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Brewster Zooms annual Moving Up Day

May 28, 2020
WOLFEBORO — Brewster Academy's Moving Up Day, affectionately known as "MUD," is a spring ritual that even a pandemic could not stop. On Thursday, May 21, students "zoomed" in from 12 different time zones for the 2020 Moving Up Day ceremony, an all-school gathering to celebrate the symbolic moving up from one class to the next. Students from all grades were recognized with achievement and growth awards, including college book prizes and departmental honors. It is also the day when the school's valedictorian, salutatorian, and third in class are announced. A precursor to the school's virtual Commencement ceremony, it holds special meaning for the underclass and seniors.

Before the ceremony, Matt Butcher, Academic Dean and Dean of the Lower School, shared his thoughts about the event.

"Moving Up Day is one of Brewster's most poignant and powerful end of year traditions," he said. "In this particular year and in these particular circumstances, I find it to be even more powerful, more poignant. This year was meant to focus on the school's Bicentennial observations and celebrations, but it has become a year focused on pandemic and radically altered lives—for all of us. In these strange and potentially traumatizing times, our faculty, students, and families have all worked so hard together to achieve considerable academic success and personal growth."

Head of School Craig Gemmell kicked off the ceremony with an introduction of this year's top postgraduate student, Oamfah "Faith" Suwannapong of Phatthalung, Thailand. Suwannapong's one-year experience was certainly not what she had expected it to be. Albeit among one of the shortest experiences at Brewster that one could have, she shared (via video from Thailand) the impact her truncated time at the school had on her: "Everything I've done here has taught me to care about others and be proud of myself."

Faith spoke about her English language growth, but also highlighted many other lessons she learned at Brewster. She said, "Be yourself and treat others nicely. Even though we came from different countries and spoke different languages, there was no wall between us."

Attending Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the fall, Suwannapong concluded her speech with thanks: "Thank you to the faculty who inspired me with their teaching styles and took care of me well...Thank you to my friends who gave me many experiences and nice memories. Thank you to my family who always supported me in the way I choose."

Wolfeboro's Rohrbaugh named Valedictorian

Before bestowing a number of academic awards, Butcher announced the top three students in the Class of 2020. This year's class valedictorian is Robbie Rohrbaugh, a lifelong Wolfeboro resident. Rohrbaugh is a "Brewster Lifer," meaning he attended the school for grades 9 through 12, a National Honor Society member, as well as a senior prefect and multi-sport captain with 11 varsity letters. Robbie is headed to Boston College this fall.

This year's class salutatorian is also a "Lifer" and National Honor Society member, Indigo Brown. Brown is from Brooklyn, N.Y. and will attend the University of Chicago. Finally, the third in class senior is from York, Maine and will attend Brandeis University in the fall: Jackson Murch.

Several Lakes Region students were among the dozens of Brewster students who received awards and honors at the Moving Up Day ceremony:

Katherine Martin '21 of Wolfeboro earned the Myrtle Dodge Award, presented to the student whose grades and recognition scores reflect a high level of investment and good citizenship, as well as distinguished academic ability and performance. Butcher noted that Martin displayed constant care and dedication, not only in academics, but also in art and citizenship. She is an influential member of the leadership team and the National Honor Society.

The Colby College Book Prize for excellence in historical study—and strength of character and leadership in the classroom and community—went to Gus Schoenbucher '21 of New Durham.

"Gus espouses the sort of self-reliance, entrepreneurship, and curiosity exemplified by many of the legendary yet historical figures he has studied in his history classes," Butcher said. "Teachers look forward to his leadership, as well as his insightful contributions to the classroom. He has just begun to write the book of his life, but judging by the first few chapters, it's looking like a best-seller."

Valeria Ramos '22 of Alton, described as an outstanding and motivated language learner who has a desire to communicate in Spanish and grow in her understanding of world cultures, received the Holy Cross Book Prize Award for excellence in foreign language and leadership.

"Valeria is a leader in the classroom, speaking Spanish as much as possible and serving as a role model for her fellow language students," Butcher said.

Alison Ansorg '21 of Center Harbor earned the Brown University Book Award, presented to the student who has attained excellence in the field of mathematics over the course of the past year and demonstrates a willingness to help others and possesses the genuine desire to learn. Butcher noted that Ansorg eagerly accepts new challenges, and that "her transcript is a direct reflection of her success with each challenge she has undertaken, such as completing three math courses in just two years."

He added, "She never hesitates to share her knowledge with others, whether that be in the classroom or in the Math Tutor Center. Students and teachers alike are lucky to study mathematics with Alison."

Ossipee resident Ella Quinlan '20 received the John Konheim Journalism Award.

"A talented creative writer and an accomplished photographer," Butcher said, "Ella has a marked interest in politics and social justice, and she has channeled this interest into her work for the Browser, Brewster's student newspaper."

Athletic and leadership honors

Brewster's Director of Athletics, Matt Lawlor, then announced several athletics awards as well as the department's highest honor, The Athletic Director's Prize, given to the Bobcat team that demonstrates excellence in play, in academics, and in the community.

"The winning team must have five contests, at least five members, and finish their season with a winning percentage over .500," Lawlor explained. The teams are then ranked by the players' GPAs and recognition scores, which indicate community service and involvement.

The 2020 recipient of the Athletic Director's Prize was the Girls' Varsity Basketball Program.

Assistant Head of School for Campus Affairs Bret Barnett then shared announcements about student leadership positions for the 2020-21 school year, which also included several Lakes Region students:

Mitchell Coope '21 of Wolfeboro (vice prefect of the senior class)

Marvell James '24 of Wolfeboro (photographer for the Brewster Browser newspaper)

Kara Luby '21 of Wolfeboro Falls (tour guide)

Katherine Martin '21 of Wolfeboro (Prefect Council)

Maddie O'Blenis '22 of Wolfeboro (Prefect Council)

Jill Pollini '21 of Melvin Village (editor of the 2021 Winnipesaukean yearbook)

Valeria Ramos '22 of Alton Bay (Prefect Council)

Gus Schoenbucher '21 of New Durham (tour guide)

Before Gemmell closed the MUD ceremony, Senior Class Prefect and newly named Valedictorian Robbie Rohrbaugh '20 revealed this year's senior class gift: a grill and grilling tent to use for community gatherings in the future. Gemmell then congratulated all the award winners and those taking on new leadership roles.

"Also, a big thank you to those folks who joined us from near and far to be part of this event today," he said, "And finally, I wanted to take a moment to collectively recognize the Class of 2020. Their perseverance, leadership, patience and fortitude through these times are a beacon for us all."

After the ceremony, Butcher summed up what many of Brewster's faculty and staff have been feeling this spring.

"Our students have sacrificed so much, but they have learned even more, not only about the skills and content of their courses, but also about themselves as learners and as humans," he said. "Truly, our students have learned from this experience and are more than ready to move up to the next grade and move on to next year. For our graduates, of course, they will always be a part of the Brewster community, and we look forward to their return—when the time is right."

To learn more about Brewster and its mission to prepare diverse thinkers for lives of purpose, visit brewsteracademy.org.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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