Claire (North High)
September 6, 2008: Claire has joined the Great Neck North High School network. While this date may not have resonated within my memory, with the help of my Facebook account--the ever-reliable archive of the past four years of my life--I am reminded of the day that I began as a true Great Neck North High School student. With the simple click of a mouse and the addition of an apostrophe, one, two ('12) to my education info, I had told the world that I was beginning high school (or at least, I had told my measly 200 Facebook friends at the time).
March 1, 2009: Claire has been tagged in the album "Battle, Born to Be Wild." I see the faces of 30 young, leather, and bandana-clad freshmen, eagerly awaiting their first Battle of the Classes. Although difficult to look at my awkward ninth-grade self, if it weren't for Facebook, would I remember my classmates who I spent that both brutal and invigorating week with? Would I have remembered those ridiculous dance moves that we included in our performance? Twenty years from now, if I feel an aching nostalgia for my biker-chick-freshmen-battle-of-the-classes days, all I have to do is sign into my Facebook
May 14, 2011: Claire attended the event, "Junior Prom." I am immediately reminded that my junior prom, the celebration of the end of the most infamous year of high school, was on a boat. Even a minute detail--the fact that it was raining and our pre-prom was inside--is documented on my Facebook account, ensuring that I will never forget these apparently insignificant details of my high school career.
To scroll backwards through our Facebook pictures, wall posts, or even venture into private inboxes would be to find the records of high school memories that may have otherwise gone unremembered; it is these seemingly mundane experiences documented within this social network that truly capture our time at Great Neck North. Whether it's a picture from ninth-grade of your starring role in a Junior Players production, a team video of varsity lacrosse, or even a "mupload" of times with friends on the front steps or in the commons, social networks give us insight into who we were in high school in a fluid, honest way. Clearly, Mark Zuckerberg and his friends at Facebook were on to something when they named their new format "timeline" (especially for those planning to take their next cover photo to be uploaded after graduation).
While many of us blame Facebook for being the reason we didn't start that bio lab or English paper until midnight, as we go our separate ways, I like to think of social networks as more than just tools for procrastination, but as reassurance that we will always be united. Months ago, we were changing our Facebook names to avoid college admissions officers, waiting in anticipation for the moment we could update our statuses and announce to the world where we would be headed next year, along with our other future endeavors.
But now that those announcements have been made and Senior Event and Senior Prom pictures have been tagged, there is something unnerving about leaving this high school behind, the high school that has been the backdrop to both the virtual and actual timeline of our lives for the past four years. It can be unsettling to think that next year, some of us may replace those muploads in the commons with photos in a college dining hall or dorm room. It can be petrifying to think of the time that the "Seniors 2012" Facebook group will become progressively less active as it clears room for "Seniors 2016."
However, while we change the "lives in" section of our Facebook profiles to our new cities and towns, our "hometowns" will forever be the same. While we add new photos of our lives in college or elsewhere, those from 2008-2012 will always remind us of our time at Great Neck North.
Many, many years and many, many red boxes informing me of pending friend requests later, according to Facebook, I now have 1,248 friends. But how many of these supposed friends do I actually interact with? How many of these "friends" are just a random camp counselor from when I was in ninth-grade, or a friend of a friend whom I met for 5 minutes at a science fair in eleventh-grade? While many critique Facebook for reducing the value of true friendship, each "friend" connects us in some way to our past. Though I may not talk to that camp counselor or my science fair acquaintance, their positions amongst my friend list serve as distinct placeholders in my continuously growing timeline.
Although social networks make it all the more real that we are moving on and our lives are changing, we should be comforted by this idea that they will always unite us. If we're all connected virtually, that classmate from an eight-period economics class or even your co-Peer Leader will always be just a click away.
The upsetting reality is that today is the last time that all of the members of the Class of 2012 will be together. Whether you're sitting atop this stage next to your best friend or merely an acquaintance you'd give a slight wave to in the hall, we're going to miss all of those around us. Yet even though we may be reluctant and nervous to move on, find comfort in the guarantee that as long as we have social networks, we will not be far removed. No matter where we are in the world or how much time has elapsed, all of us on this stage will continue to pop-up on our newsfeeds, ensuring us that we never forget each other. That simple, "Great Neck North High School '12" that is proudly imprinted atop all of our profiles will connect us forever.
June 21, 2012: Claire has added a new event to her timeline, graduation from Great Neck North High School.
Ethan (North High)
I have a question for you. What makes a boy a man? What makes a girl a woman? I've been fooled too many times in my childhood to know the answer. For me personally, the confusion all started with the bar mitzvah. I walked off that stage, kissed that Torah, and Rabbi Stecker looked me dead in the eyes and said, "You're a man now." I was blasted with surge of confidence. I walked off that stage ready to conquer the man's world. But at home that night, as I walked out of the bathroom, my mother yelled from the kitchen, chopping apples, "Ethan, honey, don't forget to wash your hands with soap." You see, I was still treated like a 13-year old, merely learning the ways of becoming a teenager. So I said to myself, "You know what when I grow a beard THEN I'll be a man." So I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And to this day, all I have is a measly little chinstrap.
So, still frustrated, I went to HE whom everybody would go to when faced with such a dilemma: Bob Dylan. But even HE, the Bob Dylan had no clue. In fact, he asked me, "How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?" The answer seemed to be blowing in the wind, my friends. But despite Bob's doubt and my lack of facial hair, I had a revelation. Growing into a man or woman doesn't happen with the occurrence of a single milestone. It's a process--a process of maturing and finding your identity as a person.
So I entered high school, ready to embrace my true identity, mature, and finally call myself a "man." And in my young freshmen mind, I thought--my true, true identity was to be a basketball player. So, the first week of school, our great assistant principal, Dr. Kraus, at the time a wrestling coach, called me into his office and said "Hey, Rosenbaum, how about you do wrestling this year." I responded, "Oh, why I'd love to Doc, but I'm--you see I'm more of a basketball player." Doc gave me a cold, hard stare and said, "Rosenbaum, you're short. You're not playing basketball." I didn't believe him. But when I went to check my name on that tryout list, sure enough, it went right from "Rabbani" to "Shirian," with no "Rosenbaum" in-between. And then I realized--discovering yourself isn't easy. It takes time and it sure takes failure. It's important to be realistic about yourself, but at the same time, there's nothing better for the soul than to have dreams.
I, for one, am a dreamer. I dream when I'm awake, and like most people, I dream when I'm asleep. Recently, as a matter of fact, I've been dreaming about this very day: graduation. And in my dream I picture us all gathered here today, crying, as we honor the great times we shared.
But, my friends, as much as I've envisioned this scene and pictured myself standing here today, my dream is drastically different from today's reality.
First of all, you're all wearing clothing. And second, I am not standing here with tears in my eyes, wishing I could go back to freshmen year. In fact, it's the opposite. A good man by the name of Dr Seuss once said, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
And I will smile for the Class of 2012--the best class to ever walk through the doors of Great Neck North High School. I smile thinking about winning Quiz Bowl two consecutive years; doing the Macarena, side-by-side during Battle; watching the booming stands at the playoff games, causing the takedown of the alcove; dancing in Jesse's kitchen; and signing yearbooks at Senior Event. I smile here today because of how special the past four years have been with you all.
The years went by faster than I could ever imagine. A YouTube physics video quotes that "time is not linear." At first, I was slightly confused by that comment. But looking back now, it makes total sense. I've sat in some history classes that have felt like two lifetimes. Meanwhile, my entire senior year went by in the blink of an eye.
All this non-linear time where did it all go? Remember when we put Elmer's glue on our hand for the first time and picked at it? Remember when we waited in desperation for recess to come? Remember when we walked from class to class in a single-file line? Remember when we got a thrill from walking in town, alone, for the first time?
It's scary when you realize how fast life moves how quickly things change. I'll give you an example. I got sick this year and had to miss three, consecutive days of school. I got back on Thursday, walked into my class, and almost every single kid had an iPhone; I kid you not. I'm out of school for three days, and the BlackBerry Bold becomes obsolete. I guess Ferris Bueller wasn't lying when he said, "Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you might miss it."
Every period of life has its question. Going into middle school, people ask, "Are you scared of the workload?" On my birthday, people ask, "Do you feel any older?" Going into high school, people ask, "What are you gonna do about bullies?" So now, the Class of 2012, on the brink of graduation, is faced with its question--"So, now that you're done with high school what are you going to do with your life?"
The answer for all of us should be different, but if there's one thing I want you all to remember, it's to go out into the world, find your passion, and go for it. Class of 2012, go out there, and, as Starsky and Hutch would say, "Do it!" Go out there and be what you want to be, try what you want to try, make that game-winning shot, ace that final exam, climb to the top of Mount Everest and back, order that hero and not the roll, despite your recent weight gain. Now is your time. Be who you want to be. Drake once said, "Everybody dies, but not everybody lives."
So, my fellow peers, let's go out there and live, as men and women ready to conquer the world in any way we choose to do so.
Matthew (North High, Valedictorian)
When writing an autobiography, ex-superhero Hollis Mason, a character from the graphic novel, Watchmen, was told to "start off with the saddest thing [he could] think of and get the audience's sympathies on [his] side," because after that, it is all easy. Okay, so here it goes. This year, I was rejected from my first-choice college. I had sailed relatively smoothly throughout high school, but one impersonal letter trampled a dream. I temporarily felt that I was not good enough, questioned the effort I exerted in high school, and did not want to begin to move on to new plans. There were days when I laid down in bed at night, just waiting for my mind to stumble upon an answer that would solidify my future. I did not realize it at that moment, but this life hurdle positively shaped me as a person and helped me discover a new and just as powerful dream.
Well, if these are the most unfortunate consequences of me trying to challenge and discover myself, then taking risks and fighting to hold on to dreams must not be that foolish. So in the end, I lost out on a little sleep, and I am going to the university of my dreams, just not the original one.
Throughout high school, I tried to abide by the saying, "People are not broken by the dreams they attempt and fail, but by those they never attempt." Life is full of choices, and in Great Neck, students are fortunate to face an abundance of opportunities; however, it sometimes is hard to learn that focusing on something is better than just touching the surface of everything. The members of the Class of 2012 have achieved tremendous feats by making choices, whether it is placing as an Intel semifinalist through taking Science Research, making Counties in sports through grueling workouts, or winning a scholastic competition through tireless studying. Part of growing up is channeling passions and turning away from other activities.
Now, it would be impossible for me to stand here today and generalize the moments and dreams that defined the Class of 2012, because each member here today would choose separate events. One thing I can do is admire my fellow classmates for striving to achieve, one way or another, and making conscious decisions that have molded them into young adults who are ready to take on new challenges. We truly are the makers of our own destiny, and although not all of our choices will be the right ones, there will always be opportunities to learn from our mistakes and create a stronger future for ourselves. As we all move on to bigger and brighter places, I urge everyone to keep pushing and choosing. As philosopher Eric Thomas says, "Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. However, if you quit, that pain will last forever." Make the struggle worth something.
Soon the Class of 2012 will travel deeper into the realm of the unknown. Who knows what the price of oil will be in 2016 when many of us graduate from college? I cannot even begin to imagine what new technology will be dominating our lives in four years. However, unlike the media, I like to focus on the positives of life. Pursue what you love in the next four years. Safety is nice, but do something because you love it, not because you were told it suits you. I will continue to play music in college even though I will not make a career out of it. I just love the clarinet and hope to continue practicing to the grave. At the same time, I will continue to discover myself with new activities, for my many mentors in high school have taught me not to draw a correlation between unfamiliarity and negativity.
I feel extremely fortunate to have grown up in a public school district in which I found such tremendous guidance from the teachers and administration. One day I went to guidance to discuss my college rejection with my counselor, and when I walked out, I was holding in tears of joy because the support and care shocked me in such a positive manner. Class of 2012, I urge you not to take our tremendous academic and social experience for granted; there are other places where districts are struggling to gather funding or qualified teachers. Not only are adults supportive of students, but also the students truly have united as a class and a community. So many members of our senior class make a difference in the lives of others whether it is through Relay for Life, Key Club, or other fantastic outreach organizations.
In ten years, many of us will come back to Great Neck North for a class reunion, and we will share our meaningful accomplishments. Hopefully, we can try to arrive to this reunion with few regrets. Not all of our choices will work out for us, but knowing that we sought to discover ourselves on our own is an immeasurable accomplishment we can take pride in.
I almost forgot to disclose the best moment of my high school experience. Well, as most of you are hopefully simultaneously recalling your most touching memory, my favorite memory is being forged right now, graduation. I graduate today, knowing that there were many perfect moments in high school, and many more to come in the future. I cannot really focus on one moment, so I am going to "scheme it" and choose graduation, the culmination of all our experiences. No longer should we doubt the work we have put in. Most of our self-doubt has disappeared and transformed into excitement. How can we not feel anticipation for the future? We will be able to go out and discover ourselves, making meaningful and lasting choices.
Let me leave you with this quote from Abraham Lincoln: "The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time."
Alexandra (South High)
I wish I got a yearbook every year. I wish I could give these speeches every year. Ugh, I wish I didn't have to go to work after this either. Or, better yet, I wish I'd just win the lottery after this. These are all just juvenile thoughts of course but to me, that's what young is all about--wishing. I wish I could be young forever. But, is it possible to even be young forever once the allowance stops, once I am beckoned by society to orchestrate my life into something meaningful? So I ask you, I implore you, in the words of Sir James Paul McCartney, "HELP!"
How am I going to get a well-paying job? How am I going to pay off my college loans? How am I going to afford Botox? What in the name of Davy Jones' Locker is a "HELOC" loan? With all these anxieties looming, I'm finding it difficult staying young tomorrow, no less forever. I mean forever young, that's an oxymoron or sorry, Mr. Weinstein, is that a metaphor? because one does not physically grow young. Our bodies age, but it is our spirit&emdash;our sense of hope and adventure, our nature to dream big and always wish&emdash;that defines youth.
Over the last four years at South, through the highs of young-love, laughter, good grades, and the lows of new school policies, peer drama, and bad grades, we have learned to maintain that youthful spirit, namely, our capacity to wish. And like our fashion sense, our wishing styles will change and grow with us. We won't just wish willy-nilly for ten more wishes. No, it's not like that anymore. Our adult selves will ground our wishes to something we believe is attainable. All success begins with a wish. If you really wish to time-travel, you will ignore any derision, any ridicule, any, "What about being a lawyer?" remarks from your mother, and study the space-time continuum until you win that Nobel Prize and then again, you might fail.
Which reminds me of an old Chinese proverb, it reads, "Chéngg?ng rúxià d?bài," meaning, loosely, "Success always starts with failure."
Teachers, friends, family, here comes yet another well deserved thank you. You've helped us, and facilitated us to make our wishes a reality. And when we've failed, you've helped us to overcome it with greater success. To all of my fellow graduates, I wish you all great success and that your failures never keep you from wishing.
And, if you think you've seen the last of me, keep wishing. Xie xie ni zai jian! We did it!
Brian (South High Valedictorian)
Congratulations to all of the graduates, parents, siblings, relatives, and friends in the audience. And a special thanks to all of the faculty members. You have helped to make the last four years so special.
And I'd also like to thank my brother, Josh. You may be a minute older, but today, I get the last word.
Four years ago, I walked into South as a freshman and thought that the seniors looked so old. This year, I walked into South as a senior and thought that the freshmen looked so young. The years have really flown by, and freshman year seems like a distant memory. Our time at South has been amazing, but perhaps it has gone by too quickly. Only recently have I realized that maybe we all need to slow down our Race to Nowhere and instead take a slow Walk to Somewhere.
Many of you may or may not have noticed, but for three weeks I wore a wrist brace to school. It's actually quite the embarrassing story. I ran down a flight of stairs, lost my balance, did not fall, I repeat, DID NOT FALL, grabbed onto the railing, and sprained my wrist.
I did learn a lesson from this humbling experience, however: Don't rush. Slow down. Pace yourself, and don't hurry your life away. Appreciate each and every moment. That way you can indeed stay Forever Young.
I'm sure that every student here has repeatedly been told that college will be the best four years of his or her life. Why rush through it? You have the rest of your life to work, commute, and pay bills. So, make college last. And just to clarify, I don't mean slack off and take eight years to do four years of work.
Instead, use the next four years to build memories that you can cherish and share--but don't forget about high school. Our experiences at South have provided us with lasting friendships, a sense of community, and a foundation for academic excellence; I can only imagine the rewarding paths our lives will follow.
But don't rush the journey; retain some of the irrepressible enthusiasm of youth. You still have four amazing years ahead, and I hope that each one of you will take the time to savor the moments along the way.
So please, don't run down stairs.
Thank you and congratulations!
Joshua (South High, Salutatorian)
Good afternoon everyone and congratulations to my fellow classmates. I am honored to welcome all the teachers, administrators, friends, and family members in attendance. Thank you for enabling us to dream, aspire, and succeed and for shaping us into who we are today.
When I first heard this year's graduation theme, "Forever Young," I immediately thought of the youngest people I know: my campers. Last summer I had the privilege of working with a group of mischievous but lovable toddlers at Lake Success Nursery Camp. I finished the summer with two-dozen new friends, some spending money, and, most importantly, a new understanding of youth.
My campers taught me that youth is not an age; it's a lifestyle. Youth is finger-painting without worrying about making a mess. It's watching Cars 2 without wondering why the cars are talking. It's telling someone, "I love you," without pondering the implications. It's asking someone, "Do you want to be my friend?," without fearing rejection. It's living life without worries, excuses, and inhibitions. Youth is waking up each morning, optimistic and ready to seize the day.
Most importantly, my campers awakened my inner five-year-old. No, I'm not going to go home, change into my footie pajamas, pretend to be a Power Ranger, and drink chocolate milk out of a sippy cup. After all, growing up is a good thing. I've learned patience, tolerance, and empathy. I've learned to cooperate--not complain--when I'm inconvenienced. I've learned to share--not snatch--the last slice of birthday cake. And I've learned to be a seventeen-year-old.
Five-year-old me could not write an essay about Beowulf, apply to colleges, or interview for a job, but seventeen-year-old me can. And seventeen-year-old-me could not rent an apartment, raise children, or be financially independent, but I'm hoping that future adult me can. Each stage of our lives brings new challenges and responsibilities, and we must continue to grow and mature to properly handle them.
But no matter how old we are, each of us will always have a happy, genuine, enthusiastic five-year-old buried inside. And no matter where we go, whom we meet, or what we do, we cannot forfeit that inner youth.
And so, each of us must continue to touch base with our inner-five-year olds. We must peel back the layers of adulthood and play, hope, and love as only a five-year-old could. By doing so, we will always retain a genuine love of life, a burning passion for our pursuits, and an eternal closeness to our friends and family. And no matter how old we become, we will always remain "forever young."