April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

SAR Academy graduated 95 students on June 14 in a moving and meaningful ceremony. But other than the standard caps and gowns and emotional embraces, the evening didn’t follow a traditional program.

That’s because at SAR, the faculty and staff aim to foster an environment at graduation that mirrors the philosophy of the school: Putting the students at the center and making each graduate feel accomplished, seen and important.

Here are some of SAR’s untraditional graduation traditions:

The school doesn’t have valedictorians. SAR values and encourages academic excellence. But SAR doesn’t define its students by grades or averages. The school doesn’t even dole out report cards at any point in first through eighth grade. In keeping with this philosophy, towards the end of the year, the eighth-grade teachers nominate several “class representatives,” not valedictorians. The graduating class then votes and chooses one student from that list to represent them.

The school doesn’t give out graduation awards and doesn’t have an honors society. Graduation is an opportunity to celebrate all students. Identifying stellar students in any capacity—be it in science or basketball—does not foster the kind of welcoming and inclusive atmosphere the school aims to create.

The school offers up one “Mensch Award,” given to two students who model good character. This award is given out privately and it was not mentioned in the graduation program.

The faculty and students march into the auditorium together. This allows the school to—publicly—demonstrate the collaborative nature of its educational approach and to showcase the people who make the school what it is.

Students are at the center of the graduation experience. The graduation program lasts about 75 minutes and just 10 of those minutes center around adults. A school board representative delivers remarks at the beginning, and Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss gives a blessing to the graduating class at the end. The rest of the time is for the students, who entertain with their singing, speaking, dancing and instrument-playing.

The highlight of the program is a 40-minute cantata that features, or showcases the work of, every student in the grade.

Graduation is a unifying moment and an opportunity for each student in the room to feel immensely proud of their individual and collective accomplishments.

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