Who will your child become? Read on, as 2020 salutatorian Ashley Norman shares how Habersham shaped her beyond the classroom, standing out in her experience, as a classical Christian school.
“A teacher’s major contribution may pop out anonymously in the life of some ex-student’s grandchild. A teacher, finally, has nothing to go on but faith, a student nothing to offer in return but testimony.” Wendell Barry, American poet and novelist.
Hey everyone, thank you all for being here today. My name is Ashley. I started going to Habersham freshman year, and let me tell you, it was a big transition. I switched over from a big public school, and the entire atmosphere was completely different. As a freshman, grades were everything to me, and unlike in middle school, I actually had to work for my grades. Back at Hesse, you could just sit in the corner silently, and as long as you turned in all your assignments, you were set. Not at Habersham though. Here, you actually have to read books, and write about them. And, you have to participate in class. We were actually expected to speak up, and share our opinions. That was definitely a struggle for me. I didn’t want to speak up. Nor did I want to read books and write about how they affected me, or how they made me feel. None of us did. You can ask Beaumont, we complained, and we argued with him on nearly every assignment he gave. We were absolute pains. But as much as we complained, I know for a fact that I came out of Habersham a much better person than when I started here. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone more times and in more ways than I can count, and that has instilled a strength and confidence in me that wasn’t there before. I now know how to speak up and share my ideas, and even take the leadership role when necessary. I can even stand up here and give a speech, which is something I never even thought possible for myself.
Habersham taught me how to speak out, and stand alone, but it also taught me how to be a part of a community. In all honesty, I used to roll my eyes at the term “community”, really because it didn’t hold much meaning for me. I didn’t really understand what it meant. Whatever I was going through, I thought I could just deal with it on my own, and everyone else should do the same. But then teachers started asking about our days. They checked up on us, pried into our personal lives, and more than anything, they cared. They actually cared about how we were doing, and what we were going through. Not only did they ask how we were doing, but they went out of their way to help solve our problems, and make our lives easier. I’ll never forget art class with Mr. Seff, who is the most chill guy you’ve ever met. One time, I was having a particularly hard week, and I walked into art class just feeling physically ill with stress and exhaustion, and he seemed to recognize that. So instead of making me work on my art piece, he let me DJ for the day. He let me sit at his desk and play whatever music I wanted off of his laptop, and whether he knew it or not, that small thing literally made my entire week, and improved my mood drastically. Then in Beaumont’s class, there were several different days where we’d all walk in first thing in the morning, sit down, and the whole mood was just so depressing. We had a really bad day like this about once a month, where some of us were exhausted, some were stressed and on the verge of tears; or some of us were actually in tears. We could not function on these days. So Mr. Beaumont eventually came to recognize these bad days, and on these days, instead of ignoring our pain and forcing us to do class, he’d take us out for coffee, and we’d walk around downtown. Like, who does that? We usually ranted to him about everything that was going on in our lives, and I mean everything. We probably told him a lot more than we should have if I’m being honest. It wasn’t just Mr. Beaumont either; we frequently found ourselves confiding in all of our teachers, and that was a regular thing for us. They pushed us beyond our limits constantly, but they also took care of us when we were overwhelmed. It’s so rare to find a group of teachers who are so involved in their students’ lives, and it was the biggest blessing to me. Through this school, I felt as if I had an entire support system behind me when I was going through hard times, whether that support was coming from my classmates, my teammates, my coaches, or my teachers. You have given us a community; one that we can lean on.
You have taught us how to lean on each other. How to take away lessons from the people we are surrounded by. How to serve a purpose greater than ourselves. How to embrace our hardships to make us stronger and shape us into better people. These are lessons that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives, and for that, we will always be grateful. Teachers, parents, faculty, and administration, thank you all for pouring into us and being patient with us for all these years. We couldn’t have made it without you. Thank you.