Kim Frusciate, Ed.M.'22, delivers the student address at Convocation 2022
Photo: Jill Anderson
I prepared remarks for this occasion about six weeks ago, centered around the idea of place and sprinkled with some bad jokes. After hearing the news yesterday, I knew I would remiss not to address the tragedy in Texas to a tent full of educators. Many of us have read countless articles, engaged in spirited discussion with peers, and listened to many lectures on how to make school a safe place for learning.
While I am not a seasoned or gifted enough speaker to completely adjust what I’ll say today, like many of you, I will be holding onto multiple emotions at once:
• a deep sadness and grief for the victims and their families of this horrific tragedy,
• an anger and indignation that lawmakers have still failed to act to prevent acts of violence such as these,
• gratitude that in this moment in time I can find comfort with many people who I love and admire, and
• a fire and motivation to keep pushing on with the work that we’ve started here at HGSE.
And I’ll take a moment to remind you all, and perhaps myself, that experiencing joy doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about the context in which we live, but hopefully will fuel us to keep fighting the good fight for another day.
With that, all that in mind, I’ll start with some gratitude…
Good afternoon, friends, families, distinguished faculty, and fellow graduates. I am deeply honored to speak here today. Thank you to my faculty adviser Dr. Mary Grassa O’Neil for your guidance, and to all of my professors who have each profoundly and uniquely shaped my leadership forever, to my friends and classmates — especially SLP folks, for your companionship over the rollercoaster of the last two years, to my parents Amy & Frank Frusciante, for your unconditional love, to my husband and my partner, Taylor Gilbert, for your unwavering support and steadiness, and to our two children, Edith and Andy, for always understanding when mommy needed to go to class.
Twenty years ago, when I graduated from high school, I got a core group of my friends each a copy of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so… get on your way.” Classic! Since then, I’ve learned a few things. 1. Dr. Seuss drew some pretty racist propaganda cartoons during WWII… Sorry old friends; and 2. Place is a deeply subjective and highly fluid term.
Two years ago, I got an email inviting me to “Learn to Change the World.” It was an email that changed my life. I’m guessing I’m not the only one here for whom this is true, that email — that invitation — changed my perception of myself and my own abilities forever. Heck it changed the world’s perception of me forever. Eighteen years before, I’d dreamed of the places I would go, the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, of Harvard, certainly never seemed attainable. But that day I learned that I was going to Harvard. But in 2020 “going” to Harvard meant something very different…. And as it turned out, those hallowed halls would have to wait.
Tomorrow, all of us graduate from Harvard. Yesterday, I had to ask for directions to the bathroom. You see, as a virtual, part-time student, I’ve never been to this place. Four days ago was my first time ever stepping foot on this campus. Oh the places you’ll fiiiiiiiinally go! Place. Together, over the last two years, we’ve redefined the meaning of the word.
Still, let me tell you about some of the literal places I would go while attending Harvard.
I would go… to my guest room where I learned from some of the most brilliant minds in education today. It was there where I confessed to a Zoom room full of strangers that I once waited in line to take a selfie with Dr. Junlei Li at a NAEYC conference. In that same room, weeks later, Junlei gave me feedback on the theory of change that I wrote as a final for the class he co-teaches with Dr. Stephanie Jones, a document I used to set up Early Partners, the school that I now run.
It was in that same guest room where I confronted my own racial identity in Dr. Irvin Scott’s Race, Equity, and Leadership class. I cried with friends all sitting in different rooms, in some cases thousands of miles away, when we learned that Breonna Taylor’s killer would not be charged. We challenged each other to think more deeply about how our identities impacted our leadership and how we can build schools where equity wasn’t just a poster on the wall and an hourlong workshop but the foundation upon which a school is built.
You see, those brilliant minds I mentioned weren’t just on the faculty. It was in that same guestroom where I would be inspired and challenged by my classmates, many of whom were also leading schools, starting nonprofits, or teaching day after day in masks or on Zoom. It was in that place where I came to realize that we weren’t just learning to change the world, we were actively doing it.
Oh, the Places We’ll Go…
I would go… to Florida. It wasn’t for a trip to the beach. I started the first week of classes this year in Florida after Hurricane Ida shut down my city and my startup school. During evacuation, I would also go… to my car, with my husband, our two young children, and our 10-month-old bloodhound. On I10, somewhere between New Orleans and Orlando, I completed the first two weeks’ worth of readings for Dr. Meredith Rowe’s class, a class that would later reshape my approach to pedagogy and professional development for Early Partners.
Once home, I would also go… to my closet, my makeshift home office after the fourth class quarantine from one of my kids. It was there, where I got feedback on pitch deck from the Comm Lab, learned that a balance sheet should always be balanced from Jim Honan, and had a Zoom conversation with former Secretary of Education John King.
This collection of places is not the conventional Harvard experience. Yet this place is where we all found our people. Those who dedicate their lives to make every place radically better for the future.
So today, as I look at all of you for the first time in person, I can’t help but think… many of you are much taller than what I was excepting. But in all seriousness, in this time of incredible uncertainty, I am so grateful to know that all of you will be off in your new places, helping others learn how to change the world.