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Graduates Receive Diplomas, Best Wishes From Many in Community


Clockwise from top left: Abbey McCuen ’24 with her diploma; valedictorian Tul Cherukuri ’24; Aiden Whitehead ’24 with members of his family

Commencement exercises for the Class of 2024 took place on May 24 at Christ Baptist Church in Raleigh. In addition to the much-anticipated presentation of seniors for the conferring of diplomas, the event included speeches by class valedictorian Tul Cherukuri ’24 and class speaker Sofia Herbert ’24 as well as Bernard Bell, Executive Director of the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The service began with an invocation by Senior Class Dean Ali Olney, who shared “Don’t Hesitate” by Mary Oliver. The poem begins, “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,/don’t hesitate. Give in to it.” While acknowledging that sometimes life brings challenges and tragedy, the poem continues: 

… Perhaps this

is its way of fighting back, that sometimes

something happens better than all the riches

or power in the world. It could be anything,

but very likely you notice it in the instant

when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the

case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid

of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Head of School Doreen Kelly then welcomed former trustee Vic Bell ’74, who joined the procession to commemorate the 50th reunion year of Ravenscroft’s first class to have spent all four years of high school here. After she announced the recipients of several faculty awards, the assembled graduates-to-be rose to present a loved one with the traditional yellow rose. The special moment was accompanied by a song from the Faculty Choral Ensemble, “May the Road Rise Up.”

Clockwise from top left: Colin Burns ’24 in his college cap; class speaker Sofia Herbert ’24; guest speaker Bernard Bell; Sofia Pedretti ’24 with her mother during the Yellow Rose ceremony

Head of Upper School Aaron Sundstrom then introduced Bernard Bell, the guest speaker. Bell recognized members of the Class of 2024 who were involved in Ravenscroft’s pilot Shuford Program last year before sharing and expounding on three thoughts for the day’s graduates: 

  1. Authenticity: Who are you when no one is watching?

  2. The valley moments will define your journey.

  3. Your leadership style will define your life.

“May these be the best years of your life where you learn to love yourself, be tender with yourself and really, really know and like who you are,” he said in closing.

Next, Tul shared her valedictory address. After acknowledging that she has no more wisdom than her classmates, she talked about how she has come to understand inspiration and passion:

Class of 2024, you inspire me. It’s the warmth Chloe Fox radiates in the hallways with her smile, the dedication and pure love Isaiah gives to SAGA, Anna’s dedication to the work she puts in as our president, Abbey’s devotion to everything she does in the arts, and so many others who I’m endlessly grateful to have known, even through a few exchanges in the hallway.

… I don’t know exactly what passion is— it exists in its natural state as this amorphous blob that escapes easy definition. But I can tell you what it isn’t. Passion isn’t just talent. It isn’t necessarily whatever comes easy for you. It’s something more and something worth looking for.

So, now, I tell myself this as much as I tell you: don’t be scared. 

Don’t be scared to go out and truly love things — things you might not even know exist right now, maybe things you could never imagine yourself doing, and even things you’re not that great at. See what happens. I’m not saying that passion is enough to build a life — I don’t know if it is, but at this point in our lives, it feels like an amazing start. 

Next, Sofia shared the humor and warmth that earned her the role as class speaker. She spoke of polling both classmates and teachers for words of advice, explored the message of YOLO [you only live once] and cautioned against “grindset culture,” saying, “My point in saying all of this is that it’s okay to live for more than your accomplishments. It’s okay to take some time to just live.” She concluded, “In short, I encourage you all to be as revolutionary and ambitious as you will be humble and forgiving. I encourage you to be remarkable (in every sense of the word); after all, we only live once — what else would you rather be?”

Clockwise from top left: Head of Upper School Aaron Sundstrom and board chair Laura Helton Kalorin ’92 with Head of School Doreen Kelly, holding her honorary Ravenscroft diploma; Noah Suh ’24 with his mother; Nicholas Suggs ’24 sporting his college cap; Nolan Coole ’24 with members of his family

Prior to presenting the Class of 2024 for the conferring of their diplomas, Sundstrom shared with the assembly that the Ravenscroft Alumni Association had inducted Kelly — who steps down in June after 21 years as Head of School — into the Class of 1862, their honorary alumni class. He presented Kelly with a Ravenscroft diploma to recognize this honor.

Following the joyous moments when the Class of 2024 received their diplomas, Upper School English teacher AJ Mezoff gave the benediction. “As you begin a new chapter in your lives, may you approach the unknown with curiosity and excitement. May you open yourselves to new experiences, especially those that challenge you, and may you grow as a result. May you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your strengths, talents, and beliefs,” he said. “Above all, may you treat others with kindness and empathy, and strive to do good in the world, as you enter into the great conversation of life. Thank you, and congratulations on this important milestone.”

The new graduates then tossed their mortarboards, put on their college caps and recessed to “March” from Mendelssohn’s “Athalia,” performed on the organ by staff accompanist SK Chipley. Overjoyed family members and fellow Ravens awaited them.

In reflecting on the event, Vic Bell said, “As I observed this graduation with most impressive graduates, award winners and speakers, I thought to myself that Ravenscroft School is a special place that continues to evolve. It has been fascinating for me to watch Ravenscroft grow and evolve over the past 50-plus years! Thankfully, Ravenscroft is positioned to continue to enable students to learn, thrive and lead for many generations.”

View the program here. View and download photos on our Flickr page.