Insight from the seniors: Schreiber’s runner up graduation speech

Jesse Weil

Friends, family, administrators, teachers and fellow graduates,

I challenge all of you to try to remember the first time you thought about the year 2012.  If memory serves, that moment happened for me in Ms. Von’s third grade during the Iowa Test, which required me to bubble in the year of my graduation.  At that time I was eight or nine.  I distinctly recall counting the years in my head for what seemed like hours until I came upon 2012.   And then I counted again, just to reaffirm that the figure I had come up with was correct, because it’s size made it unfathomable; 2012 seemed like a lifetime away.

Although it was only a decade ago, the world was a different place then.   In 2003, cellphones and cameras were two independent entities.   We had not yet been introduced to iTunes, Boybands were considered cool, and somehow we survived without Facebook.     Harry Potter had just arrived at Hogwarts and was still pre-pubescent.  Most of us had never heard phrases such as “bailout” or “financial crisis.”   An African-American president was just a dream, and Justin Bieber was just a nightmare.

Six years later we found ourselves on the front steps of Schreiber High School. We reeked of fear, hormones, and Axe body spray, and though we had readied ourselves for off periods and Freshman Friday, none of us could have imagined that we would learn as much as we did.

As freshmen we learned that one can, theoretically, fit him or herself inside a tall locker. We learned that if you really have to go, the bathrooms at the end of the music wing are by far the cleanest and most spacious on school grounds.  And of course, we learned the most effective ways to sneak off campus.

But with freshman and sophomore year, we also first received a taste of how expansive the world is.  Unlike middle school, we were not sheltered by colored houses and predetermined schedules. Instead, high school provided us with freedom, not only in our academic pursuits, but also in our extracurricular endeavors.  This freedom provided each of us with an active role in our high school experience, one which challenged us to discover classes, clubs, and activities that captured our various interests and impassioned us.

Some of us flourished through a commitment to organizations like TreeHuggers, while others have been changed by their experiences in the athletic arena, as part of a team, or on stage with a performance ensemble.   At Schreiber, we were never challenged or criticized for what it was that evoked passion in us, as long as passion was being evoked.  In pursuing our interests, we came to excel and accomplish beyond what we thought possible of ourselves.

By the time junior year rolled around, we had forged our place as part of the Schrieber community. And we continued to learn. We learned that when you are legally allowed to go off campus, there is literally nothing to do in Port Washington. We learned that Mr. Ferruso makes a surprisingly convincing rapper. And, we learned what it means to dedicate one’s self wholeheartedly to accomplishing a goal.

For many of us, junior year was a major milestone in our high school experience, marking the point at which we had to make the decision about how we wanted our Schreiber experience to culminate, and in what direction we wanted our lives to go afterwards. Regardless of our future plans, our teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors helped us stay goal-oriented with a combination of support and much needed pressure.  The realization of each individual plan required commitment from each of us and through this, we all experienced firsthand the excruciating pain of Monday morning, as well as the value of perseverance and dedication in pursuit of our objectives.

And then, in the blink of an eye, we were seniors. Despite the unrelenting “senioritis” that raged inside all of us, and against our best efforts, we continued to learn. We learned the exact amount of classes that one needs to attend in order to satisfy the “85% rule.” We learned that no one really complains about Spirit Week being rigged as long as we win. And we learned, through the many triumphs and disappointments that we experienced, the importance of supporting one another.  Reliance on each other, in and outside of the classroom, made the stress of first semester senior year bearable.   And in this regard, our experiences during senior year helped reaffirm the sense of community that has been so prevalent throughout our upbringing in Port Washington.

These are the lessons that I’ve learned: fill your days with people who you love and admire. Embrace the community that surrounds you.  And within it, live lives full of passion. Be it personal interest or a professional pursuit, ethical cause or creative expression, do something that brings you joy, and challenges you to commit and be your best.

I believe this is the best we can do; to lead lives that are dedicated to passion and community. And if we do so, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. Look at us already….we are the generation of regenerative medicine and the generation of YouTube; the generation of the hybrid and the generation of WiFi; the generation of the hydration station and the annual blood drive… and the girls’ badminton county championship.

Granted, we also run the risk of becoming the generation of high school memes and the generation of Jersey Shore, but it is up to us as to how we utilize the resources at our disposal. If we do so effectively, I believe we can change the world.    We can help lead a generation that manages the international economy, that limits our carbon footprint and addresses global warming; one which secures free expression and civil equality for all.

Today we celebrate the beginning of this generation, and we honor everyone who has helped us get started. Thank you, Schreiber High School.

Congratulations to the class of 2012.