Congratulations on an Extraordinary Journey, TNCS Class of 2020!

On Wednesday, June 10, 2020, The New Century School was proud and thrilled to graduate its second class of 8th-graders, a monumental accomplishment in more ways than one. In a year during which the out-of-the-ordinary became the new ordinary, these middle schoolers faced not only the challenges inherent in adolescence and making the huge transition to high school, but wholly new kinds of challenges as well, including embarking on their coming-of-age journeys during a worldwide pandemic and then witnessing the massive and ongoing societal protest against racism in all its many forms.

Through all of this upheaval, TNCS graduates stayed connected to their values and to each other. While the pandemic forced them to stay physically remote from each other, they nevertheless drew closer together. In fact, the same can be said for the TNCS community as a whole, and we should be proud of this, too.

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The TNCS Graduation Ceremony for the Class of 2020 took place over Zoom. For anyone worrying that the 8th-graders missed out on not being able to walk across a stage, shake hands, throw their caps in the air, and embrace each other, be consoled. This ceremony—though different, to be sure—was beautiful. Although we can’t show the whole recording here to protect TNCS students’ privacy, participants dropped regularly from the Zoom screen to wipe their tears off camera. Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 12.38.32 PM

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 3.44.41 PMThe ceremony began with TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan’s welcome. “While we cannot be in person as we had hoped,” she began, “we wish to make this celebration as special as we can. We appreciate you being here as a community and as a family.”

Next, came a video of the TNCS String Ensemble playing “Red Wing,” a feat of production pulled off by former TNCS Strings Instructor Yoshiaki Horiguchi.

This was followed by some “Words of Wisdom” from several 8th-graders to 5th-graders, who also graduated (from the TNCS Elementary Program) this year and will begin Middle School for the 2020–2021 school year.

“Middle school is a short and fun ride,” began one student, “but you have to make it that way by beginning with a positive attitude. The work will be harder, and the workload bigger, but that’s life. Think of middle school as a stepping stone for high school, college, and the ‘real world.’ It’s important to let work come before recreation so you can reap the rewards later in life. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask your elders for guidance. After all, experience is one of life’s greatest teachers.”

“Always do your homework,” warned another. “It will pile up otherwise, and you will fall behind. To handle the workload, make a schedule and do your work with energy.”

Said a third student: “My words of advice are to not always hang out with the same people. You can get to know new people and realize how cool they are. And be yourself.”

“I want you to know that a lot of exciting things are about to happen to you,” said yet a fourth. “It may seem like there are a lot of obstacles in middle school and a lot of work, but use your time wisely, and you’ll persevere. If you’re going to go to a good high school, you’ll need good grades. Something I learned about myself is that I’m strong. There were times when I wanted to give up and times when I lost faith in my myself, but I pushed myself, and look where I’m at.”

“To be the best version of yourself, avoid the drama—just be yourself. Also put 100% in; don’t do things halfway so you can feel proud of your work.”

“Middle school can be a great experience, but it all depends on your mindset. It will be challenging, but if you decide to face difficulties head on, you will succeed. It all pays off in the end. Stay confident and work hard. These years will shape you as a person. Make good use of them because you’re not going to get them back.”

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These sage pieces of advice were followed by an “Homage to the Graduates” by the 7th-graders, some of whom have known each other since kindergarten, in TNCS’s very first days. This segment was especially poignant, as most graduates will attend different high schools, and paths will diverge. In their clips, 7th-graders reminisced about how they met their 8th-grade mentors, celebrated their positive attributes, and wished them good luck. Cue the waterworks!

“See you later friend,” said one. “Hopefully we cross paths another time.”

“Without [my friend], I wouldn’t be the person I am today, taking me out of my comfort zone and encouraging me to be my best,” said another. “Good friends are like stars,” she quoted. “You can’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.”

“I look up to [my friend]. She is full of bright ideas, and I admire this. She is an amazing leader and has an adventurous and caring spirit.”

“[My friend] showed me a lot of things that I couldn’t have gotten from anyone else. He showed me my now favorite instrument, the bass guitar. He’s such a caring person. Something I like about him is his plentiful amount of determination. He could always make it work. We’re all rooting for you.”

“[My friend] always stands up for what she believes in. She is a natural leader. Although it is sad to say goodbye, I know we will never forget each other.”

“My favorite thing about [my friend] is his sense of humor, which matches mine. I also admire his smartness. Thank you for being such a great friend to me. Hopefully, we can stay in contact.”

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Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 2.37.13 PMRemarks by one of the six graduating 8th-graders came next. He was challenged more than he thought possible in the last year, he recounted, and was surprised to learn that he enjoyed the creative writing assignments Mrs. Hope gave him.

He feels his creativity, open-mindedness, and intuitiveness have all benefited. He went on to explain what he feels sets TNCS apart.

TNCS prides itself on four core values: Compassion, courage, respect, and service. These are great traits for any student to have, and the teachers and staff put a lot of effort into emphasizing their importance. Perhaps the most impressive feature of TNCS is that it has plenty of both Mandarin and Spanish teachers. The ability to speak the three most spoken languages in the world will be fundamental to ur success. I know this skill set will open many doors for us. Finally, as a parting gift, I’d like to give my fellow graduates a lesson of my own. Until recently, I hadn’t realized the value of hard work. However, I now have purpose and determination to succeed. Congratulations, graduates. I bid you a merry farewell and a great life ahead of you.

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 3.11.46 PMAdriana DuPrau spoke next. Although she is now TNCS’s Curriculum Coordinator, she also has the distinction of being one of TNCS’s very first teachers and taught some of these 8th-graders when they were in kindergarten and 1st grade—she taught many of them to read! Mrs. DuPrau remarked that it has been a privilege to watch them learn and grow, and she has been with them the whole way in one capacity or another. It was especially moving to hear her remember them as small children “sitting criss-cross applesauce” on her classroom rug, and then describe them now on the brink of the next big step. “Your journey at TNCS may be ending,” she said, “but the journey of your life is just beginning.” She quoted from “Oh, the Places You Can Go” and closed by saying that it was an honor and pleasure to have watched them “blossom into young scholars, scientists, environmentalists, artists, musicians, mathematicians, and authors. You are articulate and thoughtful, she said, “You have strong voices to express yourself and deep insight to think about the world. You have grown as individuals, too, and what it means to be a kind and caring classmate, friend, and world citizen. You have taught me so much.”

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Mrs. DuPrau also thanked parents for entrusting their children’s education to TNCS as well as TNCS teachers for “having great expectations and loving these kids each and every day.”

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Surprise guests spoke next, as former TNCS teachers, recent friends, and a Class of 2019 graduate shared their well wishes with the graduates. 

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“Yours was the very first class I ever taught. In my time at TNCS with you, I knew I met some students who are going to change the world.” –Lindsay Duprey, former TNCS Teacher

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 3.20.50 PM “I’m so excited for you guys to be moving onto high school. I absolutely loved being your art teacher and to see you grow as artists over the years. Together, we learned about taking chances and sharing ideas. My wish for you is to keep on dreaming and drawing to make this a more just and beautiful world.” –Jenny Miller, former TNCS Art Teacher

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 3.26.23 PM“I wish you good luck your whole life!” —Sr. Ronnie, driver Costa Rica capstone trip

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 3.28.00 PM“Hola todos! I am very proud of you, and I wish you the best. I’m so happy I had the chance to see you again when you came to Costa Rica!” –Raquel Álvarez, former TNCS Teacher

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 3.31.23 PM“You’re about to face a huge turning point in your life—be ready for it!” Zaila, TNCS Class of 2019

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 3.34.18 PM“I’m extremely proud of all of you, and I’m looking for you to do amazing things in the future.” –Martellies Warren, former TNCS Music Teacher

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Thank you for making that happen, Mrs. DuPrau!Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 3.47.26 PM

At this point in the ceremony, Sra. Duncan gave her Commencement Speech.

This year began like so many others, getting back into the routine of going to school. You met Mrs. Hope and rose to that occasion; there was a flurry of activity, such as Hispanic Heritage Night, preparing for high school, and the Winter Concert that made the fall just fly by. We then added two new community celebrations to the winter calendar with Lunar New Year and Black History Month.

It seems especially poignant to me that both of these events occurred not long before we had to close the campus and move to virtual learning. My last memories of all of us together were celebrations of what makes TNCS a wonderful place. The richness of our cultural diversity, the incredible dedication of our teachers and students, and the way we come together as a community. This has served us well during this time when we are most separated.

I have listened to your teachers talk with admiration about how you have adapted to the virtual learning environment. You have supported each other, taken time to read to primary students, and have looked beyond yourselves to talk about your place in the fight for social justice. Members of the Class of 2020, you embody the spirit of our Core Values, Compassion, Courage, Respect, and Service, through leading school drives or service initiatives that you chose, having thoughtful and profound conversation with Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Danyali during social-emotional learning lessons, and acting as ambassadors for admissions tours and open houses.

Throughout the planning of this ceremony, it was mentioned repeatedly how much we will all miss you. Your thoughtfulness, your ability to speak up, your care for your school community and the world around you are just a tiny portion of what makes you special. My hope for you is that, as you depart TNCS, you will continue to be the outstanding individuals that you have grown to be, that you heed your own advice that you gave to 5th-graders as you move on to high school—be individuals have a plan for your work, avoid the drama, and cherish the time you have. Please remember TNCS, come back to visit us often, and make your indelible mark on this world that you were destined to make.

The TNCS gate is open; it’s time for you to go. It’s your time.

After her moving and heartfelt words, Sra. Duncan thanked everyone who made this event, and the 2019–2020 school year, possible. Just when the audience thought it couldn’t get any better, the final segment of the ceremony brought the house down.

Tribute to the 8th grade was produced by a TNCS 8th-grader, who is also a TNCS original, having been at the school since its inception.

And with that, goodbye 2019–2020 school year—it’s been not just out of the ordinary . . . it has been extraordinary.

Take pride in how far you have come; have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

–Nameeta Sharma, quoting Michael Josephson

“There’s a reason I’ve never taught 8th-grade—I have such a hard time saying goodbye to my students after just one year, and I’m definitely realizing it today as I’m saying goodbye to you. You are such an incredible group of students and humans, and I’m privileged to have been your teacher and to have watched you grow academically and socially and emotionally. . . I can’t wait to see how you transform the world and what kind of mark you leave on it.”

–Daphnée Hope

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TNCS Winter Concert 2019: Cold Hands, Warm Hearts, and Hot Chocolate!

Elementary- Middle Winter Concert Program 2019_1At The New Century School, two yearly events are the most anticipated happenings of the year—the Winter and Spring performances. This year’s Elementary and Middle School Winter Concert featured new TNCS Musical Director Javan Bowden. He put together a truly great show and introduced a few new approaches to the format, including having students introduce the songs they were about to sing with an interesting tidbit about its background written by Mr. Bowden.

As always, the show started with TNCS students wowing the audience with their Mandarin Chinese and Spanish prowess.

Songs in World Languages

First up, TNCS Kindergarten and 1st-graders sang “The Face of Happiness” (幸福的脸) by composer Dàjūn Huáng.

Next, students in grades 2 through 8 took the stage to sing “Our Time” (Wǒmen de shídài,我们的时光), by TFBOYS and composed by Mr. Fantastic and Yun Yun Wang.

For the third and final selection of the world languages portion, all elementary and middle school students joined together for “La Bikina,” by Rubén Fuentes.

Strings Ensembles

Next up was the instrumental part of the show. Said TNCS strings instructor Yoshiaki Horiguchi:

Welcome to the strings portion of the Winter Concert at The New Century School. Thank you for all the music teachers and families parents and students who do everything that they do for this community. The wonderful thing about this presentation that we’re about to perform is that the strings program in its fourth year of existence, so I’ve had these kids for a few years now, and it’s such a wonderful pleasure to see them grow and learn and develop as people through instruments. The first couple of years is devoted to learning the actual instrument, but this year, we actually got to explore a lot more of the creative process and learning how to work together through music. This arrangement is something that they put together themselves. I hope you all enjoy “Appalachia Waltz,” by the TNCS Alsop String Ensemble and composed by Mark O’Connor.

The Alsop Ensemble was followed up by the Bernstein Ensemble, who played “Red Wing,” also by Mark O’Connor.

Choral Selections

The final and largest group of songs was put together by Mr. Bowden:

I’m Javan Bowden, and I have the honor of being this year’s music director at The New Century School. It has definitely been a pleasure preparing the students for our Winter Concert. We will be delivering seven selections, the first from our K/1 group, called “Winter Wiggles,” by Teresa Jennings. Here we go!

These songs had wonderful accompaniment by some friends of Mr. Bowden’s—Stephen Moore on bass guitar and Peter Roberts on piano.

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Following the K/1 group, most of the next songs were introduced by TNCS students, as mentioned above. Next up, a TNCS 6th-grader introduced “I Have a Voice”:

Over 70 child actors from Broadway’s School of Rock,  The Lion King, Kinky Boots, On Your Feet, Matilda: The Musical, and more have lent their voices to an emotional and uplifting new anti-bullying charity single. The song “I Have a Voice” is a powerful anthem for any kid who has felt alone among his or her peers. It’s written by Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Robin Lerner and can be found in the newer musical Song of Bernadette. All of the profits from the song go to http://www.nobully.org, through Broadway Kids Against Bullying, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that trains schools how to activate student compassion to stop bullying and cyber bullying.

“Hot Chocolate,” from Polar Express, written by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard and arranged by Roger Emerson, needed no introduction!

A TNCS 7th-grader introduced “My Favorite Things”:

“My Favorite Things” is a show tune from the 1959 production musical The Sound of Music, one of the famous Broadway writings from Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. Rogers wrote the music, and Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to this son. Although first appearing on stage in 1959, most people know the film version, which was released in 1965 and won five Oscars. The film featured actress Julie Andrews of Mary Poppins in her famed role as the musical’s leading protagonist, Maria, who was the governess of the rich Captain von Trappe’s children. This song famously appears in a scene in the film where the von Trappe children Maria look after are frightened and go into her room during a thunderstorm. She sings this tune to comfort them. This piece exemplifies “rounds in music,” where one group starts off a specific song and the next group starts to sing the same song a bit later.

“Dreams of Harmony” was introduced by another TNCS 7th-grader:

This piece derives from a large songbook entitled, Peace Songs for Children. Composer Joanne Hammil writes, “while tucking in my children one night when they were young, I was flooded with knowing that parents all over the world were doing the same. With the same big wishes for their kids’ happiness and safety and well-being and future, but simply saying their loving ‘goodnights’ in different languages. One world full of harmonies from all our glorious differences—that’s my dream. Part 1 sings “goodnight” in nine different languages: English, French, Japanese, Spanish, Swahili, Chinese, Russian, German and Hebrew. Part 2 harmonizes with Part 1, with a wish in English for us to all be ‘one family’ and to fill the world with dreams of harmony,” creating one counterpoint, which is a harmonic relationship between two voices that are independent in rhythm and contour.

A TNCS 5th-grader had the honor of introducing “When We’re Together,” with music and lyrics by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson:

In 2013, Frozen became a smash hit. Part of the reason was due to the movie’s soundtrack full of catchy and memorable songs, chief among them being Let It Go, the movie’s most show-stopping musical number. It remains to be seen whether the upcoming Frozen II will produce such a song on that same level. Nevertheless, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, Disney’s new holiday featurette that continues the original Frozen story certainly tries, with “When We’re Together.”

Closing out the show was good, old “Jingle Bells,” this version with music and lyrics by James Pierpont and arranged by Betsey Lee Bailey.

tnncs-winter-concertElementary- Middle Winter Concert Program 2019