Valedictorian Essay Example

Common App 1: Background and Identity

The Prompt

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The Essay


The valedictorian at my school can play the trombone. She's a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and she invented a new way to keep bread fresh. She's pretty amazing, but I don't think she's that unusual. In the stack of essays being considered for admission, I would guess she's the rule more than the exception.

I haven't invented anything. I can only play the kazoo, and the only belt I own came free with the suit. What I have to offer isn't as obvious as most applicants, but what I represent is important. My generation is one raised by pop culture, and while denigrating it, scions of elder generations ignore one simple fact: today's pop culture manufactures tomorrow's legends.

How can an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture contribute to a better way of life? Partly because this is the language of the future. I already speak it fluently, and any other ideas will be layered on top. The other reason is that although things like popular movies, books, and video games get dismissed, they actually have a lot to say.


While teachers might struggle to bring the story of Oedipus to modern students, I got what was going on quickly…because I watch Game of Thrones. The plotlines of incest and revenge, as well as defying the gods, are explored in great detail on the show. So when it came time to understand, I was able to map the characters onto one another, facilitating both my understanding and that of my friends, whom I could help with the reading.

Additionally, when I learned about the Wars of the Roses, it didn't take long for me to understand the importance of the Yorks and the Lancasters. I already had a window into both art and history from a television show, and my knowledge of it helped me understand both incarnations better.

It's not just facts and art that pop culture helps illuminate; most of my moral leaders have been fictional. Katniss Everdeen and Tony Stark both taught me about the importance of perseverance. Spider-Man's motto is "with great power comes great responsibility." The Terminator movies pressed the importance of preparing for the future while pointing out that the future is not set. While the teachers of these lessons might be unorthodox, they are the cornerstones of many religions and philosophies.

These stories are often rooted, consciously or not, in religion and folklore. When Captain America chooses not to fight his friend, instead literally turning the other cheek in the face of violence, not only do I understand the significance, but I am also able to point to a concrete place in space and time where this was the correct response.

Many people will agree that books, movies, and even television can contain lessons, but they still say to throw video games away. They call them a waste of time at best. This falls apart under a similar examination of the form.

The Assassin's Creed series, for example, taught me a bit about history. While I understand the Assassins and the Templar are not really secret societies fighting a millennia-old war, the people they run into are real. During the Revolution section in American History, I was the only one who knew minor players like Charles Lee and understood his significance. I also know names like Rodrigo Borgia, Robespierre, and Duleep Singh thanks to these games.


We all embrace what we love, and I have done that with the culture that has raised me. While I appreciate it on the surface level, as entertainment, I understand there is more to it. It has caused me to learn more than I would have in school. When I fight a new enemy in a historical game, I look him up. 

Many of your applicants will run away from their time appreciating the mass art of their generation. Not me. I am fluent in the language of my time. I am uniquely suited to understanding and applying these concepts to higher learning. What you're getting with me is someone who will be able to bridge the gap between past and present, and apply their education to the future.

Why This Essay Works

This essay acknowledges the applicant's weaknesses from the beginning. By adopting a funny, self-deprecating attitude, the essay instantly stands out from the others around it. Although humor is there and is an integral part of the essay, it never takes over the narrative. It's used in the very beginning to separate itself from the pack, then moves into a more traditional inventory as it develops.

After humorously deconstructing the candidate's weaknesses, it moves into strengths. Many applicants don't know what their strengths are, and the purpose here is to show that even what you might regard as a weakness can be recast as a strength if you know how. Essentially, the writer declares a paradox in their thesis statement: all that time people say they wasted watching movie and playing video games is actually a strength.

The most important part is in the body, where the writer then backs up what they're saying. Making unfounded claims is good for attracting attention, but not so good for getting into college. The key is understanding what you've learned from your time enjoying culture. The writer then hits it, point by point, showing where movies, television, and video games have all made them a more ideal candidate for entry.

The conclusion dramatically restates the thesis, and includes the most stirring line at the end. This applicant is fluent in the language of today, and uses a rhythmic three-part statement on the end to drive the point home. This student knows they are not the traditional over-achiever that colleges are said to want; instead, they show that they're bold and innovative, two qualities that are irresistible.

Many of our graduates won major prizes at the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair and have also won top prizes in the Intel Competition.

The Math Honor Society had a very successful first full year, hosting an Engineering Forum and organizing the student-run Math Lab.

The World Language and Social Studies Departments sponsored trips to Italy, Switzerland, and Costa Rica, enjoyed and remembered by all who went on them.

The Briarcliff Girls Soccer Team won the New York State Championship.

The Briarcliff Girls Basketball Team won the New York State Championship.

It is by no mere accident or coincidence that all of these remarkable things have happened this year, or at least I would hope. It has been the result of our ambition to do our personal best; to persist, persevere and perfect ourselves; to work as individuals and as a team. Today, our many hours of hard work have finally paid off.

The plethora of achievements of this class would not have been possible without the help, support, and guidance of our parents and teachers, counselors and coaches, and the overall inspiration from the entire school community. To these mentors, I say: Our success is your success, for you have given us the courage to dare, the knowledge to excel, and the belief that we can succeed. You have been there for us with encouragement and care; you have had faith when we doubted ourselves. You have instilled in us the self-confidence needed to reach for our dreams. For all of these things, we, the Class of 2008, thank every single one of you.

As graduates, we face many uncertainties in both the immediate and distant future. However, uncertainty is another word for opportunity. I said at the beginning of this speech that I was not going to give advice. We don’t need it. Thank you all for coming to witness this very special day. Congratulations, happy graduation, and best of luck to the Briarcliff High School class of 2008!



Roosevelt High School

Gledis Rosario

Age: 19

Attending: Manhattan College

I could go back and reminisce about the last four years. Instead I think it’s more important to focus on where we will be in the next four years. Whether it’s baking great bread, cooking up laws in the senate, teaching futures generations, or creating new music, all of us must make sure the word success is associated with what we do.

We must concentrate on enhancing our futures and setting great examples for those who love us and for those who will follow us. We must be tomorrow’s positive images. Our actions must make a statement and send a clear message. One that says, wherever we come from, whatever we have, or don’t have, whatever our color, sex or cultural background, we can be partners in success and we can achieve greatness together,

In order to have high self esteem, confidence, and motivation we must be willing to work diligently and have a keen understanding of how far we can go. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Let us leave a trail others will be proud to follow.

If you feel at any point, that life is becoming too hard and that obstacles are coming from left and right. Please don’t panic. Remember that life can get better, if we have the right tools to work with. Tools like a positive attitude, an education, the right friends and fierce determination.

Class of 2008, It is up to all of you to make a difference, to have people say honorable things about you and leave the impression that you never gave up on yourselves. Society is counting on you. Excellence is never an accident- it’s the result of hard work. Go forward, work hard, and attain excellence; the kind of excellence that will make your dreams reality. A secure future can be reality you must visualize tomorrow — a safe, happy, prosperous tomorrow and make it happen.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the teachers and administrators who worked so hard to make us reach this commencement ceremony. To my heroes, Rosanna and Q, thank you for not letting me into a great black hole. Estefany and Yovana, I treasure your unconditional love and support. Mami, I hope I made you proud.

Class of 2008, good luck and remember graduation is only the beginning.


Gorton High School

Brittany Cannady

Age: 18

Attending: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Welcome parents, teachers, and the Gorton High School class of 2008.

A hearty thanks to Yahweh my God, my family (and all those present today). Students, please give your parents a hand!

I am so honored to be standing before you all today. I thought long and hard about what to say to you, the class of 2008! (and no, this is not the part of our regularly scheduled programming when I throw my speech aside). I wondered, what right does having the highest G.P.A. in our grade give me, to tell you what to do? Many things that I could say have already been said before: don’t have kids before you’re married, drugs mess up your life; but they have already been said ... many times. Pay attention to the people who tell you these things, because they’re the ones who really care.

So, to answer my previous question: none, because grades don’t equal life experience (something we’re pretty much all equal on). I’m not going to waste our time trying to uncliché the cliché that is my valedictory. So here’s what I’ll do: I’ll share some of my hopes for the future with you all.

I hope that what we’ve learned here at Gorton serves us well. I’m not talking strictly about the learning that goes on in a classroom either — here are a few ‘gems of knowledge’ that I’ve picked up along the way

1. Procrastination is NOT your friend.

2. You are a work in progress — don’t expect to get everything right the first time

3. Parents are smarter than they appear (it’s that whole life experience thing rearing it’s [lovely] head)

4. Graduating from high school is pretty much like earning your kindergarten diploma — you need more to make it in the ‘real world,’ because this is only a step along the way

5. No one is holding you back — not your friends, your teachers, or your parents; you are the only one who can limit yourself. Don’t do that!

I hope that you go to college and you take it seriously. No pressure, but what you do there will greatly impact the rest of your life. Oh, and while you’re there, try to find something you like, that you’re good at.

I hope that, if you have a god, you serve him (or her!), and stick to your beliefs.

I hope that, when you change, you don’t change the good things about yourself, and that you do it for yourself, not for other people.

I hope that, even though you’re leaving, you don’t leave your friends or family behind.

Like Madonna, we’ve made it through the wilderness, class of 2008! Through all of the drama, the tests, the papers, the projects, the pressure of SATs and college applications! So congratulations, be proud of yourselves, and most importantly — don’t let these four years be the best of your life. Make Gorton proud!


Harrison High School

Riya Goyal

Age: 16

Attending: Harvard University

When I first sat down to write this speech, I was absolutely clueless about what to do. So, like any other high school student I Googled “valedictorian speeches” and came up with a list of the top 10 phrases NOT to use in a graduation speech. For example, one should NEVER mention that “We’ll always look back on these days” or that “This isn’t the end, it’s a new beginning. And finally the number one most commonly used statement in graduation speeches across the country, “We, are the leaders of tomorrow”

It’s funny though because although each of these statements ARE clichés, there is some truth to them. The fact is ... We WILL always look back on these days ...Those days long ago in the 90s when we used to sing along with the latest boy bands ... telling our friends, I really really really wanna zig a zig ah. The days when it was a big deal to get a dollar from your mom to go buy something from the ice cream truck. And of course, no one will ever forget the moments when we courageously watched “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”, collected Beanie Babies, and all the while kept a watchful eye on our Tamagotchis and Furbies.

The world seemed so innocent and as children we were naïve. It wasn’t until middle and high school that we were exposed to some of the veracities of the real world and faced with the harsh realities of 9/11, the war in Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina. But despite all of the stresses and worries of this in addition to SATs, college apps, and piling schoolwork...the class of 2008 still had endlessly fond memories of high school.

It seems like only yesterday when we first stepped foot on the Harrison campus. The beginning days of high school were marked by circling around the D-hallway over and over again until we finally found our classes. The moments as underclassmen when we secretly sat on the senior benches...praying that freshman Friday was just a cruel and unusual rumor. And who could forget the battles between the grades to paint the rocks during spirit week, the pep rallies, bandathons, and gong shows. Over these four years, our class has bonded in a remembrance of the sports we’ve all cheered on, the teachers we’ve all loved or just loved to hate, the fights we’ve all watched, the fire drills we’ve all appreciated...depending on the weather, and the snow days we’ve all prayed for.

Some people mark high school as the best years of your life. But to be honest, these are just the best years of our lives AT THE MOMENT.

The great thing about Harrison is that there are so many people with completely different but nonetheless amazing talents. Sure I’m number one in the class, but I am certainly not the only person who is number 1. There are people sitting in the audience right now who are photographers, dancers, singers, and professional athletes. There are others who aspire to go into international relations, become art therapists, entrepreneurs, teachers, the list goes on. No matter what your future endeavors may be, let the ensuing success inflate your happiness level, and never settle for what you are not overjoyed with. It is these experiences that will mark the truly remarkable years of your life.

Bill Cosby once said, I don’t know the key to success but I know the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” All great achievements arise from passion and heart. It is the desire to do better, to dig deeper that propels a civilization to greatness.

All of us have heard the story of the Giving Tree, the selfless tree that graciously offered a young boy everything he wanted — branches to swing from, apples to snack on, shade to sit in. As the boy grew older he began to request more, and in an act of self-sacrifice, the tree allowed the boy to cut her down and use the wood to build a boat and sail away. Many years later, the boy, now an old man, returns and the tree ... now nothing but a severed stump says, "I have nothing left to give you." For a fleeting moment, the tree felt what it was like to be carefree and not have to worry about what others thought of her ... to be universally loved ... but for doing so, she paid the ultimate price ...becoming forgotten and used. Like the tree, we too have been given gifts that we sometimes overlook and take for granted: education, experience, extremely good looks. With these gifts comes the responsibility of choice. We alone decide how our talents are bestowed upon the world — to either further our own interests and passions, or to gain the momentary approval of our peers and cohorts. This is our destiny and we hold it in the palm of our hands. As you embark on the rest of your life, I urge you to do what you love ..., because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. Thank you and congratulations!!!

Additional paragraph:

I want to take a moment to thank all of my teachers for all of the time and dedication they have devoted to me and all of the other graduates. Thank you to my friends – for there’s absolutely no way that I could have survived high school without you guys. And finally, a special thank you to my family, my grandparents and my brother and sister for being here today. and particularly my mom and dad. The both of you have had to deal with me at my worst moments – through my mood swings, nervous breakdowns, and times where I completely doubted myself. But the two of you have always been there for me and it is so comforting to know that I had and will have your support no matter what I choose to do.


Horace Greeley High School

Susannah E. Rudel

Age: 18

Attending: Amherst College

Fellow graduates, faculty, administration, friends, and family,

Our generation is constantly reminded that we have grown up in an intense media age. We have access to radio, television, cellphones, the Internet, text messages, instant messages, e-mail, snail mail, podcasts and the ultimate in instant group communication: Facebook. There is a Facebook group for everything. In fact, there is even a group named “Everything I need to know I learned from Full House.” As a proud 1990s sitcom junkie, I can honestly say, this group speaks the truth. All of life’s most significant lessons can be found somewhere in the 192 episodes of Full House, that wholesome, corny, family sitcom that aired from 1987 to 1995 and has been in reruns ever since. Whether it is learning the importance of following your dreams as Stephanie pursues her career as a dancer, or learning the importance of family as the Tanners take care of Uncle Jesse when he breaks both of his arms, or realizing that a simple hug can make just about any tough situation better, in many ways Full House is the digital version of Aesop’s fables. While these lessons are all important, I believe the greatest wisdom Full House has to offer is the importance of forgiveness and not holding onto grudges. For example, when Stephanie accidentally drives Joey’s car through the house and plans to run away to Mexico, her father explains that his love for her is unconditional, even if she did destroy their home.

I believe the class of 2008, our class, has exemplified this life lesson exactly as the producers of Full House intended it. As our final school year in Chappaqua has raced by, I have been amazed by our collective ability to forget our grudges from the past and focus on the present, all the while enjoying our last year with each other. I noticed this especially during our recent class-wide color war. As a proud member of the Roaring Brook team, which clearly dominated, I found myself speaking with people I hadn’t spoken to since second grade. It didn’t matter that we once, ten years ago, had a fight over who got the red colored pencil or who would go on the swing first; we were representing our team by wearing yellow, so as far as we were concerned, we were best friends. We discussed where to hang up balloons or how to best hold a rope for maximum grip during the tug of war, and though at times the competition became rather heated, what mattered in the end was that we came together as a grade, putting our differences aside for the sake of that touchdown in flag football or collecting just one more bag of recycling.

In a way, it’s a shame that we’ve become so close just in time for us to head our separate ways and begin the next stage of our lives. While we all hope to find new and exciting experiences in the future, ideally we will remember our shared experiences and the lessons we’ve learned, whether from Full House or some other sitcom. Now it’s time for us to move on and expand our horizons, but as we do, we should remember that time and energy spent holding grudges is wasted. One can miss so much when holding onto an annoyance from the past rather than enjoying the experiences that we are a part of now, and will be in the future.

In the fall we will encounter entirely new groups of people with whom we have no history. Each of us will make a new start in a new place. Hopefully we can all take what we’ve learned from our experiences with each other during the past 13 years and remember the futility of grudges. We are entering college in an amazing position; not only are we prepared, but many of us have already had the opportunity to get to know some of our future classmates, thanks to Facebook groups that are a little more serious than the kind that focus on Full House. There are whole new worlds filled with people awaiting us, who we will meet in just a few short weeks. Within these new worlds we will find people with similar and dissimilar interests, and all of them will help us grow. We will help others grow too, by bringing not just a minivan filled with plastic furniture from Bed Bath and Beyond with us to our new homes, but our own interests, whether they be an addiction to High School Musical or an undying passion for Rubik’s cubes. We will bring with us the lessons we’ve learned from media, such as Full House, and from our time spent together this past year. It is my own hope that the wisdom we’ve gained from our time here will remain with us even after college, as we take our place as the next leaders in a world in which too many problems are left unsolved. Though for the most part we have only experienced petty disagreements in comparison to the fights and wars that occur all around us in this world, the lesson of forgiveness, as taught by the Tanner family of Full House, applies globally. Perhaps if countries could put aside their grudges as we as a class have done, this world would be a more peaceful place.

So move on to your next adventure, embrace whatever comes at you, and show the people in your new world that there is much more to get out of life when you leave your grudges behind. Congratulations to all of us.


Horace Greeley High School (second speech)

Brett Rosenberg

Age: 17

Attending: Harvard University This has been a fantastic week -- no classes, no responsibilities, lots of diner runs. For the first time in a while, I’ve had the opportunity to think and reflect about what Greeley has meant to me, and about what comes next. And I found myself thinking about time. About how it flies by, about how there’s never enough of it. About how life comes at us so fast that we don’t always get to appreciate the time we have, and the people we share our time with. I feel like I started at Greeley last week, and now I’m on the graduation podium, dressed like a dork and trying not to embarrass myself any more than I have to.

So how do we slow down the rush of time, so that we can get some measure of control? People way smarter than me have been pondering the mystery of time since—well, since time began. Shakespeare said "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day." Saint Augustine asked "What then is time? If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know." I have no idea what these quotes mean, so I’ll go with Hootie and the Blowfish, who declared "I don’t believe in time."

I know I can’t really win the fight against time, but I’m going to fight anyway. I’m going to fight to keep my memories of Greeley and each of you with me wherever I go, no matter how crazy life gets. And I’m going to fight to savor my time with family and friends, and to not let the things that matter slip by in the rush of things that don’t matter. And I’m going to do it with two weaponsthings: laughter and thank yous. According to an essential theory of physics, all time is relative. I don’t know why it took an Einstein to figure that out. If you go to Greeley, you know that time moves faster here than anywhere else. you would have thought possible. Between tests and quizzes, projects and lab reports, presentations and powerpoints, sometimes it takes a huge effort just to stay afloat. Weeks, sometimes months, flash by just like that. It’s funny how time can play games with us like that—when we’re happy, when everything seems right with the world, time seems to run away from us. Or dump a 10 page writing assignment essay on us. , to flee in the hope of bringing on some darker times.

So how can And so, the obvious question arises: how we fight back against the tyranny of time? How can we stop the speeding of time so we can live in the moment, so we can appreciate the fullness of life? do I can prevent this from happening? How do we get to can we stop the speeding of time so that we can live in the moment, so that we can appreciate the fullness of life? I think there are two ways to do it this: laugh a lot, often and say thank you as often as you can. It may sound corny, but I think that these two acts should be the basis of any life philosophy.

They say that laughter is the best medicine. It’s cheap, it doesn’t require a prescription, and it doesn’t make you nauseous. No matter how bad things get, we can always find something to laugh about. We can certainly count on our political leaders for that. But we need to able to laugh at ourselves too -- because if we don’t, someone else surely will. So I urge all of you to laugh, and not just at my jokes. Laugh at whatever you want, but laugh whenever you can. You might look foolish, but so what? As E. E. Cummings once said “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” Never, in my opinion, were truer words spoken. Laughter has the ability to brighten any day, to dissolve any cloud. But, beyond simply making each day more enjoyable, laughter is one of the key elements to slowing down the rushing tide of life. To laugh, to be able to stop and find the humor in a situation, requires you to appreciate a moment in itself. It also helps to not take life too seriously, something you can never outgrow, for as humor columnist Dave Barry says, “You can only be young once, but you can always be immature.” Perhaps after this speech, I should go knock down the sand castle I built on the softball field.

When you’re not laughing, try to thank people. It takes a little extra time to say thank you, but that’s okay. That’s how we can slow time down and let people know what they mean to us and that we’re not taking them for granted. Our parents, our teachers, our classmates do so much for us every day. Sometimes I feel like I owe them an entire speech, but realistically, when am I ever going to get the chance to stand in front of the whole class and faculty and make a speech? So I’ll just take the time here and now to say In addition to laughter, the other key element to cherishing each and every day is saying thank you. Every teacher, every parent, every student that I stumble upon has changed my life in one way or another, and as I’ve tried to articulate what they’ve meant to me, all I can say is thank you. There’s a lot that can be packed into those two little words, and saying them means that you have appreciated what someone has done for you, appreciated a moment that they have influenced. When you go home tonight, be sure to thank someone who has positively impacted your life and helped bring you to this point in time. I’ll start the chain right now: to my parents, thank you for always standing by my side and supporting me. To my teachers, thank you for opening my eyes to the world beyond the Saw Mill Parkway. To my friends, thanks for just being there for me, and for always making me laugh. I’m going to give you your last bit of homework for the year — when you go home tonight, thank at least one person who helped bring you to this moment. Even when you didn’t mean to.

So fellow graduates, as you slip off into your futures, feel free to use my two weapons wherever life may take you. Remember to laugh, and to say thank you. This arsenal does come with a warning label, however. There is a fine line between cherishing each moment and living in the past. (If you laugh too much in the wrong places, you might also remember to say excuse me.) And while you’re at it, be sure to remember where you came from. We don’t want to be trapped in the past[, and not only because the past includes [cafeteria food]]. [Those are your two tools with which to begin living in and loving each moment: laughter and gratitude. They do come with a warning, however: there’s a fine line between appreciating every moment and living in the past. For instance, the fact that I’m still introducing myself as Brett Rosenberg, third grade Mancala Class Champion, is probably not healthy. But let’s be sure to take your memories with us, along with you, for they shape who we are, but do not let them stand in the way of who we will become and help transform us into who we will become.

Which brings us back here, to this time, to this graduation ceremony, which is all about time. It’s a celebration not just of And now, here we are at graduation, the biggest, most significant moment we have reached so far. our futures, but also of our pasts. It is more than about this one ceremony, this one moment. It’s about the pirate themed freshmen pasta dinner, where I managed to drop a scoop of lasagna on a parent’s shoe— apparently, eye patches impair depth perception. It’s about the fantastic talent shows put on by our G.O. where we were dazzled by our class’ extraordinary musicians and singers. It’s about the selfless generosity of our classmates who spent their February break helping out a flood damaged town in Louisiana. It’s about senior musical, about barbeques, about color war — and about the fact that Grafflin is still the greatest. It’s about senior beach day, where we all witnessed first hand how well sand castles and biology class could intersect. Graduation is a celebration of every one of these moments, and so many more. I’m sure that we will all have many more moments in our lives, and we have to take the time to appreciate them as they come.

And, just as with the rest of life, graduation is about more than this one moment, this one ceremony I look back, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned over last four years. At It’s about the pirate-themed freshmen pasta dinner, I learned that eye patches impair depth perception — which is why I managed to place where I managed to drop a whole scoop of lasagna on an unsuspecting parent’s shoe. [Argh.] At our fantastic GO sponsored , because apparently, eye patches impair depth perception. It’s about the fantastic talent shows, I learned put on by our lovely G.O. where we got to hear [the space age musical stylings of Pete Gonzales and Andrew Sarlo, as well as the dulcet tones of our own sweet voiced crooner, Reid Carroll]. Over February break, I learned It’s about the selfless generosity of Victoria Vitale and the rest of the gang who that helped spent their February break helping out a flood damaged town in Louisiana. Every single day for the past four years, I learned about how lucky I was to be part of this community, and that’s what graduation is really all about. It’s about senior musical, about barbeques, about color war — and, about the fact that Grafflin is still the greatest. And it’s about time I wrapped this up. It’s about senior beach day, where we all witnessed first hand how well sculpture and biology classes could coincide. Graduation is a celebration of every one of these moments, and so many more. My goal is to learn how to stop and smell the roses, to appreciate them all in and of themselves.

In trying to understand the fight against the relentless rush of time, I finally found true think we find the best source of this wisdom not in Plato or Aristotle, not in the Bible or the Koran, not in Ovid or Homer. I found it in think we find it in our favorite the Broadway show comedy, Pippin, which, for those of you who don’t know, was our senior musical, the musical that our class put on in April, is the show that our grade so artfully performed. No one has ever put it better than this full-fledged appreciation of life is embodied by Pippin’s grandmother, played so Berthe. In her tune, “No Time at All,” sung so beautifully by our own Alysia Perez-Hall, when she said: Let’s pledge never to forget the message of the song. Here’s the chorus: Berthe graces us with her insight. It goes a little something like this:

Oh, it’s time to start livin’.

Time to take a little from the world we’re given.

Time to take time, for spring will turn to fall

In just no time at all.

In just no time at all, we will be college students, and soon enough, even that spring will turn to fall as we will graduate, and we will be sent out into the world to find our own meaning in life. And a job. On this journey, be sure to laugh much and smile often, for optimism will always make the world a brighter place, for a simple show of optimism can make the world a brighter place. Be sure to say thank you to those who deserve it, for a little gratitude goes a long way, as a little gratitude can go a long way. But most of all, be sure to make your time your own, for time is far too precious to let slip away without a fight.

Class of 2008, it’s time to start livin’.


Lincoln High School

Charlyn Brea, valedictorian

Age: 17

Attending: Dartmouth College

*Zenille Saunders , salutatorian

Age: 18

Attending: Syracuse University

As valedictorian and salutatorian we decided to speak in consort. The rationale behind this is to emphasize the idea that bringing your dreams and passions to fruition depends on the help and support of those around you.

Zenille: I am Zenille Saunders, salutatorian of the class of 2008, a member of the Academy of Finance, and a driven student-athlete.

Charlyn: My name is Charlyn Brea. I’m the valedictorian for the class of 2008 and a member of the Arts Academy. I’ve dedicated much of my time at Lincoln to theater and performing arts.

Zenille: As an athlete, sports have always been a huge part of my life. But, of all the awards I have earned in the past four years, the Gold Scholar-Athlete Trophy is the one which I most value. In my four years at Lincoln High School, it feels as if I have partaken in every sports activity available to me in various venues across Yonkers. That’s everything from catching fly balls in our school park to making free throws at the neighborhood basketball courts. But sports have not always treated me kindly. There have been injuries, losses, frustration... all things one would expect in the journey to master their craft.

Charlyn: In the journey to mastering my craft theater has truly helped me come out of my shell. For me, performing on stage is really all about that one moment at the close of a show, when I feel this overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It’s the moment when I feel that all the work the cast has put into the play, into memorizing lines, and into long rehearsals finally pays off. It finally makes sense, because I feel like I’ve done something that I can be really proud of. That’s the best feeling in the world and it makes me eager to put in all that work for the next play. So for me, theater is about self-fulfillment.

Zenille: I gained self-fulfillment through sports. My experience as a student athlete has taught me that sports are much like life.

Charlyn: Theater is one of my greatest passions; through it I’ve learned that the stage is similar to life.

Zenille: Any sports venue is filled with two types of people; the players and the spectators. In life you cannot afford to be an onlooker, but must be active. DON’T BE A SPECTATOR!

Charlyn: No matter how tempting it may seem, in life you cannot simply allow yourself to be a member of the audience. Pick up the script, be a part of the play, and take decisive action!

Zenille: And while you’re playing the game, DON’T BE A BALL HOG, too consumed with personal gain or focused on one specific thing to share your successes with your teammates, friends, and family. HELP THE TEAM!

Charlyn: Always remember that theater is about the strength of the cast. Don’t upstage the other actors because you’re nothing without them; learn to work as a family or the show will fall apart.

Charlyn: These experiences have taught us the lessons we’ve learned together.

Zenille: One of the greatest lessons we’ve learned together is from the poet T.S. Elliot.

Charlyn: And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare?”

Zenille: and, “Do I dare?”

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —

Charlyn: [They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

Zenille: My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—

[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]

Do I dare

Charlyn: Disturb the universe?

Zenille: Disturb the universe!

Charlyn: That’s the challenge; disturb the universe!

Zenille: Eradicate poverty.

Charlyn: Eliminate world hunger.

Zenille: Disturb the universe.

Charlyn: Save the rain forest.

Zenille: Solve global warming.

Charlyn: Disturb the universe.

Zenille: Cure cancer.

Charlyn: Do something that matters.

Zenille: Rashaan, do you dare to disturb the universe?

Rashaan: [Stands.] I dare to disturb the universe!

Charlyn: Diane, do you dare to disturb the universe?

Diane: [Stands.] I dare to disturb the universe!

Zenille: Jared, do you dare to disturb the universe?

Jared: [Stands.] I dare to disturb the universe!

Charlyn: Neville, do you dare to disturb the universe?

Neville: [Stands.] I dare to disturb the universe!

Zenille: Anatasha, do you dare to disturb the universe?

Anatasha: [Stands.] I dare to disturb the universe!

Charlyn: At this time, we would like to ask all the graduates to please stand. [All graduates stand.]

Zenille: Please turn and face the audience. [Graduates turn.]

Charlyn & Zenille: Disturb the universe!

Graduates: [Chant.] We will rock you!

Thank you class of 2008!

It’s been great.

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