Hello everyone, and welcome to the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021! I’d like to start off by thanking my classmates for electing me to speak today, and I’d also like to thank everyone here for supporting our class throughout all of our years at Allendale Columbia— whether we’ve been here for only one year or for thirteen. I am so happy to say that, despite the pandemic, not only have we all graduated, but most of us are also able to be here to celebrate our accomplishments.
At this moment, I’d like to give a shout out to our international students who cannot be here today because they’re in their home country. We miss you dearly and wish that you were here to celebrate with us.
As a class, I believe that we’ve taken our ability to succeed through these circumstances for granted. Even though we may not realize it, being able to graduate during a pandemic, when a substantial amount of our learning was online, is an amazing feat that shows our passion and commitment to succeed.
I’ve been a student at Allendale Columbia since third grade, and many of my classmates have been here for even longer, effectively meaning that at this point, many of us have spent just about half of our lives growing up together. Throughout these years spent together, we’ve made a lot of memories. We tipped a boat over during our Pathfinder trip, lost our lounge several times a year for a few years because it was always messy, consistently had our all-around-famous lounge debates, which sometimes got a little bit too loud and heated, caused a fire hazard, and experienced second hand trauma when Victoria’s ankle completely dislocated during a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, which was followed by us being forced to continue the tour in the rain while our classmate was rolled out in an ambulance.
In addition to making our own unique memories, we’ve also taken part in a lot of our school’s traditional events. Year after year, we attended and performed at events that make Allendale Columbia, Allendale Columbia. One of my favorite events is Strawberry Breakfast, with donuts and strawberries, the sword dance and the maypole, singing and music, and the crowning and pinning of our senior class. We also have Holiday Breakfast, with speakers, food, and singing, plays, music concerts, forums, and Blue and White day, which many people are convinced always has fake scoring— especially because we all know that the blue team should win every year 😉
Watching each other grow up over the years has been such an interesting experience, and I am so glad to have the ability to say that I strongly believe our class is full of potential leaders. As a class, we’ve matured together, becoming incredibly passionate, strong, and charismatic in many different ways. As we’ve grown together, I’m sure that we have learned a lot of lessons together, and taught each other some too. One of the most important lessons that I can say I’ve learned is about failure. It’s very cliche, but it is the truth. I’m sure that almost everyone who has taken a Neeley class has heard him say, whether directly or indirectly, something like, “one bad grade on a test won’t change your future”. As someone who has failed, or nearly failed, their fair share of tests and quizzes, especially in those classes, I can say with certainty he is absolutely right. At the time, I absolutely hated hearing it, and it kind of sounded like a lie, but it’s true. Failure has taught me a lot of things, the first and most important being that you don’t have to stop when you fail, and you shouldn’t. Revisions and retests were a grade and life-saver. However, I also learned that sometimes, you can try and try and still not really master a concept. On that note, I just want to say a quick thank you to Dr. Spragana for being extremely patient and kind with me through AP Euro because to be quite honest, against her best efforts, I still don’t think I ever really grasped how to correctly answer a DBQ. But that is the important part of failure: learning where your weaknesses lie, doing your best to surpass them by working towards success, and remembering that while everyone can’t be good at everything, everyone is good at something. I’m sure several of my classmates have also learned and grown from not only failure but other necessities of life in these past years.
Believe it or not though, today is when and where our growth as a class ends. From this day on, all, if not most, of our paths will continue to diverge from each other as we learn where we want to go in life, whether it be STEM, like Eshmeron, Lena, and myself, law, like Ellie and Chinara, or even “to be decided”, like Jack and Myles. I, for one, am beyond excited to see what we do with these next few years, as they are the springboard to the rest of our lives. As we look forward to our next chapters, I hope that we continue to establish and maintain strong relationships with both new and old people. I hope that we find passion, drive, and commitment in our lives; academically, recreationally, and beyond. I hope that we discover what makes our lives more meaningful, such as hobbies like traveling, painting, yoga, hiking, and dancing.
Before leaving the school grounds today, I would like to thank the faculty for making our experience here as amazing as it was. Thank you to our teachers for answering our last-minute emails about tests the next day, teaching us through our incessant chatting, moving deadlines when nobody did the work, and grading late work that may have been turned in way too late. Honestly, I would not be surprised if some of us still have an assignment or two that still says missing in big red letters. Thank you to the lunch staff for cooking for us daily, having the utmost amount of kindness, and giving us anything we asked for, even if it was an entire extra tray of desserts. Thank you to the maintenance and cleaning crew who went the extra mile this year by consistently sanitizing the school to help keep us healthy on top of keeping our grass cut, floors clean, trees trimmed, and effectively, our campus beautiful.
I personally would like to say that I am extremely grateful to my family and Allendale Columbia for helping to mold me into who I am today: someone strong, passionate, driven, devoted, and ready to take on the world.
As the Class of 2021 leaves campus this year, I would like to remind you all to keep an eye out for business cards that we hid during prank day. Some of them are a little too well hidden, so hopefully, you’ll be finding them for years to come.
I only have one thing left to say to my classmates as I close my speech today: we have left our mark on Allendale Columbia, and now we’re off to leave our mark on the world.