The Academic Reception, which honors students from the previous school year who received scholar of distinctin or high honors, was held on Wednesday, August 30th, 2017. Jillian Harvalis, AHA Science teacher, shared a message with student recipients and their parents about the new school year. See the Academic Reception recipients.
I have been asked today to share a few thoughts with everyone as we begin this new school year. Before the start of each school year, we are given a chance to think about what we hope to accomplish—what we hope we can change—what we hope we can improve. Some years seem to go by particularly fast, while other years seem to never, ever, ever end. Whichever it might be for you this year, we will all find ourselves nine months from now in June, ready to close this chapter and getting ready for the next. But life isn’t just about passing the time and dealing with each day—hopefully you will find that it is more about finding value. We are all constantly working towards finding value in the work we do or in the things we learn. In class, we wait for those moments where we learn or discover something new. A new issue in society, a new cause that needs support or a new way to apply information— all of these moments can call out to us and encourage us to pursue them further. These are the starting blocks of motivation that help us grow into stronger and more interesting people. So here today we have three classes—our sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have clearly set goals for themselves before and have achieved high honors for their success. But now that is the past. Now we have to take this amazing accomplishment and we have to use it to push us up to the next level. What do you want to see happen this year that can add value to your life and to those around you?
Sophomores. This is your time. There’s some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you’re no longer freshman. You know the game a bit more now. You know the school, you know many of the people, and you know how to work hard and be successful in classes. You are moving on to more challenging classes, that’s true. But, and I think certainly the seniors and many others in this room will agree, you will have more free time this year than you will in your next two years. That’s the bad news. My advice and my challenge to you this year is to really start to bring yourself out of your comfort zone. If you’ve ever thought about doing theater, but you’ve never been able to find the courage to get up and speak on stage—try it! Sometimes just surrounding yourself with people who have experience begins to rub off on you. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever told that has stuck with me and has guided me through most of my adult life is “your personality is the sum of the 5 closest people around you.” If you choose now at this point to surround yourself with confidence and positivity, it will rub off on you and make a more successful you. If you choose to surround yourself with people still stuck in freshman year (or who knows, middle school)—you, too, will project that to others. So try something new, find a new way to improve yourself this year and you might be surprised at what you’ll find about your strength and bravery.
Juniors. The good news is there’s only two pieces, well, three really, of bad news I will share with you. One is the ACT is coming and you will hearing about it more and more as the year goes on. Two, you’re going to be asked about college planning. A lot. So much college planning. And three, all this and your classes are most likely the most challenging that you will have during your time here. But I sincerely believe that junior year is the most incredible year you can have in high school. You’re upperclassmen now and whether you have noticed it or not yet, things have changed. You have changed. And you can now look ahead and start planning a real future for your life. You have so much power in this moment to shape your life into exactly what you want it to be because it starts right now. Set your goals high and get prepared to work and you’ll find that when this year is over, you will be able to truly see how your work will translate into results. And that is a great feeling.
Seniors. I have had the blessing of working with many of the seniors here since they were freshman. I have seen them grow up over four years and for this reason I selfishly hope that this year drags on for a bit longer than most. The first part of this year will be stressful because now you will be plunging head first into change and really having to start to envision what life will look like after you graduate. The second half will probably be a bit more relaxed when a horrible plague called senioritis will take hold and infect most of you by Thanksgiving. But as a forewarning: do not let this completely take over your life. You are here today because you have obviously worked hard for academic recognition. Don’t give anyone the chance to cheapen your accomplishments from the past three years. Now is the time to differentiate yourself as a leader. You have had at least two years to explore and find your interests here, now you are the ones everyone is looking towards to know how to find their voice. Your class is known for pioneering clubs, fundraisers, and becoming involved in global social justice issues. You are not passive, you are a class of action and I hope that you continue to bring that energy into this year to inspire everyone else that sits in this room. And finally, allow yourself more time to spend time with friends and others in our community. This will be the last time you are all here, together, in this setting. Sit by that person you’ve never talked to and learn what they’re good at and what their hopes are. Welcome those that are new into your group and see how a new perspective will enrich and expand your personality.
So with that, I hope that each of you truly celebrate this achievement and I hope that you all continue to strive for higher levels of excellence in every sense of that word. But more importantly, I hope you take some time this week to think about how you hope to spend your time this year—what will be your motivation, how will you find people and things to inspire you during your time? And think about what you hope to feel when you look back in June to how you were able to value each day. Congratulations to everyone and now let’s get to work.