Graduation speeches – June 29, 2019

Here are the speeches delivered at graduation on June 29, 2019 at Proctor’s Theater.

Superintendent Susan Swartz

Good morning.  Members of the Board of Education, Ms. Swain, Mr. Bednarek, Ms. Nofri, members of Administrative Council, members of the Faculty, Honored Guests, Parents and Family Members, and the Graduating Class of 2019:

I welcome you to the 111th Commencement of the Scotia-Glenville Senior High School.  Today’s ceremony is a culmination of many years effort on the part of our students and their families.  To all of the audience members, I ask that you accord them the honor and respect they deserve throughout this ceremony.

Wednesday morning, students and staff gathered in the high school auditorium to practice for today’s graduation. Mr. Bednarek gave me a few moments to speak with you and I asked you to remember to stop, shake my hand, and turn toward the audience after you receive your diploma….so people can get a good picture of you….and I am sure you will remember to do that given this not so subtle reminder.  As we practiced, I thought about what I might say to you and your families on this special day….and hoped I would find just the right words.

I thought about Mr. Bednarek’s words to you…..he reminded you…twice…that though today is all about you….it isn’t just about you…..that it is also about the people who are here today, participating in the program and watching as you cross the stage and receive your diploma.  So today, I want to start by thanking some of those people.

To your class advisor, Mrs. Sawyer, and all of the staff who help us prepare for today….please accept my deepest gratitude.  Your attention to every detail makes this one of the most beautiful graduation ceremonies in the Capital Region.

To my colleagues….your teachers and administrators, our Board of Education members….sitting behind me and in the audience….thank you.   I ask that you be the best version of yourself for our students every day and you do….even when it’s hard, even when it feels as though we take two steps forward and one step back.  Thank you to each of you.

And most importantly, thank you to all in attendance today.  To the parents, grandparents, siblings, friends gathered here to honor each of you, a special thank you.  You gave us your most precious commodity…your child…..and worked with us to help them achieve today’s honor.  As hard as each of them has worked, as many long days and nights as there may have been, as many arguments as might have been waged, it is through your perseverance and love that these young people have made it to graduation.  I cannot possibly thank you enough for your contributions and commitment to your children.

Class of 2019…..were you worried I would forget to mention you?  I have watched over the last 13 years as you have struggled, failed, struggled, and then met with success.  I have watched your performance in the classroom, on the stage, in athletics, through our GIVE program.  I know of some of the problems and challenges you have faced and overcome, at school, home, and in the community. I have, quite literally, watched you become the young women and men seated here today.  I am awed by your talents and accomplishments….but even more so by the people you are becoming.  Have no doubt…today is a commencement ceremony….a new beginning for each of you.

I wonder what your dreams are…what lives you have imagined for your selves.    Yes, there is much behind you…..13 years of classes, homework, friendships, fights, sadness and joy….but even with all of that, there is so much more in front of you.

I look at you and see your intelligence, compassion, energy and spirit….gifts that will take you to all kinds of places, serve you through good and bad times, and propel you onward even as you leave this chapter of your lives behind.  I look at you and imagine the future….a future made better by the contributions you will make, by the ideas you will discover, by the kindness you will show others.  The future I imagine, the one you will shape, awaits you.

Of course, I will worry about you, wonder where you are, and what you are doing…the life you are creating.  As the actor Kerry Washington said: “Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.”  May today be the next step in your journey as you discover your purpose, your potential, your life.

On behalf of the faculty and staff of the Scotia-Glenville Central School District, I wish each of you the joy of a life well lived the respect of your fellow human beings, and the love of family and friends.  Please accept my congratulations and best wishes to each of you on this wonderful occasion.

Thank you.

It is now my pleasure to introduce Mr. Peter Bednarek, Principal, for the recognition of the Class of 2019 medalists.

Myles J. Piotrowski “Chart Your Course”

Good morning family, friends, faculty, and fellow graduates. On this day, June 29th, 2019, we are gathered together within the walls of Proctor’s Theater, unified by our ties to Scotia-Glenville High School’s Class of 2019. I would like to thank  Mr. Peter J. Bednarek, Mr. Thomas W. Fyvie, and all of the faculty and staff at Scotia-Glenville Central School District for providing us with the platform on which we stand, gazing out at the vast sea that represents our unknown futures. On the day we entered this school as children, it was absolutely unfathomable to think about the long term benefits of this platform. Today, we all realize its importance through our new perspective as adults that will take society by storm.

For the last thirteen years, Scotia-Glenville Central School District has been our safe harbor on life’s ocean. Throughout our elementary school, middle school, and high school years, we have stayed in the protected waters of the harbor. In this tranquil harbor, we have learned more than just academics. We have learned more than how to fill in a bubble on a multiple choice test. We have learned more than how to present on topics that we have studied. Perhaps the most important things that we have learned to date are the values of loyalty, friendship, leadership, empathy, and ambition. These values, above all others, will help catapult us to adulthood success.

However, our time in the friendly waters of this harbor is rapidly waning. As the sun rises on a new day, and the open sea ahead of us is illuminated, we as graduates will leave this harbor and venture out into the great beyond. What lies in store for the rest of our lives at this point, remains unbeknownst to all humankind.

When we leave this harbor, many of us will have specific destinations in mind: destinations that we have perhaps thought about since early childhood. However, there will be other ports along the way, and during this journey, our final destination may change. Let’s face it: this is perfectly normal. As my grandfather always says, “I’ve been working for over 50 years, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.” And believe me, I’m sure many people in Proctor’s Theater today would echo these exact sentiments.

The journey that we all travel on the sea of life is truly multifaceted, and as graduates we cannot allow our vision of the present to be clouded by grandiose views of our final destination. Whether we transition into the workforce, the military, or some form of higher education, many of us have goals that will continue to drive and motivate us. Again: this is perfectly normal. As the motivational speaker Les Brown once said, “Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you will still be among the stars.” In other words, keep striving for the best! But, if things don’t work out as you may have planned, all is not lost.

Many others have walked in these same shoes, and oftentimes the wisest and most successful individuals have “failed” multiple times. Now I use this term of “failure” very loosely because in this context, it certainly does not “denote a lack of success”, as stated by Merriam Webster. I believe that the alternate definition of failure as a “First Attempt In Learning” is more appropriate for this situation, because sometimes we must learn through the process of trial and error in order to find out what’s best for us. I’m sure that every teacher who has this poster on the wall of their classroom is secretly patting themselves on the back right now, and honestly, I don’t blame them! At this point, let’s just make it public! I would like to invite…

Now that we’re done thanking the people who have helped pave the Class of 2019’s Highway to the Danger Zone, it is now time to discuss some of the challenges that lie ahead on this sea. (Yes, I did make a Top Gun Reference, and I don’t think that anyone is surprised. It was definitely the right time, and I do not regret it.) Thank you to Dr. Kirwan for playing this masterpiece in APUSH at the end of an otherwise grueling year. It took some of the pain away from the low essay grades that most of us inevitably received, which let me tell you, was definitely much needed. Looking back though, I’m sure that we can all agree that the minor setbacks suffered in high school will help us in the future, because we have learned how to face challenges head-on, and not back down.

Because as we all realize, there will be challenges: that much is certain. We will encounter stormy weather, with towering waves and blustery winds that may blow us off course. There will be times when we will feel alone, like a small boat in the middle of the wide-ranging sea. During these trying times, it may feel that we have nobody to help us conquer the challenges of life. However, it is important to remember that we are all Tartans, and though we may not always be able to see our fellow Tartans in this vast sea, the simple fact that we will continue to be here for each other will serve as solace in times of distress. Also, the knowledge and lessons that have been given to us throughout our time here will serve as navigational aids in the sea of life, keeping us away from harmful areas where our boat of life may run aground or capsize, causing the tremendous potential held by each graduate to be wasted.

At this point, I’m sure that y’all are sitting here thinking “How much longer do I have to endure this?” , “How is this relevant?” or some version of these two statements. So, to assuage your pain and discomfort, I will give you the words of the great Abraham Lincoln, a man who had the tremendous gift of conveying complex ideas with just a few words.

During his famous Gettysburg Address, Lincoln said “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Although high school may seem like a trivial part of life for many members of the class of 2019, I encourage you to truly reflect on this time. I did, and after a period of personal reflection, I realized that in regards to Scotia’s Class of 2019, Jason Aldean’s song titled “Tattoos on This Town” speaks volumes. In the chorus of this song, Aldean says “It sure left its mark on us, we sure left our mark on it. We let the world know we were here, with everything we did. We laid a lot of memories down, like tattoos on this town.” This lyric particularly describes the Class of 2019, because it shows how Scotia has shaped our past, present, and future, while being shaped at the same time by the very individuals who have occupied its hallowed halls since September of 2006.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lincoln could not be with us today for the 111th Commencement of Scotia-Glenville High School. So instead, you have to listen to me. I won’t pretend that I have Mr. Lincoln’s ability, but I will attempt to paraphrase his words, and relate them to today’s events.  As the tree of life drops its leaves of time into the swirling winds of tomorrow, the people gathered within this theater will not remember the words that have been spoken today. However, none of us here today can ignore the current and future accomplishments of the Class of 2019, and most importantly, the profound impact that this class has had on the school, the town, and the people who occupy both.

As a fellow graduate, I encourage you to point your metaphorical boat towards the vast ocean spread before you, and take one last wistful look at the harbor in which you were nurtured. After this, there can be no looking back. With the strength, passion, and virtues that we’ve learned throughout our time at Scotia-Glenville Central Schools, we must steam full speed ahead out of the harbor, and chart the course for our life ahead of us. So I leave you today with these three words, words that I hope will serve as a compass to help the class of 2019 navigate the turbulent waters of the sea of life. To my fellow graduates of the class of 2019, “Chart Your Course.”

Thank you.

Alexandra Jerreld “Confidence is Everything”

Hello, and welcome. I would first like to thank you all for being here today. Family and friends, thank you for coming to support your graduates, I’m sure they’re very thankful you’re here. It is a really big day for us. Faculty, thank you for getting us all here, we couldn’t be here without you. Legally, of course. And students, we are graduating! We’re done! Finally! Whether you’re sad or not, it has got to feel like at least a little bit of a relief to finally be here.

My name is Allie Jerreld and I am here to give a graduation speech. The crazy thing about this is that there are no parameters for what to say. No classic essay prompt asking for a certain length or word count. It is extremely open-ended. It is essentially the English project we all hoped for, but never got. All that is given to you is a packet saying when auditions are and that’s basically it. So, going into this, I didn’t exactly know what I was doing. All I knew was that I was going to write a speech, which I had never done before, and hope for the best.

This is obviously a pretty hefty goal. I was told by a lot of people beforehand that there’s always got to be a girl speech and a boy speech. The boy is the funny one and the girl is sentimental. I was not completely certain that was true but I am not usually the type to intentionally follow stereotypes and gender roles. Some may recall my haircuts freshman year, or my blunt lack of fashion. Prom last year was my first time wearing makeup since my childhood dance recitals, and I hated it. It didn’t feel like the real me. Growing up shouldn’t be about changing yourself to the ‘norm’, but instead changing the ‘norm’ in order to stay yourself.

A speech like this is meant to appeal to the whole audience. That can be difficult due to the spectrum of personalities all cramped into this big sweaty room. I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t know WHAT to say to make everyone happy. I do not know how to live up to everyone in this room’s expectations. How can I relate to all of you? Satisfy what you want out of these few minutes? Keep you all awake?

I suppose I could try to inspire you all. I could tell you to dream big and never give up. Live your life for whom you want to be. You know… chart your own course. But that’s some standard content for a graduation speech. You’ve already heard all of that stuff before. (Thank you Myles.)

So as I was trying to come up with what to say, a quote I love came to me. It is from Gina Linetti, a character from the show Brooklyn 99,

“Life is chaos, success is arbitrary, and confidence is everything.”

These words mean a lot to me. This quote came from the episode saying goodbye to Gina’s character. She was leaving the job she has had for years to venture into the unknown towards bigger and better things in life. She said this to her boss, who was trying to discourage her from leaving, but she reassured him that she would be okay. Leaving somewhere comfortable for a better future was what she knew she needed to do to continue being happy in life. She was able to stay confident in herself even though everyone else was worried for her.

That’s a lot like what we’re about to do. We’re at the point where everything is about to change. This year has been like the Battle of Saratoga for us. You know, a major turning point. (That was a joke exclusively for people who endured middle school social studies). Anyways, this year has been about preparing ourselves mentally for whatever is to come next. We’re all taking that leap in our lives together, going from our comfortable lives in high school into a place we aren’t familiar with quite yet. I firmly believe that as long as we all stay confident in ourselves, whatever we do next will come with ease.

If we look at our time alive, our high school careers were four years of our lives, which if you did the math is about 22% of our time on Earth. Kindergarten through graduation has been about 75% of our existence. This means that for the majority of the time we have lived we have been learning things that would get us to this   moment   right   here.

It’s almost crazy how old we are right? Doesn’t it feel like not that long ago we were still losing Spirit Week? (4 4 3 2 most improved!) How about finding snow in the hallway? Or not being allowed to go watch Ted Cruz at Mekeel? Even better, watching absolutely nothing change about Mr. Crounse when he gave up Monster energy drinks for Lent every year? Or, wishing Dr. Kirwan would just randomly start singing his twin Rick Astley’s song Never Gonna Give You Up? Best though, everyone coincidentally all having doctor’s appointments on opening day of Jumpin’ Jacks? So much happened in these four short years we have spent together in that one building. It’s crazy how fast it all flew by. Some things feel like they’ll last forever until they’re done. Some things feel like they are chaos until they’re done. Such as.. school. Mr. Przedwiecki’s Gross of Physics videos. Tests. Songtime. OR… Graduation speeches. Did I mention school?

As Gina Linetti would say, life is chaos. We all know that pretty well from experience, especially from these last four years. But we managed through it all and were able to feel more confident in the end.

Does everyone remember their first day of freshman year? The worry of getting lost in the hallways or not knowing if you just walked into the right classroom? Remembering which locker was yours and how to get in because in High School the locks are attached so it’s a whole new combination you’ve got to learn? Remember that initial confusion you had when you were told by upperclassmen that there’s a pool on the ‘third floor’? (Which of course now we say that.) Do you remember that first day of lunch, where you didn’t know where in the cafeterias to sit, or who you necessarily wanted to sit with? Maybe you couldn’t even find your friends, or when you did, there was no room left. Cafeterias are the epitome of chaos. Maybe you had to buy lunch and the different options and stations confused you. But after just a few weeks, those fears faded, and you got used to your new surroundings. You were able to become confident in the paths you took from class to class, and you knew exactly where to sit at lunch, because once you choose your seat, for some reason it almost never changes. I don’t know why that happens… that is a question for a psychologist. Which no, I don’t know much about despite my introduction.

You might also recall your first ever Regents Exam. Those are definitely chaotic. Where do you go beforehand? What do you do with all your belongings you probably didn’t need to bring? How do you decide whether or not you could trust whoever you just left your cell phone with? And where in that giant gymnasium you were supposed to sit? All the while you were probably a bit nervous about taking the test and how you would do on it. After a few times around though, you learned the ins and outs and do’s and don’ts of Taking The Regents, and you knew exactly what to do. Maybe you were still nervous for the actual test but who isn’t? But there’s always that feeling of relief when you can raise your hand and get out of there. I remember how I felt after finishing my last Regents ever, it was physics too, so you can imagine it was honestly one of the best feelings in the world. Like I have said, these scary, chaotic experiences will lead to feelings of confidence. When we look back, to quote one of our favorite substitutes Brady King,

“Well, it could have been worse.”

Even outside of the walls of the high school building we have faced chaos. All of us have passed the road test at the DMV. Except… maybe one of us… who shall remain.. nameless… Ok, I’ll give you a clue. One senior who had perfect attendance has not passed her road test… I mean… his or her …. Road Test.

When you first started learning to drive you probably weren’t perfect at it. It probably felt pretty chaotic to be in charge of a 3000 pound vehicle while your parent is shouting directions to you from the front seat, while clinging on for dear life. Ask my parents. But you practiced enough to feel confident enough to take the test. Once you get there though, maybe the nerves are building up as you’re waiting in line, making your hands a little sweaty. You are just itching to get it over with. Once it starts maybe you are able to take a deep breath and stay calm, maybe not. But after you finished and get your passing score (hopefully), you feel pretty good about yourself. You simply had to rely on the fact that you had practiced a ton for it and knew exactly what you had to do. Now we drive around town with supreme confidence. Blasting whatever hip song all the cool kids listen to, chugging our Dunkin and parking sideways in the school parking lot. That’s everyday not just the Senior prank. We all need some more work on parking straight. Parents, it’s real bad.

But we have become so confident. We know… if you keep moving down the aisle you’ll eventually find a space. Hah, probably not though, bad parking takes up a lot of space.

So do Juniors.

Get here early or go park in the teacher lot.

Even just this week we had the pleasure of experiencing the gruelling, chaotic hours of graduation rehearsal. We’ve been together for years. We thought we knew everything… We thought we knew our friends. Then we hear Sam has a middle name of just M, until he corrected it to be Martin. Look out for the two boys in a row with the middle name Matthew. Ciara Molumby has been ‘Sierra’ for 13 years and I’m sure the trend isn’t over yet. And by now you all may have learned that no, my full name is not Allie, but Alexandra. Not Alexandria. There’s no ‘I’. And… my middle name is Noel. Not like… No ‘L’ but Noel like Christmas… and last but certainly not least, Robert the Third got beat out by Robert the Fourth.

We also were almost allowed to scramble out of there before getting the chance to practice the recessional, but they caught it just in time. Quick shoutout to Mrs. Sawyer for all the work that she did for all of this. She truly made order out of chaos.

All of our chaotic experiences together through these years have in some way made us into who we are today. I mean, aren’t we all feeling pretty confident now? Except for you girls who chose to wear five inch heels. These stairs are steep man. I almost killed myself walking up here in (My Timbs). After all this time, you’re receiving your diploma. It’s like marking off the box in your to do list of life.

Highschool? Check. ✓✓✓✓

And now more chaos can begin. Going off into college, work, the military, or whatever else you might be planning on doing. You don’t know exactly what you will be doing, but you will figure it out along the way, and look back knowing it really wasn’t that bad. You’ll remember all of these past chaotic experiences and navigating the unknown will come easier and easier with practice, just like driving and navigating Proctor’s steps in stilettos… The chaos will feel more ordered and comfortable. You will greet new and daunting experiences like an old friend.

Our chaos together has come to an end. Although, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Technology today has made long distance communication so very easy. I look forward to sending you all Facebook friend requests out of nowhere in 30 years, and I am confident you will accept it, just as you have already accepted the chaos. Thank you.

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