NEWPORT COAST — When Olivia Simon sat down in Cha for Tea to write the speech she would give at her graduation from Sage Hill School, she wasn't sure how to explain her time there, but all that changed when three junior girls walked in.
Simon, who will attend Washington University in St. Louis in the fall, said although she didn't know the girls well, they recognized each other from school and immediately sat down and started talking.
"We laughed together like we were old friends," she said.
That moment crystallized Simon's experience. In her speech at Sage Hill School's graduation Friday afternoon, she described a world unlike the high school norm, where teachers always take the time to read essays students need help with, freshmen unabashedly read poetry at school events and students become friends regardless of class, race, interest or clique.
"The truth is moments like [these] reaffirm my beliefs that Sage thrives and functions by some magical force called Sage-iness," she said.
Family and friends lavished the 113 graduates with flowers, balloons, air horns and cheers at the Newport Coast private school Friday.
At the commencement, students performed music, seniors walked across the stage to shake hands with Head of School Gordon McNeill and speakers offered words of advice.
One of these speakers was English teacher Aileen Hawkins, who gave the grads a brief but poignant list of do's and don'ts for the next few years of their lives. Among them: Do wear flip-flops in the shower, do go to professors' office hours and don't sign up for credit cards.
"Don't just own your truth, geek out on it! Excel at it," she said.
Hawkins urged students to take advantage of the opportunity to dive into life and make mistakes, "as long as they aren't illegal or too humiliating."
And she offered up another important reminder: "Facebook is now your permanent record," she said. "Post, but post wisely."