Sidwell Holds Celebration for Class of 2020


On Aug. 1, Sidwell held an in-person celebration to commemorate the Class of 2020. Photo: Sidwell Friends.

On Aug. 1, the Sidwell community commemorated the Class of 2020 with an in-person celebration. After nearly a year and a half of waiting, alumni, parents and administrators alike returned to campus for the event. 

While all grades missed out on various experiences due to the pandemic, the Class of 2020 had their senior year cut short and was unable to participate in end-of-year senior traditions that take place throughout the second semester. Furthermore, their graduation occurred over computer screens rather than on campus.

“This class suffered so much … The social dimension of school — the human dimension of education — is what this class lost. And it’s a tremendous loss,” said Upper School Principal Mamadou Guèye.

In an attempt to make up for some of what the class lost, a great deal of work went into organizing the Aug. 1 event. Planning for the celebration began in the spring of 2020, when the school realized that an in-person commencement ceremony would be impossible because of the pandemic.

“We wanted to honor that class, and we wanted to make sure that they felt all the love that we felt for them,” Assistant Head of School Min Kim said.

Kim then explained how the Alumni Office sent out surveys and talked on the phone with the Class of 2020 and their parents to get a sense of what would be important to them in a celebration. 

The “majority of our respondents said that they just wanted a chance to gather and reconnect,” Kim said. And that’s what the celebration ended up being — not an evening packed with activities, but simply a space for the class to be together and enjoy each other’s company. 

The evening began with a Meeting for Worship that turned into a Meeting for Sharing, which proved to be memorable and meaningful for many. 

“That was such a wonderful moment — and [it] really felt like it was something that we all had missed, and so we were really grateful for that opportunity,” Allison Leader, parent of Nate Aurbach ’20, said.

Kim agreed, saying that she was “overcome with emotion … I had all these memories of just knowing this community of wonderful people, and being able to welcome them back in the same shared space felt really important.”

The meeting evoked similar feelings of warmth in returning graduates as well.

“It was very familiar — which was a highlight. It was like we had never left,” said Evie Weinstock ’20.

Nealie Deol ’20 added, it “was really nice and special. It was weird to be back in that room, but I also realized how much I missed that period of silence and stillness.”

After the Meeting for Worship concluded, parents walked to the Upton campus for a reception, while young alumni remained by the courtyard and Zartman House. There were professional photographers, a photobooth and music. For the next couple of hours, parents and students ate, drank and reconnected. Toward the end of the evening, parents and students regrouped for dessert.

Although the celebration did not have full attendance, the Alumni Office estimated that nearly 80% of the class took part in the event.

“It felt just fantastic to be with this community that’s been such a part of my life for a really long time,” Leader said, looking back on the evening as a whole.

“I thought it was really nicely organized,” Weinstock added. “I liked that they didn’t make it a graduation redo … it was more just a hangout, which I thought was very well executed.”

Deol reflected on the evening as well, saying that after a year of college, he has a newfound appreciation for Sidwell. 

“I think nothing will ever sort of match what we had at Sidwell — the degree of intimacy with which we knew everyone … It was just a very warm experience to return to that, and also just appreciate how special the bond is that we have as a class,” he explained.