Sasha Kracauer has been named valedictorian and Oma Tasie-Amadi the salutatorian for the Northfield Mount Hermon Class of 2023. In addition, Hazel Peach Reeder has been selected as the Class of 2023 orator.
Kracauer will speak at the Recognition Assembly and Cum Laude Induction on May 19, while Tasie-Amadi will speak at the Baccalaureate service, the ceremonial closing of the academic year, on May 20. Reeder will deliver remarks during the Commencement ceremony on May 21.
“I’m incredibly grateful and honored,” Kracauer said. “It feels nice to be recognized, and it’s also validating all the effort that I’m putting into school. There were many, many nights when I worked so, so hard on assignments, essays, quizzes, or studying — it feels like it’s all worth it.”
At NMH, Kracauer, a day student from Northampton, Massachusetts, stays incredibly busy. She’s an Ecoleader and a member of the Climate Justice Coalition. Outside of school, she’s involved with several regional and statewide organizations focused on climate change, sustainability, and the environment. She plans to major in environmental engineering at Smith College, with a focus on renewable energy. She’s also a writing tutor and belongs to three singing groups.
Kracauer’s speech includes a focus on the importance of mental health.“There were times when I wasn’t able to take a test and went to the health center because of anxiety,” she said. “I want to be transparent. I have a lot of anxiety at times, because I have so much motivation to do well. To see someone succeed and also hear them talk about the other side of the coin — I think that’s something my class can connect with. And there are also support systems to help you get past the mental blocks or anxiety, and you can still succeed.”
Tasie-Amadi, who is from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, plans to major in business administration at the University of Southern California. At NMH, she is an editor of the school arts magazine, Mandala, and a member of the Black Student Union and the Circle of Sisters, an affinity group for girls of color. She also serves as a resident leader and sings in two a cappella groups.
In her speech, Tasie-Amadi will encourage her classmates to look within themselves to find the motivation to achieve their goals, rather than compare themselves to others. “I think it’s important to find what drives you and to motivate yourself,” she said. “It’s not enough to do things because it will make others proud of you. You have to want it for yourself.
“There were a lot of times I found myself comparing myself to other people,” Tasie-Amadi continued. “But it’s important to remember we’re not doing the same thing. We’re not the same person. We don’t have the same goals, and that’s OK.”
While the valedictorian and salutatorian are chosen based on their academic records, the orator selection is a little different. Dozens of seniors try their hand at writing orations, and a panel of English teachers, college counselors, librarians, and debate coach Peter Weis selects finalists to present their speeches to a live audience. The audience votes on their favorites, and the panel takes the vote into consideration before making a final decision.
Reeder, a day student from Gill, Massachusetts, is still working with English department chair Meg Eisenhauer to tweak their oration into its final version. But they aim to offer their perspective on something they heard during Head of School Brian Hargrove’s induction ceremony in 2019, when Reeder joined NMH as a 9th-grader.
“A colleague of his said, ‘Teach [students] how to say goodbye,’” Reeder said. “I remember thinking: This is really important, but I don’t understand it yet.
“We might think it’s easier to say goodbye by making it sad or to be angry about it,” they continued. “But to love something so fully and still have a good goodbye is much more impactful and something I’d feel a lot less regret about later on. This is something that I carried with me with intention throughout this year.”
Reeder plans to major in English with a focus on creative writing at Reed College. They want to become a teacher someday, like their father, NMH science teacher David Reeder. One highlight of their time at NMH has been the Rhodes Fellowship Course in Social Entrepreneurship, in which Reeder created a plan for a program to empower children impacted by the criminal justice system by using art to encourage creativity and self-expression. They are captain of the swim team and in March received the first New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Division I Andy Lowe Award, given to a student-athlete who “best embodies the values of generosity of spirit, humility, and relentlessness.”
While honored to be chosen as the orator, Reeder emphasized how much it meant to simply experience the selection process. “Hearing everyone’s reflections was a very beautiful experience,” they said. “I walked away thinking I’d be so overjoyed if anyone got chosen. I’m just so lucky that I got to do it alongside all of these wonderful people.”