The graduation of the Class of 2021 and the values of hard-fought joy

Last weekend on the Mayfield Senior School campus was pure magic. With the Baccalaureate Mass on Saturday, June 5 and the Graduation on Sunday, June 6, the events had the "pinch-me-am-I-dreaming" kind of quality. It has been over a year of challenges and pivots—with students, families, faculty and staff always adjusting to the many adaptations that have come our way. But at long last, we were able to celebrate our graduates. And during the course of the events of this graduation weekend, time and again, it was clear that the experiences of the Class of 2021 have made them wise far beyond their years.
It was sunny on the North Lawn as graduates sat down with their parents in their individual family “pods.” A gentle breeze was in the air as Senior Class President Jolie Beegle '21 came to the lectern and began her speech with a bit of time travel. “Two weeks,” she said.  “This was the original time frame that we were expecting to spend learning at home in the wake of a global pandemic.” She remembered how everyone in her class was excited by the extended Spring Break vibe, and attending remote classes in their pajamas. A lot changed from those early days in March 2020, and Jolie explored the triumphs and the challenges along the way. But ultimately, what she shared the most was a very broad perspective. “We are stronger and more resilient than we knew. We are motivated and determined to achieve our goals, regardless of the circumstances.”

Head of School, Kate Morin, also shared her praise for the Class of 2021. Of course their resilience was admirable, but Ms. Morin wanted to share her admiration beyond this resilience. “How did they keep it together despite all the odds?” asks Ms. Morin. “My answer is simple. Through joy.” 

And this was not carefree joy, but hard-fought joy, joy in the face of the most inhospitable circumstances. Mrs. Morin drew the comparison to Cornelia Connelly, who made joy a cornerstone of her educational philosophy in spite of the many personal tragedies she suffered. Cornelia Connelly’s approach was ahead of its time, and Mrs. Morin referenced how the current research about the most productive ways of facing adversity tends to be very much in line with the philosophy of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. UC Riverside’s Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Sonja Lyubomirsky, has written extensively about the most productive ways of facing adversity, and she says there are three components to weathering stress and trauma well: “Our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous.” 

Mrs. Morin says there were “countless” ways the Class of 2021 exemplified these traits identified by Ms. Lyubomirsky. Ms. Morin watched as the senior class “reframed” their at-home learning situations, enjoying the extra time they were able to spend with their families, having coffee with their moms, jogging with their dads. This class constantly “experienced gratitude,” expressing praise for everything from Wellness Wednesday to a prom without dates. And perhaps they were best at choosing “kindness and generosity.” From using 3D printers to create face shields for health care workers, to helping prepare 12,000 lunches for those in need during our Loaves and Fishes meal donation program. It turns out that the mission of Cornelia Connelly and the Society of the Holy Child Jesus were incredibly well-suited to enduring a pandemic, and when it came to applying these lessons in real life, the Class of 2021 were ideal students.

The commencement speaker couldn’t have been more apt for this graduation, at the end of an academic year like no other. Liesl Pike Moldow '83 is the Co-Founder of SafeSpace, a youth-led non-profit that has been changing the discussion about teens and mental health in the Bay Area since 2016. SafeSpace is designed to equip young people with the tools and resources to care for themselves and each other. While encouraging self-advocacy, Ms. Pike Moldow says this organization wants to, “give kids a chance to make a difference—to give them the mic.”

In addition to Ms. Pike Moldow’s mental health activism for youth, she also has remarkable ties to Mayfield writ large. Although she only attended Mayfield Senior School for a year before her parents moved to Orange County, she attended Mayfield Junior School for her whole elementary education, like her father before her. Her aunts, her cousins, and two of her sisters also attended Mayfield Senior School. Her grandmother was a close friend of Sr. Mary Wilfrid Yore, SHCJ, the former principal of Mayfield for whom our gymnasium is named, and Sr. Sheila McNiff ’56, SHCJ, a current Mayfield trustee, was one of Liesl’s teachers. And of course, her grandparents, Thomas and Katherine Pike, were lifelong supporters of Mayfield and our Catholic tradition. Pike Auditorium was named in recognition of their years of leadership and involvement at Mayfield Senior School. And we named the Pike Award for the highest GPA to honor their staunch support for excellence in academics. 

When Ms. Pike Moldow talks about Mayfield, she calls it “part of my family...part of my blood, part of my heart and soul.” She is the third Pike to speak at a Mayfield graduation ceremony: her grandfather was the very first, and her grandmother was the third, so Ms. Pike Moldow was carrying on an esteemed tradition!

In her speech, Ms. Pike Moldow shared a lot of her wisdom with the graduating class, saying: "You discovered an ironic truth, that there is both joy and suffering in our lives, because this beautiful world is a world of duality—a world of opposites," and she reminded the graduates that, "to accept duality is to stop fighting life and start living it."

And in our Catholic observance, it was no small thing that we were able to worship again together, in person, sharing in Holy Communion as we marked the essential occasions of this past weekend as well. We were honored to have Rev. Chris Cartwright S.J. preside over the Baccalaureate Liturgy and Fr. Marcos Gonzalez with us for Graduation, the representative of the Most Reverend Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez. 

It was a weekend in which blessings were too many to count and the joy of those assembled was impossible to miss.

[Watch the Class of 2021’s commencement ceremony on YouTube. Please note that this is a replay of the entire livestream — the graduates begin processing out of Pike Auditorium at around 16:30 into the video.]
    • Kate Morin, Head of School

    • Jolie Beegle '21, Senior Class President

    • Liesl Pike Moldow '83, Commencement Speaker

Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.