Oak Knoll Graduates 53 Young Women of Promise 

Fifty-three “young women of promise” processed to pomp and circumstance in front of friends, family, board members, administrators, faculty, and staff to begin the 96th annual commencement at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child on June 9, 2024. Following an invocation and then an address by 2024 Valedictorian Rory Weldon ’24, they crossed the stage as their names were announced to receive their diplomas from Head of School Jennifer G. Landis and Chair of the Board of Trustees Stephen Loughrey.

In her valedictory address, Weldon joked about her notoriously shy and quiet nature but held the crowd rapt with sage advice. She drew from her experience as a climbing club member with three essential rules: safety second; failure is always an option but trying is mandatory; and learning to laugh at yourself. She alluded to the importance of getting outside one’s comfort zone and acting purposefully and confidently.

“Never in our lives should safety and comfort be the top priority,” she advised. “Change and growth only occur once you relinquish complete safety. As this group of 53 girls takes the leap into college, the environment of Oak Knoll has given us all confidence in our abilities and talents, which will allow us to take risks and explore new things.”  

 McGroarty introduced Ashley Saunders Russo, class of 1994, as the honored guest and commencement speaker. Russo owns ASR Media Productions and has established herself as a leader in the media industry, earning seven Emmy® awards for her work as an executive producer. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from New York University. She is also the chief operating officer at General Magnaplate Corporation and has an impressive commitment to service work and philanthropy.

Russo primarily spoke about gratitude and the concept of grace. She defined grace as a noun, a state of being, and a verb, or something we bestow on ourselves and others. 

“People will say work hard, get good grades, pick a major, find a job, build a career, build a life,” she said. “And yet, all that is important is to give yourself grace in the process. There’s a reason that we say live and learn. That only happens when you live life. You try, as Rory said, you make mistakes, you forgive yourself, you learn, and you move forward.”

Oak Knoll graduates Adeola Adebiyi ’24 and Emelia Exton ’24 concluded the formal portion of the program, adding their talented voices to a lovely rendition of the song “Flight” by Craig Carnelia. Attendees were then invited to stand for the Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child alma mater. 

The Class of 2024 then recessed to the smiles and proud applause of attendees and will now join the prestigious ranks of Oak Knoll alumni/ae. They will matriculate to top colleges and universities in the fall and continue their promising educational journey.