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Sarah Gruen: Student Speaker

Good evening, and thank you to all who have come to celebrate the graduation of the class of 2013.

What is the value of an education? A look at US Department of Education pamphlets only prompted color-coded confusion and bar-graph bewilderment. Statistics showed that those with higher degrees had lower rates of unemployment and higher weekly earnings than those who didn’t complete secondary schooling. So the necessity of a diploma for navigating the job market quickly became obvious. Yet with 88% of all Americans attaining a high school degree, what makes us Weston High School graduates special? What was valuable about our education?

Valuable was not just a Smartboard in every classroom; valuable was the teacher who spent hours constructing creative lessons integrating both technology and exponential functions.

Valuable was not just a state-of-the-art instrument or a brand new piece of music; valuable was the priceless time spent in Mr. LaRusso’s classroom sharing in his unabashed love of all things music, regardless of the physical state of the score.

Valuable was not just the InDesign programming used to help assemble The Journal; valuable were the lessons of journalistic integrity and responsibility learned with every obstacle faced in creating a student run paper.

Valuable was not just the new uniform worn by athlete as they represented our school; valuable was Coach Lato, whose encouraging the practices of lunges, sprints, and weight training was only topped by his encouraging the practices of humility, sportsmanship, and teamwork.

Valuable was not just the new seating in the auditorium or the space on fan-busses; valuable was Ms. Wolak leading hundreds of Super Fans to Mohegan Sun to cheer on our fellow teammates one night, then leading them back to our own auditorium to cheer on our fellow actors the next.

You see what I’m getting at here. Don’t get me wrong—new books, new technology, new “things”—these all are important parts of what makes this school successful. But it is the teachers who have taught more than the textbook, the experiences that have united us, the lessons learned in times of great tragedy and times of great triumph that defined who we were as people, that made our education valuable. High school taught us our kinematic equations and the presidents of the progressive era, but it also taught us how to understand and embrace differences, how to graciously win and graciously fail.

When I first questioned the value of an education, I was seeking the wrong answer. The value of our last four years—the regard that our time is held to deserve—cannot be put to a monetary worth. Even more so, value is not a school’s average IQ. GPA does not grade compassion; SAT scores do not measure kindness. We owe it to ourselves—as well as to our parents, our family, our friends, and our educators—to think this way as we move past our lives on School Road. We need to remember that passion determines success, and not the other way around. People will know if we are valuable members of our society by the way we treat others. In the words of my childhood hero, Albus Dumbledore, “It is our choices that show what we are, far more than our abilities.” Weston has given us the power to make these choices and the steerage to ensure that they were good ones.

So, to my fellow classmates, celebrate the education you have received, pride yourself on the education you have shared, look forward to the education you have yet to obtain. Never underestimate the power of learning; explore the world’s classroom with an open mind and an open heart. Strive for your own, individual version of success, but don’t be afraid of failure. Know that you have had a valuable education. Believe that you have value.

Thank you.

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