Salutatorian Joaquin Castro-Balbi answered the question, “Who are we?” in his speech. “We are the only grade in the current Upper School that experienced a full, normal year and has come back with an awareness of everything lost and gained; we are a grade that never lost sight of our passions, pioneering pandemic workarounds and demonstration continued curiosity through high participation in the Capstone class,” he noted. “We are the grade that will be remembered for our exceptionally positive, unifying attitude. Persistence, innovation, and respect are our strengths. Our legacy is lustrous, and our future, effulgent.”
Xixi Hillman, Valedictorian, focused on mindset and drive, highlighting her mother and grandmother, two of the strongest people she knows. As a result of their determination, Hillman landed in the U.S. and at FWCD. “While raising me on her own, my mother juggled testing, the master’s application process, and a four-hour commute to work and back, all while making the time to indulge in her 5-year-old’s childhood antics. Everything she did was for me, with the goal of moving to America; the domestic passport system we lived under would not sustain my academic pursuits and would probably have left me unable to attend elite, if even any, universities in Beijing,” she said. Every day I wake up thinking that this American life must be a dream, my most pressing worries being only the upcoming exam or the color of my prom dress … I am grateful for the possibilities that I have, and thanks to my grandmother and mother, I am confident I can achieve my dreams.
“The simplest, but truly most infallible, of all messages I can deliver is realizing the opportunities we’ve been given at Country Day,” she continued. “... know that in front of you lies a vast sea of possibilities, and among us here tonight, we have a future neurosurgeon, aerospace engineer, quantum engineer, lawyer, lawmaker, teacher, cattle rancher, the list goes on: the dancer, the musician, the star athlete, or the lead actor. The future is truly ours.”
The students’ speeches were moving, inspiring, and full of raw emotion that exuded great love and admiration for each and every person who comprises the tight-knit, 93-member class.
As a whole, the Class of 2022 submitted 759 applications to 165 colleges and universities and were accepted at 135 institutions of higher education. They have enrolled at 50 different institutions across the U.S. and internationally, with 49% of the class attending out-of-state colleges and universities and 51% attending Texas colleges and universities. The class garnered more than $14.2 million in merit-based scholarships and 44 students will attend colleges and universities where they will utilize more than $2.6 million.
Longtime and beloved member of the FWCD community and current Upper School History Teacher Bill Arnold ’86 was honored as the class-selected faculty speaker. He drew his speech from a blog post he had written about his own daughter’s graduation [Allie ’18] and his nervousness as graduation approached for his youngest child. He recalled a nightmare he had not long after Allie received her first college acceptance letter. He woke up in a panic, wishing he could stop time. After some antics to keep her “grounded” at FWCD: weighted fishing sinkers sewn into the hem of her School jumper, asking her to carry pocketfuls of river rocks, he came to accept her next steps and journey. “I accepted that despite my insecurities, I did want Allie to grow up. I wanted her to move on, experience new things in new places, and exercise her adventurous spirit,” he said. Most of all, he realized she was ready. Just like the Class of 2022 is ready.
Board of Trustees President Randy Eisenman ’93 recalled his own FWCD graduation nearly 30 years ago. Quoting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, he shared a quote that he wished he had heard when he graduated high school: “Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are.”
He encouraged the graduates to look back at all the people who’ve helped to shape their lives and to continue to choose wisely in their upcoming journeys. “As you select people to share your precious time with, take inventory of the influence they have over you,” he said. “The people you choose to surround yourself with are the people that will shape who you become. They will support or hinder your growth in all facets of life; and they will either inspire you to be better or hold you back.
Further, consider that the impact you have on this world will be magnified through the people with whom you spend your time,” Eisenman continued. “Just as they influence you, you, too, will influence them. You will share a piece of yourself that they will in turn radiate out into the world through their thoughts, words and actions. … Never forget that from here, you can go anywhere, especially if you choose wisely who goes with you.”
Head of Upper School Peggy Wakeland was true to form with few words for the graduates, but they were full of emotion and meaningful. “I am grateful to work with such a talented faculty and staff in partnership with such dedicated parents,” she said. When she presented the Class of 2022 to the audience, her voice cracked with pride and as she honored them.
Head of School Eric Lombardi pronounced graduation as a “Red Letter” date. “You have a tremendous amount to be proud of, not the least of which is how you have led our whole school through the year. You have raised the bar with good humor, good friendship, good work, good art, and good performances on stages, fields, mats and courts,” he said. “All of us who are in the FWCD community, but who are not in your class, owe you gratitude for the gifts you have shared.
“My challenge for the Class of 2022 as you go to your 50 schools this fall is that you continue to spread your magic … like you have spread it at 4200 Country Day Lane,” Lombardi continued.
The class chose to put a touch of magic in the air and continue their leadership on graduation tonight through their senior gift: They made donations to Breakthrough Fort Worth to purchase laptop computers for their seniors to use in college. Breakthrough, hosted on the FWCD campus, provides academic enrichment for high achieving public middle school students from underserved backgrounds and encourages talented high school and college students to explore careers in education. So far, the class has donated nearly $5,000.
After receiving their diplomas to loud cheers and great applause, Lombardi instructed the Class of 2022 to rise for the singing of the Alma Mater and to move their tassels from right to left, to signify the passing of one level of learning to another. As this happened, many were thinking of the memories created at FWCD. Asad Dean ’90, Alumni Association President, had previously welcomed the graduates into the alumni fold and shared a biology metaphor with the class.
“You see, in Mrs. Sharon Hamilton’s AP Biology class, I was introduced to the book The Double Helix [by James Watson and Francis Crick]. Years later, I met those Nobel Laureates (the scientists and authors) and I brought the book I read at Country Day and they signed the book above their respective pictures,” Dean said. “Graduates: Embedded in your DNA are the base pairs of F-W-C-D, and therefore, your success is genetic. You are pluripotential stem cells ready to differentiate and become who and what you want to be!”
Other alumni sent their best wishes to the Class of 2022 as well. In a tradition started last year, alumni left messages of encouragement and congratulations for the class and were encouraged to donate to The FWCD Fund the dollar amount of the graduating class.This year: $22 for ’22.