MSK Kids Annual Convocation Ceremony: Honoring the Past, Looking toward the Future

MSK Kids Annual Convocation Ceremony

High school seniors who were treated for cancer or blood disorders at MSK Kids gathered virtually to celebrate their graduation on June 11.

The graduates at this year’s 14th Annual Convocation Ceremony know all about surmounting challenges and fostering resilience: They were all treated for childhood cancer or blood disorders at MSK Kids.

So when the MSK Kids team pivoted its celebratory graduation event to an entirely virtual format in light of COVID-19, the eager graduates didn’t back down. They had waited for this moment and they were ready to claim it as their own.

Eighty current and former MSK Kids patients graduated from high school this year. Forty-four were able to attend the celebration, which was held on Zoom on June 11.

“The Happiest Day”

At the beginning of the program, attendees heard from Paul Meyers, attending pediatrician and Vice Chair of Academic Affairs in the Department of Pediatrics at Memorial Sloan Kettering; Craig B. Thompson, MSK President and CEO; and Lisa DeAngelis, MSK’s Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer.

“This is the happiest day of the year for all of us who work at the hospital,” Dr. Meyers told the crowd.

Dr. Thompson instilled words of wisdom to the graduates: Seek out new opportunities, treat each day as a gift, and trust that the world’s current challenges “are going to get better.”

Dr. DeAngelis called the day “a wonderful bright spot for everyone here at MSK,” including those that patients may not normally interact with, such as radiologists and food service workers.

Lessons Learned

Zoryah Guity gave this year’s graduate address, accompanied by her twin sister Zoie. Zoryah was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, and says she leaned on her support system, including Zoie, to get her through it all.

“Our advice to anyone going through cancer right now is to stay optimistic,” Zoie said. “And if that doesn’t work, you can always ask your parents for a dog.”

Fellow graduate Jeremy Dickinson then performed a rousing rendition of “Put on a Happy Face” from his home, wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with “Scranton 2024.”

MSK Kids Program Manager Rachel Corke, joined by Mary Maher and Ketler Louissaint of the New York City Department of Education, presented certificates and awards to each of the graduating students. MSK’s years-long relationship with the Department of Education’s Hospital Schools program ensures that children undergoing treatment at MSK Kids can stay up to date on their schoolwork through group classes or bedside instruction. Nina Pickett, Senior Director of the Department of Pediatrics, recognized MSK’s team of educators by thanking them for their “enormous dedication and creativity to meet individual students’ needs” throughout the school year — especially during remote lessons brought on by COVID-19.

A Call to Action

Finally, Andrew Kung, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at MSK Kids, gave an empowering speech encouraging the new graduates to boldly face the world’s injustices and make change where they can.

“I urge you to draw on your experiences to become part of a village that lifts up others facing their own challenges,” he said.

As Dr. Meyers presented the class of 2020, the graduates moved their tassels from right to left to indicate their completion of high school and their adventures ahead. It was an appropriate send-off to many challenges overcome — and a happy welcome to a bright future.