Stanwich School celebrates first commencement

Stanwich School's Class of 2014 will be heading off to college in the fall.

Stanwich School’s Class of 2014 will be heading off to college in the fall.

Graduation is a lifetime milestone for any student, but the 16 graduating seniors of Stanwich School are about to experience a historic one as well.

This afternoon, for the first time since opening its doors in 1998, the pre-K to grade 12 institution will be holding a commencement ceremony to celebrate the successful matriculation of its Upper Sch

ool seniors. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a Greenwich resident and former Stanwich parent, will serve as the keynote speaker of a program that also features school founder Pat Young and Rabbi Andrew Sklarz of the Greenwich Reform Synagogue.

“I’m excited and proud to attend this joyous and significant graduation launching these very special young people on the next phase of their educational journey,” Mr. Blumenthal said in a statement.

The commencement will take place at 4 p.m. at the school at 257 Stanwich Road.

Thursday’s proceedings coincide with Ms. Young’s initial vision for the school, which originally opened with 72 students in kindergarten to second grade. Now in its 16th year, Stanwich School serves 350 students, emphasizing a Judeo-Christian foundation and intimate educational environment. All 16 members of the graduating class plan to attend four-year colleges in the fall, having earned more than 40 merit-based scholarships worth over $500,000.

Upper School Head Jerome Murphy compared the school’s planning process to “trying to put together 16 separate weddings at the same time,” making note of the personal significance that the commencement carries for each graduate. Stanwich worked to make the program as inclusive as possible, with students from the Lower School, which houses pre-K to sixth grade, providing musical selections while Upper School students serve as ushers for the event.

An open invitation was extended to those looking to help the school celebrate the occasion.

“We’ve had a graduation committee in place for about a year and a half now, and we’ve met almost every week or every other week over that time planning this out,” Mr. Murphy said. “With the logistics and the details that go into this [commencement], knowing this is the first one in our school’s history has of course added to the gravitas, we’ve been very mindful in how we plan this ceremony.”

Aspiring surgeon Garsy Presumey-Leblanc will address the class as valedictorian. As a Stanwich student, Garsy has been persistent in the pursuit of her dream, volunteering at Greenwich Hospital in her spare time and participating in a variety of high-profile programs through Johns Hopkins, Princeton and the National Student Leadership Conference. Her hard work paid off, earning her admittance to Vanderbilt, her first-choice college.

Salutatorian Caroline Drennan is the only graduate to have attended Stanwich School from kindergarten through, making her the school’s first “lifer.” Caroline recorded the highest SAT score in her class, and has been accepted to Washington and Lee for the fall semester. The Drennan family has been a part of Stanwich since its opening, having enrolled two of Caroline’s older siblings before the school expanded to accommodate the upper grades. Jesse Drennan, Caroline’s mother, joined Stanwich’s administrative staff three years ago and now serves as assistant head of admissions.

“I feel like they have helped them figure out who they are and what type of person they want to be,” Ms. Drennan said of Stanwich’s value-based program. “Academically, they’re very prepared, but the moral leadership program really helps when they have to go off to college; she’ll be grounded when it comes time to make the right decisions.”

Once the school year ends, Stanwich will be moving its Upper School classes to its main campus at 257 Stanwich Road. The Upper School, which includes grades seven to 12, is currently housed at 200 Strawberry Hill Avenue in Stamford, but the school has opted to not to renew its lease for the property when it expires in June. The location had previously been home to Sacred Heart Academy before its closing in 2006, and will remain under the ownership of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery.

By uniting the Upper and Lower School campuses, Stanwich School will succeed in creating Greenwich’s first ever pre-K to grade 12 coeducational independent institution. Head of School Paul Geise will oversee the transition during his fourth year in the role, and shared his excitement over the potential impact the change will have.

“What we’re doing is exceedingly important. We’re affecting not only the history of this school but that of the community as well, and that’s pretty cool,” Mr. Geise told the Post. “We [have] created a community that sets high personal and academic standards, but [have] also created a mindful community where there was a mutual support, seeking the best in each other.”

With its first class of seniors moving on to college, Stanwich School looks to continue cultivating that strong community on the newly unified campus in the fall.

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