Has What it Takes to Make a Difference”

Class of 2024 “Has What it Takes to Make a Difference”


“For most in this class of 2024, their years here began in about as unceremonious a fashion as possible: taking a COVID-19 test in the athletic parking lot,” Brooks School’s Head of School John Packard declared to the hundreds of students, faculty, family and friends gathered under a tent overlooking Lake Cochichewick on Brooks’ 93rd Prize Day.

Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.

“For many who joined the class one year later, with both vaccines in the picture and annoying variants still in circulation, we started with an outdoor Chapel on this most magnificent of all boarding school lawns,” he continued. “Since then, and thankfully, we have shaken free of the restrictions and limitations that so compromised the way many in the class began their Brooks School careers. That beginning feels like a long time ago and yesterday all at once.”

Looking back at memories, and forward to the future, was a recurring theme for the faculty and students who joined Packard in sending off 88 new Brooks School graduates — from 13 different states and eight countries — with a series of joyful Commencement Weekend celebrations on May 26 and May 27.

Where are the graduates headed next?

Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.
Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.


Applauding Affinity Groups

Starting on Sunday morning in Frank D. Ashburn Chapel, Brooks held the school’s second annual Donning of the Stoles and Symbols Ceremony, recognizing nearly 30 students.

The event celebrates the achievements and identities of underrepresented communities who participate in affinity groups on campus. During the ceremony, an advisor or employee mentor who provided meaningful support to a student during their time at Brooks presents, or “dons,” the student with a stole or item that reflects the student’s unique background. Students then wear their stole during Prize Day.

Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.

Student’s stoles serve as visual expressions of each student’s heritage, challenges and accomplishments.

Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Terri Ofori began the program by offering a welcome before all assembled rose to sing Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” together.

Charles F. Cornish ’06 took to the podium next, as a featured speaker (shown below). “I’m very excited to be able to stand here today as a proud gay man to tell my story,” said Cornish, a Brooks trustee currently working in financial services. “Hopefully you’ll leave here today excited about where you are in your journeys, where our school is, and where our society lives in theirs. You should all be so proud to have been your authentic selves and stand as examples of what makes Brooks special.”

Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.

Sharing wisdom from his experience at Brooks and afterward, Cornish urged the soon-to-be graduates to “embrace your diversity, be proud of your differences,” he said. “Leverage your uniqueness, build community support, lean on each other, and when the time comes, work for companies that value you.”

What are the affinity groups at Brooks?

Students also shared reflections, and celebrants awarded faculty member Shamsud Bery (shown below) with the DEIB champion award, as all assembled recognized Brooks School’s affinity groups.

Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.


Enjoying Awards!

A few hours later, at 2 p.m., the school’s traditional Lawn Ceremony began under the tent on the grassy expanse between Brooks’ admission building and Lake Cochichewick.

Faculty joined John Packard to offer a presentation of arts, athletics and academic prizes, between which students spoke about the same topics.

Watch the speeches in the Lawn Ceremony Livestream and discover who won prizes.

Lawn Ceremony “aims to honor and appreciate a wide range of talents and contributions students have shared with the school over the course of this year, and a number of years, in some cases," Packard announced, "that leave us incredibly proud to work with them.”  

Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.

Though tears followed in Brooks’ song-filled “Boo Hoo Service” back in Ashburn Chapel afterward, sixth-formers across the board were excited to embrace the ritual of hugging goodbye before receiving their diploma and departing Great Pond Road the next day.

Graduating students stood in a line along the Chapel walkway to receive farewells, per tradition, first from teachers processing one at a time down the line, and next, from all of the younger students.

As Packard gently warned the graduates’ loved ones: “This is often a lengthy and emotional experience!”

Bidding Farewell

Monday’s Prize Day brought more recognition for student achievement and leadership, a presentation of diplomas and heartfelt reflections on the graduates.

Celebrating Commencement: See photo albums from all the graduation events.

“I hope you are feeling a deep sense of pride in what your child and all members of this class of 2024 have accomplished through a disrupted educational landscape that none of us experienced as students,” Packard said to the families gathered during Prize Day, the final Commencement Weekend event, on May 27. “I hope you are confident in them and excited for what lies ahead in their lives. They are ready for whatever comes next.”

“The story of this class… is not how they endured that most acute of COVID years, but rather how they emerged from it, strengthening relationships and building momentum as they moved along,” he said.

Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.

Commending their “community building,” Packard spoke of his confidence in all of those moving beyond Brooks that day. “If, like me, you sometimes find the weight the world is carrying to be overwhelming, take comfort in knowing that this class of 2024 has what it takes to make a difference, partially due to circumstances they have overcome, partially due to all they engaged in while here, and partially by seeing and knowing what community building work can yield,” he said.

Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.

As they continue to grow into their own, Packard offered reassurance. “As they prepare for what’s next, ready for both the foreseen and unforeseen, it is important that they know how very proud of them we all are,” he concluded. “It is also important that they know this school, their school, will be here for them, always. We hope they will visit often, in body and mind, and we stand ready to do all we can to support them as they move forward in their lives.”

Brooks School celebrated Commencement Weekend May 26 and May 27.