Seniors Come Together for Socially Distanced Peer Reference Readings


Noah Glasgow, Editor-in-Chief

Every year, on a day taken away from campus, the senior class gathers for the annual Peer Reference reading, one of Falmouth Academy’s proudest high school traditions. This year, the Class of 2021 came together outside of Highfield Hall in late October to reflect on their time at FA and share the college recommendations –  “Peer References” – they have written for each other.

The Peer Reference writing process begins in early September, when seniors compile a list of “blurbs,” or brief recommendations, about each classmate. The process can be grueling, especially as students write about classmates with whom, through the pandemic, they haven’t been able to regularly interact. Francesca Farina ‘21 admitted that she had a tough time coming up with a blurb for each of her classmates. 

“But the process really made me think about people I haven’t talked to in a while,” Francesca said. Across the grade, an initial reluctance to complete the assignment slowly gave way to excitement as students rediscovered memories and anecdotes that span the last five years.

Saniya Rajagopal ‘21 called the blurb writing process nostalgic: “Oh yeah, Drew and I did do that!”

Once each senior has completed this first assignment, Mrs. Eleanor Clark, the 12th grade English teacher, assigns seniors the classmate for whom they’ll be writing a final, polished piece of writing. After a week of writing and revision, students have prepared a page-long recommendation ready for the spotlight. 

Traditionally, students gather at the home of a senior class member to read their references aloud, but coronavirus precautions forced the class to look for other options away from the hustle and bustle of campus.

“Since we couldn’t have familiarity and togetherness of the original plan, we decided that Highfield Hall, just up the hill, was the kind of formal space that could give our grade a sense of purpose and closure,” said Victoria Searle ‘21, senior class vice president. Mrs. Clark reached out to Highfield, a community hub and public gardens, which proved more than willing to accomodate students. It furnished the Class of 2021 with chairs, a podium and – of course – WiFi on their antique covered porch. 

Seniors relaxed in the socially-distanced outdoors, taking their turns at the podium. After six weeks of writing and planning, the day felt remarkably relaxed.

“It felt really sentimental; we haven’t had a normal day together,” said Justine Clement ‘21, reflecting on the senior class. “That was the most normal day we’ve had together as a class this year. Just sitting out there, it felt like everything just stopped, and we thought, ‘Wow, we’re really going to graduate soon.’”

Of course, Peer Reference day was hardly normal. Together, students reflected on some of the class’s most remarkable (and hilarious) moments: Sama Zaman ‘21’s attempts to eat tinfoil. Francesca’s first time on the Lacrosse pitch. There were revelations, too: For years, Caitlin Corkeron ‘21 has come into school forty minutes early every morning to keep Shelby Eldredge ‘21, who gets dropped off at 7:30, company. 

A number of students joined the gathering over Zoom, reading their references through Mrs. Clark’s laptop and a speaker volunteered by Maisie Saganic ‘21. After the readings, students gathered on the Highfield lawn and enjoyed cinnamon rolls baked by Ruby Gaetani ‘21 and refreshments from Mr. Doug Jones, the senior class advisor. 

“It was nice to just be outside, not even talking, just lying there – everything’s been so crazy in general, that was our first moment to breathe,” said Francesca Farina.

Collectively, seniors agreed that the day spent at Highfield Hall was a welcome relief from the strain of senior fall. 

“I like that the process allows for seniors in the fall to think about their classmates,” said Mrs. Clark, who knows that this time of year, seniors are often preoccupied with the college process. Like Francesca, she described Peer Reference day as a welcome escape. “I think so much about senior fall asks a senior to look inward, that it’s valuable to have to look outward as well and recognize what’s valuable in other people.”

Now refreshed and reinvigorated, seniors wait for December, when admissions officers nationwide – now aware of class’s most incredible exploits – deliver the Class of ‘21’s first round of college acceptances.