Friends since ninth grade
Two high school seniors from Philipstown graduated from the Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie on Friday, June 8. Kyle Downey, of Garrison, and Audrey Froats, of Cold Spring are among a graduating class of 32. Froats and Downey have been Oakwood Friends students since ninth grade. Froats will be attending the State University of New York at Geneseo and Downey will be a freshman at Skidmore College.
Oakwood Friends School, founded in 1796, is an independent, coeducational, college preparatory day and boarding school serving grades 6-12. Guided by Quaker values, Oakwood Friends educates and young people for lives of conscience, compassion and accomplishment. It fosters a diverse community of students and staff in an atmosphere of mutual respect and enrichment, sensitive to the world and its needs.
Commencement at Oakwood Friends is different than at most area schools. The night before, there is a senior class dinner with faculty, friends and family. After the dinner, all go to a candlelit meeting for worship where some participants, after silent contemplation, are moved to speak extemporaneously.
All students, not just the seniors, attend graduation the next morning. It is held outdoors, under a sprawling copper beech tree on the grounds of the school. After family and friends find their chairs, students from sixth to eleventh grades, plus faculty and staff, enter and take their seats. Pomp and Circumstance stirs, and the seniors file in, in a processional of two lines. The graduates sit in front of the tree facing the audience. Speeches by those other than graduates are limited, saving time for one of the more unusual aspects of an Oakwood Friends School commencement: each graduate speaks for up to three minutes, in an often-emotional reflection on her or his years there.