An excerpt from a speech by Eva Grant, co-valedictorian
When I was going through the college application process last fall – and can I get a Hell Yes! that those are over and done with? – I was asked this question by the dreaded entity “The Common Application”: what words best describe you?
I’d been going absolutely stir-crazy trying to answer what felt like thousands of pseudo-reflective questions, and, in a fit of pique, I wrote down five words to describe YOU: pronoun, second person, three letters.
Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I’m standing before you today at all.
But, really, it got me to thinking, what best describes YOU as a grad class? How would I characterize the myriad changes that occurred over the past four years to bring us where we stand today?
Y-O-U. Year of Uncertainty. 2011. Four years ago we stepped onto campus for orientation day as anxious, doe-eyed ninth-graders. When the teacher would ask: “Are there any questions?” we would sit there in silence because we didn’t even know what we didn’t know. We had no idea where we were going, why the seniors were so tall, or bearded, or just plain crazy, and why there were no bells. If you were like me, you found solace in books, studying French grammar in Xanadu and conducting post-labs on the shores of Walden Pond. I spent more time in that library than anywhere else, and while all that reading obviously paid off, I was missing out on moments of Shakespeare-esque drama, Scout-like bravery and Atwood-worthy humour. By September, as the pages turned like fall leaves to a new chapter of our lives, I, and we, stepped out of our comfort zones and immersed ourselves in the school culture around us.
Year of Undertaking. Three years ago we strode onto campus a little more confidently. We knew what the Boot Game was and who we were cheering for, we could navigate the science building without ending up locked out on the wrong side of the classroom, and gained a greater perspective as we took upper level courses and classes based on our budding interests. We joined clubs, gosh we joined so many clubs, tried out for sports, and plays, and art shows, and discovered what spoke to us. Some of us chose to get out of school early, I mean, participate in the experiential program, where we focused on outdoor activity, service and academic programs, and everyone ended the school year with a sense of civic, local and global engagement.
Year of Understanding. Two years ago we began our eleventh grade year as senior students of the senior school. Mourn it, for that was the last time being a “double senior” will ever be cool. We were finally getting jobs and cars, and those beards that scared us so much as freshmen. We began to see possible futures spread out before us. In between service trips and SAT prep courses we were starting to give thought to where we might be next year, what we might be studying, how we might be helping our fellow humans. That year, while tinged with evening classes, working lunches and weekends spent catching up on homework instead of sleep, burns bright in my memory with the knowledge that we had made a great leap in understanding who we were and how we complemented those around us.
And here we are, at the end of four long years. Y-O-U. Year of Unity. Like our prefect motto this year, we started the year ready to see one another off to new and exciting adventures. But first, we had a responsibility to the school. Many of us became the heads of clubs we had joined in our first year, captains of the sports teams we had tried out for when we were a lot shorter. We landed big roles in plays or musicals where we had previously been only afforded the honour of being Tree Number Four, unless you were like me, and somehow went from playing Emily Webb in Our Town to a statue of John Harvard in Legally Blonde.
Recently, we’ve faced an explosion of “senior-itis”, which I was assured last year was just an urban legend. Like an epidemic, I’m not sure anyone was safe from the plague, but everything we’ve been through this year, from giddy nervousness in the fall, to university joy in the spring, to AP Panic, to sloth-like apathy, we’ve been in it together.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? All this time spent trying to describe you, what I was really after was what best describes us. These four years haven’t been about you, or me, or all the things we accomplished on our own, but about us as a grade class, as a fun, dynamic, challenging group.
The entire Grade 12 Graduation Ceremony, inclding The speeches by valedictorians James and Eva, is now available to watch on SMUSTube.
You can also browse and download all the photos from the Grade 12 Graduation Ceremony in the SMUS photo gallery. Individual photos of members of the Class of 2015 can be found by typing their full name (eg. James Hayashi) into the search bar.
New to the gallery? Read our guide to downloading images.