Ninth graders shone this spring at public speaking event

Ninth graders shone this spring at public speaking event

Left: Paige Johnson
Top Right: Lyndsey Lashar
Bottom Right: Shaanveer Gupta                          

Thayer’s ninth graders may be young, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have wisdom to share or the courage to do so. 

In May of this year, Grand sTAnds, an annual public speaking tradition for the ninth grade class, saw 18 students from the Class of 2026 stand up and say exactly what they stood for in front of an audience of their peers. The presentations, roughly three minutes in length and between 300 and 500 words, offered a window into the students’ lives and how they perceived the world around them. 

Many of the presentations addressed such all-too-real topics as life-threatening illness, depression, inequality, dementia, the death of beloved pets, and the struggle to define or at times redefine oneself. Other speakers stood firm for the love of family, the power of positive thinking through manifestation, the importance of being there for others, the need for generosity, the camaraderie of sports, or the “domino effect” of smiles. 

Shaanveer Gupta told his classmates that he stood for “jumping in the pool” and then relayed a story where, as a terrified youth at a YMCA swimming class, he finally mustered the courage to do just that. 

Left: Will Bewley
Right, top to bottom: Quinn Devin, 
Bridget Farley & Ryan Dowden                            

“I made the biggest splash,” said Gupta, who was honest enough to admit that a piece of candy also served as incentive that fateful day. Today, Gupta is a proud member of Thayer’s swim & dive team. 

“It became my new favorite pastime,” he said. 

Another student, Ryan Dowden, said he stood for “wasting time” before explaining that such apparently trivial activities are actually the moments he bonds with the friends and family he loves. He left his audience with a quotation — attributed to John Lennon and about a dozen others — that “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” 

When it was Ciara Holland’s turn on the stage, she told classmates that she believed in “a Pringles can.” This prompted a hilarious anecdote about a chaotic climb of Mount Washington with her family that, despite being a comedy of errors, is now a cherished memory. 

Top, L-R: Lyndsay Mingolelli, Gabriella
Bottom, L-R: Ceili Kornhaber, Ciara Holland        

“It’s not the top of the mountain that I remember,” said Holland. “It’s the journey.” 

Upper School English Faculty Matt Ranaghan thanked the ninth grade audience for its attentiveness that day but singled out the presenters themselves for highest praise. 

“This is incredibly hard to do,” Ranaghan told those 18 students. “You put yourself out there.” 

Grand sTAnds presenters were: 

Dakota Adams
Ceili Kornhaber
Paige Johnson
Shaanveer Gupta
Cole Daniello
Emma Cox
Ciara Holland
Quinn Devin
Ryan Dowden
Lindsay Lashar
Gabriella Monteiro
Will Gerst
Adeline Wiesel
Alta Randall
Lyndsay Mingolelli
Bridget Farley
Nancy Gelina
Will Bewley

Grand sTAnds represents the ninth grade component of Thayer’s commitment to leadership communication and public speaking across all grade levels. The sequenced array of curricular opportunities, which begins with the Declamation Celebration at the Middle School, develops not only effective public presentation skills but highlights the art of storytelling, the value of connecting with multiple audiences, and the importance of articulating ideas in impactful ways.

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