Memories & Moving Up: Class of 2028 Completes Middle School

JUNE 30, 2024

As the sound of the piano began, Class VIII students processed into the H. Dale Hemmerdinger Auditorium and onto the stage for their Moving Up Ceremony; an annual event centering Class VIII voices and memories, and celebrating their ascension to Upper School.

Class VIII Dean for the 2023-2024 school year María Tovo welcomed the Class of 2028 with a well-deserved round of applause. “Class of 2028, this moment is a testament to your dedication, perseverance, and resilience. You walked into Middle School in the middle of a global pandemic, wearing masks and separated by pods. You navigated complex math assignments, Latin homework tests, science exams, so many sports games; a memorial project. You composed operas and performed in musicals. You engaged in debates to discuss complex world issues. You even overcame your fear of skydiving and reached terminal velocity, as well as many other challenges—emerging stronger and wiser each time.”

She continued: “And as you stand, about to begin a new chapter, recall the invaluable lessons cultivated in the blue doors. During your time in Middle School, you not only received an exceptional education but also discovered the joy of learning. You forged enduring friendships and learned to go beyond barriers. These experiences formed the bedrock of your future. As you head into the Upper School, carry them with you. For they will continue to guide your path forward.”

Head of School Mr. Burke shared a few words, speaking to the Class of 2028’s resiliency this year, acknowledging the immense loss of former Associate Head of School and Head of Middle School Ms. du Nouy.

“Some of the events of your Middle School years taught you that there are aspects of life well beyond your control and yet, here you are, right here…Understanding that parts of life are beyond your control can be helpful in many ways and this morning I would like to just share two. Number one, when you understand that there are factors beyond you—like truly know it—you become more grateful. No one gets anywhere in life without help…Number two, when you understand that there are factors beyond you, I believe that you can find greater peace. Things come, and things go. You cannot control the actions of others, but you can control how you understand them. You also can't control how others respond to you, but you can take back all that lost time that you spend worrying about how others are thinking about you, and you can spend it on how you can compassionately respond to them. Gratitude and inner peace: two keys to a good four years of high school and really good practice for all that waits beyond it.”

Middle School Co-president Beatrice K. ’28 then spoke, reflecting on the last nine years at Nightingale including Lower School tunics and field trips, their class trips to Washington, D.C. and Alabama, and navigating the beginning of their Middle School during COVID-19.

“I can’t quantify the time that has passed since I first met most of you, but that is only because the time that I spend with each and every one of you is unforgettable. As a Kindergartener, I never would have guessed that our little Class of 2028 would flourish into our grade, filled with the smart, compassionate, and loyal Nightingale students that you all are today,” Beatrice said. “My heart hurts when I think about all of you that won’t be rejoining our class next year, and I will miss seeing all of your smiles, and faces these next four years. I want to thank you all for your friendship, and kindness. As you all begin to explore new adventures inside and outside the blue doors this summer and in the coming years, I hope you treasure these memories as much as I do.”

On her way back to her seat Beatrice exchanged hugs with Middle School Co-president Ryan A., who was the next student speaker. Through a few tears, Ryan reflected on her emotions beginning the year as Middle School co-president, how she tried new things, and how she had grown throughout the year. She also thanked those that added to her Nightingale experience: her family, friends, and professional community members.

“As the Class of 2028 exits, and makes way for the upcoming eights, the Class of 2029, my advice is to continue to branch out. Branching out can mean sitting with new people or even playing a new game; it all counts,” she said. “And once we exit the blue doors and go our separate ways, some of us for the next three months and some for the rest of our lives, I want us to always remember that they aren't just doors. They represent a place. A place where we treasure the friends we have seen grow up since we were five.”

Just before Head of Upper Middle School Martha St. Jean’s address to Class VIII, students enjoyed a video from beloved professional community members, each sharing why they are proud of the Class of 2028.

Ms. St. Jean reflected on Class VIII’s year, sprinkling in Taylor Swift lyrics throughout her speech, “Class of 2028, you have been steady in your grace, fortitude, resilience, and in another word, you have been faithful. You have lived veritas, amicitia, and fides…I can count on the daily visits and smiles on days when, as a school, we were going through some pretty hard times. We experienced that in the passing of someone we all love. Even on our worst days, as a community, Class of 2028, you made it the best place.”

She continued: “With the passing of Ms. du Nouy, we lost a person who can only be described as a beautiful sunshine ray. Her death meant seeing parts of our world in gradations of gray. She exuded strength and joy, and though you were not aware of it at the time, she taught us how to live in a space in between; a space of before and after, beginning and end, joy and pain. In life there are things that appear to be in conflict, but oh, my dear eighth grade, I promise you they can coexist. Love can be present where there is pain. Joy can coincide with grief and there are hard truths. Confidence can co-mingle with double and, dear hearts, if you haven't yet discovered this, strength walks with weakness.”

Just before enjoying a video montage of photos of the Class of 2028 through the years, students heard from class speakers Devon S. and Cate B.

Devon recalled a Nightingale tradition from her first day of school when she, a Kindergartener at the time, took the hand of a senior to guide her up to the Lower School floor. Reflecting on her entire Nightingale experience, shared, “It all flew by so fast. This taught me to value the precious gift of time—something that can never be given back to us. Through time, the bonds of the Class of 2028 only grew stronger.”

Cate also reflected on her time at Nightingale, sharing “Every single person in this room has made an impact on other people’s lives. Nightingale is what we all have in common. Nightingale is more than a school; it is a community that holds people who we love all together. That was what Ms. du Nouy’s mission was: to hold together a community of love in a very evolving time. When I think of Ms. du Nouy—and what I know we all think of Ms. du Nouy—we think of joy, happiness, perseverance, love, respect, wit, and of course, life, and she will forever live in all of our hearts and minds.”

Finally, each student received a red rose as their names were read. With a round of applause, the Class of 2028 stood before an audience of their families, friends, and peers, now, as Upper Schoolers.

Click here to view a reel of the ceremony.