Graduation Keynote Address (Condensed version)
Very very dear Class of 2020…
When I think about the class of 2020, order is not really a word that springs to mind. In fact, our journey together over the last 2 years has been anything but neatly organised. Without naming any names, one glance at your desks, reports, endless university applications and haircuts tells me that you defy the concept of order. You are almost impossible to categorise - you are artists, geneticists, coders, chemists, singers, psychologists, animators, ecologists and entrepreneurs - but never just one of these, and often several simultaneously. You prove daily that you do not have to be logical or creative, a leader or a team player. You do all these things effortlessly and, whilst each of you is ambitious and competitive in your own way, I have never known you to achieve your goals at the expense of others.
We have shared plenty of mayhem along the way, and there have been successes and failures, tears as well as laughter, sometimes at the same time. So what is so exciting about this particular evening, for this unpredictable group, is that it is an instant in your life that also absolutely defies categorisation. You are right now simultaneously a child and an adult, a son or daughter but also now your own person. Tonight you are both a student and a graduate of HeadStart, and you will this day become not just school friends but also only memories of friendship for each other. In this room right now is both an end and a beginning and I suspect this makes you both happy and sad. But in this moment is potential. You are like a spring tightly coiled by school, family, friends and life, and where you go is both predicted and unpredictable. The decisions you make from this point on may define you, but if you are lucky they will just open up further doors of endless potentialities.
And for me this is why this is a moment to celebrate. If the last year has proved anything, it is that the world of defining things neatly in categories, valuing one idea or person over another, or even being able to predict what the next day will hold, is fast disappearing. The people who will run the new world that emerges over your lifetime need to not be like us, content with single definitions of success, virtue or self but open, flexible and chaotic, able to respond to the unknown.
So whatever you do in life, remember and embrace your uncertainty. Once thing that graduating will make you realise is that what is presented to you as an end, is in fact just one of a series of steps that will never be neatly ordered. You will take steps forwards but you will also take them sideways and even back, so do not expect to neatly progress through life. Do not be fixed - opinions and long term goals are good to have - but interrogate them constantly and don’t be afraid to change them. Be thankful for the privileges you’ve had and respectful of the people and places that have provided them, but challenge their assumptions and allow your context to change you as you change your context.
So congratulations Class of 2020 for being such an incomprehensible and disorderly bunch, and enjoy this moment of pure chaos in your lives. Getting to know you over the last two years has never been dull and, although there have been moments of exasperation, I have enjoyed every second of it. Like parents, teachers are not supposed to have favourites but you will always hold a special place in my heart as the group who watched the world unravel about them and took it in their stride. The chaotic world is waiting for you and if there is one thing I am certain of, it is that you will bring your own unique brand of indefinable crazy into it and somehow leave your mark. Thank you.
By Ms Gemma Caines, Head of Sixth Form
The end of the school year is always a bittersweet moment, combining the excitement of the approaching holidays with the sadness of leaving friends, teachers and classmates behind. This is most true for those in their final year of school who, as young men and women, are well and truly ready to make the leap into adult life but perhaps feel some trepidation about what lies ahead as they leave school and home for their next adventure.
It was thus with enthusiastic affection but more than one tearful eye that HeadStart waved goodbye to the Class of 2019 on June 24th. They are a diverse bunch, full of unique individuals and talents. 16 very different nationalities are represented, a veritable league of nations where Brits play football alongside Koreans, Venezuelans plan science experiments with Americans, and Thai students learn history alongside Lithuanians.
More impressive than their different passports, to someone having worked in international schools for many years, is the sheer variety of academic interests represented in the university courses our graduates are set on pursuing.
There is much to celebrate in the fact that almost a third of our students are destined for Top 50 Global Universities (according to QS University Rankings) or that a quarter received offers of significant financial aid to contribute towards the cost of their studies. But most important of all is that each and every student has left school with a clear plan and every student who submitted a university application has been placed on the course of their choice.
And what a diverse set of choices they have made. Students have done particularly well in STEM fields, going off to study Medicine, Biological Sciences, Aeronautical Engineering, Computer Science, Psychology, Chiropractic and Computer Science. Unsurprisingly, given our location, students have also shown an interest in commerce and hospitality, and are holding offers to study Hospitality Management, International Business Management and even Agribusiness. That does not mean that creativity is on the sideline. HeadStart graduates will soon be embarking on degree courses in Fashion Design, Art, Literature and even Film Production. Social Sciences have also been strong this year, with students successfully applying for Law, Politics and even the prestigious PPLE (Philosophy, Politics, Law and Economics.) Their destinations are equally far-flung: the UK, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Spain, USA - to name just a few. It’s so rewarding working with high achieving young people with such a wide range of ambitions and, we wish them the very best of luck as they embark on these courses.
However, when it came to the graduation ceremony, what was most striking was not the individual successes but the community that these very different young people have forged together. There were speeches that thanked inspiring teachers, gratitude for the opportunities school had provided (sports, leadership, trips to New York, productions - all got honourable mentions) as different students spoke about their time with us. However, the word that was used most often by our leavers as they reminisced about their time at HeadStart was “family.” All of them acknowledged that things had not always been easy and that things like examinations and university applications on top of the usual personal challenges that inevitably arise meant that life had been stressful at times. All gratefully recognised the vital role that the teachers and friends school provided them with had played, and what they as individuals had each done, in supporting the group as a whole to be where they stood at that moment: successful and ready to move on to their next exciting chapter. It is that sense of “family” in its truest sense - a group of people who share values, support each other’s goals, respect and love each other despite their differences and are committed to each other - that the Class of 2019 most remembered about their time at school.
If they take this with them as they head off into the big wide world, we will be very proud of them indeed.
By Mrs Gemma Caines, Head of Sixth Form
It was with great excitement that we celebrated this year’s graduation of our Year 13 cohort. We are very proud of each one of the students and the long journey they have traveled that has brought them to this point. We are looking forward to hearing the news of the next part of their academic journey. A special mention for Hyerin Cho who achieved the Cambridge ‘Top in Thailand’ award in both Year 12 and 13. Both Enzo Couture and Sean Byrne spent most of their academic life studying at HeadStart. They enroled at HeadStart for Year 1 and continued through to Year 13. We could not be more proud of them on this, their graduation day. They have achieved excellent exam results and have made HeadStart proud.
Year 13 Graduation video feature click HERE
Left to right: Enzo Couture, Athena Butler, Hyerin Cho, Ken Rotman, Sean Byrne
On 23 June, 2017, HeadStart celebrated our Year 13 students graduating. Congratulations to all of the students for their accomplishments. We wish them great success as they continue their educational journey. A big thank you to Ms Christy Gibson for her performance of ‘Glai Rung’ and ‘Unwritten’ as well as compliments to the Creative Arts department for accompanying her with back up singing and dancing. Year 13 Graduation video feature click HERE
Left to right: Emmanuel Montaldi, Abhishek Mathur, Tina Sowton, Isabelle Fruewirth (Head Girl), Morgan Kieffer (Head Boy), Karina Abday, Thawatchai (Andy) Holmes, Andrew Heinz