ODA Convocation Tradition Celebrates the Class of 2023

The tradition of Convocation at The Out-of-Door Academy began in 2002 to acknowledge the senior class as the leaders of the school community. The event initially focused around the graduating class signing the School’s honor pledge in front of the Middle School and Upper School student body, but within two years Convocation had evolved to include the kindergarteners—just beginning their educational journey at ODA—into the celebration. Click for photos from the event. 

Each fall, seniors are matched with kindergarten “buddies” to mentor throughout the year. This year, they got to know one another at the Senior-Kindergarten Picnic held on the Siesta Key Campus. Then, Lower Schoolers came to the Uihlein Campus for Convocation, a feel-good tradition that exudes a sense of unity as the student body comes together to honor our eldest students as they begin their final year at ODA. Seniors make their entrance hand-in-hand with their kindergarten buddies.
The ceremony included the presentation of gifts from each division, the educators that comprise Team ODA, and ODA’s Parent Association. Kindergarteners sang “You’ve Got a Friend In Me,” first through fifth graders sang “Fight Song,” and “Ashokan Farewell” was also performed by Middle & Upper School strings students. 

Our Middle Schoolers continued the tradition of giving the gift of Kids Helping Kids. Elle Arslaner ’27, Brooks Becker ’28, Emi Briceno ’29, Grant Campbell ’29, Jack Nuckols ’28, Owen Peterson ’27, and Anna Vatter ’28—all siblings of seniors—presented a check for the V Foundation to legendary sports announcer Mr. Dick Vitale, to aid in the research of pediatric cancer. The assembled students and parents were honored to hear Mr. Vitale share inspiring words of hope.

“There’s so much love in this room…I don’t know if you realize it, but there’s so much love in this room…and how blessed you are to be able to be at this school where people care about you. You’re here because someone loves you,” said Mr. Vitale. “You get an opportunity to grow, to be successful, to be successful in the biggest game of all, the game of life.

“Set your goals, have a driving desire, and have a sense of pride in everything you do in life. Be sure to have PRIDE. ‘P’ for perseverance; ‘R’ for respect–respect all and fear none; ‘I’ for intelligence. I’m not talking just book intelligence, I’m talking about intelligence for making decisions in your life; ‘D’–make good decisions and good things happen…and if you have ‘E’, excitement, and enthusiasm for everything in life.” 

Carolyne Fincher ‘26, Claire Giraud ‘24, and McKenna Larkin ‘25 took to the podium to dedicate the Upper School’s gift of “First Fridays.” “On the first Friday of every month, the seniors will receive a treat during lunch,” explained McKenna. “This treat will come in the form of live music, games, and/or special snacks on the Quad for them all to enjoy.”

The Gift from Team ODA–kept shrouded in a veil of mystery–was teased but not revealed during Mrs. Julie Bianchi’s address to the Class of 2023. “In deciding on what would be an appropriate gift for you, we discussed what makes the class of 2023 unique and we could not overlook your incredible strength and will to succeed…you can look forward to receiving a special gift the week of Homecoming, symbolizing the incredible helix that makes your DNA, Class of 2023, truly one of a kind.”

The Parent Association’s president, Mrs. Claire Moxcey, followed with the gift of “Fun on the Quad.” She announced the purchase of two ODA customized cornhole games and a giant Jenga set for seniors, “It’s our hope this will add to the fun you and your classmates have on campus!”

Head of School Mrs. Deb Otey then joined Johnny Robinson ’23 and Maria Shaw ’23 at the podium to receive the Honor Scroll. The two seniors 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 all the students in the Upper School, promises that the students pledge to uphold and respect The Out-of-Door Academy’s Honor Code.

After accepting the scroll, Mrs. Otey addressed the seniors. “It is such a joy for me to be a part of today’s ceremony,” she said. “Thank you for welcoming me - and thank you for your commitment to using your influence for good! I look forward to partnering with you as we set the tone and the standard for all ODA can be!” Mrs. Otey’s gifts–a music playlist, “get out of class” card,” and dress down days, were received with a rousing round of appreciative applause from the Class of 23.

Finally, in keeping with ODA’s dedication to Service, students, faculty, and staff arrived on the Uihlein Campus this year with canned items to donate for our “Seniors Can Do Great Things” service project–always an important component to this event. Bins near the Savidge/Bowers Library were filled with donations, which benefit the Food Bank of Manatee and those in need in our community. Over 1,826 pounds of food were collected which equals out to 1,500 meals!

We are excited for the Class of 2023 and congratulate them as they begin their final year at Out-of-Door. We look forward to watching them as they move to the next steps in their educational careers!

The Out-of-Door Academy

LOWER SCHOOL |  Historic Siesta Key Campus  |  Pre-K – Grade 5
444 Reid Street, Sarasota, FL 34242  |  941-349-3223  |  Fax: 941-349-8133

  |  Uihlein Campus in Lakewood Ranch  |  Grades 6 – 8 |  Grades 9 – 12
5950 Deer Drive, Sarasota, FL 34240  |  941-349-3223  |  Fax: 941-907-1251
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