Gann Celebrates Class of 2020 with Drive-in Commencement

By: Ellen Seaward

On Sunday, June 14, under a bright blue sky, 66 heifers and their families rolled into the Gann Academy parking lot for a drive-in commencement ceremony, the first in the school’s history. Faculty sat socially distant along the school’s lot and welcomed the cars, decorated with balloons, signs, streamers, and paint. Joyful waves and shouts of hello were exchanged between students and teachers who had not seen each other in-person in over two months.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused in-person graduation ceremonies across the country to be cancelled, held online, or moved to drive-through parades, Gann remained committed to celebrating the class of 2020 in as tangible a way as safety allowed. "We were determined to do something a bit more special to honor our seniors," said Head of School Dalia Hochman, Ph.D., in her keynote commencement address.

And special it was. The ceremony began with the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner and Hatikvah, performed by Ariel Krasner-Tipton '20. Student Council president Emma Sullaway '20 then led the invocation, commending her fellow graduates for using their Gann education to take action together and for the closeness of their grade—a closeness that was shown through a video in which all 66 graduates virtually passed their graduation caps to one another.

Two students, Elijah Wiesman '20 and Jesse Sivan '20, spoke on behalf of their grade, with Sivan sharing his remarks in Hebrew. Matan Kotler-Berkowtitz '20 and Sarah Mahoney '20 presented the class gifts: a new sukkah and a new water bottle filling station. In a video, the Gann faculty and staff shared their praise for the senior class.
The ceremony included several guest speakers, including Scott Cohen, President of the Board of Trustees from 2018-2020, Chaim Bloom, Chief Baseball Officer of the Boston Red Sox, and Judith Sydney, who spoke on behalf of the Gann Parent Association and presented the class with two pieces of communal artwork. Shira Farber Kraft '01 delivered an alumni address, in which she spoke of generational trauma and healing in a post 9/11 world.

In her keynote address, Hochman reiterated to the graduates the importance of community. "You must feel obligated to the whole. We are obligated to repair the world—Tikkun Olam," she said. "Your spiritual, Jewish, emotional, and intellectual capacities know no limits. You are ready to enter the world at a time when we need your skills more than ever."

In small groups, graduates were presented their diplomas by Dean of Students Cindy Jacobs and class Dean Adam Marshak, Ph.D.—a significant moment that was considered impossible, just weeks prior.

As the ceremony concluded and the graduates rolled out of Gann’s parking lot to the tune of Bashana Haba'ah, they were cheered and applauded by the faculty and staff who had been with them through every step of their high school journey.
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