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  • EDITION VII. Issue 6.

SUMMER ISSUE – Graduation Coverage: Class of 2017 Exits with “Destinies Bound” Together [link to video]


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STANWICH SCHOOL – The Class of 2017 has moved on, with graduation marking the 4th alumni class of The Stanwich School.

Below is the text of Valedictorian Helen Wang’s speech as well as Aidan Sebold’s salutatorian remarks.  You can view a brief video montage of the Commencement Ceremonies here.

HELEN WANG

Good afternoon, families, friends, faculty and graduates. Welcome. It is my pleasure to stand here today to reflect upon the time we have spent together as the Class of 2017.  First, I would like to offer congratulations to all the graduates including myself, the oldest Stanwich student graduating today. We made it through high school.

My experience at Stanwich can be described by two words: 缘分That’s correct, I just spoke Chinese. 缘分 is a truly magica thing. It represents the “destiny that ties people together.” And our 缘分 started at Stanwich.

I still remember vividly my first day visiting the school with my parents. It was late August. School hadn’t started yet. We were welcomed by Mrs. Drennen and Mrs. Murphy with their bright smiles and warm hospitality. Then we were introduced to all the upper school teachers. It was slightly embarrassing for me, because everyone seemed to know my name and my background, while I could not even pronounce their names correctly. You know, I just smiled and nodded. At that time, I had no clue that this idea of  缘分 would impact the rest of my experience at Stanwich.

Because of 缘分, we had the honor to be the students of a group of amazing educators and mentors. One of whom engages you in deep conversations about matrices, derivatives, his chickens, and his solar-powered chicken house; one who is as approachable as a friend and makes everything fun with his puns; one who nurtures students not only mentally, but also physically with his incomparable chocolate chip cookies. Or, one who edits your college essays no matter if it is Thanksgiving Day or New Year’s Eve; who pushes you through senioritis and actually helps you finish this graduation speech on time.

They celebrate with you when you receive your first college acceptance letter. They cry with you when you are unable to board the flight to London because you don’t have a visa. They know you so well that they can always discover if your reference in the essay is the book or Sparknotes. And you know them so well that before your English teacher starts to give an example of repetition and alliteration, you know it will be from Macbeth’s soliloquy.

Because of 缘分,the destiny that ties people together, the thirteen of us are able to be here today and graduate together. We have witnessed the growth in one another. We have survived each other’s awkward teenage years with bangs and short hair. We have watched Jenny Matute taking off her braces and Matt Rivera growing his hair out. We have seen people come and go. No matter what happens I hope you will always remember the fun we had tricking Luke Martin during “heads up” and the shaking hands and racing heartbeats when playing Kahoot in Mr. Hughes’ class. I hope you will always remember the girls’ sleep over at Michelle Wakim’s house when Lauren Henderson “disappeared” under her blanket, and the senior skip day when we watched the most boring scary movie ever. I hope you will always remember the rafts that we built and the high rope courses that we conquered. I hope every time you see “Star Wars,” you will think of Aidan Sebold; every time you see “domino’s pizza, you will think of Alex Gardner, AND every time you see packages of ketchup, you will think of me. I hope you will always remember the laughter and tears we had in high school whatever you do and wherever you go.

Instead of looking into the future, I would like to encourage you to cherish the present. Cherish this 缘分—this connection– with your teachers, with your friends, and with Stanwich.

Class of 2017, it has been an unforgettable three years with you and from the bottom of my heart I sincerely wish you the very, very, very best.

Thank you.

 

Aidan Sebold

Mr. Sachs, Mr. Murphy, Faculty and Administration, members of the Board of Trustees, honored guests, parents, family and friends, on behalf of the Class of 2017 I’d like to say thank you for all your support through our years at Stanwich.

When I learned I was Class Salutatorian, and thus had to make a speech, I immediately started reflecting on the years I’ve spent at Stanwich and what they’ve meant to me. I moved here in the 8th grade.  Before that, I lived and attended school in both Ohio and Texas. After just my first week at Stanwich, I remember being struck by how amazing the teachers were compared to the other schools I’d attended.  I mean how many teachers actually light their desks on fire or hurl markers around the room to emphasize a point? I quickly learned that the teachers at Stanwich were a special bunch.  That being said, my classmates were also a welcome surprise.  Within only a few weeks, I felt more comfortable with my classmates here than I had in several years at my other schools. Looking back, I can really see how the Stanwich Seven were at work.

When it came time to decide whether to remain at Stanwich for high school, I can honestly say I never once considered leaving. Several people questioned my desire to stay at such a small high school, and they openly wondered whether we would be prepared for the “big” world of college after spending four years in a quote unquote “safe” and “sheltered” environment.  Well, after four years, I’m here to tell you that the Class of 2017 is not only prepared for college, but I would argue we may be even better prepared than many of our fellow graduates at larger high schools.

At Stanwich, because of our small classes, there is nowhere to hide when it’s time to discuss a lesson and participate in class.  We’re engaged every day in lively discussions with our teachers and classmates, and we’re constantly challenged to raise questions and offer our opinions on a variety of topics. When your classes are larger, it’s very easy to just sit back and let someone else do all the talking, but at Stanwich that just doesn’t cut it.

We’ve definitely had some fascinating discussions and debates over the years.  Many of these took place in Mr. Mandia’s classroom. I still remember our analysis of Lord of the Flies.  To quote Mr. Mandia, “It’s not just about boys on a beach.” Now, I know my classmates appreciate what that means, but for the rest of you here today who didn’t get to enjoy that class, the quote serves two purposes. First, it demonstrates that the book carries far more complex themes than would initially be assumed; particularly, the book is an allegory for the fall of civilized society. The second is far more encompassing: sometimes the simple answer isn’t always the best. Sometimes you have to look deeper in order to properly understand and respect what’s in front of you.

While our classroom discussions often centered on heavy topics and themes such as that, our desire to engage in lively debate was not limited to them alone. In fact, one of our most animated debates was when, in order to practice our rhetorical techniques, we argued in support of how we eat cereal. I’ve never seen a more intense exchange than that one. The sheer volatility and severity of the response I received when I revealed that I eat my cereal dry was simultaneously hilarious and kind of terrifying. And let’s not even mention my sister, who admitted she pours the milk before the cereal. That almost started a war.

Another benefit of a small class size is the chance to get to know people who are very different from you and who you may never have been friends with at a larger school.  At Stanwich, we’re too small to form “cliques” and cut ourselves off from people who are different from us.  Instead, we’ve taken the time to learn how to both tolerate and embrace our differences, and become good friends in spite of those differences.  Being a small group forced us to spend a lot of time together, and in doing so, we learned to tolerate our various quirks.  And we have plenty of those, believe me.  Nonetheless, we pumped each other up on our hike through the Costa Rican jungle, struggled to avoid succumbing to jet lag on our first day in London, demonstrated teamwork, and good sportsmanship, during the Triskelion Cup, and always lent quiet support to each other when we faced personal struggles.

Lately, the news has been filled with instances of college students who desire to only be exposed to viewpoints that mirror their own.  They don’t want to listen to any opposing viewpoints. I’ve been keeping track of this trend because, quite frankly, it scares me. It’s counter to everything we’ve been taught here at Stanwich. And that’s why I’m all the more grateful to Stanwich. A motto that I’ve adopted recently is one I learned from Mr. Katona: “Don’t judge me, ask me why.” At Stanwich, we’re able to ask why. Here we learned to listen to each other’s opinions, even when we didn’t agree; and when we disagreed, we were allowed to explain why without fear of being shouted down or being outright told we’re wrong. Here you don’t have to follow the herd to get along. Your individuality is allowed to shine.

In the future, we may need to remind ourselves what it was like to go to school at Stanwich, where we could engage in respectful discussions.  There is so much to learn from listening to a person who might disagree with you.  While it may not change your opinion, the mere act of respectfully listening will open your mind and make you a better informed individual.  And isn’t that what it means to be ready for college?

While our high school may be small, it was never “safe” or “sheltered” as those terms are defined today, and for that we’re eternally grateful. So, on behalf of the Class of 2017, thank you Stanwich!

 

-end-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Digital Student News Site of The Stanwich School
SUMMER ISSUE – Graduation Coverage: Class of 2017 Exits with “Destinies Bound” Together [link to video]