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Congratulations, Class of 2023!

On June 2, the Santa Fe Prep community gathered in the Upper School quad (for the first time since 2019!) in celebration of the Class of 2023. Surrounded by their families, friends, teachers, and mentors, the 49 graduating seniors were treated to song, impassioned speeches, and even a final chemistry lesson. In his opening remarks, Head of School Aaron Schubach spoke frankly about issues of humanity and human emotions in this time of ChatGPT and the growing presence of AI in our lives.

“What does it mean to embrace our humanity? Is it to celebrate finitude and transition, doubt and hope, regret and joy? All emotions you might be experiencing today. Mental health researcher Jean Twenge urges young people to remember that mental health is defined as the appropriate response to the stimuli. It’s okay if sad things make you sad—all of our emotions have a place. Today you are going to feel many things, but don’t skip over being proud of yourself.”

Alumnus PaaWee Rivera ’09 reflected on his childhood in the Pueblo of Pojoaque, his decision to challenge himself as a young student by attending high school at Prep, and the many choices, opportunities, and variables since his Commencement ceremony that have led him to his current position as Senior Advisor and Tribal Affairs Director for the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. When he recently found himself preparing to brief President Biden in the Oval Office ahead of the White House Tribal Nations Summit, PaaWee was struck by the fact that he was not sitting at that decision-making table because he had planned it that way but because, when asked, he was well prepared for that moment, to say yes to that unexpected opportunity.

“Today is an incredibly important milestone in your lives, and you should be proud. The skills and experiences that you’ve gained here will be the reason that you’re prepared to embrace opportunities—planned or otherwise—that will help you decide what the future holds for you. You should come to expect success, not as a one-off chance or luck, but through your persistence.”

Rae Ota—recipient of the Douglas Schwartz Class Speaker Award—echoed these sentiments as she described the ways in which the Covid pandemic shaped the Prep experience of the Class of 2023 and how the time spent and lessons learned here have prepared them for what comes next.

“Ideally, I’d like to give this high school experience a 10/10… Still, there are many things along the way that did not go as expected… I think only a very few of us will tell you everything worked exactly as envisioned. But in each unpredicted instance, we have been determining for ourselves how to be with each outcome… On every path we find ourselves, planned or unplanned, we can choose how to perceive it and base our actions from there.”

To close the ceremony, Valedictorian Fionnuala Moore’s speech was presented as a lesson in chemistry, explaining how atoms form bonds—an “enchanting, miraculous” process that occurs between hydrogen atoms as well as Santa Fe Prep students.

“After sharing our days, our goals, our fears and dreams with this community for so long, we’ve emerged fundamentally, chemically changed. We’re bonded… We will always have these bonds as a part of us, helping to determine who we are and what we will do in the future.”

If you missed the festivities or would like to revisit any of these special moments, a recording of the full ceremony is available to view on the Santa Fe Prep YouTube channel.