At the end of every year, all three divisions gather together to celebrate students’ achievements and send off grades four, eight, and twelve as they move up to the next division, or chapter of their lives. During Middle and Upper School Closing Exercises, students are presented with awards that they are nominated for by the faculty. Students in Middle School receive awards such as the Community Cup and the English prize. Students in the Upper School receive awards from the English Prize to the Benjamin R. Fisher Cup which is awarded to a student who has given outstanding service to the school. Lower School students participate in the Moving Up Ceremony during Closing Exercises. Each grade level has assigned spots in the auditorium and during the ceremony they move from their current seats to the next grade level.
One of the most anticipated events of senior year, Commencement is a celebration of the seniors and their final goodbye from the Ellis community. Commencement is an Ellis event that has some of the longest traditions. The ceremony has been held in the Ellis courtyard since 1958 which was the year the school moved to its current location. Since 1916 the same music has been played for the procession and recession, students have had a reception l, and the Glee Club has sung the Ellis alma mater and Gaudeamus Igitur. Students have also worn white hats and white attire since 1916 but are allowed to wear whatever kind of shoes they want to as long as they can walk through the courtyard without tripping.
Students who have attended Ellis from kindergarten to senior year are known as Ellis “Lifers”. While there are only a handful in each class, this select group takes great pride in attending Ellis for their entire academic career. In May of their senior year, Lower School teachers put together a tea for the students to reconnect with them and talk about the time that they spent in Lower School. A video of their fourth grade musical is also usually played during the tea.
A celebration of the arts at Ellis, the Fine Arts Festival is a biennial event that features performances, demonstrations, and workshops. Students involved in the performing arts such as band, orchestra, glee, and dance show off their talents in performances throughout the day. Student work from visual arts classes is displayed throughout the school to encourage those attending to walk around campus and experience the work. Students also give artistic demonstrations. Additionally, the he Fine Arts Festival is a time for faculty and students to showcase new technology and maker education methods that are integral to Ellis’ fine arts curriculum.
In their first year at Ellis, every student is assigned to the Green or White team and they stay on the same team throughout their time at Ellis. At the beginning of each school year, students participate in the Green and White games which are hosted by the Ellis Athletic Association. Past games have included relay races, obstacle courses, and dodgeball games.
Every year for Halloween, students have the opportunity to dress up in costumes for the day. The highlight of Halloween, however, is the Lower School Halloween parade. Students from pre-kindergarten to grade to grade 4––and even some daycare children––are lined up and paraded through the Middle and Upper School buildings so that older students can view and celebrate their costumes.
A beloved Ellis tradition, Heritage Day is the celebration of different cultures within the school. Students are encouraged to wear clothing from countries that are a part of their heritage. In the Lower School, students participate in different activities throughout the day that teach them about cultures they may know nothing about. The most exciting part of the day, however, is lunch. Parents from all divisions sign up to cook food from countries that they have ties to and bring it in for all students to enjoy. Known as “the best day of the year” to most students, Heritage Day is an Ellis tradition that no one wants to miss.
Hosted by the Ellis Parents Association, the Holiday Shop happens every December and is a chance for Middle School students to sell items that they have made. Students join the Ellis Entrepreneurs club at the beginning of the year to learn how to price and sell items. Using that knowledge they create items from knitted hats to peppermint bark to jewelry to sell during the Holiday Shop.
After spending years in the Ellis uniform, students tend to grow tired of the plaid kilt and constant Ellis green. Kilt Destruction Day gives the seniors free reign to transform their Ellis uniform (typically a kilt) into another article of clothing or accessory. Students have made scarves, covered shoes, and even created a Batman cape and mask.
Senior Brunch marks the beginning of graduation season for the senior class. Held at The University Club in Oakland, this right of passage allows students and their parents to enjoy brunch and hear speeches from the Head of School, the Head of the Upper School, and a faculty member of their choosing.
Every year, the senior class picks a day to collectively skip school. Students will use the day to catch up on work, hang out as a class, or just take a much needed day of rest as it typically happens right before AP exams begin.
As students head into their final year at Ellis they are granted Senior Privileges to prepare them for the independence and responsibility that comes with being a college student. Students are allowed to wear their own clothes on Fridays until after Senior Brunch when they participate in Kilt Destruction Day. Once their kilts are quite literally deconstructed, seniors no longer have to wear their uniforms ever again. Students are also granted “come and go” privileges. If students do not have class, they are not required to be on campus. Many students use this privilege to go and grab a coffee or lunch during the day. If they don’t have class before 9:30am or after 1:30pm, students are allowed to come in a little later or leave campus for the day to pursue other experiences and outside passions.
One of the most anticipated days of the year, Senior Shenanigans Day is exactly as it sounds: a day where the seniors cause shenanigans in the Upper School. Kept a secret from the rest of the students, seniors spend weeks planning out the perfect pranks to pull on each grade level and faculty in the Upper School. Typically, the senior class picks an overall theme for the day and they keep their pranks in line with their chosen theme. Past themes have included “You’ve Been Roasted,” Camp Ellis, and Coach Ellis (a play on Coachella). Pranks have ranged from turning the freshman lounge into a nursery, to bringing in dogs, to gift wrapping a teacher’s entire desk.
Taking place during the week leading up to the homecoming dance, Spirit Week allows students to be out of their uniform and take part in fun activities. Hosted by the Ellis Athletic Association and Upper School Student Council, each day of the week has a different theme or activity. Some themes have included dressing up as twins, a character, or as a tourist. At the end of the week, each grade level participates in Color Wars. Seniors assign each grade in the Upper School a specific color (Ellis green, kiwi brown, etc.) and students work together to creatively decorate their entire grade level lounge with that color.