Matriculation ceremony welcomes Class of 2026 to upper school


Katelyn Zhao

Freshman students read the matriculation oath while standing up. Upper school students and faculty gathered on Davis Field for the 2022-23 Matriculation ceremony on Friday to welcome the incoming class of 2026 and mark the commencement of the new academic year.

Upper school students and faculty gathered on Davis Field for the 2022-23 matriculation ceremony on Friday to welcome the incoming Class of 2026 and mark the commencement of the new academic year.

The ceremony began at 9:30 a.m. with the Class of 2026 entering Davis Field by advisory to the applause of the sophomore, junior and senior classes. Incoming ninth graders met with their advisory groups that morning at 9 a.m. in the Zhang Athletic Center. To begin the ceremony, Head of School Brian Yager discussed the significance of the upper school’s 25th anniversary and The Harker School’s 130th anniversary before offering advice to the Class of 2026. 

“Enjoy and embrace this process,” Yager said in his speech. “Look to the students in the grades above you for guidance and for inspiration, as well as for examples of what will be expected of you in the years to come. The students around and before you have accomplished an incredible amount. Stand on their shoulders to reach your own heights in the next four years.” 

Yager then introduced the upper school choir Cantilena, conducted by upper school vocal music teacher Susan Nace, and the group performed their rendition of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” by Stevie Wonder. Following Cantilena’s performance, new Head of Upper School Paul Barsky provided historical context surrounding 1892 and 1893, the dates to which the earliest stages of The Harker School can be traced back. Barsky discussed the Danish compound word “samfundssind,” meaning society and mind, to explain how members of the Harker community should prioritize collective wellness and responsibility. Barsky also discussed the German word “umwelt,” meaning environment, to explain how everyone’s unique experiences are based on their senses and encourage students to broaden their perspectives. 

“As we enter the school’s 130th year, we bring a wide ranging perspective and experiences,” Barsky said. “It might be our first day as a new Harker student, faculty member or administrator, or it could be our 13th year as a lifer. Regardless of our length of time or experience, we build upon the deeds of the past, the adherence to Harker’s value and our commitment to ‘samfund sind’ and ‘umwelt.’ I wish you a remarkable year ahead and I’m proud and so excited to share it with you all.”

Following this speech, Barsky introduced Associated Student Body (ASB) President Kris Estrada (12), who addressed each class and encouraged the Class of 2026 to explore their interests to further understand who they are. 

“Today marks an important chapter in your lives,” Kris said. “Whether you have been at Harker in years prior or perhaps today marks the beginning of your life’s chapter as a Harker Eagle, I advise you to simply cherish today and the rest of your Harker days because high school is such a formative experience. Over the next few years, you will overcome the greatest challenges, accomplish the greatest things and become the greatest people.”

Kris then introduced the 2022-23 Student Diversity Coalition (SDC), consisting of Senior Leader KJ Williams (12) as well as Dina Ande (11), Fern Biswas (10), Iris Fu (11) and Ariana Gauba (10). The SDC leadership team discussed the purpose of the SDC and its initiatives for the new school year, including incident reporting, speaker events, town hall meetings, open meetings and Culture Week.

“The SDC is a student organization at the Harker Upper School designed to foster an inclusive space for all members of our community,” KJ said. “The SDC was created by Harker alumni Uma Iyer (‘22) and Natasha Yen (‘22) after they attended the Student Diversity Coalition Leadership, and they felt that Harker could benefit from a student-run organization dedicated to solving issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.” 

The SDC then introduced new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Director Brian Davis, who will also be working with all Harker campuses. 

“I’m charged with our DEI efforts here across our middle school, lower school and upper school campus as a resource for all of you,” Davis said. “But more importantly, making sure that Harker is a place where you all feel loved, where you feel safe, where you feel heard and you feel valued.”

Following Davis’ speech, members of each class council and the Honor Council proceeded onto the stage. ASB Vice President Gordon Chen (12) next led the audience through a recitation of the Matriculation Oath, which details the responsibilities of the school and students. As per tradition, each member of the freshman class signed the Matriculation Book to acknowledge their commitment to the oath. 

During the signing process, the Harker String Quartet, directed by new upper school instrumental teacher Jaco Wong, performed “Sweet Child O’Mine” by Guns N’ Roses and “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay. After their performance, each of the upper school councils took the stage and performed an “Upper School 101” skit to introduce the ninth graders to life at the upper school. The junior council kicked it off with a “Phineas and Ferb”-themed skit about campus buildings and locations. The sophomore council followed with a “Sponge Bob”-themed skit presenting the upper school’s extracurricular offerings and club activities. The senior council then shared a “Squid Game”-inspired skit about school spirit competitions. To conclude the performances, the Honor Council performed a skit inspired by the television show “The Office” where they stressed the importance of honorable conduct and academic integrity. 

“I enjoyed the skits they had out because they were educational and funny,” Mindy Truong (9) said. “They taught me more about extracurriculars and where to find my classes. I think [matriculation] was a good transition day before I actually had to go to school.” 

The rest of the day followed with advisory meetings, lunch and student photos in the Auxiliary Gym as well as individual events for each class.