A nucleus of 25 seniors has the distinction of being "lifers" -- students who have been at Princeton Day School since PreK, Kindergarten or First Grade. As graduation approached, they and their families attended a dinner in recognition of their many years at the School.
Second grade teacher Susan Ferguson, who just celebrated 30 years on the PDS faculty, remarked, "Lower school teachers have a view of you all that no one else in the school community has the great fortune of having. We have watched you grow from your 5 or 6 year-old selves into your now 18 year-old selves. We can see that the finest qualities you had as a child have evolved and flourished. To be honest, you haven't changed SO much, and for this we are glad. While the community here has had a great influence on you, you too, have had a great influence on your community. We won't forget that. Or you."
We reached out to the students to find out how they feel about the School they've known virtually all of their conscious lives. Here are some remarks several of the Class of 2019 Lifers took the time to share:
Hailey Young: "PDS has prepared me to be my own person, to grow as an individual, and take chances. I would not be who I am without this amazing community."
Charlotte Eiseman: "If I had to describe how I was feeling in one sentence it would be this—Leaving PDS never felt like something that would ever happen, it's been an integral part of my life for as long as I'm able to remember, so I'm feeling sad, confused, but also excited to explore past the Great Road."
Skylar Hall: "Eliphas Levi once said, 'A good teacher must be able to put himself in the place of those who find learning hard.' To the faculty, thank you for your devotion to cultivating the flourishing minds among us this evening. For the last thirteen years, you've helped us to grow into who we are today. Other than being overly-talkative and sometimes know-it-alls, we didn't put you through as much as previous or current classes have. But through it all you've been there to either celebrate with us or dust us off and encourage us to try again. You put yourselves in our shoes when we were at our lowest and encouraged us compassionately to believe in ourselves. We entered, young and innocently, through the front doors of the Lower School and because of you all we now leave, confidently and speculative, through the doors near the Lower Gym. As we join the classes that have graduated before us, we want to give our thanks to all of you for everything you've done for us, the Class of 2019."'
Elisabeth Berman: "After spending 13 years of my life in these PDS halls, I can confidently say that I will not only miss this tight-knit community I've grown so close to here, but that I am now prepared to go out into the world and pursue my own path. These people and this place have given me the skills I'll carry with me to college and beyond, and I'm infinitely grateful to everyone who has guided me throughout my time here."
Giulia Gerschel: "From raising chicks in first grade, to our fourth grade pond project; from our seventh grade engineering project in the shop, to our eighth grade trip to DC, PDS has shed light on the infinite possibilities that the world has to offer. While in Lower School and Middle School I didn't necessarily think about it in that way, reflecting back, I recognize that without these unique experiences, I would not have my deep interest in biological sciences, nor my immense passion for furniture making, and as a result, I would have had many missed opportunities! In the song 'Together Wherever we Go' from our fourth grade operetta, there is a stanza that goes:
And whether it's win, place or show
With you for me and me for you
We'll muddle through whatever we do
Together, wherever we go...'
Sam Bernardi: "I've been at PDS for 14 years, and I am forever grateful for everything it has taught me and the relationships I've built."
Mackenzie ElKadi: "The guidance that I've had at PDS has shaped me as a person, and I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. I never would have built such strong relationships with faculty and staff at any other school, and I truly treasure the experience I had."
Isabel Hogshire and Ryan Sullivan (from their Lifer's Dinner toast):
Isa: To our parents...
Ryan: From holding our hands as we took our first steps in a lower school classroom to watching us run out the door with pots and pans for Senior Send-Off, you've had a front row seat for it all.
Isa: You were there for our adorable years...
Ryan: You watched as we started picking out our own outfits to wear to school... T-shirts with our favorite animals and cartoon characters, Crocs decked out with Jibbitz, and of course Silly Bandz stacked to our elbows.
Isa: You showed up for field trips to the Bronx Zoo and Ellis Island, and even spent the night on Colross Lawn for our Fourth Grade Campout.
Ryan: And you sat through our Operetta, 44 Kids and a Cow, with smiles on your faces.
Isa: You were there for our awkward years...
Ryan: You drove us to our orthodontist appointments, Bat Mitzvahs, and sleepovers. You painted our faces for Blue and White Day.
Isa: You listened to us rant about our petty middle school drama. And you sat through yet another musical with smiles on your faces...
Ryan: You were there for our angsty years...
Isa: You gave us good advice and we sometimes listened.
Ryan: You came to fall plays, state championships, and helped us study for final exams. And you took an aggressive number of prom pictures for us to laugh at in a couple years.
Isa: Finally, senior year. While this year brought each of us a unique combination of anxiety, achievement, and amazement, I think we can all agree on one word to characterize our final moments at PDS: appreciation. We'd like to take this moment to thank all of you for all the little things you've done to make our experience here so meaningful.
Ryan: Above all, thank you for seeing something special in this place over a decade ago and continuously supporting us to thrive in blue and white. In choosing Princeton Day School, you not only exposed us the best education and opportunities a kid could ask for, but you also introduced us to our second family.Isa: To our teachers...
Andrew ElKadi: "Saying goodbye to the friends I've made, teachers I've admired, and halls I've walked through in the past 13 years is sad and overwhelming, and as I leave PDS I know that I'll always regard it as the place which allowed me to become who I am today."
Brooke Smukler: "What makes PDS special for me, personally, is that my best friends since Kindergarten are still my best friends today, as a senior. PDS has allowed me to create such strong bonds and memories that I know will last a lifetime."
Wes Leggett: "'Don't let yesterday take up too much of today.' - Will Rogers"
Raina Kasera: "I am so grateful to have spent the last 14 years of my life here at PDS with my wonderful classmates and teachers. I will miss the PDS community so much as I move on to the next chapter in my life, and I will forever cherish the memories I have made here."
Walter Emann: "recently i've been feeling very happysad about leaving pds, cause yay i get to go to college and start a new life! but oh no i have to leave this life behind. i grew up inside of pds. so yes, i'm a little nervous about leaving. i think we all are. but that's good. the fact that we're worried means that what we've experienced here so far has been crazy good, life-changing stuff that we don't want to forget, ever. i can safely say that we won't forget. ever."
Class of 2019 Lifers: Samuel Richard Bernardi, Walter Brandon Emann, Imani Marie Hall, Raina Kasera, Charlotte Elizabeth Meyercord, Elisabeth Jayne Berman, Benjamin Michael Blitz-Yanovitzky, Charlotte Lloyd Eiseman, Andrew Ries ElKadi, Mackenzie Ries ElKadi, Vincent Michael Gasparro, Giulia Gerschel, Skylar Jade Hall, Isabel Eugenia Hogshire, Margaret James Laughlin, Wesley Oliver Leggett, Ava Simone Roitburg, Brooke Sara Smukler, Maria Isabel Vazquez-Maldonado, Hailey Mackenzie Young, Bryn Linnea Aprill, Eric Charles Chen, Christopher Ryan Klein, Kaveena A Patel, Ryan Thomas Sullivan.
Enjoy this Lifers video slideshow by Giulia Gerschel: