Commencement 2016: Address by Senior Speaker Siobhan Pascal '16

May 31, 2016 by Guest Student Author

Thank you to all the parents, family, guests, and alumnae who have come to share this special day with us, the Class of 2016. Thank you to the teachers, faculty, and staff for getting us this far. Thank you to all our friends and schoolmates who have helped to make our last year worthwhile. Today we are gathered in our gymnatorium, as Ann likes to call it, in order to celebrate another significant milestone in our lives. Like other milestones, we may not always appreciate it as much as we do now or remember the amount of work that we put into getting here, but that does not make it any less consequential.

Also like other great milestones, this was a long time in the making. Over the years, we as a community have experienced many changes and have come across many difficulties. Before I get to my actual speech, I want to highlight in particular the changes and difficulties that the senior class has experienced. As we celebrate our achievements and the work we put into it with our families and friends, let us remember the people who we thought were going to make it with us, but did not. Let us remember all the times we thought that we were not going to make it for whatever reason, but we did. A lot has happened to us this year, but we did it, we made it, and we can keep doing it. Dedicate your achievements today to all the people we lost and all the times we have overcome the obstacles that seemed insurmountable. Despite this year’s difficulties, we made it.

Now to my speech.

In the movie We’re the Millers, there is a character who adamantly believes that he has lived his life without regrets despite a rather large tattoo across his collar bones that says "No Ragrets." The small misspelling of his motto is thus immortalized on his skin and should render the motto obsolete, yet the character remains unfazed. We also remained unfazed when the world or even ourselves thought things might end badly, but we did it. These decisions seemed cringeworthy at the time but in retrospect we would make them again. 

People told us, “stick to what you're good at. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Girls aren't good at sports anyway.” What did we tell ourselves? “Stay in your comfort zone, it's better to be safe than sorry.” It is probably the reason why I have never pushed myself to try any outdoor winter sports. You and the world might believe that in order to be happy in life, you must be good at everything you do, and to be good at everything you do, you must stick to only the things you know. Megan Gardner would tell you “Uhh shut up.” And I mean she has every right to when she has gone from only ever having danced to becoming a triple Varsity athlete who will be playing at least one sport in college because she put herself out there. Take risks and try new things is what Charlotte Minsky taught me when in her junior year into her senior year, she made it her mission to try as many new sports as possible.

Put yourself out on a limb, try new things, and take the opportunities you have while you still have them. No matter if you like the sport in the end or not. No matter if you're never going to play a sport in your life again or if you're going to go to college for it. Every experience is a learning experience. Put yourself out there and have #NoRagrets.

#NoRagrets means take risks when presented. Your life is just beginning, therefore the opportunities are closer to endless than to not. Take them, make risks, do something you never thought you would. That is the greatest advice the seniors could give to you all and to themselves.

#NoRagrets was the banner of the senior class as we stayed up way past our bedtime to ensure that this school had the best Senior Prank it had seen in a long time.

#NoRagrets as we filled the halls with balloons and Legos, relocated the faculty room, and hid alarm clocks for faculty meetings. Have no ragrets and take the chance to follow what is in your heart, rather than conforming to the expectations of those around you. Have no ragrets, not only with your heart but with your mind and push the boundaries of what you thought you could do. Challenge yourself in everything you do even if the world is telling you no. If you believe in yourself, then why not? That's what Katlyn Grover did when everyone thought she was crazy for filling up her schedule in her senior year with a class I didn't know we still taught. Ask her about the extra knowledge she gained, not only about that class but also about herself and she will tell you #NoRagrets.

Have confidence in yourself if you are to have No Ragrets. Do not let fear and worry keep you down because those things only lead to regrets. #NoRagrets means walking into IB French on the first day of school in 11th grade despite only taking French 2 the year before. Believe me when I say I did not have much confidence in myself. Yet here I am fully ready to take French literature in college. #NoRagrets is what the member of the top USA team at the international public speaking tournament in Toronto, two time finalist at the world’s public speaking championship, the top interpretive reader at the SBS public speaking tournament, and co-president of the Debate and Public Speaking society would say to all of you who are on the fence about joining Debate and Public Speaking. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. It is the only way to go from a middle schooler who has never spoken publicly to a public speaking queen.

What living your life without regrets means is having the courage to make life-changing decisions but also taking counsel when making those decisions.

This was actually the hardest part of the speech to write. However, it has also given me great insight into my class. I have learned that the class of 2016 can be the most impulsive group of people that I have ever met. I struggled to find anecdotes from the class of 2016 and myself where we genuinely sat down with counsel to hash out a big decision. In the end, I gave up. On one hand it means that we are a group of independent decision makers. On the other, it has made me realise that perhaps we undervalue the decisions we have made and their impact on our lives.

It is thus important to recognize that each one of us has made life altering decisions; the kind of decisions that have helped us push forward in times of struggle. Through writing this speech I have realised that we are all equipped and capable of making the decisions that lead to having a life without regrets, we just need to recognize it.

Stoneleigh-Burnham has provided us with the support groups we needed to make those decisions in a way most of us did not even recognize. The counsel we sought on whether to pursue this leadership role or not, whether to take this class or not, whether to apply to this college or not, was already available to us without us even asking or searching for it. Sometimes that counsel came to Dvora from the encouragement of others to choreograph a dance showing that she has overcome difficulties. Other times it is our peers encouraging us to slow down and recover from the losses that we have experienced.

At the same time, never lose yourself in the advice of others. In the words of D.J. Khaled, “Only follow others on the path to success, never play yourself, and look out for keys to success.” When you make your decisions, make your voice absolute and trust yourself. In the paraphrased words of Winnie the Pooh, “there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… your Stoneleigh-Burnham family will always be with you.”

Thank you all for listening. I would like to close this speech with one last word… Shatner.

Written by Guest Student Author

Periodically students volunteer or are asked to write for the Stoneleigh-Burnham blog.

Filed Under: social justice, graduation speech, Girls Schools, Graduation, Education, Class of 2016