Who will your child become? Read on, as 2020 valedictorian Nicholas Bradley shares how Habersham shaped him beyond the classroom, standing out in his 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.
Well, everyone, we are here. We made it. I, like many of you, had some reasonable doubt on whether we would actually be gathered here today! Even so, we are here. The graduation class that will go down in history. It is rather crazy to think that one day some high-school kid will be failing a test on the exact thing that we have been living through for the past ten weeks! We must, remember, however, that there has been so much more to our time in school than the days and nights of COVID-19.
It seems like it was just yesterday when we were all a bunch of nervous freshmen, moving to a new school. Don’t even get me started on all the stairs and sardine-tin hallways! Many teenagers say that their school is like a jail… (pause) well, we ACTUALLY WENT TO SCHOOL IN A JAIL! Combine all this with about eight hours of homework a week, and you have the perfect recipe for teenage stress and anxiety! Looking back now, though, it all seems like a distant memory. From the antics on the 9th grade New York trip to the Europe trip that never was, listening to bizarre saxophone music while writing essays (thanks to Mr. Aidan Chambers), and having group discussions when the drama became too great, we have all been through many ups and downs, both inside and outside the classroom.
We have made names for ourselves and each other, but we must not forget what it took to get here and the experiences along the way. Besides our own performances, there were countless opportunities to learn and grow, both in intelligence and morals. Our teachers have always been there to help us with both of these qualities, and have thus equipped us a little bit better for the outside world. In my opinion, three of these morals that we should remember the most are patience, determination, and love. With these three virtues, we have trekked over mountains together, lifting one another up along the way. In the process, we became more than just classmates- we became a family. Now, if you would kindly give me the time, I would love to discuss these virtues, and exactly why we need to keep them at our side in the years to come.
To start, patience has enabled us to come this far with regards to our schoolwork. 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year, but we have resisted temptations and overcome obstacles that could have led to quitting. How did we do this? Patience. When a subject was challenging or life at school seemed like too much trouble, we didn’t give up, we waited it out. This is a very valuable skill to have in adult life, and we have all implemented it into our current lives with fidelity. The downside of patience is that you never know if you have it until you have to use it. We can be sure that the rest of our lives will give us plenty of chances to use the patience we’ve gained over these years.
Even so, patience on its own will merely become laziness! This brings me to the second virtue, determination. This drive to complete a task may not have been a priority for all of us, but through our years together we have all strengthened this skill. Teachers have instilled a determined mentality in us by healthily challenging us, and we have risen to that challenge. We have also made many of our own challenges- sports, extracurricular activities, and even jobs have all taken up substantial amounts of our time whilst at Habersham, but they rewarded us in the end. We didn’t HAVE to take part in any of these activities, we CHOSE to. This did indeed make our lives hard sometimes, but we didn’t quit. We pushed through, came out on top of our tasks and issues, and ultimately became better human beings! This will greatly assist us later in life, as we will have to sometimes fight for what we believe in! Please, I implore you, keep your sense of determination ready!
Finally, the greatest virtue that we have learned is love- a love for learning, a love for individuality, and, greatest of all, a love for each other. Let’s face it, God put us in each other’s lives for a reason. Even though it may not have seemed like it all the time, we are all part of His ultimate plan! Through trials and hardships, through victories and celebrations, we have always been there to support one another. That doesn’t mean we always liked each other, but the strong bond of family and love never went away. Also, no matter how much we do not want to admit it, we will all miss each other! This really is unconditional love. In life, many things both good and bad will come our way, but love will enable us to keep only what is truly near and dear to our hearts. With love for God and one another, we can shine a light in the great darkness of the world, and use it to guide ourselves and others on our journeys. So, Sam, Kaylie, Jada, Ryder, Breanna, Isabelle, Ashley, Aidan, Ashlyn, Krista, Cierra, and Manasseh- if nothing else, remember the love you experienced in these years of school, love that was just for you as a person, not for anything you did. This will be harder to come by as you transition into adult life.