Friday, June 26, 2009
Carlisle School eighth-grade graduation – June 23, 2009
Prepared to rise to the challenge
Each of my eight years here at Carlisle Public School has been like a fortune cookie. You crack it open, you look inside and you find a slip of paper with a lesson or a phrase that makes you stop and think for a moment. As I look back on my time here and hold the hundreds of fortunes in my hands, I am amazed at everything we have learned. Every year I have discovered something new and unexpected, sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always something I will carry with me. School is never just about what you learn in a textbook. It is also about the experiences you have and the bonds that are created between you and your classmates.
What I found most interesting about my time at Carlisle Public School, is how all of us sitting here have discovered something new about ourselves. Whether we’ve been in Carlisle for one year, or for nine, all of us have discovered what makes us unique and how we stand out. That’s where the fortune cookies come in. Each fortune I have received has made me think deeper about who I am and who I want to be. As the years have gone by, I have learned more and more about the people around me. We have come to understand one another so well. But this year, we finally started to understand ourselves. During our unit on the Holocaust, many of us were confronted with the task of facing something about ourselves that we didn’t like or we wanted to change. What was interesting however, was what some people would do to change how they are perceived by others. That was the next part, thinking about how we were viewed through the eyes of prejudice. Even though we may think we know ourselves and what we have to offer, there is so much more inside of us to be discovered.
After looking back on how I define myself and how others probably define me, I realized that if you are happy with who you are, then everyone around will see that too and that’s all that matters. Life’s too short to pretend to be someone you’re not. This year, we finally had the maturity to look at ourselves and see what we can accomplish if we have the drive and the will to do so. Middle School is when we all start to look at things differently because we’re growing up. We are beginning the process of discovering who we are as individuals and how we have an impact on the people around us. It’s almost as if in our younger years, we were watching a movie of the world passing by day by day, and now we have the power to pause the constant images for a moment. Now we can stare at the television screen and analyze the world. Finally we have the capacity to look back on our decisions and our choices, and see how we could have changed the outcome. Before, we were the bystanders watching the pictures on the screen, but we were never really involved. It is now when we become the actors in that very same movie and we are able to change the outcome. If we don’t understand ourselves, and what we are capable of, then we won’t be able to look at our lives responsibly and maturely.
In Carlisle, the bar is set high, and we are expected to be all that we can be. All of us have the potential to do great things, but it’s about harvesting the energy within ourselves and putting it to work. The teachers here in Carlisle have helped us see that each and every one of us has a talent or a characteristic that makes us stand out. When I looked at my identity map in Language Arts, I saw what makes me blend in, but also what makes me different. We listed everything about ourselves that we thought defined who we were. Each year has been a new fortune, a new lesson, and a new trait to add to our identity maps. Even though our parents might be saddened by this, we aren’t little kids any more. This is because we now have the maturity to look in the mirror and not just see a face, but who we really are inside. And as we venture off into the land of high school, we now possess the knowledge and the capability to do something great and be part of something greater.
My favorite quote by Christian D. Larson is, “Believe in yourself and all that you are, know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” Graduation is a time when we all come to celebrate our time together at school, and to look back on everything we have accomplished and overcome. This quote accurately describes all of the perseverance, determination, and hard work we have put into our education so far.
Each fortune that I hold in my hands has shown me something new. For instance, in sixth grade during outdoor Ed, we overcame our differences to problem solve and complete a task. Each group was picked at random so we were able to talk to some people we didn’t usually talk to. What I learned about myself is that I absolutely hate all types of bugs including mosquitoes, ticks, beetles, and the occasional earth worm that got smooshed into my shoes. Despite the bugs, I learned that the individual has the power to do something great within a group, but it takes the entire group to do something amazing. We were able to look at the task set before us, and use the knowledge we had to devise a plan or a strategy. We worked as a team to solve the problem, rather than figuring it all out on our own. I look back on that experience and think now, why can’t the rest of the world work like that? You look at the problem, create a plan to fix it, work together to solve the problem, and as a team you accomplish your goal. The beauty of that fortune was realizing that the world isn’t like that, and how instead many people resort to violence and hatred to solve their issues. After that realization, we are beginning to think of ways to solve that problem. Our experiences in Carlisle may have been small, but they relate to a lot of the issues in the world.
Another fortune cookie that I opened this year was when we listened to Edgar Krasa who is a Holocaust survivor. It was absolutely amazing listening to his story and knowing that he survived all of the horror that occurred in the Holocaust. We all felt very inspired by his bravery He was able to survive being starved, dehumanized, robbed of all his possessions, and shot by a Nazi. Now if I have a bad day, I think about Mr. Krasa and other Holocaust survivors and what they endured to be here. Going back to class the next day, we had intriguing discussions about what it means to be human and whether humans are mostly good or mostly evil. I could see on everyone’s faces that we were all experiencing something that would change our views of the world. I am extremely grateful that we got to hear Mr. Krasa’s story and got a better understanding of the hardships he and so many others faced. This was another defining moment in my pile of fortunes that has grown so large it is almost impossible to hold in my hands.
When I look back on my time here at Carlisle Public School, I see that we have all changed from the trembling kindergarteners on the bus for the first time, to the big eighth graders that know the school inside and out. This fortune cookie has taken a while to crack and I’m still not finished opening it. This fortune is about growing up. This fortune is about taking everything you’ve learned and everything you’ve gone through and somehow becoming a better person because of it. This fortune cookie tastes the sweetest and is double the size of a regular one because it is one of the most important lessons I have received. Some of us want to finish our cookie faster than others. Some never want to finish it. But either way we have to take what comes with this tiny slip of paper and live our lives accordingly.
During the last few months here, I have seen people look at each other differently. We all look around and realize that some of us will never see each other again, some of us will stay close, and some of us will talk here in there, but it will never be the same. This is the last time we can say we are the Class of 2009, or we are the eighth graders at Carlisle Public School. This year was our last Halloween parade, our last Snowflake Ball, our last field day. This was our year of lasts, but next year is our year of firsts. After our time here, we now have the knowledge and the experiences to move into our year of firsts with ease and excitement. The journey through Carlisle Public School has been terrific, but there have been some bumps in the road, and some obstacles that we had to work around. We have studied, we have laughed, we have cried, we have thrown up our hands in frustration. But we have all experienced this together. We have written countless papers, taken endless MCAS, endured challenging exams, and suffered through the stressful days of receiving report cards. This will only get tougher from here on in, but we are all ready to rise to the challenge. That is ultimately what Carlisle Public School has done for me, perhaps the most important fortune cookie of them all. It has given me the tools to rise to the challenge and to prepare me for what’s to come.
As my final words to my classmates I’d like to say this: We have gone through a lot to hold a Carlisle Public School diploma in our hands. I have watched all of you grow and learn and become amazing people. My wish is that all of you will continue to be the best you can be, and that you remember who you are and stay true to that. I hope you read through your pile of fortunes and remember what you’ve gone through and how far you’ve come. And maybe when you look back on this experience tonight, you will find another slip of paper in your pile of fortunes.
School as a community and a home
To my peers from the graduating class of 2009, this day is finally here. This is the last day we will be students at a school in the little dinky town of Carlisle. I know you’re just as eager as I am to leave a middle school that’s nothing but a hallway. Or a school where the only place to hang out after school hours is the Ferns Country Store. “The number one deli in Carlisle!” Oh wait, the ONLY deli in Carlisle. We’ve all complained one time or another about this school. It’s too small! The castle is falling apart! I’m tired of writing those tedious reflections, about how much we have grown each term. How awkward is that? Though I now know a tremendous number of ways to describe big change. As graduation day came closer, I found that instead of complaining about what I mentioned earlier, I started complaining about how much I would miss those things. The truth is, all these little things that we constantly complain about, are what makes Carlisle Public Schools unique, in fact it’s what makes it home. Yes, Ferns is the only store in Carlisle, but because of that I had the incredible opportunity to spend my time at a safe, familiar and friendly place surrounded by my friends and classmates. Our castle may be old but in all honesty, Carlisle kids LOVE that castle. As first graders it seemed like the greatest thing imaginable. We grew up playing together on that castle, and till this day, my friends and I still fight over the swings. We moaned about reflections and other assignments our teachers gave us, but now that we are soon to be graduated, I can confidently say that we all benefitted from them. I know that after we leave this school, I’m really going to miss that little middle school hallway. It may appear small and insignificant, but to us Carlisle kids, it’s a place where we shared many laughs, tears, and memories.
Our school is more than just a place of learning; it’s a community that we have become familiar with. I’ve come here on many occasions after school hours, on weekends and during breaks to hang out with friends. There are students playing basketball on the plaza, kids climbing on the castle, children drawing with chalk, and toddlers biking and scootering while their parents watch nearby. The scene has different kids in it each time, but the overall picture is the same, it feels like home.
But this feeling doesn’t end on the playground, it continues on to the classroom. A home is a place where one feels comfortable. Here at CPS, the faculty succeeds in creating such an environment that welcomes all students. These teachers have taught us more than just reading and writing. They’ve taught us life lessons, while listening to our problems and offering help whenever they could. As good as they are at making us feel comfortable, they are even better at challenging us. For instance, our choral director always told us, “I push you because I can. Because you are that good and because I know you can do better.” The teachers at this school do not accept mediocrity; rather they make us strive for excellence. Those reflections I dreaded may not have been the most fun to write, but after writing each one it made me conscious of not only my improvements, but shortcomings as well, motivating me to strive to do better. Looking at what I did at the beginning and end of each term, it was easily noticeable of how much I changed in even as little as 3 months. These teachers know what we are capable of and what our best is. Our best has never been good enough in this school. When we go above and beyond that’s when we truly succeed. I’ll always be grateful to the Carlisle teachers for preparing us well for the next chapters of our lives.
My classmates and friends. Class of 2009, the people I have known since we were 6 years old. Without you, these years at Carlisle would be completely different. Middle school would be completely different. Every school has its labels and its cliques. The jocks, the populars, the nerds, the gothic kids, the band geeks, the chorus dorks, the preppy ones, the skater kids, the wannabees. Each one of us has been classified into one of those groups. But we’re all individuals, there’s more to each of us than just our social group. This year, the labels started coming off. We started seeing one another as real people, rather than just what we’ve classified them to. I’ve never taken time to notice how complex and unique each person is. I’m glad I did this year, because I wouldn’t have wanted to lose that opportunity and never know the people I spent 8 years of my life with.
The class of 2009 has been through a lot together. 4th and 5th grade chorus, junior band, the spaghetti supper, Outdoor Ed, the 7th grade play, and 5 principals. As sad as it is to admit, today is the last day we will all be together. Some of us are going to Concord Carlisle, others Concord Academy, Middlesex, Lawrence Academy. I’ve gone home many times, complaining and whining, “I don’t want to graduate. So many of my friends are going to private school and won’t be with me next year.” My parents told me, “It’s good that you’re sad. It means that these 8 years have been so amazing and so much fun that you’re sad to see them go. But you have to move on, and it’s up to you to make the next chapter of your life even better.” Without all of you, I wouldn’t be this sad about graduating. You guys made the Carlisle School experience amazing and exciting and unforgettable. You were my family away from home.
I’d like to thank my family and the other families who came here tonight. The parents that drove us across town for the sake of our own enjoyment, the parents that guided us through our problems, the parents that always believed in us. They volunteered at the school, filed books at the library, supervised at lunch/recess, baked and prepared food for the teachers luncheon, helped out in classrooms, chaperoned field trips and dances, organized for speakers and entertainers to come to the school and present to us, brought water and popsicles to field day, supported the band and chorus, and watched all the sporting events their kids were apart of. They made the spaghetti supper and the 7th grade play possible. The list is endless, and sometimes we don’t express our gratitude enough. Today, as it is our last day being a part of Carlisle School, I want to thank you for everything you have done over the years and all the time you have sacrificed to make these years terrific and amazing for us. Without our parents constantly contributing to the school, our school would be lacking in volunteer work and most importantly, a support system. I know that my family is my rock. They have supported me and guided me through these years and will continue in doing so. I’ve always run to them, even with the smallest problem. If they didn’t listen to me vent, or let me cry on their shoulders, or sacrifice their own time and needs for me, I wouldn’t be who I am.
This school is more than just walls and a ceiling. This is the place where we spent eight crucial years of our lives in. Here we made mistakes, learned valuable lessons and built friendships. This is the place where we grew up. It is our home. But everyone must leave their home at some point. Graduation day is this point for us. CPS gave us the tools, guidance and experience necessary to excel in the next chapter of our lives. The academic lessons our teachers taught us, the life lessons our friends and classmates enlightened us with, the advice and kind words our parents gave us and the memories we made behind these walls will follow us wherever we go. We will all take different paths after today. I can’t tell you where we will all end up, but what I can say is that CPS and what you experienced here will stay with you wherever you go
Someone once told me that the first 14 years growing up are the most pivotal ones in shaping character and personality. Today we graduate 8th grade, we overcame puberty together, but we also shaped and helped each other grow into the amazing, and interesting people that we are today. Friends, Faculty and Family, you all had a major influence nurturing and guiding us into intelligent, fun, and responsible young teenagers. For all your efforts, we now have the chance to take incredible opportunities. Thank you. 8th grade graduates, continue to shine and grow, we have a long and bright future ahead. But for now, lets have fun and celebrate this day!
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito