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

 

A committee of teachers and students selected Benny Scheckner to speak at the June 21 graduation ceremony.  Below is an excerpt from the runner-up speech by Ali Peltz.

 

“You’re a Graduate, Harry”

 

Good morning graduates, friends, and families. I would like to begin by congratulating the Class of 2013, and thanking the people who helped us reach this milestone. Thank you Mr. Pernick, Mr. Weiss, members of the Board of Education, and especially the people without whom we would definitely not be here: our parents.

When I was in first grade, my mom tried to get me to read the first Harry Potter book.  I, a girl who has always been very interested in reading, hated it. I got through about two chapters, and decided it was not worth my time. Boy, have I learned since then.

At a young age, a kid’s potential is not often recognized. We are unaware that our best friend in kindergarten may go on to be a varsity lacrosse star, or perhaps an Intel semifinalist. There are things inside of us that we do not know exist until given the chance to let them shine. Harry had magic in him all along, but it was not until he entered Hogwarts that this power became clear to everyone. Just like the young wizard, we all have potential that has either become clear during our years of high school, or is waiting to shine through in the near future. I strongly doubt one of us will suddenly be able to raise a feather in the air with the stroke of a wand, but maybe one of us will find the cure to a supposedly incurable disease or develop the next big software company.

Harry’s adventures begin when he enters his first year at Hogwarts at the age of eleven, just as our real independence began as we entered Weber Middle School. No, a snow owl did not arrive at the door with a signed letter from Professor Dumbledore, but we did get sorted into four different houses, which would define our groups of friends for the next few years. It was during middle school that we learned how to learn. We discovered that once you get past elementary school, it’s not so easy. We had to balance our academic lives while keeping a social life, as well as understand that if we needed help, we should seek it sooner rather than later. During middle school some of us discovered talents we didn’t know we had. The moment Harry stepped on to that broomstick for the first time could have been exactly like the moment one of us picked up a volleyball to try serving it for the first time. Without having realized it, we had a serious talent for something. And we were finally able to try to excel at it.

During our three years of middle school, we would stare across the field at Schreiber High School: a scary place filled with big kids who we were sure would judge us at all possible moments. It was a place where we were excited, yet very nervous to attend. In the blink of an eye, it was the eigth grade graduation, and in just a few short months we would have to walk the halls of Schreiber. Luckily, in order to get here you just had to wait at the bus stop, not run through a brick wall at Platform 9 3/4 like poor Harry and his friends had to do.

It turns out, besides walking into the cafeteria as a freshman, high school really wasn’t that scary. We learned how to be even more independent, took courses in which we were truly interested, and found the magic inside of us. Many of us met mentors along the way, unlike Harry who really only ran into dementors all too often. And I’m sure many of us found our very own Professor Snape: a teacher who seemed purely evil, but was really looking out for you. This type of teacher challenges you because they want you to succeed, or in Harry’s case, survive the wrath of a Dark Wizard. It is not only the easy teachers who deserve our gratitude, but also the ones who forced us to find our inner power in order to truly understand a topic or learn something new.

Harry suffered from a unique case of senioritis during his final year at Hogwarts. He barely attended school, but mostly because he was on a quest to save the wizarding world. Not all of us had such good excuses for our absences this year. Compared to Harry’s senior experience of finding seven obscure horcruxes, our senior experiences don’t seem so difficult now after all.

Our senior year at high school was just as demanding in its own way. Some of us were still taking standardized tests, and most of us had to log on to the dreaded Common App and finish everything by certain deadlines. We all managed to get through the hectic college application period, and here we are ready to walk across this stage as graduates and look forward to the future. But before we get there, we must remember a few things.

It is important not to let fear paralyze you. Honestly, if Harry was able to face Voldemort, we should be able to face our college roommates. One should remember that fear is not something that should hold you back, but should push you forward and give you an obstacle to overcome. Many of us encountered challenges during our years of high school, some more severe than others. Maybe it was a lousy test grade that brought down your average, or maybe it was a bully who would not leave you alone. We learned to get past these obstacles by facing them; don’t watch a problem grow, stop the problem right away.

If that includes asking for help from a friend or an authority figure, do not be afraid to do so. How could Harry have defeated Voldemort all those times if not for his trusty best friends, Ron and Hermione? The people around you and the friendships you build will help you get past the tough times, and with a strong support system anything can be accomplished.

During the past years, we have watched each other grow up. There is a certain comfort of being surrounded by people you have known your whole life, and it’s a bit scary to think that in a few months we will be forced to meet all new people and make a whole new group of friends. Unlike at the end of J.K. Rowling’s series, there is no “Nineteen Years Later” for us to see the future in. I hope that we will all be successful, but more importantly, happy with what we have achieved and where life has taken us. The next chapters of our lives await us, and now is the chance to go forward and write them. It truly has been a magical four years together, so finally I would like to congratulate again the Paul D. Schreiber High School Class of 2013