Graduation: Emerging from the Chrysalis

15 April 2024
Last week at Walford we celebrated our graduating Class of 2023.

Last week at Walford we celebrated our graduating Class of 2023.

This is one of the best and most emotional weeks in any school calendar, a week of moving ceremonies and meaningful traditions that reveal all that a school has meant to a cohort of students, and all that those students have meant to their school community.

At Walford, our students participate in student-led assemblies in which they share speeches, videos and dances that reflect on their time at the School. Our Year 12s are gifted an incredible themed breakfast by the Year 11 leadership group, and they pass through a guard of honour made up of students and staff from ELC-12 who cheer them on as they pass through the Heart of Walford, where they ring the historic bell, and out the School gate, as a symbolic ending to their formal schooling. They also enjoy a graduation ceremony and post-ceremony celebrations with families and staff.

Our Year 12s graduated with grace, fun and solidarity, expressing their immense gratitude for the friendships, opportunities and support they received during their unique Walford experiences. For many students, it was bittersweet, with the sadness of an era ending, and the excitement of new beginnings. It was filled with the nostalgia of all they had encountered and the comfort of what and who they know at Walford.

Graduation marks a time of endings and beginnings; students leave the chrysalis of the school cocoon, with its comfort and support, and spread their wings ready to enter the world beyond. A chrysalis is always formed in a sheltered and safe space. It begins as a soft cocoon but over time, as silken thread is added to silken thread, the cocoon hardens and becomes a protective shell. At Walford, our students have become protected by thread upon thread of connection, community, opportunity and experience. Year after year, they are surrounded by wonderful friends and family, dedicated and expert teaching staff, and inspiring old scholars, who all support them in their individual journeys through school. The intimate size of our school, and our commitment to each student and her growth, allows our staff to wrap around each young person and to know each family. Our students comment that they love knowing everyone in their year group, but also peers across the whole school.

Parents are a key part of the protective cocoon from which students emerge when they graduate. They have walked alongside their daughter and in partnership with the school. They have made a significant investment in their daughter, some for more than 13 years, to provide her with the distinct privilege of a Walford education, often at substantial sacrifice to themselves. As a school, we understand the faith required to entrust a child into our care for their education, and in the case of boarding, to walk with them in their daily lives and through the ups and downs of adolescence. It was humbling last week to hear parents’ stories of their daughter’s experience of being seen, heard, known and catered for in our school, and the warmth, groundedness, and care that has resonated throughout their daughters’ experiences at Walford.

As students grow within the Walford cocoon, they transform within an environment that is so much more than schooling or learning. Each individual is more than a score or a list of achievements. Walford’s culture of leading—in which leadership is about character and way of being, not a badge or position—is embodied in the Walford motto of Virtute et Veritate— ‘Moral Courage and Truth’. It is evident in how female leadership, voice, ambition, and achievement are normalised, and how students’ confidence grows across their school journey.

Being a Walford woman means living truthfully and acting courageously. Each student is encouraged to be principled, courageous, and to advocate for what is right, rather than what might be popular or easy. Walford students are confident, capable, and compassionate. They are independent thinkers and know how to be adventurous, to have fun, to try new things, to learn from failure, and to support their peers. They become world-ready young women who are curious global learners, reflective thinkers, warm collaborators, accomplished communicators, and compelling leaders. Our 2023 graduating class are women not afraid to step up and speak up, who will continue to change the world for the better.

Our graduates are forever bonded by their time at Walford. Soon they will become Walford old scholars and join the ranks of the remarkable graduates of the School. When I see Walford women out in the world, they are kind, compassionate and dedicated to making a positive difference. They are formidable in their talents, achievements, and determination.

And so, I encouraged our Year 12s, as they emerge from the chrysalis of a Walford education, to continue to shine, to grow, to take up space, and to be unapologetic in their desire to learn, live, and contribute to making the world a better place for others. I shared with them the words of Minor Myers Jnr., words I know they will bring to fruition: “Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”

Dr​ Deborah Netolicky