HEBRON — Graduating senior Polly Holman Drown’s face lit up like a rapidly blooming flower on Saturday morning when John King announced to the crowd of a few hundred that she’d won the Hebron Academy Cup.

When she reached him atop the podium, King, the Head of School, handed Drown the large trophy — the school’s pinnacle of awards. The applause was deafening.

For Drown’s mom, Grace Drown of Leeds, the moment was both bittersweet and exhilarating, because her husband, Scott Drown, Polly’s dad, passed away last June at the age of 54.

“We’re very excited,” Grace Drown said outside the Athletic Center following the commencement ceremony.

“Her father who passed away would be very, very proud of her. … So this is an especially poignant time for us.”

The name of each recipient is engraved on the cup, which is given to a senior whom the faculty decides represents the finest spirit of scholastic effort, who shows a high degree of excellence in athletic competition, and who shows a commendable spirit of devotion, high ideals, friendliness, endeavor and responsibility.

“This is a wonderful way for her to finish her year here where she started as a sixth-grader,” Grace Drown said as her daughter’s classmates and relatives posed with Polly and the cup for pictures.

“I’m just really happy,” Polly said in between receiving congratulatory hugs from classmates.

Drown’s senior classmates — all 75 of them beaming happiness — entered the Athletic Center shortly before the 10:30 a.m. ceremony was about to start.

Taking seats between the podium and a large crowd of parents, relatives, friends, professors and school staff, they listened as Class President Andrew Butter Bloomingdale Jr. gave the Graduation Message.

Bloomingdale extolled the life of African American and tennis legend Arthur Ashe before focusing on Ashe’s quote, “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

“It is important that it we understand that it takes a lot more than just making a living to make a life,” Bloomingdale said.

“For us, Hebron has been our foundation and now we must go out and do extraordinary things and make our own lives.”

“As so many around us have given in their own lives to bring us to this moment, my challenge to you is to discover and nurture your own gifts, to go out from here and to not just make a living, but really make a life,” he said.

Prior to handing out many awards to seniors who weren’t aware they were receiving them, King shared a few words about the college prep school “where you can follow your dreams, and perhaps, create new ones.”

He urged them to set new goals and find new ways to live and be happy.

“In many ways, the greatest gift that Hebron can teach you is how to be ready for change, to be prepared to work hard, to try new things,” King said.

Following the presentation of diplomas, Valedictorian Jai Kyeong Kim in his farewell speech, implored his classmates to “explore ourselves more and find the true freedoms inside us.”

“Don’t compare yourself to others; you shine as you are,” Kim said.

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