Today, the seniors of will arrive at the school’s baseball field a little after 4 p.m., ready to graduate. When the time comes, they will rise from their seats and walk to a small stage in front of over 2,000 people. They will climb the four little green steps, one by one, and walk across the platform to receive their final reward for the past four years of study – a diploma and a handshake from Principal Don Drake.
When everyone has their diploma, a few words will be said, and the seniors will throw their caps into the air -- a celebration of the end of high school and the beginning of an entirely new chapter.
Although the graduation adventure will end in that moment of celebration, it began long before the students started finding seats. Thanks to the efforts of administrators, teachers, and fellow pupils, graduation is just one of the many activities seniors have taken part in this year to mark their new freedom and to prepare them for the outside world.
The journey began early on with Senior Challenge Day. On Friday, Sept. 3, the seniors gathered in the gym for a variety of bonding activities led by a motivational speaker.
The event, organized by the Student Leadership Group, encouraged seniors to get to know one another and connect before graduation.
“These events build community – just having graduation isn’t enough,” said school counselor Lynn Kennedy. “It’s a last chance to hang out before [the seniors] go out on their different paths.”
The September event was followed in May with another senior day. Although normally seniors take a trip to Disneyland, financial and planning issues this year forced Leadership to change plans – and the result was, by many accounts, a huge success.
“I thought it was fantastic, but I got really sunburned,” said senior Carlea Winkler. “I liked dunking people in water.”
Much of the day was spent frolicking on the softball field, where several bounce houses and a dunk tank had been set up.
“The outdoor stuff was pretty fun,” said senior Connor Goodwin.
Most of the senior events have been student-run, something the administration has been both proud of and grateful for.
“Almost all the senior bonding events have been Leadership,” said assistant principle Katy Foster.
But, the events aren’t just for the students. They also give teachers a way to say goodbye to seniors they may have spent the last four years guiding from awkward, shy freshmen to the proud graduates who will walk the isle on Thursday.
“We always invite senior teachers,” said assistant principle Eric Sable.
At the recent senior day, ten teachers volunteered to lead activities for the morning. These included a group discussion guided by English teacher Cathy Sarkisian, a motivation speech and game led by ROCK teacher Jasper Thelin, yoga directed by art teacher Martha Cederstrom, and a short performance by art teacher Jack Simms discussing his time in high school and college.
Although Senior Challenge Day back in September had been quite somber, the recent teacher-led gathering had a much more laid back and relaxed atmosphere. During Simm’s story – where he frequently held up a large sign with the word “laugh” on it after telling jokes – giggles could be heard not just from the students sitting around him, but from several teachers and administrators around the gym.
After that, seniors were offered a Last Chapter dinner, where parents and pupils were invited to eat, drink, and be merry. Although, as Winkler put it, “the ceremony was a little corny,” – recalling a moment where parents lit candles and then passed the fire (a metaphor for many things) to their child’s candle – it was still well received. The several performance pieces, including poems and songs from students and a tale of youthful exuberance from teacher Paul Grifo, went over especially well.
“It was nice over all,” said Winkler.
The last big meet up before graduation was a senior breakfast, held at on Wednesday, June 8. The event, which has been a tradition at Drake long enough that no one seems quite sure when it started, featured a large buffet and a raffle, with prizes ranging from Snuggies to a grab bag filled with candy and a framed picture of assistant principle Eric Sable from a recent vacation.
The way this year’s activities have been run – and the positive reaction to them – has made an impact in other aspects of Drake culture.
“We’re doing the whole first day of school next year differently,” said Sable, in reference to the string of activities the school puts on to help incoming freshman acclimate to the high school experience.
After graduation, seniors will have one more chance to bond (and perhaps more noticeably, sign yearbooks). As in past years, the administration is putting on a full-blown party at Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael the night of graduation. The Safe and Sober Grad Night includes swimming, dancing, and performers, even a hypnotist.
Although nothing can really prepare someone for being an adult, the variety of bonding moments and just plain fun have made heading out into the world a little bit easier.
Goodwin summed it up simply: “Senior year was a breeze!”