On Monday, Feb. 25, at 6:00 p.m., the recipients of the Cum Laude honor and their families attended a ceremony and dinner, where the students received their pins and certificates, and listened to alumni speaker Ryan Cronin ’98.
The Cum Laude Society is a private school society that recognizes the top 20 percent of the graduating class and has strict guidelines in terms of citizenship and academic honor. It is equivalent to the National Honors Society in public schools and Phi Beta Kappa in universities.
President of the Cum Laude chapter at KO Brenda Semmelrock said the dinner is a moment of celebration. “It’s a time to gather in honor of these student who have worked hard and long, and it gives the opportunity for faculty to be with them along with their parents,” she said.
Officer of the Cum Laude chapter at KO, Director of Academic Planning Carolyn McKee said that the selection criteria is very thorough. “The four pillars they focus on are academic excellence, moral sense and scholarship, dignity and truth, and citizenship.”
Officer Ron Monroe said that when the committee nominates students for the award, they take into account their academic record as well as their citizenship record. “It’s a distinction that involves sustained academic excellence, as well as a citizenship component,” he said. “As for the dinner, it is celebratory of their achievements and is for their parents and them.”
Ms. McKee said that the night begins with a reception in the library where students receive a membership booklet and their Cum Laude pin, and then they move to the cafeteria for dinner. During dessert, there is always a guest speaker who is an alum, and speaks about their life in relation to KO.
This year, Mrs. Semmelrock said she invited Ryan Cronin ’98 to speak to the students. “Ryan is someone who loves KO,” she said. “He was here for his reunion, and I see him at different sporting events. It’s nice for our inductees to hear from an alum who worked as hard as them and was committed to sports and other activities and how they can use those skills in college and beyond.”
Mr. Cronin said that with his speech he wanted to talk about some of the key things that he took from KO and also convey gratitude to everyone who helped him get there. “I do remember being inducted into Cum Laude, and it made me feel really proud to be part of that group,” he said. “I want them to reflect on their hard work and be grateful, knowing they could not have done it alone, without their teachers, who had faith in their potential.”
Furthermore, Mr. Cronin talked about how to carry the idea of humility in their day-to-day lives. “Being a leader who is humble and who can listen to others is the true path to leadership,” he said.
Mr. Cronin now works as an ESL teacher at Whiting Lane School in West Hartford and is currently attending UConn to pursue administration and education, with hopes of becoming an elementary school principal. “I frequently think back to KO and how I am employing those skills I learned to help kids,” he said. “I am able to do them skillfully because of the rigor of KO’s learning.”
Mr. Monroe said he loved hearing what Mr. Cronin had to say. “It is an interesting window of life after KO through someone who has already been there, and it’s a very nice part of the evening,” he said.
Students said they agreed that it was an enjoyable night and it was a moment for reflection. “It’s great to be recognized for our hard work,” senior Ananya Alleyne said. “Mr. Cronin’s speech overall was really good and encouraging; he focused on taking the time to reflect, look forward, and appreciate how well KO has set us up for success.”
Senior Jason Meizels said that the dinner was a great opportunity to connect with peers, teachers, and parents. “It was a huge honor to have that recognition,” he said. “The dinner was a good memory and a nice celebration of our time and hard work at KO.”
Senior Mia Seymour said she agreed that the evening was a moment to just appreciate KO and everyone involved in her success here. “I thought that KO did a really nice job putting together the dinner and celebrating all the inductees,” she said. “The cafeteria was beautiful and I liked how we got to sit with teachers. It was really a time of celebrating beyond just ourselves, but everyone who saw things in us that we didn’t see ourselves—our teachers, our parents, our friends.”
Senior Ali Meizels said that the dinner was very nice and elegant. “One thing that I really enjoyed was that our parents and lots of our teachers were there, which was really special since I got to celebrate this honor with many of the people who have helped me throughout high school,” she said. “I thought the speaker was excellent, and I really appreciated his message about gratitude, and I think it’s super relevant as we get closer to graduation.”
Mr. Monroe said that the evening was one of a kind. “It’s always been a wonderful evening,” he said. “There are many nice moments in the school year, and this is one of them, where deserving students are recognized along with their families.”