On Saturday, 23 May 2020, the UWCSEA Class of 2020 graduated through virtual ceremonies for both campuses. UWCSEA East celebrated 244 students representing 41 nationalities including 15 scholars, representing 41 nationalities. The UWCSEA Dover Class of 2020 included 333 graduating students with 26 scholars, representing 49 nationalities. Despite the numerous hurdles brought by COVID-19 and Singapore’s ‘circuit breaker’, students and High School staff came together to create meaningful ceremonies to mark this important milestone for the graduates and their families. As with a traditional UWCSEA graduation ceremony, the virtual events included inspiring speeches, moving tributes and musical performances — leaving no room for distance to get in the way of the celebration.
Families of the Class of 2020 joined from around the world to watch their loved ones graduate. Many parents, graduates and staff took to social media to express their excitement and pride. These joyous celebrations reflected the heart of UWCSEA’s values and mission. The ceremonies may have been an official goodbye, but with the strong connection UWCSEA has always had with its alumni, the Class of 2020 graduates will never be too far away.
As Rebecca Butterworth, High School Principal of UWCSEA Dover, so eloquently expressed in her speech, the importance of staying connected to those who inspire you to grow, adapt and face challenges with strength.
“Dear Graduating Class of 2020, amongst you there are 44 students who have been here since K1/K2; 156 who have been here since Grade 6; 242 who have been here since Grade 9; 282 since Grade 10; and 51 who joined us in Grade 11. Your legacy in the College is a profound one. This is not simply because of your many combined years of attendance, but also because you had the courage to challenge the status quo, pursue your potential and grasp the many opportunities the College offers. Amongst you are the quiet leaders who advocated persistently for change and celebrated the successes of others. Amongst you are the writers, musicians, political advocates, scientists, mathematicians, athletes, humanitarians, artists, dancers, thespians — the actors and thinkers who through your own unique ways inspire us. While each of your stories are unique, they are interconnected and will continue to be as alumni. Your story is made all the more unique by a pandemic and your willingness to keep reinventing yourselves with each new adversity. As you reflect on your journey through the College, and the last few months, consider the story you want to tell about yourselves? What has surprised you about your own capacity, adaptability and resilience? Graduation is also a time to express gratitude. While you may not be able to do this in person, reach out to those who have influenced you, challenged you, pushed you beyond what you thought you could do. It is these people who have helped you to become the person you are today. Congratulations to all of you — the Class of 2020. You will not be forgotten and your story will continue to be told well beyond 23 May 2020!”
Nick Alchin, High School Principal of UWCSEA East, echoed similar sentiments with his words of inspiration to the graduates to take with them on their journey beyond high school.
“Dear Graduates, you may well be reading this today in 2020 or in a very different world in the far-flung future. If the latter, then I hope you are looking back, happy with what your generation has created in the world, and satisfied with your contribution to that creation, however small. Today, none of us know what that future will look like, but what we can say is that we believe that in your time here you have laid some strong foundations that will serve you well. As you read this on Graduation Day 2020, there may be some sense of loss. I know I am feeling it keenly for you, as I write this; but the truth is that the last couple of difficult months should not overshadow your time here. In future years you will remember the wonderful friendships and remarkable experiences; you will vividly recall the laughter and triumphs, and you’ll also come to see any tears and disappointments very differently. And you’ll treasure all these in differing ways that will become increasingly clear to you over the years. Keep in touch.”
Graduating class speakers also contributed words of encouragement and support for their fellow graduates, acknowledging the shared experiences and memories that will bond them forever as they begin their journey as UWCSEA alumni.
Student graduation speaker – UWCSEA Dover
Former Chair of Student Council
“To the Class of 2020, a graduation (whether small, big, online or in-person) is a defining moment in our lives. It marks the end of the only chapter we have ever known, with the following pages a mystery and ours to create. It is a unique opportunity to reflect on what has been, and look forward towards what could be. Whether you were at the college for 14 years or just for the IB, the impact we have all had on each other’s lives is undeniable. Whether we like it or not, we are bonded for life over our shared experiences of dodgy camping food, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ spoilers and a weird obsession over the Leavers song. We know that no matter what happens, we will have a place to call home and people to call family. We will never be alone. Whilst this may not be the farewell we wanted, the story of our time at the United World College of South East Asia will never be forgotten. In August 2030, we will meet again for our 10-year reunion. Some of us may show up with screaming toddlers, others may be about to embark on their 11th gap year. However, we will also be filled with stories to share. I am so excited to see what you do with your one wild and precious life. In the words of everyone’s favourite song, “Go from here with confidence, for all the things to come.” Thank you and I’ll see you on the flipside…”
Message from Class of 2020 – UWCSEA East
“I believe I speak on behalf of every member of the Class of 2020 from around the world when I say that each day since our graduating year has begun has been beyond unprecedented. Uncertainty has taken a vice-like grip around all of us, a reminder of the crumbling expectations we’ve held of our last few months of high school. It is heartbreaking to say that we are not getting the goodbye we dreamed of – there won’t be a walkway built by the student body to offer us congratulations as we celebrate the last minutes of our final day at school. We won’t get to hug our teachers and give them thanks for their unending patience. We can’t laugh and cheer, side by side, as we watch our friends walk carefully across a decorated black-tiled stage to receive their leather-bound diplomas.
But I’ve realised that the circumstance in which I write this message is one that we were always ready for. Why us? Why now? Why does the guilt of wanting the end of my senior year back eat away at me in the middle of a global pandemic? The special quality of the students in our grade has dumbfounded me since I became a part of it, but I can now see why we have it. The answer came to me bit by bit, then suddenly, all at once. It’s us and it’s now because we are the only ones that can find silver linings and opportunities to smile when it seems everything is against us. We can look beyond the fear-splashed headlines and TV screens to find happiness in togetherness, even if it’s through virtual conversations from our bedrooms. To feel alone and scared about the fate of our futures is human, but we are adept and we can transform our lowest moments into feats of power.
The UWCSEA East Class of 2020 has had to deal with scenarios unlike any other, and despite the emotional turmoil and regret that we are each able to identify with, it is for this reason that I can confidently claim that we are capable of anything. We were moulded to make history. It is who we are. Though our place in the world is uncertain, our undeniable strength precedes us. And I am beyond certain that each of us will take the hardship we’ve been dealt and shape it into one incredible story to tell.”
On a parting note, UWCSEA wishes the Class of 2020 all the best and a heartfelt thank you for staying strong throughout this challenging time – we're truly proud of you! Before you begin your journey as members of the global alumni community, let's celebrate your truly amazing achievements at UWCSEA. The world is your oyster.
- Dover Campus
- East Campus
- High School