Class of 2019
With the Pearly Mussels Class of 2019, we celebrated the largest Walden graduating class to date! The 29 graduates matriculated to 14 area independent and public middle schools. 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.
- Logan H.
- Dani C.
- Joe A.
- Will B.
- Minda L.
- Mateo R.
- Theadora M.
- Adrian G.
- Sydney B.
- Miranda F.
- Kaylie G.
- Lewis H.
- Luna R.
- Oliver M.
- Phillip N.
- Saverio F.
- Aidan G.
- Asher S.
- Wyatt B.
- Nina F.
- Claire K.
- Chasen S.
- Garret S.
- Sarina P.
- Ryan P.
- Sami P.
- Vivien V.
- Juliana M.
- Huxley M.
"Karen Gibbs once said, 'Take every chance you get, because some things only happen once.' This quote pretty much summarizes my school trips and new experiences at Walden. To me this quote is about having courage, and even though you may be scared, taking a chance and doing it anyway.
In 4th grade, the Ponderers camping trip was my first trip away from home without a parent, so I was really nervous. In fact, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go, but I took a chance, got on the bus and everything turned out okay. The first night I got really homesick, but my tent mates and Grace comforted me. The next day I had had so much fun I was too tired to be homesick, and I fell right asleep. I am so glad that I got on the bus, because there is only one first Ponderers camping trip, and I know that I would have regretted not going.
In 5th grade I went to Catalina Island. I was scared to snorkel because before then I had never been in the ocean above my waist. The first time I snorkeled was terrifying. My mask kept fogging up and I was shivering so hard I could barely swim. The next time I snorkeled, I was scared, but I went anyway. I was worried that it would be like the first time, so I made sure to get proper equipment. This time, I saw all kinds of beautiful sea life.
This year when I started mentoring I was excited and nervous to meet and mentor a whole class. I was nervous because I was only used to being buddies with one or two people, but I found the courage to go up to them to offer help, and after a while, I got to know my mentor class better and now I know that they are very sweet and caring."
"In this adventure, who do you want to be? A brave dwarf warrior? A skilled elvish archer? A stealthy hobbit thief? My name is Joe, and in my time at Walden, I have learned many things; how to play chess, my 7s multiplications tables, and how to play Dungeons and Dragons. In fourth grade my dad taught me how to play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends. I loved it because it allowed me to take risks in a safe environment. Dungeons and Dragons is a role-playing game set in medieval times. The DM (Dungeon Master) tells a story and the players roll dice see how things work out in the adventure. It’s very loose, and I now realize that Dungeons and Dragons improved my social skills A LOT.
When I started, I was a halfling rouge name Xlactor (zla-k-tor) and the first thing I really did to help the party was this:(I’m going to use voices) The entire party was in an orc prison. I was alone at the prison gates. I walked up to an orc guard and said, 'Sir my father is inside the gates and I've come to visit him.'
The orc replied: 'No one is allowed in ever.'
So, I replied: 'Please great lord I am only a boy with a kind heart?' By saying that I earned a charisma check which is the way of convincing people to accept what you say in D&D. This taught me what charisma means and that’s is a social skill I’ll use forever. This scenario also taught me that bringing the kindness and humor out of people can allow you to defuse a conflict."
"Family is a big part of my life. While I was reflecting about my Walden journey, many of my memories included my family, and it just made sense to write a speech about my family. Walden has taught me that family will be there through the ups and downs in life.
I think one of my most stressful times at Walden was the ISEE test and applying to middle schools. My parents were really comforting during this time. They made sure that I was ready for the test as well as making sure that I didn’t lose my mind studying. They also helped me a lot with the school applications. My parents made time to go on school tours with me and they helped pay for all the applications that needed to be paid for. It was important that they were there because I realized they are people that understand me better than anyone else and people that I can talk to. If I didn’t have them, processes like this would be lonely.
[...] My friends have also been supportive like family through this process. In fact, I want to thank so many more who have supported me in the ups and downs of life.
Sydni and Stina, thank you so much for a wonderful first year at Walden. Danica, thank you so much for being patient and kind when I needed help in math. Ben, thank you so much for helping me grow as an artist. Alejandro, thank you so much for giving me suggestions on making my music sound better. Terra T, thank you so much for helping me with my speech.
I have experienced so many things at Walden, and I’m very grateful to be supported through the good and bad by this Walden family."
"As a kid, I can truly appreciate the value of fun. Most grown-ups seem to have forgotten how to have fun entirely. I feel like in our society we put such a low value on fun and save higher value for more ‘important’ things like work, and money. And I believe that our lives would be much better if we try to include fun in them!
If we try to include fun in our lives, we could make things more memorable. Think back to one of your favorite memories, it was a happy one right? I'm no psychologist, but basic logic will tell you that you remember your fun and happy memories more than your disappointed or angry ones.
Some of you may know I am a member of the Walden Robotics team, and for some time we hadn’t won anything, not since 2014. In 2018, we went to the tournament with high hopes… and we placed around 31st. Then, in the teamwork segment, we all worked together and tried our hardest. Surprisingly, later in the competition, we got called back in by the judges. At first, we thought we had done something wrong, but we found out had won 2nd place in Gracious Professionalism, which apparently means that you can work with your team and try to win, but you are also nice to other teams. I remember that memory like it was yesterday because it was fun!
My time at Walden has been very memorable, mainly because I have had such a great time here! I've had great teachers and friends. Walden has taught me that we are all unique and being different isn’t a bad thing. "
At Walden, everyone learns that mistakes are the way we grow. You can learn this from a teacher or on the school yard. This happened to me on third week of kindergarten. We were writing little paragraphs about countries. I was so happy with mine. My handwriting was neat, and all of my words were spelled correctly. When I gave it to Trina she took one look at it and gave it back. She told me my handwriting was too small! I was so crushed.
Then she said, 'It’s okay to make mistakes. Sometimes you just have to retry.' I was a little upset, but it was the first time I realized there’s always room for improvement."
"Ok, before we get started, I want to say I have come to make you laugh, not cry. If I see any tears from you people, shame on you. I'm looking at that family area over there. Wow, I'm finally up here. I remember being in Pre-K and looking at the 6th graders and thinking, “Dang they’re cool. I want to be just like them when I grow up!” The crazy thing is, now I look at the Pre-K students and think the same thing. I mean if you think about it, they don’t have to deal with homework, drama or puberty! My experience at Walden has been a wild ride. An 8-year ride to be exact. Wow 8 years of my life...gone.
I've grown a lot at Walden. One of the most important aspects of growing, I think, is taking risks, because without taking risks we wouldn’t explore as much as we have in life. Risks are constantly being taken throughout the world. Some risks are just unfair, like, when I learned about the kids that are being separated from their parents at the border. They shouldn’t have to go through that. No one should have to deal with those kinds of risks. Growing up in this world is very intense. Now the only thing that gets me through my day now is memes, naps, mindfulness, A.O.C, and Beyoncé. Sometimes I just completely release myself from the world and breath.
But really, at Walden, we are prepared for the unexpected. This happens through being encouraged to take risks. An obvious risk I have taken is going on those trips, mainly Astro Camp, because, I had no idea what could happen or what situation you could get into. Another risk that I’ve taken is trying to make new friends. I’ve learned that when you socialize with someone you are opening yourself up and becoming vulnerable with that person, and that looks different at different times."
"In 4th grade, my big takeaway was participation. I wanted to face my fear of public speaking and stage fright. Whenever I came up on stage, I got butterflies in my stomach (like I have right now). A lot of the time, I would slip up on my words and stutter. I faced this fear many times through speaking at assemblies, being in the Winter and Spring sings, and volunteering to read my work in class. Have I conquered the fear? Not completely, but I’ll keep trying and I’m proud of where I am now.
In 5th grade, I learned how to be a better friend. My friends and I got into this really big fight, and now looking back on it, it seems really stupid. We solved this argument by all talking together and all gave each other second chances. We all apologized and cried and hugged and we were friends again. Being a better friend means to understand where your friends are coming from. I’m proud of myself for how I’ve accomplished being a better friend. Now I’m leaving 6th grade and these three years all add up to making me a better person and loving and expressing myself."
"Humans, on the whole, have always believed that we are the strongest species. We have a strange way of proving it. We find strength in pretending to be strong. We wear masks to hide our true selves. We fake it. Society demands for us to wear these lies as our real selves. I wonder what would happen if we could admit that we’re finding strength in the wrong things. When we find strength in lies, we aren’t actually being strong. What if we could wear these masks by our own free will, not because other people want us to? I believe we’d see each other. Actually see each other, not the masks we wear. I think if we were free to be who we are, if we didn’t have to hide under these facades, then we might see that we don’t have total control, and maybe we’d realize that this is our only chance to make a positive impact on the world. These are the things that make us human. It’s the lives we take, the way we distinguish right from wrong, it’s our faults, it’s all our imperfections that make us who we are. So why do we hide them? Why have we decided that to survive in this world, we all have to be the same?
Because sharing ourselves with others breaks the stone mask and makes us vulnerable.
And we think that’s bad.
But what if it wasn’t? What if sharing yourself was a sign of strength?
It is. There is strength in vulnerability."
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the friends that I have made at Walden. I’ve had many adventures with my friends over the years, and now we’re graduating! Middle School is going to be a whole other world, a big new adventure. Even though my friends and I will all be at different schools, I know that we are always going to help each other through the hard times, because that’s what real friends do."
"Everyone is different. You may have different facial features or different ways of thinking; you're unique. Being different is better than being like everyone else. For example, some traits of mine that people might think are negative, like how I get anxious and worry a lot, also means that I work hard to get things right. When you’re unique and you know that you are, you feel more comfortable with yourself.
When you’re different and accept it, you naturally feel more comfortable with yourself. I think I'm different, and so are you, you, and you. The way I feel comfortable may be different than everyone else. For example, I feel comfortable when I wear jeans and baggy cotton t-shirts. My journey to discovery was in 2nd or 3rd grade I got into a fight with my girl-friends. Because I didn’t want to be alone at recess, I started hanging out with most of the boys in my class. I found clothes (like jeans and t-shirts) that made it easier to play the games we played at recess, and liked it more than butterfly dresses. I ended up sticking with it."
"In Ponderers we've learned that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone helps you to learn and grow. I had many opportunities to grow on all the Outdoor Ed trips. If I hadn't gone on that night kayaking at Catalina, I would not have seen the amazing bioluminescence. It looked like bright green floating glitter that glowed when I poked it with my paddle. If my cabin mates hadn't woken me up at 6:00 AM I would have missed the giant monstrosity of a bison that charged through the Catalina camp barely missing our cabin. Lesson learned. Don’t sleep through the exciting stuff. During the Tetons trip I had to try many new things. I hadn't really been in massive amounts of snow and never thought I would have to swim through it to forge a path. In the Tetons I learned ALL that and how to “chase a coyote,” (AKA peeing in the woods) after Xana made us drink gallons of water to stay hydrated.
On the Ponderers camping trips we were able to have delicious dinners because we came together as a community and used everyone’s skills to accomplish something that no ONE person could do on their own, cooking for 90 people. Going on these adventures created lasting memories and really pushed me out of my comfort zone in a way nothing else could have. We all know adventures don’t always go as planned, and hey, THINGS HAPPEN. BLIZZARDS HAPPEN. At Astrocamp, we were ALL disappointed when the trip was cut short, due to an incoming blizzard. And that’s why adventures are so great; they teach us to be flexible. Despite my disappointment, I learned to go with the flow and be grateful when things don’t go exactly as planned. I am so lucky to have experienced Astrocamp at all."
"Throughout my journey at Walden, music has been a huge portion of my life. Music is a big part of my life and makes me feel better. Our music teacher, Alejandro taught me how to play multiple instruments, such as the hand drums, glockenspiels and my voice. I have found that music relieves stress.
I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to perform multiple times inside of school. Thank you, Alejandro, for practicing with me and the quartet to perform multiple pieces in front of the school. This has helped me with my stage fright, and playing the cello with you and Ian, Jonah, and Joe really helped me get over the stress for our upcoming performances. With the lesson you taught me, I have learned how to overcome my nervousness during my cello recitals out of school.
If I hadn't have practiced with you, Alejandro, I might not have become who I am as a musician."
"I took a lot of risks at Walden, and whether I was making new friends or sharing a piece of my writing, I would be taking a risk. Taking risks isn’t easy, but it is something you should do because it can result in you making new friends or getting better at something. [...] One of the first risks I took in the upper core was going on the Ponderers’ camping trip because that was my first time without my parents on a camping trip. At AstroCamp I went on the zipline and wore a harness, which is good because it is the object that saves me from falling to my death, and then jumped off the tall bridge thing and zipped down the zipline. When I jumped, I took a huge risk because I jumped off a pretty tall bridge. Another risk that I took a few months ago was when I went to the Tetons because that was my first trip on a plane without my parents."
"My nine years at Walden have been spectacular! But there are somethings I look back on in life that I can’t believe I did, such as saying poo-poo face in Pre-K, rapping a bunch of songs at Ponderers with Adrian, singing Michel Jackson’s 'Bad' at assembly last year with Gian, William, and Forrest, Denise pulling my teeth out, and dancing to a song that I like to call, 'Big Belly Get Headspun.' When I look back on all these memories, I learned sportsmanship in each situation by getting back up and encouraging my friends. This helped me create a bond.
Sportsmanship also made me feel better about myself when I played flag football for the first time. When I started, I wasn’t very good compared to everyone else, but my team supported me through my flaws, gave me advice, and helped me improve. I feel that I made a bond with them because they helped me get better, and I felt better about myself. Now at every game I'm the one cheering on my teammates saying 'Let's GO! Nice job.'”
"Throughout my time at Walden, I’ve created so many great memories with my friends and teachers, but most importantly, I’ve learned how to be part of a community, a group of people that support each other. Community keeps you going.
Some of my favorite memories from Walden come from all the overnight field trips. My favorite trip was Mountain and Sea Adventures at Catalina Island because of who was in my cabin. A lot of my friends were in my cabin and this made the trip 'interesting.' Something really 'unexpected' happened and let’s just say, there was a lot of screaming and laughing. The trip made us closer."
"Four score and eight years ago...just messing with you, I wouldn't go that far back, but it has been a really long time here at Walden. Over these last eight years, I have made new friends and learned about myself as a person. A lot of us have known each other since we had Squirmy the Velvet Worm as our class 'pet.' Ya know, I think he might want to say hi to everyone. Hello Velvet Worms! We have been through so much together as a group. Like when AstroCamp got cancelled because of the snow. By the way, we’re still waiting for that extra day we were promised or the skits in Catalina. In case you forgot, 'Ghirardelli is my favorite chocolate,' or the time we woke up before the sun to catch our plane on time to get to the Tetons. P.S. Great driving skills, Mom! Every one of these experiences has helped us grow together as friends.
It hasn’t always been easy. Math is one example. But, with Danica as a teacher, math actually made sense for once. Thank you, Danica for everything you’ve done for me along with my friends. It’s meant a lot for all of us. Stina, you are such a fantastic teacher and friend. You have always been there for me and you are so kind and caring. You are a great role model and someone I aspire to be like. Sydni, I have learned that you are a very kind, considerate, and loving person. Thank you for always saying hi to me, even when I wasn’t in your class anymore. You and Stina both helped me to become who I am today. You two mean a lot to me and I will miss you both so very, very much."
"Failure is something we all face; it is how we handle our failures that shape our future success. I have learned that you can't always fix your mistakes by yourself, and that you shouldn't afraid of making mistakes.
I learn from my mistakes all the time, even with some help from others, like in Kindergarten I got assigned a reading buddy. Mine was Halo. I would read her these books out loud and stumble over and miss words, and I never seemed to be able to read a sentence without messing up. She taught me how to go over the words slowly and look at each letter. She sat with me until I got it right. After all those mess-ups it taught me that sometimes you can't fix your mistakes by yourself but need support from others."
"We are all pieces of writing in progress. Our lives are stories and we tell that story from the day we are born, and we see light the very first time, to the day we die, and darkness is the only light we know. And our stories spread, like butter on bread, ripples in water, or smiles. Our tales are heard from person to person. What we've done, what we're doing, and what we’ll do. They can be broadcasted across the world or shared amongst close acquaintances.
And our stories are long. No matter how long we live. They are long in our own way because it’s the little stories within. They can be long because you're not consciously telling it.
The first time I thought of myself as a writer was in the beginning of 5th grade. It wasn’t that long ago but that’s when I was aware, I was telling the story. That’s when I realized I tell the story by living it."
"My Walden experience has been a blast! All the way from my first day to my last! One of the first and most important lessons that I learned at Walden is to not judge a book by its cover.
Here’s a short story about my first day at Walden. Okay, first off, I admit I was a little naïve. I didn’t even know what recess was! But it sounded exciting, so I went outside and saw all the other kids running to the monkey bars or trying to get a soccer ball. But me, on the other hand, I didn’t know what to do. I started walking around in circles, watching other kids having fun, and feeling confused.
Trina and Anna were watching me and decided to help me out. They brought Phillip over and introduced him to me. I thought to myself, 'This could be a great day! Am I really going to make a new friend on the first day of Walden?' He looked nice and friendly, so I introduced myself. 'My name is Chasen!' I said excitedly, 'Do you want to be friends?' I was so hopeful...until he replied, 'No thanks. I just want to walk around by myself.' And then he proceeded to walk in circles. I felt crushed … What was wrong with me? I couldn’t figure it out. Would I ever make a friend?
Luckily, everyone else like Aidan, Tristan, Garret and Asher were ready to play! I ended up making a lot of friends that day, and when my parents came to pick me up, I told them I had an amazing day...except for that one kid who just wanted to walk in circles. Later I found out that kid who didn’t seem to like me was just a little on the shy side. He turned out to be the funniest, kind-hearted friend anyone could ask for! And that friend is Phillip. If I had judged Phillip based on that first day of school, we would have never been friends and I would have missed out big time. It just goes to show that you should try to get to know people before you judge them, because they could be your best friend."
"Creativity inspires the imagination and allows people to develop new amazing ideas, art, stories, and technology.
I personally find inspiration by looking at books, like Marvel comics, which allows me to connect with the characters, showing me that I, too, can be brave, step out of my box, not give up, and keep trying my hardest. They give me the desire to draw my own pictures and maybe someday inspire someone else.
Creativity can also help people learn in an imaginary way, such as making a person’s mind see and feel the story in their head by the way the words are written. I will never forget the time my dad gave me a historical fiction book that I loved so much I wanted to read it every day. The way the author told the story allowed me to picture what was really happening, with creativity, so I was drawn to wanting to learn more about American History.
My time at Walden has taught me to develop my creativity and imagination, which has helped me become a better student. It has helped me realize that while I may face learning challenges, I am also capable of finding creative ways to complete projects."
"Winnie the Pooh said, 'If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus one day, so I never have to live without you.' Without friends, we would be sacks of potatoes sitting on the floor, not getting anything done. With friends, we could spend 80 years on this planet living a good life, with good people. Friends just make things better.
Sometimes I need something to take my mind off stress so I can be present. My friends are known for taking care of that for me."
"Somehow, I have survived the last 8 years at Walden school. Now, survive may sound like a weird word to use, like there’s danger or threats, but surviving Walden is about being smart and knowing the best way of doing things. I read lots of wilderness survival books, I know my plants and animals, different knots, and how to build a shelter. I am confident that, if you dropped me off in the woods, I could survive for at LEAST a month. But surviving Walden isn’t exactly like surviving in the woods. For one thing, nothing is trying to kill you, expect maybe your friends in handball. But even though Walden and the woods are different, there are some similarities.
The first thing you need to survive in the wild is shelter. To survive in upper core, you need to be able to assemble a tent. It would be easier to build a shelter in the woods than it is to put up a tent with 4 other people. Everyone has a different opinion of what to do! My survival tip for the Ponderer’s camping trip is to have good communication with your group. If you all communicate and have specific roles, like tents pegs or rain fly, it will all go a lot smoother.
The next event to survive in 6th grade is the Inquiry Fair. This project takes some real survival skills. It’s like hiking the Appalachian trial, you are in it for the long haul! My survival tip is to find something that you are passionate about, plan, and to take each day as it comes. Just like the Appalachian trial, at the beginning it seems like it will never end but when you finish you feel amazing.
[...] I have become a survival expert at Walden, and I can't wait to take my survival skills to a whole new wilderness called middle school."
"A SECRET you may not know about me is ... I love sports. I’ve always liked sports and I love to win. But if you want to win, you must have teamwork. Teamwork means working together, cooperating, being a good sport and a good teammate.
I THINK a good teammate should pick their teammates up, both literally and figuratively. When someone gets hurt, I try to make them laugh and feel better. If someone falls down, I help them get up and make sure they’re OK. As a teammate, I show respect to both my team and to the other team. And if we lose, it’s not the end of the world. It’s good to be competitive but not to be a complainer.
OF COURSE, being on a team can sometimes be challenging. When our class played the teachers at basketball, we didn't work together as a team at first, and there was a lot of negativity. As the game went on, we were losing by a LOT. But being a teammate is about rebounding from a tough situation! We kept cheering each other on, we passed the ball more and we were more positive.
In the end, we didn’t win - but I felt good because we came close and I felt like we were playing our best. This taught me that you can overcome any bumps in the road with team work."
"In fifth grade, when I was night snorkeling on the Catalina Island trip, my friend Theadora decided to go with me so I wouldn't be lonely. I was terrified because I did not know what lied beneath us. I couldn’t even put my head under the water at first because I was afraid of what would happen to me. I just couldn't stand it anymore. I begged the counselors to take me back to shore. I could be my true self with Theadora, I didn't have to worry about her judging me. As I held onto the raft that the counselors brought, Theadora got on the other side and started to change the topic to get my mind off my fears. She was also a little bit scared too, so I tried to comfort her as well. Soon we were just comforting each other."
"I believe that using your voice will move you forward in life. Talking, and using my words has always been one of my talents, even when I was little. When someone didn’t want to play what I wanted to play, I would try to convince them about why my game was better, or how we could take turns playing our games. Even though most of the time I didn’t get what I was striving for, I still began to teach myself how to speak up or share my ideas.
As I got a bit older, I started using my voice for bigger things like my first learning adventure. My topic was the ocean. I loved talking all about the animals and how the coral reefs and ecosystems worked. At first, I felt uncomfortable, but since this was one of first times presenting, I knew I didn't have to be perfect. Using my voice helped me to put aside my fears in this situation and speak and share what I had learned about the ocean. I started to feel more comfortable speaking in front of my class.
So, I started raising my hand more and trying to include myself more in our classroom setting knowing that I would always get something out of being courageous and speaking up. Every year, my confidence and voice would get stronger, building a wall between me and my fears, even though I didn’t always look too confident I felt confident. "
"At Walden, you learn about “traditional” school subjects, as well as empathy and honor. Like when Danica found out that people in our class were stealing class money, everyone started confessing and giving back, because they’ve learned to do the right thing, no matter how many mistakes you make along the way. We have an entire class for Social Emotional Learning, and we even talked about the evolution of education and communication, and why it’s important. It’s things like this that remind me that I’ve grown up in an incredibly amazing environment. Sugar coated, some people that I respectfully disagree with might say. I don’t think it’s sugar coated at all, though. I just think that everyone I’ve grown up with is great at raising me.
At home, from people I grew up with, I’ve learned how to act, things like saying thank you or turning off the lights when you leave a room. And from my own experiences, I’ve learned how I act. From my interactions with others, I’ve learned about how to talk to people, how to comfort them. From mistakes I’ve made, I’ve learned how not to talk to people, what not to say. All these different things I’ve learned make me sure of who I am. I have no idea why people are this nice to me, but I think it has made me nicer. Like how my teacher, Danica, understands that my mind works this way, so she knows to explain things to me if I’m confused, rather than telling me I should’ve been listening.
I like my weird mind. It makes me unique; it’s exceptionally good at forgetting things like long division, but keeping the things that are important to me, like morality. So by being at Walden, this is what I’ve come to believe: hold on to all the things that make you the person you are, share the things that you have in common with others, and you’ll find that you’re unique and the same in your own awesome ways."