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July 23, 2020

Salute to the Class of 2020

Senior copresidents reflect on their time at Andover

It was certainly not the Senior Spring they expected—or would ever want. But for the 242nd graduating class, their Commencement was one for the history books. Here—in their own words—the two copresidents describe their Andover experience.

Sebastian Romero ’20

Lessons Learned, For Life

“Some say, PA, is only worth diploma day...” I’m sure many of us have heard Michael Kontaxis ’11’s fantastic “Andover Song”. Having watched the video prior to enrolling as a student, I walked onto campus bright-eyed, with bold expectations as to the course of my next four years. As the song points out: “Some say, PA, is only worth diploma day, but those who know, will tell you that it isn’t so.” My time here has truly shown me the value in the latter half of this statement, which has manifested as a result of the people this community brings together.

In one of the many conversations I’ve had with friends during the past couple of years, the concept of care ethics was once brought up by a great friend of mine, Eli Newell ’20. Care ethics is a principle that underscores how “identity is defined by the set of relationships individuals have with other humans.”

If my time at Andover has shown me anything, it is to take interest in people, not for one’s own personal gain, but rather with the intention of learning and understanding. The diverse environment that Andover purposely cultivates—with variety in relation to all facets of identity—is filled with peers and mentors who are passionate about what they do. There have been countless times that my actions were positively influenced by those around me and brought out the best in me; it would be impossible not to realize that my connections with others were what made the whole Andover experience meaningful.

Our interactions with peers created a continuing discourse about life that allowed us to both keep on learning about the world and appreciating those around us—all while sitting in Commons, walking to sports, or simply waiting for stir-fry.

The Class of 2020 did not get to enjoy the senior spring we had envisioned, yet I hold firmly that this recent era of online endeavors has allowed us to strengthen our connections and further highlighted the beauty of the Andover community.

Despite the lack of physical connection, the effort that was omnipresent in the Academy’s mission to put on a spring term and the virtual connection that was promoted by my peers has shown me the value in the relations we had previously built during our time together.

As our time with Phillips Academy comes to a close, many members of the Class of 2020 have heard the phrase “Andover is for life." Over time, I have come to realize that the meaning of this phrase is twofold: Firstly, it points to the longevity of the connections we have made at Andover and how those connections will last a lifetime. Secondly, it signifies how the lessons we have learned while navigating Andover’s diverse intellectual environment will propel us forward.

Not being on campus to finish what we had started as a class hurts for sure, but it also highlights how our shared experiences and accomplishments bond us even more. Whether our experiences were bad or good, the learning that happened as a result of taking interest in others made the whole experience worth it.

The diploma we receive—signifying Andover’s pedigree and strong academic preparation—means little if one is unable to take interest in others and connect in the future.

Although the coronavirus pandemic deprived us of our final spring, I know that all members of our class will cherish the connections we have now, and in the years to come, wherever our paths may take us.

My four years at Andover, the place I have so dearly come to call home, confirms that “PA is not only worth diploma day,” and I’ll hold that notion, the friends I’ve made, and the lessons I’ve learned from them, for life.

Thank you for everything, Andover.

Sebastian Romero is a four-year senior from Andover, Mass. In addition to participating in Student Council, he was a member of Model UN, Students in Medicine, Science Club, and varsity Ultimate Frisbee. Romero plans to take an EMT course this summer before starting on a premed track in college studying global health.

Shahinda Bahnasy ’20

Andover Through a New Lens

I truly believe that the high school years are the most important for a student’s growth. These are the four years during which students develop their passions, build their character, and discover their identity. Andover gave me exactly that as well as the perfect platform to document these years: photography.

During my first weeks at Andover, as I walked around campus with my heavy Canon camera bag, I felt as though every person I saw was asking me, “Are you a photographer?” The answer was no; I hardly knew any of the functions on my family’s camera. It was hard for me to imagine this landscape as my home for the next four years, so I spent many hours wandering around with my camera in hand and learning to embrace the beauty of Andover through my photography. Late September of my first year, on a walk back to Double Brick, my ninth-grade dorm, I stood in front of the Addison Gallery for a couple of minutes and ultimately captured the perfect sunset. I was beginning to gain comfort in knowing every inch of the campus between the bird sanctuary and Siberia Fields.

Eventually I learned the purpose of aperture and shutter speed, which allowed me to expand my viewpoint. Starting with my lower year, I began to photograph not only the inanimate scenery at Andover, but also the people. And I began to reach out and participate in student activities. Sometimes I engaged with my peers directly, and other times I remained on the outside focusing on students’ smiles and excitement. At the annual Spikeball tournament, I set my camera to the perfect exposure to capture complete strangers doing what they loved. Later, these strangers became my friends.

Andover was becoming so much bigger than I had ever known it to be—full of people from all over the world playing, studying, and laughing together. (Photo credit: Shahinda Bahnasy)

But I refused to believe that I had discovered everything about Andover in my first two years. Although I was confident in the person I had become, I still lived every day with open-mindedness and curiosity.

During my third year, I established a far more personal approach to photography. At the Af-Lat-Am Senior Tribute, I focused on the dynamic between students and faculty as they exchanged smiles and danced together. This group reminded me of my family. I was starting to engage with Andover on such a deep level that every part of my identity was coming together like a puzzle. I felt so comfortable.

Now, at home for my last term due to COVID-19, I know that Andover is forever. I had used much of my spare time this year taking senior portraits of my peers with whom I had grown. A new scene or person to photograph meant a new aspect of my home waiting to be discovered. Photography challenged me to explore and eventually discover why Andover was the perfect place to spend the most important years of my life.

Shahinda Bahnasy served as president of Student Activities and was a senior editor for The Phillipian. Additionally, she was involved with the boys’ varsity basketball and girls’ varsity softball teams. This summer, she will be attending the ACLU’s Summer Institute and a pre-collegiate program, both online. Enrolling at Rutgers University in the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy this fall, Bahnasy will be pursuing a doctorate in pharmacy.

Categories: Alumni, Magazine Online

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