On Sunday, May 24, 2020, after the most unexpected Senior year Spring, Western Reserve Academy’s Class of 2020 officially graduated. The graduates hail from 17 states and 11 countries.

In lieu of the school’s traditional commencement ceremony held on WRA's historic campus, members of the Class of 2020 received special graduation boxes containing their diplomas, letters from teachers and special mementos.

The majority of the boxes were hand delivered by 35 faculty, staff and trustees of the school. For the Pioneers who live farther away, a virtual preview was sent, sharing the good news that a special delivery is on its way.

An in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 will take place on campus in Hudson on Friday, Aug. 7 at 5 p.m.

As part of this weekend’s celebrations and in addition to the commemorative graduation boxes, Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck released a video expressing her heartfelt excitement for the graduating seniors, and in it she conferred graduation honors upon each of the 117 members of class.

In the video, Buck quoted author and researcher Brene Brown and said, "‘Every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy, we build resilience and we cultivate hope. The joy becomes part of who we are, and when bad things happen — and they do happen — we are stronger.’"

Buck added, "My hope for you is that you lean into joy as something that can both ground you and inspire you to soar."

The video closed with a joyful montage that included each student’s school photo and name.

Some of the achievements of this year’s outstanding senior class include:

The 117 members of the Class of 2020 gained acceptances at 236 different colleges and universities in the United States and abroad.

The graduates will matriculate to four-year colleges and universities at exceptional academic institutions such as Princeton University, Harvard University, Stanford University, The University of Pennsylvania and The University of Chicago.

11 students received acceptances to five Ivy League institutions. Three-time National Quiz Bowl Championship participant Jasmine Wheeler ’20 of Hudson plans to pursue Cultural Studies, History and English at Stanford University. Opera singer Rain Wu ’20, who has been the recipient of many awards for her vocal accomplishments, will continue her arts training and other studies at Harvard University.

84% were admitted to "most competitive" or "highly competitive" schools as ranked by Barron's.

Five members of the senior class were National Merit Finalists, including Student Body Co-President Ellie Frato-Sweeney ‘20 who plans to pursue Political Science at Wellesley.

Graduates are also matriculating to top liberal arts schools around the nation including certified personal trainer Matthew Randazzo ’20 who heads to High Point University to study exercise, fitness and nutrition.

Pioneers are also going to top research universities including four Pioneers who will matriculate to Vanderbilt University this fall.

WRA’s Signature Programs continued to provide unique opportunities to WRA students:

This year’s Compass class, a year-long course that enables students to turn passions into real-life projects, moved the annual Compass Expo into a virtual space. Senior James Doh ’20 channeled his passion for doing magic tricks by researching and demonstrating the relationship between magic performance and confidence through Zoom sessions with fellow WRA students. James is taking his talents to the University of Pennsylvania.

2019 Compass Class participant Regina Gao ’20 produced an award-winning app called "Storify," which she built and designed in WRA’s Innovation Center. In February, Congressman Dave Joyce came to campus and awarded Regina the top prize in the Congressional App Challenge. Regina plans to continue her studies at New York University.

Six Cancer Immunology and Pathobiology students will study medicine or research, including Max Slotnik '20 who plans to study Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Rice University. WRA is the only high school in the country to offer a Cancer Immunology program. Last summer, Max participated in a medical research experience at Baylor College of Medicine as part of WRA’s Beyond Reserve program, which offers WRA’s students top internship opportunities.

The Class of 2020 has experienced a tremendous amount of change during their time at Western Reserve Academy; a substitute academic building during their sophomore year while historic Seymour Hall was being renovated, a new Head of School during their senior year, and the greatest change, the shift to distance learning during a global pandemic.

But perhaps what is most telling is that the Class of 2020 did not just endure these adjustments, they thrived during change. They proved adaptability and eagerness to embrace opportunities, such as when Modern and Classical Language Faculty Christine Borrmann shared that in March her Honors French class — a group of students living and remote learning in eight countries and five different time zones — had 100% attendance during their first live Zoom lesson.

WRA is proud to cheer on these incredible students as they take on the world with all the purpose and passion of Pioneers. Congratulations to the Class of 2020.