Friday, June 26, 2020

A Tribute to "Unfinished"- Commencement Address, 2020

My husband and I were lucky enough to be asked to give the faculty address at graduation this year. This senior class has a special place in my heart....I have taught them as freshman and sophomores in Geometry and juniors and seniors in Algebra II and various levels of Calculus. A few had me for their first class on their first day of high school and again as their last class on their last day of high school. I've been so lucky to watch them grow.  I have at least 7 drafted blog posts that I could never bring myself to complete this spring, but writing the address was a form of therapy for me. Sharing here in case reading it brings anyone a small bit of the peace writing it brought me: 

Goooooooooooooood Morning, Saratoga! 

And Congratulations, Class of 2020. You made it! 
My name is Caitlyn Gironda and my name is Mark Gironda and we are honored to be the faculty speakers this year. Thank you to this incredible senior class for selecting us. At the very least, thank you to these seniors for giving us a reason to wear the most normal clothes we’ve worn in months…and that’s saying a lot because we are wearing these gowns.
On behalf of the entire faculty and staff of the Saratoga Springs City School District, we’d also like to welcome the families, friends, and community members who are watching today. Having spent so much time apart this spring, many of us understand even more deeply the village of support it took to bring your student successfully to this day. Students, please take a moment now to thank the people around you who have supported you along the way. If they are not with you at this moment, remember to thank them later.

And now, to each of you. The Blue Streaks. The Saratoga Springs High School Class of 2020. 

What we celebrate here today is an incredible accomplishment. It is a milestone on the way to your future- marking an end of the “beginning.” From here, you will set out along your unique path. You will be attending institutions of higher learning, stepping bravely into the work force, learning and mastering new trades, doing missionary work at home and abroad, taking gap years to care for family and learn about yourself, attending military academies, and even enlisting in the armed forces. We would like to extend the gratitude of each and every member of our community to those who are choosing to serve our country. 

Four years ago, a group of new faces walked into the building to begin their Blue Streak journey. They nervously tried to find their classrooms in a building that felt too big and hoped the people in their classes would be kind, funny, and help them feel welcome. You might have been one of those faces. Two more of them are looking back at you right now. We have never known the high school without the class of 2020 in its hallways. You were the students who welcomed us on our very first day at Saratoga and we feel lucky to have the opportunity to see you off today and celebrate your accomplishments. Watching you all learn, lead, and grow has helped define what it means to be a Blue Streak in our minds and you’ve set an example to which other classes should aspire.

We’ve watched you break school records (and also break some lab materials), perform in school musicals, plays, and concerts ( and in our classrooms when an impromptu singalong inevitably breaks out), win section championships, win Science Research competitions, persevere through difficult challenges in the classroom, learn to believe in the power of your own voice, and much more. We’ve watched you be leaders in inclusion, band together in support of causes that are important to you, display boundless compassion during times of loss, and truly become role models in our school community. It’s clear that you all have spent the last four years “bringing the storm.”  

However, you all have weathered many storms of your own. This spring alone, you’ve endured the pandemic. Remote learning.  The cancellation of countless events that you’ve been anticipating all year. Earthquakes (that’s right, who remembered there was an earthquake in March!?). Tornados. Health and economic crises in your own homes and community. Civil unrest around the country and world. We know the senior year you expected to have feels woefully unfinished. 

Let us tell you, life is full of interruptions. Trust us, as teachers, there will always be something that is going to interrupt what you had planned. It is easy to view the notion of “unfinished” as a void. It can be important to mourn, to grieve, and to wonder. But today, we urge you to remember this:

“Unfinished” is not to be feared. “Unfinished” can be a gift, a permission, a challenge.

First, as educators, it’s important for us to remind you that though your time in the classroom may end your education is never “complete.” One of our greatest gifts is our power to keep learning and keep growing, long after our formal education is “finished.” Explore your interests wholeheartedly and extend out of your comfort zone . Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Listen to people who don’t look like you, don’t sound like you, don’t think like you. Learn to hold their ideas in your mind simultaneously with your own and choose which ideas still feel “true” and “right” and “just” and which you’re ready to let go. 

Second, remember that though you have been formed by the world in which you were raised, your own personal growth remains unfinished as well. There will be moments when you are doing great things. But there will also be moments when you are learning hard lessons that will help you on the road to doing the next great thing in your life. This not easy. It takes courage, curiosity, vulnerability- showing up to make yourself and the world around you better, even when you don’t know what the outcome may be. It requires admitting when you are wrong and trusting that the hard lessons- and there will be hard lessons- are giving you opportunities to grow. Grant yourself permission to take life’s challenges as chances to remold, reshape, and refine.  

Third, know that though friendships may change, great loves may end, and people may pass away, the impact others have on you for good can remain unfinished throughout your life.  Whether with you for a lifetime or only a season,  the time you’ve spent together will continue to influence you for years to come. Surround yourself with a group of people who challenge and inspire you in such a way that their lessons are with you for a lifetime.  We have already seen how your class has continued to spread joy through your small actions each day, just as you learned from mentors like Mr. Flanders and Coach Bellai. We have seen you persevere when things are difficult and show boundless compassion, just as you learned from Kristen Shinebarger and Parker Hayes.  These beloved members of the SSHS family continue to shine their light through each one of you. We’d like to observe a moment of silence as we feel their presence and impact here with us today.

Lastly, remember that we live in unfinished communities, an unfinished country, an unfinished world.  Too often, things happen because “that’s the way they’ve always been.” You may feel like you are too young to impact the world in any tangible way. We are here to tell you that nothing is further from the truth. Your generation brings a new perspective the world has not yet seen. You have the power to enact change every day, through actions large and small.  We’ve already seen seeds of this power in you. Regional campaigns to unite the Class of 2020 through  t-shirt sales while benefitting charities. Fundraisers and food drives. And quietly, humbly, in a million small actions of kindness and inclusion. You are the class who sits with the student alone at lunch. You are the class who passes the ball to everyone on the team. You are the class who advocates for inclusion not just in word, but in action.

If we haven’t made it clear, you’re kind of a big deal. The world is a better place with each and every one of you in it. New problems will arise, old problems will resurface, and the world is going to NEED YOU to fix them! The world will need the person you’ve become over the past four years and the person you will continue to become throughout the rest of your life. When the world says you’re too young, push back and show your strength. When the world feels dark, fill it with brightness and positivity.  

Blue streaks, it might seem easy to see yourselves as a class marked by interruptions and disappointments. We urge you to rewrite that narrative. So little of life will be defined by the plans you make for yourselves.  Rather, it will be defined by the way you choose to respond when your plans remain “unfinished.” “Unfinished” invites you to continue learning, questioning, and refining. “Unfinished” is a permission slip for growth.

Congratulations to the class of 2020.

Keep fighting for better for yourself, for others, for our world. Keep bringing the storm

No comments:

Post a Comment