Though I’m sure those who look at me and think “little man syndrome” won’t believe me, I had no expectation of actually being the valedictorian. In fairness, I believe I proved my way with words by bridging the 12-inch vertical gap between m3 and Emma Frisch in Grade 9, but who am I to bear the responsibility of summarizing four years of experiences?
Naturally, I had my doubts.
Could I send off the graduates, my classmates, teammates, and best friends with the words they so deserved? And most importantly, could I channel my inner Chantei McMaster to lighten the mood while still receiving my diploma? The feat seemed nearly as insurmountable as eradicating Xander’s name from Yik-Yak. Or, more impossible still, explaining to Alex Bejanksi without crayons that euthanasia has nothing to do with young people in the eastern hemisphere. Thankfully, I am positioned comfortably, as I must admit it feels familiar having Alejandro go first.
Reflecting on the memories that will become our glory days, I recall so many unique experiences so particular and central to the Brentwood journey. In this relatively minute segment of Brentwood’s history, we have witnessed so much, perhaps too much, depending on how often you venture along the Millennium Trail. We have seen unforgettable “welcome back dances”, Java Hut performances on both ends of the American idol talent spectrum, and Showcase hockey games that taught us valuable lessons, such as how to lose with dignity. Or that with Michael Flynn as your head coach, everyone wins when bearing witness to the usage of legendary adages such as “Don’t Question the Program”, “Turn and Burn”, or my personal favorite, “Lombardi Time”. We’ve seen incredible athletes, like Cole Hickey, who broke backboards with his dunks, and friendships with his apparently endearing goofy demeanor, or Aaron Shulga whose possible division 2 basketball status should not come as a surprise if you’ve seen his summer training video.
We’ve been uplifted by Santiago’s poetic sports announcements, the hundreds of calls to the stage for the junior D volleyball team and their 36th place finish in the Mill Bay Invitational, and been educated by lectures on the detriments of gambling. I’m not actually sure about that last one, but when you’re woken up by Mr. Felix shouting, “Roll the dice” at assembly, all you can really do is guess.
Not to be forgotten, of course, are those who excel in academics, who through incredible amounts of grit, dedication, and lack of interest in social affairs, make Brentwood stand out the way it often does: Toria Edwards, who used her brain-power to achieve things of a caliber that her short, baby legs could not parallel on the sports field. I was elated to learn that she is heading to Georgetown next year, as I know it will help progress her metamorphosis even closer to her final form of Hillary Clinton. Another honorable mention goes to Kavi Grewal, who impressed so many ladies with his academic average, but tended to ruin his chances as soon as he let out a laugh. Unbeknownst to many, we actually witnessed a recession on campus during our time here. Not an actual financial pull-back of course, but I’m almost positive Mr. Bryant’s hairline has receded at least a few inches since I arrived.
In seriousness, we know that the Brentwood journey is undoubtedly one of blood, sweat, and tears for not only the students, but for all who contributed to the monolithic effort of making sure we made it here. So in an attempt to captivate who we are and the gratitude we feel, I decided spoken word poetry was the best way I knew how to pay homage to my classmates.
The Grads of 2017 are an indescribably unique group of people, whom I would put no one above, whose brush strokes of diversity painted a community of achievement, acceptance, of love, converging here together after traversing our own varied adversities, and although our brushes are destined for different canvases, and us to our respective universities we still leave behind our own masterpieces: the memories and evidence of our cross-culture, cross campus-connections, the echoes of music, muses of poems, lines of existential contemplations to isolated introspections. We were instructed to determine our desired destination, to then use this education to write our own directions, but didn’t realize until our dying days of high school that moving forward presents its own sombering contentions, that Brentwood’s class of 2017 will have a 0% rate of retention. That by opening the doors to university we must close off the ones to this section.
That in greeting summer seventeen, we must bid adieu to so many, leaving me to stand despite preparation with throat tight and hands unsteady, all year I knew this day was coming but this goodbye is no comparison to my prediction, a pill so hard to swallow I would do anything to delay its prescription. But even as I speak, I know that I however desperately I strive, yearn with wishes meek, to at least slow time’s relentless drive, I am reminded of the bleak morality it imposes even onto things that are not alive, that even the words I speak cannot for eternity survive, that with every word spoken I reduce the multitude of those yet to arrive. So no, I will no longer reminisce on our time spent, essays written or formulas derived, on moments shared, connections made, our collective experience of being young and alive. I look to the future, our chosen destinations to which we will arrive, propelled by all those here who supported us, who prepared us for when the opportunity would arise, who helped us with everything, crossed our t’s, dried our eyes, pushed us to work to our knees and outstretched the hand to help us rise. They co-inhabited the campus, shocking us when we realized, that when you live amongst your teachers, you learn they’re people too, that to your surprise they can become much more, parental figures, role models with characters fit for idolization.
So when you leave this place, to accomplish your desires, continue chasing your dreams with the same courageous desperation, to do what I know you all are capable, please retain, if any part, these final words of my recitation: You, my classmates, fellas, friends, and everything between, now have only two tasks remaining in terms of Brentwood’s expectations. Stay true to you, and make us proud. Best wishes on your travels, good luck, and wherever it is, I know you’ll reach your destination.
Andrew Will, Whittall House Captain, Valedictorian, June 23, 2017