Brewster Celebrates Class of 2024 Commencement 

Brewster Celebrates Class of 2024 Commencement 
Suzanne Morrissey

On Saturday, May 25, the 104 graduates of Brewster Academy’s Class of 2024 filed to their seats on Brown Field under perfectly sunny skies and to the sounds of birdsong and a bagpipe. Class Marshals Ellery Gnazzo and Ryo Yamamura led the processional, and with a flourish of their ceremonial maces, Commencement 2024 was underway. 

The new pastor at Wolfeboro’s Congregational Church, Rev. Dawn Adams, shared a message of togetherness in her Invocation: “May our time together be rich with meaning. May we listen intently with open ears and open hearts that we might notice stories of courage, perseverance, creativity and kindness.” 

In her welcoming address to the families, faculty, staff, and graduates assembled, Head of School Kristy Kerin used the metaphor of a salmon’s life cycle to emphasize that Brewster alumni can and do return to the hallowed ground of the campus, and that this class has already done their fair share of traveling. “When I think about your paths and journeys I picture those old cartography maps that charted the routes taken by early global explorers,” she said. “Try to picture the meandering dotted lines that marked the paths of their journeys. … From island to island. Continent to continent. In and around storms. They returned home with eyes more full of wisdom. With souls more mature from having experienced the journey.” 

“As you move to your next adventures,” she continued, “I wish we could map your journeys ahead like explorers of old. Can you picture how incredible your map would be? I picture 104 multi-colored dashed lines that traverse the globe, twisting and turning, sometimes intersecting, sometimes blazing solitary new trails.” Noting that the Class of ’24 has shown fearlessness, curiosity, a love for fun, and leadership, Ms. Kerin concluded by advising, “Enjoy the adventure, stay true to your values, and look to make a daily difference.”


As is tradition, Ms. Kerin presented the Headmaster's Prize to the Valedictorian, Paulina Trott. “Paulina made a big geographic adjustment to attend school here in Wolfeboro—she hails from the beautiful city of Antigua, Guatemala. A three year student, Paulina joined us during her sophomore year. She hit the ground running and never stopped,” she began, noting Paulina’s rigorous course load that included four AP courses and her dedication to community service. Bound for Northeastern University-London in the fall, Paulina leaves Brewster with a two-year weighted GPA of 4.2805.

After words of gratitude for her friends, teachers, family, and other special loved ones, the Valedictorian revealed that at the beginning of the school year, when seniors were asked to write a goal they wanted to achieve by the end of the year on a gold paper star, her goal was to conquer her fear of speaking to large crowds. “And here we are today!” she said, garnering sympathetic laughter from the crowd. “I hope we all were able to achieve our gold stars, but what is more important is that we all work toward them.”

Invoking former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, she said, “success is not final, failure is not fatal; it’s the courage to continue that counts,” adding that as a class, she and her fellow graduates have survived and supported each other through a pandemic, cold winters, adolescence, college admissions, and “even Winter Carnival.” Knowing life is full of ups and downs, she said, surround yourself with people who “make life worth living and enjoy it.”


With Brewster’s Commencement ceremony happening during Memorial Day Weekend, Ms. Kerin acknowledged those who have paid the ultimate price in military service, and then asked active duty and retired military members to stand and be recognized with a round of applause. Next, it was on to the announcement of the awards voted on by faculty and given to graduates for their academic achievements or contributions to the character of the Brewster community. At the 2024 Commencement, those award winners were        

Boaz Sochaczevski: The Ronald “Buzzy” Dore Memorial Award for the graduate who exemplifies the qualities of our alumnus and friend, showing outstanding leadership in the areas of academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities, and who is a friend to all. 

Henry Blackburn: The Faculty Growth Achievement Award for the graduate who has shown the greatest improvement in general record during their junior and senior years at Brewster.

Ellery Gnazzo: The Jill Carlson Memorial Award for the female graduate who exhibits outstanding athletic abilities, determination, drive, and dedication, and displays an inquiring curiosity to learn about and experience life. 

Zoe Hausler: The Mabel Cate Tarr Award for the graduate whose record is one of outstanding contribution to scholarship and citizenship. (Special note: Zoe is also the Class of 2024 Salutatorian, and spoke at the Ivy Address the afternoon before Commencement. Read more here.)

Paulina Trott: The David Sirchis School Service Award for the student who, in terms of spirit, dedication, and contributions of service, has done the most for the Brewster community. 

Kyra Charette and Ben Weiss: The two Arthur J. Mason Foundation Awards for graduates displaying good sportsmanship on the playing fields, in the halls, in the classrooms, and among students, faculty, and others.

Lili Németh: The Burtis F. Vaughan Award for the graduate who has most successfully combined scholastic and athletic excellence with the personal qualities of sympathy, sincerity, appreciation, and awareness in all his or her associations. 

Liam Fahey and Jeremiah “JJ” Jenkins: The Faculty Service Awards for the students who provide the strongest example and make the greatest commitment to community service, who consider such service not as a responsibility or an obligation but rather as something that comes from a driving inner motivation to be of value to others. 

Maggie Doyle: The Arthur M. Hurlin Award for the graduate who has done the most for the welfare, good name, and progress of Brewster. 


As the ceremony continued, heralded investigative journalist, author, and educator Meg Kissinger spoke to the assembled crowd, speaking directly to the students and joking that she was all that stood between them and their diplomas, so they’d better pay attention. 

The Pulitzer Prize finalist then invoked her status and wisdom as a “66-year-old grandmother,” reassuring the Class of 2024 that despite all they have witnessed in their four high school years—the height of Covid, war in Ukraine and the Middle East, the intense storms fueled by global warming, political division, the looming threat of AI—that they need not despair. 

“Listen up. I’ve got some good news: One of the values of being a grandmother is that you have lived a long time and so you have perspective,” she said. “You see the long arc of history and you learn that things can change—very often for the better. Just because something seems dire right now, it doesn’t mean that it will be so 20 years from now or five or even next week.” She followed with her own tale of defeats that turned into opportunities, including how her own family’s struggle with mental illness (two of her siblings died by suicide), led her to career-long work reporting on the state of mental healthcare in the United States—and promulgating incredible change in her home city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It also spurred her well-received 2023 memoir, While You Were Out: An Intimate Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence (Celadon Books).

Ms. Kissinger described her “Lennon and McCartney”-esque relationship with another reporter, Susanne Rust. Together they forged a path to uncover dangerous chemicals allowed in household products like baby bottles: “We proved that scientists from the chemical industry were writing huge portions of the government assessments word for word. We revealed the playbook that chemical industry executives used to try and discredit any safety concerns as hysterical rambling by uninformed young mothers.” Their work landed them on the finalist list for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting and winners of several other national reporting contests. Ms. Kissinger then revealed that her reporting partner was Brewster Class of 2024 Harry Papenfus’ mom, who is now an investigative environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times

With her message of hurdles or even crises revealing new and positive paths delivered, Ms. Kissinger offered parting thoughts: Know yourself and love yourself. Be proud of the gifts you have that others do not. Be humble. Never give up hope. “What you think might be the worst thing to happen to you can turn out to be the springboard to the best thing that can happen to you,” she said.

“Brewster Academy Class of 2024. Go get ’em. But first, I wouldn’t be a proper grandmother if I didn’t send you forward with these three imperatives,” Ms. Kissinger concluded. “Eat your vegetables, call home at least once a week, and for God’s sake, sit up straight.”


As has become tradition, students in the Royal Thai Scholar program ascended the stage first for their diplomas, so that special guest Korn Thepnorarat, Guidance Officer from the Office of Educational Affairs of the Royal Thai Embassy could read the Thai graduates’ names. Next, the person students honored with the yearbook’s dedication took the stage to read the remaining graduates’ names. This year, that person is returning faculty member and Team Leader Laura Cooper. 

“We all have mixed emotions as we say thank you and farewell to someone who has built quite a legacy at Brewster,” Ms Kerin said. “It’s hard to imagine this school without Mrs. Cooper’s enthusiasm and warmth! I’m so glad the students have chosen to honor her with the yearbook dedication, because it certainly puts a lovely coda on her Brewster tenure.” 

After each student received their diploma, paused for an official photo, and returned to their seats, Ms. Kerin took a moment to thank Mrs. Cooper once again for her many years of service to Brewster, and recognized another long-time employee who is retiring this year, Instructional Support teacher Lauren Hammond. “The ultimate Brewster lifer, Lauren grew up on campus as the daughter of faculty icons Bob and Shirley Richardson. She is an alum and a Brewster parent of two graduates, Kelsey, Class of 2010 and Sean, Class of 2009,” Ms. Kerin said. “Thank you for your 22 years of service and for your impact on so many Brewster students. We know you will stay close and continue to add to your Brewster story.”

With a final congratulations from their Head of School, and a nod from their Class Marshals to move their tassels, the Class of 2024 tossed their mortarboards to the sky with a chorus of cheers! Following the Benediction from Rev. Adams, the graduates recessed to the Smith Center before joining their loved ones for a buffet lunch in the Grayson Student Center. 

Enjoy the full recording of Commencement 2024 here and check out photos here