Harvard-Westlake has a long history with many enduring and meaningful traditions. Here are some of the most notable.
Homecoming takes place in the fall and is Harvard-Westlake's largest community-wide event of the year. This all-day celebration on the upper school campus features games, rides, prizes, food from HW's cultural clubs, an HW bakery booth, and a series of athletic events. Harvard-Westlake athletic teams play throughout the day, culminating with the varsity football game in the evening. Homecoming is organized and run by over 500 Harvard-Westlake Parents volunteers and is attended by the school’s students, faculty, alumni, parents, and neighbors.
Each spring, the middle school comes to life with a 32-team, single-elimination dodgeball tournament that spans the last few months of school. All students are welcome to participate, and each team is also allowed one faculty member. The dodgeball court is the place to be during activities period, as spectators can range into the hundreds for high-profile matchups. The tournament bracket is posted off of the Horn Commons alongside the row of plaques commemorating all the previous champions.
NINTH GRADE PROMOTION CEREMONY
At the middle school’s final assembly of the year, the ninth graders are honored with our ninth grade promotion ceremony. During the ceremony, ninth graders greet their deans and the head of the middle school on one side of the stage, then proceed across the stage to be greeted by representatives of the upper school dean team, symbolically marking their passing from the middle school to the upper school. Playing on the screen behind the stage are quotations from the ninth graders that serve as advice to the younger students watching in the audience.
Held right before spring break, the Spring Festival is a student and faculty event hosted by the Community and Character Committee that’s aimed to foster community at HW. In addition to enjoying lunch from a food truck, upper-school classes compete in activities including dodgeball, three-ball soccer, Wii karaoke, sudoku, kickball, ping-pong, and more.
The Senior Ceremony is a tradition that originated at the Westlake School for Girls in 1933. Held in September, it symbolizes the formal recognition of the seniors as the leaders of the school and their acceptance of the responsibility that comes with being the oldest on campus. After the seniors are given flower crowns or pins to wear throughout the event, the four senior prefects give speeches reflecting on the class’ collective Harvard-Westlake experience. Then, as the head of school reads their names, the seniors walk on stage to receive a class pin or ring. After the ceremony, seniors and their families gather on the field to socialize, reflect on their time at Harvard-Westlake, and celebrate their final year together.
SENIOR TRANSITION DAY
A tradition dating back 20 years, Senior Transition Day is a day to celebrate seniors, provide them with information about the world they are about to enter, and give them an opportunity to bond. It has evolved over the years from breakfast and yearbook distribution to also include presentations on the mental and academic transition to college, staying connected as HW alums, and pursuing purpose beyond ourselves. A senior class photo, lunch, and a senior coffee house round out the day.
The annual Senior Walk, a tradition started by the Community & Character Committee, takes place during the last assembly of the school year at the upper school. The juniors, sophomores, faculty, and staff are dismissed first from assembly and line the sides of the fire road from Taper Gymnasium to the Chalmers patio. When the seniors are dismissed, they walk to the Chalmers patio while being greeted by applause and high-fives from the waiting crowd. Once on the patio, everyone enjoys donuts.
A much-anticipated event for students and their families, graduation day begins for seniors, faculty, and administration with breakfast and the Senior Tribute Awards, a thank-you to six teachers voted on by the senior class. Then seniors don their robes and line up for the commencement exercises.
The senior class procession is led by the senior faculty member and chief marshal, followed by next year’s head prefects, members of the board of trustees, the school administration, the president of the alumni association, and faculty members, all in full academic regalia. During the ceremony, the valedictorian and the salutatorian make speeches. Finally, diplomas are awarded, and the only thing left is for seniors to jubilantly fling their mortarboards high into the air. Hugs and high-fives abound as seniors congratulate each other, take pictures, and bid each other adieu.