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Our Story

I was told to write an essay. I was told to tell a story about myself, about a life lesson that I learned at this middle school. I was told to use transitions and as few “to be” verbs as possible. But an essay like that contradicts with the life lesson that I—and all of my fellow graduates, I’m sure—was taught here. You see, we were taught to be less selfish and to be more sensitive to each other. And it would be unfair to my peers to tell you about me. If I were to tell the story of our Class of 2012, it would not be about me. No, the story of the Class of 2012 is about 250 incredibly talented, intelligent, unique, ambitious individuals who started out selfish and unaffected by the problems of their classmates but along the way learned the importance of friendship, empathy, and compassion. This is the story I have decided to tell, and it began in sixth grade.

In sixth grade, our worries were not limited to figuring out how to read the school map and how to open our lockers. The real struggle was a social struggle. What amazes me is how quickly we established who was cool and who was weird. We spent more time thinking about who we should be friends with rather than who we were actually friends with. Sixth grade saw fervent adding sprees on Facebook, desperate attempts to climb the social ladder, and pleading with our parents for just a little more time to hang out after school so that our new friends would think we were cool, like them. And with our attempts at being “cool,” we avoided the established “weirdos” like the plague without knowing that we shared the same struggles. We didn’t know that we all shared the same struggles that year. We also didn’t know that we were all weirdos and that none of us were actually cool, at least not in the eyes of the eighth graders…But that year of discovery and adaptation came to a close with most of us still selfish and ignorant, myself included.

Seventh grade saw a trip to see A Christmas Carol onstage, accursed math benchmarks, and almost daily trips to Eggette’s and Quickly’s. Seventh grade saw wondering what it would be like if you sat at the red table by the tree instead, if you decided to go to Starbucks with that group of people walking. Most importantly, seventh grade saw the passing of one of our students, Connie Liu, a girl anyone would be lucky to have known. When we all wore black the next day to honor her, when we cried or became a shoulder to cry on, when we had an “unconstitutional” but necessary moment of silence throughout the school—I think that’s when we began to realize that we are not as different as we thought. Maybe that’s when the walls came down and we exposed ourselves a little more to each other, learning that everyone has problems. After a blissfully ignorant sixth grade year, we began to realize that those among us couldn’t afford luxuries like cell phones and laptops that most of us take for granted, that some have to deal with family issues, and that even those who seem to lead perfect lives may suffer from heartache or loneliness. And when seventh grade ended, after saying goodbye to our favorite eighth graders, after cleaning out—in my case—extremely messy lockers, we left with the thought of being empathetic when we returned for our next and final year of middle school.

After two years, we finally became eighth graders: the cream of the crop, the top of the food chain, the kids who had the right to give all underclassmen dirty looks in the snack bar line. From the start of the school year, we knew what was coming in June, the impending doom or long-awaited release—your choice. It seemed like eight months was almost too much time for our last year of middle school, but as we came closer to this bittersweet occasion, we began to realize that it was too little. We managed to fit five years’ worth of photos, inside jokes, tears, and high school applications in a span of eight months. As we hurtled towards the eighth of June, we managed to get closer. Countless heart-to-hearts let us see deeper into each other as we slowly untangled ourselves from wallowing in self-pity and committed ourselves to making others feel better. With the large size of our graduating class, we know that we can’t possibly know everyone’s life stories, but we do know, at least, that everyone has a story, a reason for acting the way that they do, and that you cannot rightfully judge someone without knowing their individual personal experiences. And that led to the knowledge that you cannot rightfully judge someone, ever. When we realized that we all have troubles, worries, struggles, and problems, when we finally, finally came to terms with the fact that we have unique stories that make us who we are but that so does everyone else—that is when we became the people we should be completely proud of being. We should all be grateful that our graduating class is filled with such remarkable people.

So our story was not just about winning basketball games, not just about our acceptances into prestigious high schools, not just about our trophies and medals, not just about test scores and GPAs and straight As. At the core of our story is us always being there for one another, despite what lies in the past and despite what lies ahead. At the core of our story is how we evolved from self-absorbed kids fresh out of elementary school into mature, cultivated teenagers about to leave for high school. And at the end of our story, as we receive our diplomas and handshakes, as we go through a mirage of pictures and flowers and hugs and goodbyes, we look back and remember, and look forward and dream.



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