The Class of 2023

By Sam Uzwack, Head of Middle School

ON THURSDAY, JUNE 20, EASTSIDE Prep’s faculty, staff, families, and friends gathered to celebrate the group of commendable students in the Class of 2023. The Continuation Ceremony marks the successful conclusion of what, for many, is one of the more challenging chapters of life. The middle school years represent the sometimes difficult, albeit quite necessary, transition from childhood to young adulthood. In fact, there is more developmental growth socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically than at any time other than birth to age four. During this stage, a thirst for independence is acquired. And with this independence—I believe the students would agree—comes a whole lot more responsibility.

Faculty speeches reflect the individuality of both our students and faculty, and represent a fundamental tenant of EPS: it’s all about relationship. Each faculty member also selected a book that, we hope, speaks to each student.

The following are exerpts from faculty speeches at the Continuation Ceremony:

Relating the story of Max’s purchase of a rubber chicken on an EBC Week trip, Mr. Anderson noted that it’s his “unique sense of humor that makes him such an energetic and fun-loving guy.” Max received Minecraft: Guide Collection (and a rubber chicken, of course).

Of Jenny, Mr. Colello said, “We need you at EPS. We need your curious mind, your compassionate heart, and your creative spirit. You make us all better and I am so thankful to have you here with us.” Jenny received The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling.

In congratulating Jonathan S, Ms. Andrus added that “Jonathan takes pride and
uses care in everything he does.” Ms. Andrus also mentioned that Jonathan’s personal philosophy statement, “Work and time can achieve anything,” will take him far in life. Jonathan received the book Little Brother.

Mr. Yezbick noted, “To my way of seeing things, you possess a magical power, Erika: the ability to not get too caught up in things. Which is not to say that you don’t have passions and interests or theories that you’re testing out. I know you do.” Erika received An Anthropologist on Mars.

Reflecting on time with Carter during cross country, Ms. Mills stated, “Your quiet, calm, positive presence was the leadership your teammates needed.” She further commented on Carter’s “depth of compassion, athletic and academic abilities, and confidence.” Carter received the novel Undefeated.

Ms. Andrus listed many amazing attributes of Ella, describing her as organized, dedicated, disciplined, and resilient. She added that Ella is funny, a good friend, and understands the importance of character and compassion. Ella received the book The Perfect Horse.

Ms. Balcomb noted that Blake has an artistic spirit and praised, “The high caliber you bring to your work continually impresses me. You follow instructions to the letter, and manage to instill your unique stamp to each piece while perfecting the skills.” Blake received the book An Instructional Sketchbook.

Mr. Winkelmann described Aundia as hilarious, irreverent, hard-working (sometimes too hard-working), willing to take on and explore complicated issues, thoughtful, and a compassionate friend. Aundia received The Talent Code.

“Vernon, your enthusiasm for everything you put your mind to is contagious,” commented Ms. Behrmann. “You love a good challenge and you push yourself to excel in all you do. You are also kind and compassionate.” Vernon received Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

Mina received the book The Last Unicorn, “Because, like a unicorn, you make the world a better and more magical place,” commented Ms. Dodd. She further described Mina as a singer and a writer of original compositions who “showed unbridled enthusiasm for all aspects of the recent EBC Week trip.”

“Ian is likely seen as a stoic young man. Having worked with him for several years I am convinced he is braver and more caring than he lets on. A measured risk-taker, using the wisdom of folks around him to help guide him,” related Dr. Castro. Ian received Effortless Mastery.

Mr. Kelly-Hedrick noted that Celeste is an “outstanding estudiante” and continued, “You are one of the unique members of this community who successfully wear the mantle of scholar, musician, and athlete. Keep shining in your powerful ways.” Celeste received The Gilded Wolves.

Dr. Reina reflected on Ben’s “This I Believe” speech on fear, which included the statement “Don’t let your fears drive your behavior.” Dr. Reina commented on that powerful message, suggesting “that is a life lesson that many adults have yet to learn.” Ben received The Three Musketeers.

“Danny you are a leader, understanding, and compassionate,” commented Ms. Stange. She continued, “You are a confident student who takes pride in bringing your cultural identity to our school. You are respected by your peers, the US students, and faculty.” Danny received Musicals: The Definitive Illustrated Story.

Ms. Behrmann described Lohann as one of her “most enthusiastic and interested students.” She added, “While you are always an eager participant, you don’t dominate a discussion and you have always been willing to push yourself.” Lohann received Marvel: The Characters and Their Universe.

“Davy’s joy and enthusiasm is matched with care and thoughtfulness to the people and larger world around him,” stated Ms. Ellingson. She continued, “Recognizing good in all things, Davy is a curious learner, creative thinker, and joyful spirit.” Davey received The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose.

“Rylie is a student with strong convictions and passions for topics that are near and dear to her heart,” said Ms. Dodd. She added, “I can’t wait to see how you continue to inspire us all in the future.” Rylie received X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga.

Dr. Castro said that “Vincent is a kid who has thrown away the store-bought map and is now plotting his own path through the wilderness we call existence.” He added, “Because of your sense of humor, the book chosen for you is The Complete Gilbert and Sullivan Opera.”

Mr. Colello reflected, “Julia, you are one of the most naturally kind people I have ever met. From the moment you arrived at EPS, you have filled our classrooms with genuine warmth. You have made the lives of your fellow classmates more joyful because of your kindness.” Julia received The Great Gatsby.

Regarding Aidan, Ms. Lori commented, “You are a visionary and find solace and peace in design. You draw and paint like someone well beyond your age. I can also see that you are a caring and supportive friend.” Aidan received the book Sketch Now, Think Later.

Ms. Mills commented on Amelia’s “gentle yet confident voice that commands attention from classmates and teachers alike.” She added, “Your academic work showcases your intelligence, unique perspective, and careful attention to detail.” Amelia received The Reason We Broke Up.

“Anyone who knows you realizes you are a passionate person, Brennan,” reflected Ms. Luhrs. She continued, “You’re passionate about the environment, and about helping others understand their effect on our world.” Brennan received The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

About Jacqueline, Mr. Barrager noted, “You are a special person. You bring light and radiate positivity wherever you go. You seek out the strange and wonderful and are welcoming and inclusive to all.” Jacqueline received the book Draw Your Day.

Noting his appreciation for the writing of Siddharth’s “This I Believe” statement for Literary Thinking, Mr. Anderson commented on Siddharth’s reputation among faculty as “a compassionate and helpful student.” Siddharth received the book Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

Ms. Ellingson stated, “The characters of the book I have chosen for Sadie—Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World—are described as having one thing in common: their indomitable spirit. I cannot think of better words to describe Sadie. She is a curious, questioning, thoughtful creator.”

“Your enthusiasm for learning, finding solutions to problems, and your unique sense of humor is what we have all come to know and enjoy about you, Alan,” commented Ms. Frystak. “No matter what the task, I know you will do great things.” Alan received the book Game On!

“Elena has steadily increased her assertion of power and leadership in this community. She is an academic star and a wry and wonderful communicator. EPS is lucky to have Elena rising up into our Upper School,” commented Mr. Kelly-Hedrick. Elena received Wintersong: A Novel.

“Few adults have as strong and well defined a moral compass as you,” noted Dr. Reina about Arnav. He added that Arnav is “able to articulate his core values and live by them on a daily basis.” Arnav received All The Light We Cannot See.

“Caren works hard! Whatever task is in front of her, you can count on her to not only execute it but execute it well,” commented Dr. Russell. She continued, “In navigating obstacles, Caren is consistently self-reflective.” Caren received The Book of Joy.

Mr. Barrager noted that Angelina is “talented and willing to work hard” at science and commented on their mutual appreciation for comics of the fantasy and sci-fi genre. Angelina received volume one of the graphic novel, Annihilation, “the best Marvel story arc of this century…so far.”

“Keyan has the rare gift of being able to light up rooms with his positivity,” noted Mr. Colello. He continued, “He has a smile that puts people at ease and is able to maintain a positive outlook in life’s toughest moments, and that is a true gift.” Keyan received Rhett & Link’s Book to Mythicality.

Ms. Ellingson commented on Clare’s writing on the topic of trust. “Years before she ever wrote about trust in creating community, she had done just that at EPS. Keep trust in yourself and your approach to the world will create community.” Clare received Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes.

Mr. Kelly-Hedrick noted that Nolan is respected and trusted by his classmates. “He is a true servant-leader all over this campus. On stage in the theatre, in the classroom, as student ambassador, Nolan is a young man of honor and core values.” Nolan received The Future of Humanity.

For Sara, Ms. Luhrs chose the novel Uprooted, “in which evil and corruption are powerless against a compassionate, magical young woman who loves her community and is determined to better it.” She continued, “Sara, I hope you appreciate your own strengths in hers.”

Ms. Andrus commented that those who ask a lot of questions and consider the responses (such as Nathan) are the ones who reconsider the status quo, who innovate, drive progress, and inspire others to action. Nathan received Super Cool Tech: Technology, Invention, Innovation.

Noting the changes in Trisha, Ms. Mills noted, “You are still you, but also more. More confident. More curious. More accepting of others. More driven. You have big ambitions, and all the necessary characteristics to make them come true. Trisha received Strange the Dreamer.

“You Armaan, are quiet, and you sometimes try to slip by unnoticed,” commented Ms. Rainwater. She added, “You have the makings of someone with a deep amount of bravery. It takes bravery to complete a class activity like no one else. Armaan received the book I Can’t Accept Not Trying.

Ms. Frystak noted Logan’s style and fashion sense and her “passion for nearly every topic that contained inclusivity and equity. I can’t wait to see where this journey leads you.” Logan received The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

About James, Ms. Balcomb commented, “You have great communication skills. You ask a ton of questions.” Ms. Balcomb added that James is a “relentless, positive spirit” with “a fabulous mind.” James received the book A Short History of Everything.

Ms. Luhrs reflected that Romaine loves to know ‘why’ and is “a natural leader.” She continued, “This year you have embraced the chance to use your influence for the good of the EPS community.” Romaine received Tell Me Three Things.

Noting that he had spent time with Anderson in Eighth-Grade Science Stretch, and was his recent reading partner, Mr. Barrager added that his favorite time spent with Anderson was in Magic the Gathering Club. Anderson received The Art of Magic: The Gathering – Ravnica.

“Tess, you are always there for anyone, your athleticism is unparalleled, and you are among the first to act to thwart negativity,” reflected Ms. Frystak. She continued, “Tess, you are always needed!” Tess received the book Scrappy Little Nobody.

Dr. Castro described Alex as “simple, direct and to the point; there are no missed steps for this young man. And if there is an unexpected obstacle in his way, he will simply adapt and make it part of his plan.” Alex received the book The Ebb Tide.

For Misha, Ms. Rainwater picked the book Alice in Wonderland, “with doodles and artwork drawn by the great female artist Yayoi Kusama.” She added, “I’ve never met a student like you. I hope you never change and that your unabashed spirit continues to grow even stronger.”

“Evan M, I have been inspired by your growth and perspective in your time in the Middle School. You have always been a dedicated, hard-working student, and you have continued to push yourself academically while also making time for passions,” said Ms. Dodd. Evan received Good Omens.

Dr. Reina commended Nishka for her “This I Believe” project statement about being content with oneself. He added that Nishka’s “self-awareness also shows up in her ability to take risks and to help others.” Nishka received the novel The Perfect Horse.

“I was impressed, Evan O, with the vigor and passion you brought to discussion and debates,” reflected Mr. Yezbick. He added, “You care passionately about being in a community where debate is lively, and participants feel free to explore their various opinions.” Evan received A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

Anne-Marie received the book Jackaby, which Ms. Rainwater described as “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She continued, “It’s been wonderful getting to know such a smart, unique, and puzzle-solving person such as yourself.”

Dr. Russell reflected, “YuChen struck me as a deep thinker when proposing a somewhat sinister solution to the overpopulation crisis on the first day of class.” She added, “The critical insights make it known that YuChen is quite in tune with whatever topic is at hand.” YuChen received The Fix.

Mr. Yezbick commented on Hazel’s “keen sense of justice, coupled with warmth and generosity.” He continued, “You are willing to imagine yourself in others’ shoes.” Hazel received The Riddle of Scheherazade.

“Kaitlyn, you are enthusiastic, creative, and spontaneous. That constant smile on your face says it all!” commented Ms. Stange. She added, “You are a dedicated and loyal friend, always delighting in other people’s accomplishments.” Kaitlyn received Musicals: The Definitive Illustrated Story.

“Sophia, you have a deep thirst for life and love doing so many activities. Skating, Leadership Lab, Environmental Club, choir and acting, not to mention your academics­—it’s too much! But it’s you,” commented Mr. Winkelmann. Sophia received The Story of My Experiments with Truth.

Mr. Winkelmann commented about Jonathan N, “Your spectacular voice was often mute among the voices of your boisterous classmates. No longer!” He then quoted from writing by Jonathan: “When you stand in someone else’s shoes, you get to see the position they are in.” Jonathan received Where Do We Go From Here? by Martin Luther King Jr., “a man also dedicated to making the world a better place.