Appreciating the Cum Laude Awards
by The Milton Measure on Friday, June 8th, 2012
Last week, a fifth of Milton’s senior class and one junior were honored with induction to Milton’s Cum Laude society. Each year, the twenty percent of seniors with the highest grades, along with the junior or juniors with their class’ highest grade point average, are elected to the school’s chapter of the Cum Laude society to honor Milton’s hardest-working, brightest young scholars.
To graduate Cum Laude is a great honor, and certainly one to be celebrated as a difficult and admirable achievement. Those who earn this distinction have it appear on their diplomas.
This year’s junior Cum Laude recipient is Nelson Barrette (II), who seems to be taking his achievement very modestly. While Nelson “wouldn’t say [he] was striving for Cum Laude,” he said that the award was “something [he] noticed every graduation,” and thought “would be neat to [receive].” After getting the award, Nelson feels “very honored to have been selected.”
Henry Russell, a Milton alumnus who graduated Cum Laude in 2011, remembered the reception held in Straus as being “short and sweet;” one teacher gave a speech, and each student was recognized. Henry’s favorite part about becoming a part of the Cum Laude society was that, as a student who knew what it was like to work so hard for so long, he was able to see “who put in that same effort.” Henry enjoyed looking around the room and admiring his peers because “you never really know who works hard and who does well, but in that room, everyone knows.” Henry’s interpretation of the award seems to define its purpose exactly: to recognize those in our community who have consistently shown diligence and academic prowess.
While their achievement is remarkable, Cum Laude inductees do not receive nearly the attention they deserve in our community, especially amongst underclassmen. When interviewed, one student described Cum Laude as an honor for those who “…have gotten almost all A’s in their classes the whole time they’ve been at Milton,” which is untrue. Another student simply stated “I don’t know how it works,” an answer echoed by many freshmen who were unaware of Cum Laude as well. When asked if Milton’s community would benefit from being better educated on the award, Rebecca Chernick (III) answered that “[more knowledge of it] would probably be good.” Is Milton understating the importance of this achievement? When the names are read at Milton’s Cum Laude induction ceremony, are the only people who appreciate the significance of the award the small percentage of students to whom it is presented?
Students seem divided on the appropriateness of the existence of the Cum Laude society at Milton. Francesca Ely-Spence (III) feels as though the recognition is “not very fair” because, at Milton, “everybody words hard, [and] some people are just smarter—it’s a fact.” Francesca says the award recognizes people for “what they are, not for hard work.” Perhaps the Cum Laude honor does not account for the students who go above and beyond in terms of effort, but do not see the results that their less hard-working but naturally-talented classmates do. Still, most students would agree that the distinction is a great honor and one to be appreciated by others, not envied.
Ultimately, election to Cum Laude is extremely prestigious but not well understood by Milton’s student body, particularly underclassmen. Still, this lack of knowledge does not prevent Milton students from working hard throughout their careers, and induction to the Cum Laude society simply stands as a final pat on the back for those students who have reached the summit of Milton academics. Congratulations to this year’s recipients!
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