Embracing the moment – Harvard Gazette

A particularly impressive cheering section turned out for Araoluwa “Ara” Omotowa, a government concentrator who also received a citation in Chinese. About a dozen family members and friends flew in from Washington, Maryland, Texas, and the family’s home in Idaho Falls, Idaho, to show their love and support for Omotowa, who interned at Harvard Law Review and eventually plans to attend law school.

“I feel happy, thankful, proud,” said her mother, Omotayo Omotowa, as she scanned the crowd looking for Ara.

The family only immigrated to the US in 1998 but are well-versed in the quirky rituals of Harvard Commencements. Ara’s older brother, Ibukunoluwa, who was also in attendance, graduated from the College in 2018.

Rise and shine — now!

When it’s time to graduate, who minds the searing bleat of bagpipes or a six-piece New Orleans-style brass band to get the morning juices flowing?

While others were leisurely milling about, Leverett House seniors dressed in their caps and gowns hit Quincy Street just before 7 am, led by Faculty Dean Brian D. Farrell in his crimson robe and the aforementioned marching band, bound for Harvard Yard.

Not to be passed by, both literally and figuratively, on this most sacred of days, the bagpipers outside Quincy House quickly sounded the alarm and in a blink of an eye, the graduates from Quincy lined up in cutting and stepped into the street, off the quickly advancing Leverett House, whose mascot is, of course, the rabbit.

Every year, a small group of electricians, plumbers, and trades staff from Harvard Campus Services gather in front of Quincy House to watch the scene, cheering on each House sometimes as they parade by, even high-fiving students.

Though they demurred on picking a favorite, William Dyer, David Abreu, and Peter Antonuccio said they’re maybe a little partial to Quincy House, since their shop is there.

After two years without an in-person communication, Dyer said what many were feeling: “It’s good to have everybody back.”

Her favorite teachers

That Sydnie Cobb would invite her two teachers to graduation was always a given.

“They taught me since pre-K until 10th grade,” said Cobb, who concentrated in social studies.

On Commencement Day, Cobb shared a celebratory lunch with her family at Winthrop House. With them were Aprile and Deanna Thomas, twin sisters who founded Twins’ Academy, a private school in Lithonia, Georgia, that homeschooled Cobb for 13 years. The Thomases were elated. Their school has graduated more than 300 students, but Cobb was their first Ivy Leaguer.

“I’m levitating,” said Aprile. “My heart is full. Sydnie is an example of how your students can inspire you. She has shown us the power of what we do. Teachers do matter. I tell all teachers everywhere: ‘Keep going. You do make a difference.”’”

For her part, Deanna said they saw in Cobb a commitment to education and a drive to succeed from an early age. “This was a dream of Sydnie’s since she was a small child, and we helped her make it happen,” said Deanna. “She has inspired so many other children. It’s absolutely amazing.”

After graduation, Cobb will move to New York to work for The New Yorker. A former writer for The Harvard Crimson, she’s looking forward to her new gig. She will help write articles, research and edit, and scout new talent.

For Cobb, the event was bittersweet. “I’m very sad to be leaving Harvard, especially since our time was truncated, but another part of me is so hopeful and excited for the future,” she said.

But she also expressed her confidence that “the friendships that I made here are going to endure different cities, jobs, and life phases.”

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