Ridgefield Academy’s 26 exceptional Grade 8 students and leaders were honored last night, June 10, 2020, with a graduation ceremony like no other in the history of the school. The drive-in style ceremony took place under the stars on the school’s athletic fields. Families enjoyed a pre-recorded video of the ceremony, including remarks by Head of School Tom Main and Head of Middle and Upper Schools Clinton Howarth, the Grade 8 graduation speeches, and the presentation of diplomas.
Head of School Tom Main opened the 2020 graduation ceremony by introducing the centerpiece of the event - the Grade 8 graduation speeches. “The speeches provide insight into the students, their experiences, and our school,” said Tom Main. The prepared remarks of the students are a capstone to the comprehensive signature public speaking program that begins in Landmark Preschool and continues throughout Lower, Middle, and Upper School. This year, students were individually invited to campus at designated times to deliver their speeches to immediate family members and have them recorded for inclusion in the ceremony. Students were exuberantly introduced by their Kindergarten buddies on the big screen before each speech was played. Families enjoyed listening to the themes of legacy, reinventing oneself, service, friendship, teamwork, perseverance, nurture, and saying goodbye given by the very poised and confident graduates.
It is tradition to honor the recipient of the James P. Heus Distinguished Service Award at graduation. This year’s award was given to Jennifer Amadeo P’16, P’20. Mrs. Amadeo has served extensively on multiple committees, including Building and Grounds, Advancement, Marketing, and Strategic Planning, and has chaired the committee for the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. She and her husband, Claude, have been passionate supporters of RA’s technology and STEM efforts as well. “Jennifer brings a level and insightful mind to all her work at RA. Her true love for our school is evident in everything she does,” said Head of School Tom Main.
“It has been invaluable to me, personally, to think about and participate in the issues and ideas relating to educating kids from preschool to Grade 8; years which are so important to setting up our kids for a lifetime of curiosity, joyful learning, and success,” said Mrs. Amadeo.
The legacy of Math and History Teacher Lisa Annunziato was recognized at the request of the graduates. Lisa was a teacher at RA for 21 years and passed away after a valiant battle with cancer. The students remembered her as a teacher who remained connected with them even after they moved up to Middle School.
Due to social distancing guidelines, many of the graduation traditions had to be celebrated in new and creative ways that expressed the meaning of this honorable occasion. This included the presentation of the diplomas. The students had received their diplomas in white envelopes, tucked into their gift totes. As each student’s name was called, the child’s parents removed the diploma from it’s envelope and handed it to their child with a handshake or a hug.
After Head of School Tom Main presented the Class of 2020 to an on-screen joyful display of confetti, students were shown participating in the traditional ringing of the Patriot Bell to signify their final day of school on campus as well as a new beginning.
The ceremony ended with RA’s traditional farewell song, “Go Now in Peace,” accompanied by handbells. It was truly a remarkable and memorable evening for the students and their families.