This year’s graduating seniors first stepped on the Belmont Hill campus in 2012. As the boys prepare to leave the place that has consumed much of their lives since then, they look back on a school that has been deeply impacted by their presence in the six years since their arrival. “We assumed many roles on campus,” says school President Will McCormack, “following the example of our teachers, coaches, and advisors, our class contributed to Belmont Hill in so many different areas of school life.” On their last day as Belmont Hill students, members of the class notorious for its wide-ranging prowess leave the school a long list of accomplishments and big shoes to fill.
The academic achievements of the class of 2018 go far beyond their impressive matriculation list; the grade is well known for its mastery of a variety of scholarly realms. As a freshman in 2015, Ishaan Prasad was invited to the Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, one of just 350 students globally, most of whom were in college or graduate school. He was then selected for the conference again in 2017. This year, Ishaan once more made waves at the school as he became one of the 150 high school seniors out of an applicant pool of 150,000 to receive Coca Cola’s $20,000 scholarship. Ishaan’s brother Arnav showed excellence in writing, being named one of ten winners in a nationwide New York Times Student Review Contest for his essay on the video game “Universal Paperclips.” Coleman Walsh, known around campus as a master of foreign languages, won the 2017 Chinese Bridge Speech Contest, besting students from around the country with a speech delivered entirely in Mandarin.
In athletic competition, these seniors helped Belmont Hill teams to numerous championships and count among their ranks some of the school’s best athletes in recent memory. Well over 25% of the grade will play a sport in college, with many competing on the Division I level. This year, varsity wrestling, led by All-American Phil Conigliaro, and varsity track each won ISL and New England titles, continuing years-long reigns over their respective leagues. Though the basketball team fell short of their goal to win the ISL championship, their fourth consecutive second-place finish and first-ever trip to the NEPSAC Class A semifinals both marked major accomplishments. Perennial cellar dwellers just four years ago, Belmont Hill became a basketball powerhouse thanks to 1,000-point scorers David Mitchell and Jovan Jones, as well as fellow seniors Jake Bobo and Jake Haase. Outside of Belmont Hill, senior Ben Bramley flourished into a world class diver, competing at the U.S. olympic trials as a rising junior and came in third in the USA Synchronized Diving National Championships in 2017.
The Class of 2018 included awe-inspiring musical talent that brought new attention to the department. Austin Kwoun, already an award-winning violinist, played numerous challenging pieces in front of the school community at chapel, was a featured performer at the New England Conservatory as a sophomore, and left the student body buzzing when he performed in a Nike commercial for Kyrie Irving’s signature shoe. Seniors further showcased their abilities in the senior talent show and Fall and Spring Coffeehouse, aided by commanding performances from Alex Ackerman and David Paine, the self-taught musician whose guitar seems to have become an extension of his fingers only a few years after first picking up the instrument.
In art and theater, members of the sixth form once again played leading roles. Donavan Payne’s keen eye for photography made it on display around the school on multiple occasions. Donavan also teamed up with classmates Theo Why, Owen Pickette, and Henry Vettel to star in multiple plays, including the Pickette-directed “God of Carnage,” which was described by one audience member as “a stunning rendition of a finely crafted commentary on the human condition.” The quartet’s endless dedication and enthusiasm for their craft pulled many eyes into the Kraft Theater.
Boys of the Class of 2018 were unusually active in extracurricular activities, “[adding] life to what was an already lively school,” says McCormack. A group of seniors started Belmont Hill’s Model United Nations Club, whose mock diplomatic conferences have become some of the most popular and substantive activities for Belmont Hill boys. Henry Vettel’s Short Story Club provided a venue for students to read for pleasure, a pastime often forgotten during the grueling school year. Volume 66 Panel editors Will McCormack, Ishaan Prasad, and Arnav Prasad pushed the publication forward, adding a website, improving graphics, and making all content school-related. Beginning a new community service tradition, Andrew Berg started volunteering at the Perkins School radio station, helping a blind student there run a show that airs once a week and has many Belmont Hill listeners. Donavan Payne and Coleman Walsh started important conversations as heads of GSA, hosting a chapel this spring featuring anonymous testimony from current and former LGBTQ students on how the school’s culture made it nearly impossible to come out while in high school. Donavan’s and Coleman’s leadership in the cause of LGBTQ inclusion reminded the community of its significant shortcomings and helped Belmont Hill take real steps towards an accepting campus. Off of the Hill, John Markis, long known for his political engagement, won a seat as a town meeting representative in his hometown of Wellesley, hoping to affect change in his community and to inspire other students to take part in their democracy and not wait for change to come to them. In each of these endeavours, McCormack sees a genuine dedication to the school. “We took an uncommon pride in the activities, groups, and teams to which we belonged, propelled by a desire to represent Belmont Hill well and engage with the broader school community.”
For many seniors, their last day as Belmont Hill students has caused them to consider just how extraordinary the school is. “We are known at Belmont Hill,” McCormack says. “It’s special knowing all of the faculty and staff and receiving their constant support and advice, and it’s even more special to know all of your peers and know them well. We are in the Belmont Hill bubble, claustrophobic at times but also so precious.”
The gift from the Class of 2018 to the school that has given them so much is set to be a sign on Prospect Street welcoming visitors to the campus, but the grade’s legacy will go far deeper than their metal memorial. Long after the boys of 2018 leave the Hill, their presence will remain in the clubs they founded and the trophies they won, as well as in the grades of young boys hoping to follow in their footsteps.