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Tribute to the Roycemore Class of 2021

This class of 25 students will be furthering their education at 25 different institutions in 9 different states from the east coast to the west coast and in-between as well as one graduate who will attend university in Germany, when he commits and another who has a variety of acceptances still from which to choose. The schools our seniors will attend range from large public universities like The University of Georgia, to small private colleges like Grinnell to Ivy League colleges like The University of Pennsylvania, to specialty programs like The Moody Bible Institute. 80% will be attending school outside of Illinois, and a whopping 94 universities offered admission to the class. It’s quite incredible the diversity that exists in this small but mighty Class of 2021. And they are each carving out their path that is uniquely theirs — this is the power of the opportunity they have had to develop and grow as individuals these past four years in the Upper School. As Alex Z. shared recently, “I had the opportunity to explore my interest in oncology research, classical music and even philosophy,” at Roycemore.

It has been a MOST unusual year. When the pandemic caused all schools to shutter last spring, some of our students explored how they might complete their senior year with their classmates and teachers, while also remaining with their families. Alex, Gary, Cindy, Bella, Leilei, and Joanna all completed their senior year in China in a time zone 14 hours ahead of Chicago. They either had to attend their classes through the night synchronously, or view recordings during their day. Amrina participated remotely from Tennessee and Moly participated remotely from California. The resilience and grit that these students demonstrated this year is astounding and will serve them well as they enter a world where constant change is the norm. And even though our seniors were far away from their classmates, they remained connected as a class. As Joanna wrote in her senior yearbook page, “I am an introverted person, but Roycemore offered me a feeling like home.” or Cindy, “Roycemore gives me the sincerest warmth and sense of home,” or Bella who wrote, “I am very grateful for every experience and opportunity I got at Roycemore that helped shape who I am today.” It is important for everyone listening here today to know, that Bella, you and your fellow classmates shaped who WE are today. We are all better for having known each other and we have managed to get through a pandemic together because of our caring and tight knit community. Adam said it well in comments he wrote on his senior yearbook page, “In a year where a global pandemic and social unrest has upended our lives, Roycemore as a community helped me deal with everything that this year brought. Thanks for giving me the best possible high school experience I could ask for, despite everything that’s happened in the last year.”

Class of 2021, it is because of each one of YOU that you have had the best high school experience any one of you could ask for you… It is because you leaned in and made the best of a far less than perfect situation, making your mark in unique and powerful ways, and I am deeply proud of your achievements.

The Class of 2021 is one of the most committed groups of students in Roycemore history to the issues of social justice, equity and inclusion. Ellison, Grace, Alem, Hanu and Alexandria fostered safe spaces for students regardless of gender expression or sexual preference through their commitment to the Gender Sexuality Alliance. Amrina, Katie, Hanu and Chyna formed the Muslim Student Association and advocated for greater appreciation, awareness and support for Muslim Students at Roycemore. And Chyna, Effie, Hanu, Katie, Alexandria, Ela and Amrina’s work with the Diversity Club included several panel discussions throughout the year on the topics of race, religion and allyship.

And during their time in our Upper School they have had some interesting pursuits:

  • Hanu is a sought after babysitter.
  • Adam has worked as a personal shopper for Walmart.
  • Gary worked with the American Red Cross as a data dispatcher helping provide meaningful visual representation for disaster records in Illinois.
  • Alem is already a published author, having co-authored several articles on materials science for scientific journals.
  • Richard put his computer science and programming skills to work in order to gain a better understanding of x-ray radiation.
  • On the more humorous side…I understand that Ela once (briefly) got locked in a locker at school.
  • Riley and Adam wrote some very funny sketch comedy last year.
  • But COVID was no joke… and Effie’s app building talents were put to the test when he rose to the occasion to build the School Wellness Screener for Roycemore with Roycemore alumnus Mark Reiland. The app proved so useful that it has been deployed by nearly 40 schools all across America. More importantly, we have been able to maintain on campus school most of the year and we have had NO COVID outbreaks at Roycemore!

Two of the favorite Roycemore traditions among the Class of 2021 are Palio and JST. This senior class had lots of tumblers, including Katie, Hanu, Alem, Riley, Richard, Bella, Moly, Joanna, Cindy, Alexandria, Chyna, Nina, Alex, Ben and Leilei, who all participated in tumbling for some or all of their years in the Upper School.

And the members of the Class of 2021 also fully took advantage of JST to pursue interesting topics. With Katie, Ela, Effie and Amrina serving on the faculty-student JST committee, a number of independent projects took off…

Hanu’s project involved food recycling at Haile-Manas Academy in Ethiopia.

  • Alex Z. shadowed an oncologist.
  • Ben learned how to play the ukulele.
  • Ellison wrote and published graphic stories.
  • Chyna learned about women of worth in Ministry!
  • Alem and Grace learned to apply their learning of C+ computer programming to conduct large scale simulations or develop games.
  • Gary sought to understand machine learning in Matlab.
  • Bella tried her hand at consulting while Effie analyzed market data to better understand stocks.
  • Moly, Alexandria, Cindy and Alex all spent time building their understanding of health and wellness.
  • Katie and Amrina immersed themselves in the history of surgery.

Not all seniors pursued independent projects. When the opportunity to learn Italian cooking and language presented itself, Henry, Jake, Adam, Leilei, and Richard said “Mangiamo!”

Our seniors are motivated to make a difference in the world. They beautifully represent Roycemore’s core values of compassion and respect and volunteer their time throughout the year. Ben volunteers with meal prep for homeless individuals. He, along with fellow National Honor Society members Richard, Amrina, Gary, Ela, Ellison, Grace, Joanna, Alexandria, Katie, Hanu, and Alex launched a new virtual tutoring program to provide assistance to younger Roycemore students this year. Ellison, Amrina, Effie, Hanu, Katie and Grace also supported “students” at the other end of the age spectrum through the Tech Tutoring program with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Ellison even joined the middle school D&D club this year and brought Grace along to help the students have a better adventure and convince them to get into character. Katie, Alem and Hanu also supported our younger students to strengthen their math skills by sponsoring a Math Club for young Griffins. Several of our seniors also want to share their love of their school by serving as admissions ambassadors like Chyna, Effie, Hanu, Katie, Amrina, and Alexandria did. Moly, Gary and Leilei also served as ambassador students to newly admitted international students. Chyna, Effie, Hanu, Alexandria, and Ela went above and beyond to help fundraising efforts by calling nearly 100 Roycemore alumni from home. And Adam, Riley, Grace, Ela, Moly, Bella, Cindy, Chyna, Ellison, Effie, Hanu, Alexandria, Katie and Amrina assisted with the Scholarship Fundraiser over the years.

A global pandemic did not get this class down even when it came to the spring play, as seniors Alexandria, Ela, Richard and Hanu played key roles in the outstanding radio play production of “Sorry Wrong Number. “

Our seniors are publishers with Chyna, Effie, Ela and Ellison serving on the yearbook staff. Last year Bella leveraged her understanding of communications and technology to spearhead the addition of QR codes as part of the yearbook, with the support of Moly and Cindy. And Grace and Ela began the Literary Magazine, then brought in Hanu as a master team to ensure the magazine got published featuring the work of students from all divisions of the school.

And our Class of 2021 is artistic:

  • I think many of us can relate to the words of Moly: “As a young girl, drawing was a sanctuary, and I drew for the mere pleasure of creation. Like many other children, my childhood dream was to become an artist. As I grew up, I thought this would only be a dream. However, people at Roycemore made me realize that my dream is the most important thing in the world, not only for myself. I got to dream something big and everyone in the school was willing to help me to find the best way and build up my unique character.”
  • Moly will head off to the School of the Art Institute in the fall. Two of her classmates will also be focusing on artistic pursuits in college with Cindy heading to The New School (Parsons) and Alex O. looking forward to attending The Culinary Institute.
  • Other classmates may continue some focus on artforms that they love, such as Grace and Bella in the fine arts, Ela with her Indian dance, or perhaps our K-Pop Dancers of Moly, Alex N., Leilei, and Bella will have a K-Pop reunion at some point in time? Or Cindy or Joanna might get the band back together?
  • Some students have sought to express their artistic talents in other novel ways. Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, Minecraft and D&D are among the creative pursuits of the gamers in this senior class, who include Riley, Adam, Ellison, Grace, Katie and Alem. And Bella pursued opportunities with the New York Times, WeChat and Zhejiang Television to publish vlogs.

And not only are they artistic, but our seniors are athletic, with:

  • Jake serving as captain of the basketball team and has played each of his years in high school.
  • Ben is a championship rower.
  • Katie, Nina, Cindy, Moly, Bella, Leilei, Alexandria, and Chyna participated in basketball.
  • Nina is an accomplished tennis player.
  • Moly, Katie, Cindy, Bella, Chyna, and Ela participated on the Volleyball team at least one of their high school years.
  • Alem, Richard, Chyna and Gary played soccer.
  • Alem, Hanu, Effie, Alex and Gary ran cross country.
  • Richard is a sailor and a fencer.

Oh, and we must not forget ping pong!! While not a varsity sport, it is a favorite memory for many of our seniors!

The senior class has fully enjoyed the variety of ways that they have been able to interact with younger students in the building, from Carnival, to the Zone, to Lunar New Year, Wassail and Griffin Buddies. Nina, Chyna, and Richard loved working with the Middle School students in the Zone and LeiLei, Joanna, Chyna. And all of our seniors were paired with younger students as their Griffin Buddies.

The Class of 2021 is a class of scholars with Alem, Richard, Katie, Bella, Gary, Alex, Hanu and Amrina taking classes at Northwestern this year; three of our seniors- Alex, Bella and Katie were named AP Scholars, Gary was named an AP Scholar with Distinction, and Alem, Hanu and Richard were named AP Scholars with Honors. Chyna, Nina, Alexandria, Ben, ‘Moly’ and Effie received the President’s Award for educational achievement. AND Richard, Amrina, Gary, Ela, Ellison, Joanna, Katie, Alem, Hanu, Bella, Cindy and Alex Z. were recognized with the President’s Award for Educational Excellence. Ela has been honored as an Illinois State Scholar. The College Board National African American Recognition Program has recognized Hanu for his outstanding achievement on the PSAT and the National Merit Scholarship program has named Richard as a Commended Scholar.

With all of this achievement, it is no wonder that our 25 seniors have been offered nearly $3M in scholarships to college in the years ahead.

There are MANY more stories to tell about the class of 2021 at Roycemore — apparently including a strange obsession with The Waffle House? Leave it to say, this class has left its mark. We are forever changed by you, and you by each other. We are excited for you as you take the next steps in your educational career and in your lives. And we TRULY hope you come back to visit often and stay connected to your Griffin family!!