To quote the ever-wise Taylor Swift, “I’ve got a hundred thrown-out speeches I almost said to you”. You know, for something I’ve been thinking about for so long, this speech was surprisingly difficult for me to write. Condensing highschool into five minutes is no easy task. Most of you know me pretty well and so you probably know that writing is one thing I’ve never really had a problem with. Just ask Mr.Beach, who graciously read through my thesis paper about a million times. For some reason, it has just always been easier for me to express myself in written words rather than spoken ones.
Before I came to Habersham, I went to The STEM academy. I remember one particular instance, in sixth grade, when it came time to present the research projects we had been working on all year. Now I wasn’t a very talkative kid at school but I managed to get through the presentation okay, and I didn’t think much of it until a few hours later. A kid in my grade who had been there for the presentations came up to me, awestruck, and explained that he had thought I was mute. We had been in class together for a year and apparently, he had never heard me speak.
In the middle of my seventh grade year I transferred to Habersham, and I remember hearing about senior thesis projects and thinking “man, I’m gonna have to transfer again”. I couldn’t even begin to fathom standing in a room full of people giving a speech for twenty minutes. Well, I presented my thesis earlier today, and I’m pretty sure I went over my time limit, sorry Mr.Beaumont.
If you would have told me years ago that when I graduated from here, I would enjoy public speaking, I would have laughed in your face. But I do, I enjoy public speaking, I think it’s kind of fun. And I have Habersham to thank for that. I have my ninth grade report card from Ms.Bayliss when she told me that I needed to stop hiding behind my books and talk to people a little. I have every teacher who pushed me to speak up in harkness discussions and ask questions, even when it terrified me. I have five and a half years at this school, five and a half years of people-teachers, families, coaches pouring into my life. People seeing things in me that I couldn’t even see in myself and pushing me, everyday, every class, every assignment, to be better, to grow.
And that’s what I think is different about Habersham, people care. We’re not just students here, we look out for each other. Our teachers see us as more than just a number in a gradebook, they see us for the people they want to help us become. They see us for the struggles we’ve endured and the obstacles we’ve overcome. For our strengths and our weaknesses and our hopes and our dreams. At Habersham, we’re more than just cogs in an education machine, churning out test scores and college acceptances. We’re people, created in the image of God, with unique purposes and aspirations and this is a school community that has dedicated itself to helping us reach them.
Education is only as good as the person receiving it, and this is the time where we decide the kind of people we’re going to be. We’re moving on to the next chapter in our lives, the one where we put to use all the things we’ve learned, in and out of the classroom. Because ultimately, highschool isn’t about learning that y=mx+b or that Mark Twain was born in 1835 or that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. It’s about learning to be good people, who will make a difference in the world. To quote Martin Luther King Jr., “The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals… We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”
So as I close out, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to all the parents who supported us and cared for us. Thank you to the coaches who pushed us to strive for greatness. Thank you to the teachers and administrators who helped us to learn and grow into the best versions of ourselves. And thank you to the school community, who gave us a true education, who fostered our intelligence and our character, we couldn’t have done any of this without you. Thank you.