Class of 2018

The fifteen graduates of the Class of 2018 were accepted to ten middle schools and matriculated to seven schools. The Sun Bears were a creative group sparking with ideas whose presence, kindness, and open-mindedness is missed on the Walden campus. We wish them the very best for the next step in their academic and personal journeys and look forward to keeping in touch as their stories unfold. 

Below are excerpts from each student's graduation speech.





Max Boot

"The best friends are the ones that you are so close to that laughing is a second nature to you, that even when you think about the joke and it doesn't make sense, it's still funny. My friends laughed so hard for days because I said cumquat, like "whaaaaaaat." I have learned a lot about friendship; it's what makes the world go around. I have learned that friends can get you through thick and thin and not just help you understand algebra or play with you. They're an emotional rock that you can't get from other people."

Zachary Burnstine

"The great writer Oscar Wilde once said, "Be yourself because everyone else is already taken." I learned this lesson in my first year at Walden from Anna, my kindergarten teacher. For me, being true to myself means not giving up. I am a competitive person who likes to get things done. I've learned that when I persist and end up succeeding, I feel a huge sense of relief and accomplishment, and I like how that feels. An example of this was at the teachers vs. sixth grade basketball game. In the beginning of the second quarter, we still hadn't scored a point. In other words, we weren't doing very well. In that moment I started to feel embarrassed because everyone knew me to be a basketball player and this would be my best chance to prove myself. I thought of my options; my first one was to sit there and stay embarrassed. My second option was to give it my all till the end of the game. I'm glad I chose number two because we won!"

William Dinsmoor

"Accepting something may seem like giving up, but it’s not. Giving up is negative. Accepting is more positive.  Let’s say you were working on a really hard math problem and you haven’t gotten anywhere for thirty minutes. If you just give up and refuse to try again you would probably get into trouble for not finishing your homework. But if you accept that all you need is some help from your teacher and you ask for it, you’d learn how to actually solve the problem."

Wesley Kerstein

"Even though being unique is the greatest gift on earth, sometimes people don't appreciate you for who you are. I used to let that stop me. When people push you down, sometimes it's hard to come back up. But soon, I got back up. My teachers, family and friends encouraged me to stand up for myself. I try to walk through life not caring about what other people think. "You’re a boy, you shouldn't like pink!" Don't care about your opinion! "My Little Pony is for little kids!" I guess I'm just a little kid at heart! "Your glitter shoes are ugly!" Well I like them! Walden taught me to stand up for myself and not care about what other people think."

Chloe King Zavistovski

"Who are we? When we look in the mirror, who do we see? Do we see ourselves or someone we try to be? People always say, "I just want to fit in" at least once in their life, but I think when people try to fit in it changes them. Human beings have a need to be accepted by others, but why can't we accept who we are? If your goal is fitting in, I think it is impossible to achieve because everyone is unique. For example: not everyone is introverted, but I am. I am a unique, introverted, human being and I am beautiful."

Hideo Lathan

Hideo Lathan

"Something that I've learned at Walden is that I'm very empathetic and accepting towards other people. I like to console my fellow classmates and make them feel better when it comes to things like losing a game or losing something that was special to them. In today's world, people are so quick to be judgmental. Many people look down on other people that are different from them. I'll admit that I have done that too sometimes. In fact, I think a lot of people do that because sometimes it is easier to judge someone than it is to get to know them and try to understand their point of view. At Walden, we are taught not to judge people because of the way they look or what makes them different from you."

Colum Manning

"After my first 6 years at this school I realized something. Walden teaches kids to be strong, ambitious, accepting, respectful, intelligent, and unified. For example, at this year's Ponderers camping trip, my class, the Sun Bears were asked to lead an activity. To be leaders in our community. At first the prospect was terrifying, what would I choose to lead? I finally settled on a nature walk. Basically, all we did was go around pointing out invasive plants and stuff like that. However, that 40-minute activity taught me about how to explain a fact or make connections to others, so they learn something. That experience taught me more about being a leader than a class ever could."


Leila Mathison

"I have come to believe that sometimes you have to begin something by saying goodbye. When I look back on my time at Walden, three words come to mind: home, inspiration, and of course dreams. Billy Cox, the guitarist who played with Jimi Hendrix once said, "Life's greatest difficulties come right before life's greatest breakthroughs." It's hard to say goodbye to eight full years of love, adventure, laughter, and dreams. Walden has always taught me that your dreams should be very important to you."

Owen Mueller

Something unique here, is that kindness is everywhere you go. I have seen kindness in all the grades. In my mentor class, the Ozark Big-Eared Bats, I see the fourth  and fifth graders being kind and respectful to each other inside and outside of their classroom. I remember at Spring Sing they were all nervous and I watched them be kind and supportive to one another. That stuck with me. Thank you for being an awesome class to mentor this year.  

Lynissa Pedroza

"Earlier this year, I realized perfection is how you depict it. Me being perfect is me being happy with myself and how I look and dress. I'm perfect because I ACCEPT MYSELF. I like what I like and wear what makes me happy. That makes me perfect. The day I decided I was going to be myself was such an amazing day. Just me being comfortable in my own skin. Some days are harder than others to accept your body for how it is. The “ideal body” is often presented to us as looking one particular way... but that’s a concept I hope to help change. There is not one shape that’s more beautiful than another. In my eyes Walden is perfect because they let everyone be perfect in their own way."

Duncan Pomerantz

"Stories are what make life what it is. I say this because over my Walden journey, I have learned that stories are so much more than they seem to be. Stories are always made for a reason, no matter how big or small, there is always a reason, and thinking of that reason, we find something within ourselves that wants us to make a story and put that feeling into something else. Thank you, Walden. I will always carry you in my heart and you will always be a huge part in my story."

Isabella Povenmire

"[...] at Walden, everyone is or becomes family. I would not be the person I am today without my Walden family. Every single one of you, whether you were taken out of class right now to come see your mentors perform. Or even if this is your first time at Walden and you just happen to be here because you are somehow related to one of the Sun Bears, or if you are alumni and you remember being on this stage and all the emotions that came with it, you know that once you have spent any amount of time at Walden School you become part of a family that bonds hundreds of people together. In this place, we are all accepted no matter who we are, in the way that it really does feel like family. This is the Walden bond."

Nicole Sanders

"For some, hope is the kind of thing that splashes the world with color and makes everything clear, and for some hope is the kind of thing that flies around your head and whispers things in your ear. (Hey! That rhymed!) For me, hope is a lot of things. I find it in the trees that grow, the friends I have, and the art I make. Art was something that really stuck out to me. Everything about it is amazing! I soon realized that when I start to draw, paint, and create I feel calm and now before performances, I use my art to give me hope."

Mia Shannon

"You see, I am a girl who loves to play sports.  I think this is unique because I don’t see a lot of girls being as competitive and athletic as I am. I play lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, I surf, and occasionally play soccer. I like to play these sports because it gives me a rush of excitement and competitiveness. There actually are a lot of athletic women and girls out there. I just don’t see them being taken seriously. I think the result of this is, in our area the young girls aren't playing sports. I think it is because they may feel that they are going to be judged, so they often leave it for the boys to play. My hope is that by playing sports, I can inspire other girls to play too."

Adam Tardy

"I think I’m unique because I can get along with just about everyone, even people I don’t know very well. I remember the first day of 4th grade when I was suddenly in a class with the 5th graders, I felt kind of nervous and scared because they already had a year of experience and knew what was going on. I didn’t feel like I knew what to do. For example, that was the first and last year we started changing classes and I wasn’t sure about all that, and there was a shorter recess time, and I just didn’t really know the older kids all that well. I remember we had some “Get to Know You” activities and I didn’t really use those that much for actually getting to know the 5th graders better. So, instead, I decided to get to know people I would want to hang out with by being friendly with them. I also got involved in the games they were playing such as basketball. Since basketball is something I’m comfortable with, it made it extra easy to talk to them. I was friends with most of those people all year and I think it was because of that first day in 4th grade."