Anjali Shah knew her message at Sewickley Academy’s graduation ceremony needed to be memorable.

The Senior School student body president and member of the class of 2024 stood behind the podium with poise at the private school’s commencement ceremony on June 7.

She talked about how she started her academic journey at the middle school; the excitement and anticipation, the twists and turns and lessons that would carry her forward.

She also touched on the “endless chaos” of 2020 with socially distanced lunches and ever-changing health and safety protocols, as well as the challenging return to normalcy in subsequent years.

“With the ups and downs that this year may have brought, what remained consistent through it all was the comradely that the class of 2024 had,” Anjali said. “It’s safe to say that in my six years at the academy, the bond that our grade has is by far on top.”

Anjali’s speech pulled from various literary works including Lois Lowry’s “The Giver,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” George Orwell’s “1984” and Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give” among several others.

The overall message of holding your head up and keeping moving was one that resonated with her fellow protagonists/graduates.

“Let’s not think of this moment as the end of the story,” Anjali said. “We are simply adding on to the book and starting a new chapter. We will continue to carve our paths and take ourselves through a crazy tale of our future, but always remember where your first chapters began and where your roots lie.”

Students also heard encouraging words from Head of School Ashley Birtwell, Head of Senior School Jamie Nestor and guest speaker Dr. Joseph Maroon, clinical professor of neurological science at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Heindl Scholar in neuroscience.

Maroon is also the neurosurgical consultant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a member of the NFL’s MTBI committee for concussions and medical director of World Wrestling Entertainment.

He talked about the importance of a work, family, spiritual and physical balance.

He also stressed the need to take care of one’s mental health, to have an attitude of gratitude even in times of struggle and always seek to do better.

Several students received special awards in addition to their diplomas.

Abigail Bojalad received the Faculty Award, given to a graduating student who has consistently displayed, with a cheerful and mature attitude, unselfish service to the entire school community and a sincere concern for others.

Max Peluso received the Cavalier Cup, awarded to a senior who the faculty believes has achieved a record of combined excellence in scholarship, sportsmanship and citizenship, thereby bringing credit to the Academy and distinguishing themselves as the best all-around graduate.

Jack Terrell received the Head of School’s Award, given to a senior whose service and accomplishments in academic, athletic, and/or extracurricular activities have made a significant contribution to the life of the school and who best exemplifies the ideals and spirit of Sewickley Academy.

Anjali Shah received the Academy Award, given by the Board of Trustees to a senior who displays the distinguishing qualities of moral goodness, perseverance and dedication to the Academy, and who, above all, is sincere in his or her academic pursuits.

Abigail and Max led the class and audience members in the singing of the alma mater as part of the ceremony’s conclusion.

Students celebrated with their parents at reception on the lawn outside the Events Center.

Unlike most schools, academy graduates did not have caps and gowns — students have worn formal floor-length white clothing or navy and black sport coats with white shirts and academy ties since the first graduation in 1966.

Members of the class of 2024 are:

Sasha Ahmad

Gwyneth Belt

Alexandra Bock

Abigail Bojalad

Colleen Busher

Andrew Caridad

Logan Carlson

Ashley Close

Kathryn Colwell

Cait Donohue

Libby Eannarino

Lia Frazzini

Jayden Garcha

Julia Glance

Michael Gorloff

Raphael Jones

Aekam Kaur

Zachary Kerrish

Claudia Kronk

Sophia Linhardt

Jose Maldonado, Jr.

Natalia Mancino

Bernard McGroder, lV

Tejas Mitra

Xavier Nicopulos

Alaina Ohr

Max Peluso

Jackson Quigley

Lucas Ratkovich

Molly Russell

Anjali Shah

Peter Shillingsburg

Jordan Smith

Joseph Stephan

Kendall Sykes

James Terrell

Alexander Wang

Cooper Wentz

Michael Woo

Michael DiVittorio is a TribLive reporter covering general news in Western Pennsylvania, with a penchant for festivals and food. He can be reached at