BUA Hosts ‘Double-Header’ Commencements at Nickerson Field; Student Speaker Delivers Address in the Style of Amanda Gorman

BUA hosted back-to-back Commencement ceremonies on the morning of Saturday, June 5 at BU’s Nickerson Field. The 52 graduates of the Class of 2021 walked across stage to receive their diplomas from Head of School Chris Kolovos. Immediately following, 38 members of the Class of 2020 returned to campus for the graduation ceremony that they never had; their original commencement in May of 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic. Nearly 500 guests in total joined for the masked and physically-distanced outdoor events.

Boston University Associate Provost and Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore gave the Keynote Address for the Class of 2021 ceremony. In his address, Dean Elmore, paraphrasing Dr. Walter Fluker (who himself delivered the Keynote Address at BUA Commencement in 2018), remarked:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go ahead and do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Dr. Fluker says this is a ‘calling of character’ that comes from us, from the past, and also the future. It’s the remembering of our stories and imagining the possibility inherent in our lives and in our own stories. What makes us come alive nudges us from both dimensions. Imagining grants us permission to come alive, and in this sense the question of calling or purpose is related to who we are, our identities. To know oneself — to know one’s uniqueness with respect to one’s gifts, talents, and skills — is to have a clue as to who you are and to what your purpose is in the world.”

Phevos Paschalides ’21 and Benista Owusu-Amo ’21 gave the student addresses; Aditi Deokar ’21 and Lily Sensen ’21 recited the Classics orations in Latin and Greek, respectively.

Owuso-Amo delivered her remarks in the style of Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb,” which she performed at the Inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021. The video of the 2021 Commencement ceremony is available at this link. Owuso-Amo’s Commencement Poem begins at the 23:10 minute mark, and is reprinted in its entirety below.


Boston University Academy’s Class of 2021,

After we receive our diplomas today,

Who will we be?

The obvious answers: alumni, college freshmen, adults…

But who will we be, 


of the three

or four years we spent here?

To answer this question, it helps to go back to the start.

For many of us, the beginning of BUA was an introduction to high school in the city,

to new classmates,

to immense opportunity,

to new expectations, 

and to foreign concepts like MLA and Chicago citations.

By sophomore year, we integrated into a community,

the workload increased, 

but we carried on.

We braved the storms of adolescence together like steady rocks,

taking on deadlines, and memorizing



History dates, all by A block.

As juniors, we felt ourselves nearing the final stretch, 

we strengthened our friendships, 

formed new ones, 

supported one another,

entered the college process, 

took advanced classes,

stayed devoted,

and then…


and then, 

as Amanda Gorman said so passionately,

we learned that what “just is” in this country

is not always just-ice.

In the midst of a world filled with uncertainty, 

this class remained faithful to its character.

We continued to educate ourselves.

We implemented changes in our personal lives.

And we brought them into parts of our school’s culture,

serving as role models for the younger classes as we transitioned to a virtual world. 

And the drive of this grade goes beyond leadership. 

We are also fueled by our interests in physics, mathematics, chemistry, and athletics.

For some of us, our interests are a little bit more poetic, 

delving into the realms of music, drama, literature, and for some, fashion aesthetics. 

And for the rest of us, our interests are a mix of any and everything.

If there is one trait the class of ‘21 possesses, it’s passion.

You can see it in the stairwells and hallways,

Where your eyes will be blessed

by the pencil and paint strokes of

our talented multimedia artists.

You can hear it in classrooms,

where we discuss ancient texts and theorems

as well as exchange memes and jokes. 

Some of us have already figured out what field leaves our hearts and minds ignited,

and some of us are venturing into the world, completely undecided.

And that’s okay.

But now we’re back to the original question:

who will we be after today?

Think of a branch on a 27-year-old great oak tree.

A branch that is an individual,

one who will absorb sunlight, 


sprout its own leaves, 

and bear its own fruit.

A branch that stems from a sturdy trunk connecting us, 

and connecting the memories we have made over these monumental years.

And this trunk is upheld by thick buttress roots,

entrenched in the gems of knowledge we have acquired here.

And I mean more than just derivatives, balancing equations,

Formatting papers, and analyzing historical documents.

These gems were created for us.

By us.

We molded them by forming study groups and helping our peers with material. 

We molded them by encouraging each other to strive to be our best selves.

We molded them by cheering for our classmates as they made baskets, 

scored goals,

won matches, 

played instruments, 

acted on stages,

protected the environment,

and uplifted the powerful voice of our generation. 

These are our gems:

perseverance, community, compassion, inclusivity, kindness, and so many more.

So who are we?

This is the best way I can describe it.

We are branches that are connected by the experiences and jems we acquired at BUA. 

We are branches nourished by the water that is our supportive families and our own determination. 

We are all part of a giant tree with the sun shining right above us,

encouraging us,

and the only direction we can go is up,

up towards that warmth,

towards new friendships,

towards new experiences,

towards new gems.

That’s where we’ll go.

And that’s who we’ll be. 

But the roots of our tree will stay with BUA.

I have loved my time at BUA and I can tell you that this class is truly one of a kind.

Thank you so much for listening to me,

I wish my peers all the best in their future endeavors,

and I want to end by saying that I know that when faced with challenges in the future,

Boston University Academy’s Class of 2021 will never ever ever run.

Because if there’s one thing we all know,

It’s that nihil doctis arduum. 


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