On Friday, June 11, Penguin Hall welcomed family members, friends, current students, faculty, staff and trustees to its 5th annual Commencement Ceremony celebrating the Class of 2021.

Following the processional of graduates, Director of Admissions Dean Tsouvalas welcomed guests to the ceremony and introduced President Molly Martins who delivered the following address:

“Good afternoon and welcome–Trustees, family, friends, faculty, staff and most importantly, students. Today is a remarkable day. We are celebrating the graduation of our seniors all together as a community on our beautiful campus.

One of the most beloved and important traditions that we have at Penguin Hall is the laying of stones in The Legacy Garden. In living out the mission and vision of APH, each of our graduates leaves an indelible mark on our community. The Legacy Garden is both a symbolic and a physical representation of the mark that the Class of 2021 has left on our school. The Legacy Garden is located in the courtyard situated near the heart of the original manor house. There, we are invited to contemplate with reverence and gratitude the very best of who we are called to be at APH.

Just moments ago, our Class of 2021 placed their stones carved with their name and year of graduation around the tree where they will join the stones of graduates, past. The stones create an infinity circle — a circle that will continue to grow as our school grows, a circle that represents the very fabric of our school, powered by the gifts, talents, and service that each of our graduates have each shared with us. Know that we are blessed to witness the legacy they leave behind as they walk the next steps on their paths. 

The Class of 2021, is now part of our legacy. 

I invite families to visit the legacy garden after the ceremony

 Class of 2021, you have helped shape and give life to Penguin Hall, and you leave behind a legacy and blaze a trail that will never be forgotten, just as we will never forget you.

The class of 2021 has faced two unusual academic years on many levels. During their junior year they calmly and powerfully transitioned to fully remote learning. At that time there was a great deal of uncertainty. For their senior year our doors re-opened and classes began in person. It was a unique time full of unique experiences for this community.

However, as someone who frames challenges as opportunities, I will no longer talk about the struggles. Rather than seeing problems as burdensome forces of opposition, I see problems as opportunities–opportunities to learn, to grow, to improve, or to adjust in a way that leaves me and those around me in a better place. A problem is something that drags us down. An opportunity lifts us up. What we have gone through has taught us to appreciate the moments we take for granted. From the APH handshake, to the sight of raised hands in a classroom, to the friendly “hello” of a friend in the hallway without the cover of a mask. So today is not just another ceremony. Today is about thankfulness. Today is about gratitude. 

Each year, Penguin Hall celebrates a core value. In the past four years we have celebrated the values of resilience, integrity, courage and respect. When the class of 2021 began their journey with us, resilience was the core value for the year. Never have I seen that core value demonstrated more than in this class throughout the challenges we’ve faced. 

Today, let’s celebrate the bright resiliency of our students. Seniors–I am so proud of the tremendous strength, growth, compassion, and companionship that I have witnessed from each and every one of you. You have taken a year that was steeped in uncertainty and transformed it into a year of possibility and opportunity. I am proud of all that you have accomplished over the past years. Class of 2o21, my hope is that you will all carry this enduring strength and the lessons learned during this time as you attend college in the fall, and beyond. I believe I speak for the entire APH faculty and staff when I say, I have no doubt that you will make this world a better place. 

Each of you embodies the power of resilience and it is a quality that you will continue to nurture and practice as you begin the next chapter of your life. You will encounter obstacles during your journey; things will not go as planned and sometimes difficult things just happen. The true power of resilience is not in asking why difficult things happen, but in determining how you will approach them. You have all risen to this challenge, above and beyond, by viewing challenging situations not as problems but as opportunities. 

Growing up, my father always said to my brother, sisters and me, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”  

That statement has shaped so much of my life, personally and professionally.  This guiding principle speaks to the core of everything I do.  

Today you are going out into the world as graduates – I say to you – to whom much is given, much is expected. How will you make this world a better place with your gifts, skills and talents?   What conscious decisions will you make to give back to your families, communities and the world?

At APH you have learned that giving back is about people and building community.  As you continue on your journey please remember to turn around and help others behind you.  It is truly in giving that we receive.

We believe that The Academy at Penguin Hall is a better place because you were here. By demonstrating the core values of courage, integrity, resilience and respect, you have shaped this community for the better and your impact on this school will stay long after you have moved forward. I encourage you all to continue this legacy and make every place you are in a better place than when you found it with all the gifts and opportunities that you have been given. That is my deepest wish. 

Class of 2021–we needed your presence in this community and to each of you, we are eternally grateful. But now, the world needs you and the light you all bring. With full hearts, we send you off. 

Congratulations Class of 2021!”