Schreiber’s runner up graduation speech: Olivia Mann to deliver speech on graduation day

Josh Curtis, Contributing Writer

Good evening, fellow classmates.
It’s important to remember who you are to know what you can do. As we venture into our next stage of life, we need to close the one we are finishing.
For months now, I have been thinking about how to do this high school right, but it is difficult to find closure. I reflect on all the things I’ve learned over my years in this district, on all my experiences.
When I was growing up, my parents used stories from their childhood to enrich my sense of the world: the time my mom’s principal chained all the doors shut to prevent an anti-war protest, or when my dad fought his school bureaucracy to gain permission to use an early computer that the school already owned.
I wonder about two things: first, is the odd sensation that I’m now able to say the phrase “when I was growing up” non- ironically, as I just did; second, I wonder if my experiences with the Class of 2015 “when I was growing up” have been as educational and interesting as those of my parents.Ican’tmoveoncomfortablynot knowing what we’ve actually done here.
I refuse to believe that education is solely about being “college and career ready.” Life lessons are equally important for students to learn. Over the past half- century or so, education has changed. It’s understandable that our experience as students might not be what it used to.
Looking at Schreiber history in the school newspaper, I see that many intriguing traditions dropped off the map, such as Homecoming fanfare and school fraternities.
Compared to years past, students have a much blurrier vision of what high school education means and what to take away from it.
I fear at times that schools are training kids to be bookish robots, especially on Long Island.
Many high school communities have thus broken apart into cliques that have little to do with each other; each student has an entirely different experience.
This trend has unfortunately touched even Schreiber. I remember that upon my brother’s graduation three years ago, administration officials lamented that his class was very insular and fragmented.
Our class is different. Those same administrators were impressed at the time by our then-freshman class’s unity.
Over the years before that and since, I have felt remarkable kinship with all of you.
We may lack a Queen and Crowners,which The Schreiber Times wrote about in the May issue, but our class more than makes up for our school’s loss of traditional pride with our own bonds of community.
I have known many of you since elementary school, some even since pre- school, and I have met others of you along the way.
I am amazed to have known and learned from such an eclectic group of students. I really believe we have each had a positive effect on everyone else in this class, whether through direct contact with others or by contributing to our class’s overall character.
Not all of our class’ experiences together have been happy. We each began and now we end our career in this district during a time when terrorists threaten the world; many of you may even remember the September 11 attacks from the year before kindergarten. A separate tragedy occurred in tenth grade, when one of the most historic buildings on Main Street burned.
This caused hardship for many families in this community, including some you might know, and it has taken over two years for the community to recover. Earlier that very year, the disastrous Hurricane Sandy left us without power for over a week; I myself remember doing homework by candlelight for days after school reopened because I still lacked electricity.
Some experiences, which may not seem important now, are nonetheless interesting enough to recall. We’ve had winters cold enough to induce economic contraction, right alongside winters warm enough to make flowers bud in February. If any of you who took Biology remember WolfQuest, you might remember that, in the absence of wolves, coyotes have colonized all of the contiguous US except Long Island; that might change soon after we are finished in school. Recently, beluga whales were seen in the bay.
Many other experiences of our class, however, have been quite positive. We witnessed a marked change in health education when Chris Herren gave a presentation about drugs that, unlike any presentation before it, did not make our eyes roll.
In every academic area, our class has made the community proud.
Similarly, although I haven’t participated in sports since the 10th grade, I hold our class’ athleticism in the highest esteem.
I would list all of our achievements specifically, but it would double the length of this speech, so I’ll instead say that whether we are lacrosse players or automobile technicians, members of our class certainly seem to know how to use a stick.
We each have our own additional experiences on top of these; rather than detract from our class’s unity, however they add to our class’s richness.
During Hurricane Sandy, I remember that so many different students from our class helped out—from the Boy Scouts, from the Fire Department, from religious institutions. I didn’t really feel endangered or isolated when the weather got cold, because I knew I could count on people whom I only knew vaguely to use the skills that I did not know they had to operate the shelter, and to make me feel at home there.
When Henry Lin put together his
charity organization and concerts, he was only successful because people from every social strata chipped in, feeling at ease with the others, working together for a common cause.
This unity of spirit is a special thing. Our common experiences, the stories behind them, make us one community, more comfortable with each other, and make social groups less conflictual.
Because of our strong community, diversity need not be division.
This concept has come so easily to us, it is easy to forget that democracies everywhere have always struggled to figure it out.
It is a quality that is increasingly endangered. We can change that, though. Rather than wonder if high school meant anything, remember who we are, because from now on, we’re the ones
telling stories from high school.
Let our experience not only be a lesson to us, but a lesson to everyone we will meet as we mold the future in our
image.
Who knows what we can do?