Out-of-Door students, faculty, and staff gathered at the Uihlein Campus in Lakewood Ranch to celebrate the Class of 2019 at the annual Convocation ceremony today.
This start-of-the-year gathering of students from both campuses honors the seniors as they begin their year as leaders of the student body. Parents of kindergarteners and seniors are invited to join in the festivities held in the Petrik Thunderdome.
Convocation is a tradition which began in 2002, when former Dean of Students Martha Holland developed the event as a way to acknowledge the responsibilities of the senior class as the leaders of the school community. The initial ceremony focused around the senior class signing the School’s honor pledge in front of the Middle School and Upper School student body. In 2004, Convocation became an all-school event where each class began to actively participate in the ceremony. Seniors were matched with kindergarten “buddies,” who they mentor throughout the year.
Now in its 15th year, Convocation is one of the annual events that the student body, faculty, and staff eagerly look forward to. Each class presents a gift to the seniors to honor their final year at ODA. Ms. L’Tanya Evans, Associate Head of School for Academic Affairs has been running the event since its inception. “Being a pre-K - 12 school on two campuses, sometimes we can feel like two schools. Convocation is an event that makes us feel like one school. The whole community comes together. It’s a joy.”
As a complement to the day's celebration, students, faculty, and staff arrived on the Uihlein Campus with boxes of cereal to donate for a service project. Volunteers collected the boxes in large bins in front of the Savidge/Bowers Library, and the cereal will be brought to All Faiths Food Bank for distribution.
The day started with a procession of the seniors and their kindergarten buddies. As the classes filled the Petrik Thunderdome, the Middle and Upper School Orchestra played a processional, adding to the festive atmosphere. Once everyone was seated, Head of School Mr. David Mahler addressed the audience, officially opening the Convocation ceremony.
Mrs. Tanna Horner, Head of Lower School, introduced each group from Siesta Key who performed songs to honor the Class of 2019. The kindergarten class performed the song, “Twinkle, Twinkle My Senior.” Jack Favara ‘29 and Zila Morsli ‘29 then led the pre-K, first grade, and second grade in their presentation of Wish Boxes to each of the seniors. Each personalized Wish Box was created in art class, and a special wish was written and placed inside for the senior for whom it was made. Students in grades 3 - 5 sang “Ode to Seniors.”
Head of Middle School Mrs. Julie Bianchi took the stage to introduce the Classes of 2025, 2024, and 2023. Senior siblings Abbey Burwood ‘24, Sebastian Espinel ‘25, Katy Fulton ‘24, Chase Hamill ‘23, Claire Hansen ‘24, Mohamad Kayali ‘24, Luca Marina ‘23, Camiryn Opstal ‘25, Sydney Opstal ‘23, Tristyn Opstal ‘25, and Owen Studdiford ‘24 introduced their presentation, “Transforming Lives,” a fundraising gift from the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Their gift, a donation to The Shriners Hospital for Children in Tampa in honor of the Class of 2019, was then presented to Lady Kathy Rodd, a representative of the hospital.
Mr. Christopher Chesley, Head of Upper School introduced the ninth grade and tenth grade student siblings of the seniors. Chelsea Ball ‘21, Hayden Bizik ‘21, Margaret Buck ‘21, Dru Cappar ‘21, Jackson Carlton ‘21, Wyatt Carlton ‘21, Andres Espinel ‘22, Neim Faqqouseh ‘22, Shelby Fulton ‘21, Anthony Gaukhman ‘22, Alex Hall ‘22, Ashley Hamill ‘21, Adam Hansen ‘21, Samantha Malcolm ‘22, Aidan Marino ‘22, Ryan Newhams ‘22, Eli Newman ‘21, Cam O’Callaghan ‘21, Cate Paxton ‘22, Grady Paxton ‘22, Alena Schiro ‘22, Maeve Studdiford ‘21, Jakub Svoboda ‘22, Jenna Viard ‘21, and Reece Whatmore ‘21 provided the narration for their presentation, “Sweet Things.”
The juniors came to the stage next to offer their gift to the senior class. Their video, Meet the Class of ‘19, was presented by Colin Castro ‘20, Maram Faqqouseh ‘20, Daniel Fernandez ‘20, Myles Gilbert ‘20, and Harrison Koffman ‘20.
When all of the class gifts had been presented, Dr. Ellen Zitani, Head of the History Department, came to the podium to present the faculty gift to the Class of 2019. This year's book was "The Envelope System," authored by Dr. Zitani with a cover designed by Dylan Dennehy '19. The book will be available in the library for students.
Class representatives Leeson Foullon ‘19 and Kelland Timothy ‘19 rose to make the Class of 2019 presentation of the Honor Scroll to the School. They spoke about the meaning of the Honor Code and how it tied into one of the five core values of the School - Integrity. The scroll, signed by the students in the Upper School, promises that the students pledge to uphold and respect The Out-of-Door Academy’s Honor Code.
Mr. Mahler then came to the stage to present the Head of School’s gift to the seniors. He talked about the importance of the senior class's role during the course of their final year at ODA: "Your character and behavior will be what defines you in life," he said, reminding them of the responsibility of their leadership and maintaining their integrity within the ODA community. Mr. Mahler then bestowed two gifts to the class. The first, an early delivery of the coveted senior parking spaces, usually not available until much later in the year, was met with cheers. The second is a gift tied to the many Legacy and Lifers of the class. A tree will be planted in honor of the Class of 2019 on Commencement Day on the campus. "As we watch the tree grow, its growth will be symbolic of your growth along with your life's journeys," said Mr. Mahler.
At the end of the program, seniors gathered their kindergarten buddies and led the student body out of the Thunderdome as the orchestra played an uplifting recessional tune. The Classes of 2019 and 2031 then gathered to take the traditional “bell” photos before joining their parents in the Savidge/Bowers Library for a casual reception. This feel-good tradition exudes a sense of unity as the entire student body comes together to honor our eldest students as they begin their final year at ODA.For photos from Convocation, visit our Facebook photo album