NHS Graduates Deliver, Receive Words of Wisdom
With the ceremony moved indoors to Babson College, the seniors and other speakers talked about staying true to themselves, the importance of community and the value of getting lost.
At the 2011 Needham High School graduation, Needham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Gutekanst told the graduates he hoped they would fail. This year, he told the Class of 2012 to get lost.
“Members of the Class of 2012: Get lost,” Gutekanst said, to laughs from students, family and friends gathered for the ceremony on Monday, June 4 at Babson College.
But Gutekanst was serious.
“No, I mean it, really, get lost," he said. "Tomorrow, next year and for the rest of your life, make sure you take time to go left when you should go right, turn off the GPS every once in a while, […] wander off the path a bit, go solo when the crowd is pressing you to head in one direction, strike up a conversation with the loner in the back of your economics class, just take off to parts unknown and go. Get lost. I encourage you to get lost in order to live the experience of a full life, a life of learning, of laughs, of creativity and self-discovery.”
Though it may feel comforting, safe and sane to stick to the confines of a college or career plan, Gutekanst recommended that the graduates “deviate from the routine” and “allow yourself to become just a little confused and discombobulated.”
“You see, getting lost in many ways, is an act of hope,” he said. “Hope in oneself and hope in the world around us—a world that desperately needs your commitment, courage and leadership.”
Gutekanst was one of several speakers to offer words of encouragement and inspiration for the latest crop of Needham High School graduates on Monday evening. The ceremony, which was moved indoors from Memorial Field because of rain, began at 6 p.m. in Babson College’s Webster Center.
“Fortunately, one of the things we learned at Needham High School is flexibility,” senior David Kaplan noted at the start of his speech, observing the change of location.
Kaplan mentioned some of Needham High School’s esteemed alumni—including “Life is good” founders Bert and John Jacobs, Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor, former NFL player Eric Johnson and actress/singer Sarah Saltzberg—and highlighted some of the accomplishments of his own class, both on and off the athletics fields—such as the varsity football team’s first trip to Gillette Stadium for the MIAA Division 1 Super Bowl last fall.
Kaplan also talked about the individual accomplishments of his classmates and pondered what they might do in the future.
“Today is a time for celebration and excitement for the future,” he said. “Who will this newest group of alumni become? Is the person responsible for finding a cure for cancer sitting in a cap and gown today? Is a future president of the United States waiting for her shot at leading the free world? […] Yes, this is the beginning of our journey. I know that individually and together we can make the world a better place.”
Senior speaker Elizabeth Hwang referenced both Ralph Waldo Emerson and pop singer Ke$ha during her speech, as she encouraged her peers to “stay true to yourself” and to “embrace change” as long as it fit with their identities.
“But if you’re going to change, just remember to do it for yourself. Life is way too short and the economy is way too uncooperative to waste your time and your money on trying to be someone that you’re not,” Hwang said.
She spoke of the rich diversity of people that make up the Class of 2012, noting: “We are artists, we are journalists, we are poets, musicians and writers. We’re athletes, computer programmers, aviators. We are stars of the stage and YouTube alike. Among us today, we have a Marine, a neurological researcher and, though she is competing and couldn’t be with us in person today, an Olympic athlete. We don’t know who we will become in five years; some of us can’t even make plans for next weekend. All we have is who we are right now and the assurance that we can become whoever we want to be.
"And so we will never stop hoping, we will never stop striving, and we will never stop dreaming. In the words of the esteemed lyrics of Ke$ha: ‘We are who we are.’”
The ceremony also featured advice from adults in the Needham High School community, such as Principal Dr. Jonathan Pizzi, who asked the graduates to remember the school’s core values: “To Think. To Respect. To Communicate.”
Pizzi asked the students to “be thoughtful, to think about how you will spend your time, because it is the stuff that life is made of, and you cannot squander it.”
He said that members of the Class of 2012 had already demonstrated their ability to show respect and to communicate and that those values would manifest in different ways throughout their adult lives.
“The cornerstone of the mission of Needham High School is to create students who are effective self-advocates, and I know from my interactions that each of you has made incredible strides in this area,” Pizzi said. “From issues of student voice to social equity, to those of recycling and weighted gpa, this class has effected an incredible amount of positive change on Needham High School.”
Both Pizzi and School Committee chairwoman Heidi Black reminded the graduates that they would always have the support of the Needham and Needham High School communities.
“As you continue forth on this exciting journey that lies before you, never forget these three cornerstones,” Pizzi said. “Also, never forget that you will always be part of the Needham High family and that the big doors that you came through in September of 2008 will always be open to you.”
Black talked about the ease with which today's gradutes can find the answer to a variety of questions, using the Internet, a GPS or other device.
“But here’s the thing: When it comes to getting your questions answered, finding the right direction, solving problems, discovering what you like or just trying to figure out what to do, life’s not really as simple as software,” Black said, talking about the ways each person’s path may shift and change along the way.
“So if you need help knowing, if you get stuck along the way, think back and remember this day and this community. We can be your support and your help—not an app. We can give you guidance and advice and lend a hand, and we will celebrate your success,” she said. “You may have hundreds of friends online, but today and always you have hundreds of friends here.”
During the ceremony, Black presented two awards to graduating seniors. Charles Moder received the NHS Award For Academic Excellence, while Corina Andriescu received the NHS Award For Service.
Andriescu, who is also Class President, presented the seniors’ gift to their class advisor, Dan Hudder—two tickets to see the Boston Celtics play the Miami Heat this Thursday.
She also announced the Class Gift—a couple of bike racks for the high school and a swingset, which was the overwhelming choice among her classmates.
As Andriescu put it: “Everyone loves a swingset.”