By Mikayla Gross ’19

Good afternoon, everyone. Before I start my speech, I would like to thank our parents for the sacrifices they had to make, our teachers for the guidance they provided, and the staff for keeping our school functioning. More importantly, it is with utmost sincerity that I say congratulations to my brilliant, comical, and bonded class of 2019. After 1,460 days of high school (not including any breaks, days off, or unexpectant snow days because I did not feel like doing the math) unless anyone dares to object, I can say that we finally made it, which sounds like a cliché and an oversimplification, but seeing as most of us burned out in middle school, today is nothing short of incredible.

Over the six years of me being at AC, one thing has been consistent, and that is my class’s ability to learn from our mistakes, acknowledge our losses, grow from embarrassment, and be carefree about things that others think that we should care about. This includes, but is not limited to, losing spirit week every year, breaking eight windows, messing up the Maypole dance, canceling the Junior Forum and Cabaret, keeping a hole in our lounge the size of an adult head hidden for eight months, and my personal favorite, waiting until the last second of high school to hand in work that would determine if we graduated or not. While it is easy to try and define our class from all of these mishaps, our strengths as individuals have created 42 legacies, not just one.

Coming to AC has shaped me into the young adult I am today in ways I didn’t think were plausible six years ago. When I first came in seventh grade, everything was different than what I was used to. I had to learn how to learn again. I was introduced to classes I had never taken before, I had to increase the caliber of my work, and making friends seemed hard because I did not feel like I fit in. Needless to say, the transition was hard, but it was Tsioianiio accepting me for who I was and opening up herself to me and letting me nickname her Joe, Moni waking up in the middle of the night on the Pathfinder trip to walk with me through the woods to the bathroom, and being in the same classes as Mhanna, Marissa, and Moni all of eighth grade who made all of it easier and made me feel secure. I think every new student in our class has had a similar experience making friends. At first, you’re hesitant, so you feel everyone out, creating bonds as you go, and eventually you find your people. But those bonds you already formed will always be there because every class has cliques; the only difference is with us there is no status quo. No matter what, there was always someone else who did not write the essay that was due, someone who did the homework and would let you copy it, someone who did not get into their first choice college either, or someone who would ask you how you were if they noticed your behavior changed, and someone who would listen to you go on and on about your boy problems. All of us have been through a lot over the years and have had to stand strong in the face of adversity. But what is special about our class is you never had to stand alone.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my friend from last year’s senior class, Indy, about graduating, and I told them that I did not feel like graduating was a big deal or really think of it as an accomplishment. At the time, just a couple of weeks ago, graduating just seemed like something I was supposed to do, something that was bound to happen in order for me to move on to the next phase of my life. I believe part of that stems from the idea that the “little” things like getting good grades, or knowing how to swim, or going to AND finishing college, are expected and do not require validation. This is something that is so ingrained in my subconscious that I almost talked myself out of being happy that I am here, happy that the same people I started this year with are here with me. There are people who were in our class who made the decision to pursue a path different from the norm for the sake of their happiness. And in all reality, that could have been all of us. We did not have to endure sleepless nights, social anxiety, and meltdowns from stress; had it not been for our perseverance and diligence, we couldn’t have. How could today not be the best day of our lives so far? Today is not just a culmination of the last four years, it is a culmination of the last 18 years and a toast to the rest of our lives. There was never any concrete plan or way of knowing that we would make it this far, but we did, and right now all I feel is proud, on top of the world, and a little scared.

As we transition into college and adulthood, it would be ridiculous to think that everything is going to happen the way we want it to. I actually think that, with our luck, it is going to go the opposite way. Most of the time, the thing we want most in life will be the hardest to achieve. Whatever got you through these tough 13 years, apply that same pressure to what you want to get out of life, and don’t ever think you don’t deserve it. There will be days that getting out of bed will be hard; on those days recognize that if you don’t, it’s okay to take a break, and if you do, it’s important to celebrate that accomplishment. If you plan too much into the future and fixate completely on that plan, you will never take advantage of every day, and you will miss all the important parts. I can’t promise you tomorrow or that we will have a planet to live on in 15 years,  but I suppose that is what makes life exciting. Live every day with purpose, learn as you go, acknowledge the little things, trust the process, and you will never have unfinished business. In the wise words of Ursula K. Le Guin, “the only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”

Thank you.