Editor's note: In place of an editorial in today's edition, we are featuring the speeches of Toll Gate and Pilgrim High School valedictorians Grace Reed and Mackenzie Fraser.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and to the Class of 2018, congratulations! I’d like to start off this speech by thanking those that made the fact that I am on this stage making a speech right now possible.
To my parents, thank you for your unconditional love and support and teaching me to dream big. Also, it’s my mom’s birthday today so be sure to wish her a happy birthday! To my grandmother, thank you for always being there when I needed you, for cutting my bangs and making me pasta, and for everything you continue to do.
Thank you to my wonderful little brother for having the courage to be who he is and never failing to make me laugh, and thank you for yelling at me to wake up in the morning so we’re not late for school.
Thank you to my intelligent, talented, and beautiful friends for keeping me sane throughout high school. And most importantly, thank you to every teacher I’ve had in the course of my education.
Thank you to the teachers that taught me that the Battle of Hastings was in 1066, and thank you to the teachers that taught me life lessons that I will never forget. Thank you for inspiring me, challenging me, and helping me enjoy coming to school every day. We had our fair share of obstacles thrown at us, but the teachers at Pilgrim and their passion for teaching and watching kids learn is what makes it such a good place to grow.
And passion, I think, is one of the most important qualities a person can have. Passion drives dreams, and dreams drive success. Once you find the thing that you’re passionate about, grab on to it and never let it go.
The most successful people I know let their passions drive them. I love listening to my mother come home from school every day and talk about the funny things her second graders have done that day, or what they’re learning about. I love watching Isabella Zuffoletti preside over the environmental club and fight for the earth. I love sitting in English class and listening to Dylan Bowden act out Hamlet like he is Hamlet himself. I love going to calculus every day and watching Alex Carney, Ian McHugh, and Matt Fera debate about the latest math league problem that has stumped them.
And myself, I love doing math and I love boats, and I am more than ecstatic to major in ocean engineering. I know that we all have bright futures ahead of us as long as we follow our passions. And it doesn’t matter what it is (unless it’s grand theft auto or something) or how long it takes you to realize that, but when you do, hold on to it and never let go.
My advice to all of you is to follow your passions. If you don’t like what you are doing, you don’t have to do it. Life is short, and you have to live it the best way you can.
As a few of you know, way back in freshman year, I participated in the cross country and track teams. Now, there are people like Kevin Dusseault that never stop running and love it more than anything, but that person is not me. I kept getting different injuries, and I was miserable, so I was much happier just sticking to swim. And I think swimming is a lot easier on the body — would you rather smack your feet on the cement over and over or go for a nice swim?
Either way, maybe running wasn’t the sport for me, but it’s certainly the sport for many others. And I learned a valuable lesson: that I don’t need to keep doing something if I’m not happy.
As we all know, the future is a scary place, and I can’t pretend that I know exactly what I’m doing, either. Some of you are going to college to major in education, and will be teaching future generations of this country. Some of you are joining the armed forces, and will be fighting to keep our country safe. But no matter what you decide to do with your life, you are important, and that’s something that you should never forget.
One of my favorite quotes is from the movie The Help, which we watched last year in English after reading The Secret Life of Bees. It is: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” If you’re ever feeling down, repeat that to yourself. You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
And now that you’re (hopefully) feeling inspired, you should also remember that the life ahead of you has plenty of responsibilities, as well. Now that most of us are 18, or will be in the coming months, we truly have responsibilities as full-fledged adults. You are now in charge of your own safety. Whether you’re living at home, on a college campus, or somewhere else, you are no longer a little kid. It’s important to be wary of your surroundings, and never let yourself get into a dangerous situation. And all of us should be going out this fall and voting, because that is your responsibility as a citizen.
Our class is unique because our four years of high school have essentially been split in half by consolidation. While consolidation was a confusing time for many of us, I think the end yields wonderful results. For many of the students who originally attended Vets, I can’t imagine what life would be like without you. I know that most of you, whether you went to Vets, Pilgrim, or somewhere else in 9th grade, feel the same way about ending up in the same place in 12th grade.
It’s strange to think that we have been together for such a short amount of time, and that we will again have to depart from each other’s lives, but that’s how life works. I am excited to see where the future brings each and every one of you, because I know that you all have the capacity for great success.
And with that, congratulations again to my classmates and never forget to follow your dreams.