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Graduation Speech 2012

Good evening, friends,

I am positively honored to have been selected by my peers, to speak on behalf of the graduating class of 2012.

Our senior year has been eventful, to say the least. We went on strike, received an outstanding award from the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, lost two teachers, gained two more back, plowed through an amazing snow storm, and underneath it all, sent a robot to St. Louis.
It has been three years since we first, scared and naive, stood in line at 1950 to board the buses to BlackLake, expecting something far different than what we would be exposed to. My own expectations were plagued by the media's version of arts based high schools. They, even now, are portrayed as elitist, a place where only the best go, unless you’re Channing Tatum and someone sees you dancing while mopping the floors. They're portrayed as fun schools, a place where students spend all day painting their angst out and writing songs with misunderstood boys wearing their mother’s eyeliner.

Our school does not line up with the ones on television. Not only does the school shatter stereotypes of how it runs, it tears down the walls limiting choices for students. The lack of connection, the miscommunication between teachers and students, is nonexistent here. Here we are given the freedom to study with wider, but still concrete boundaries and because of that, the willingness to work is tangible.

The way this school works is simple- it takes the game and changes it.

We thought we knew what we wanted from life and if that didn’t change all together, it was reformed to more realistic standards. We thought we knew how to go about achieving our goals and then that was molded and sculpted to the point where sometimes, everything we spoke was in question form.

Everyone of us had a preconceived notion about the school, all of which were grossly incorrect. But what we found, when we came here, was something far better than we ever expected.

Everything changes once you come to this school. Not only is the world exposed to you, but you realize that it's not about achieving personal fame and stardom, it’s about being the best person you can be, while acknowledging the best in others around you. It’s about striving to make the world a better place, but choosing to fix what you can and resolving to share what you cannot.

You won't find another school like this.

What other high school has a 72 year old security guard who patrols campus in a leather jacket and a customized pickup?

What other high school plays Quidditch and walks in procession behind a pair of bagpipers, through downtown?

What other other high school has three married couples as teachers?

We are a family here and we are one of a kind.

We have to remember how much we have changed, from being really weirded out during our first yoga sessions in the theater with Kelly, to leading them.

From not being able to make eye contact with Alexa Folsom-Hill, to seeing who will look away first.

From not knowing what or where Ted Brown was, to memorizing all bus lines to and from the building to allow time for tea.

Because like it or not, we have changed, all of us. If you asked us, as sophomores, what community, balance, empathy and thinking meant, we’d probably give you vague answers. But now, we’ve become the answer. Being a part of a school that is integrated into the city, we are more exposed to the great aide of the community and the wonderful things we can do when we all work together. We’ve learned to empathize in our mentor project groups, our school families. We’ve been taught, in every class to think, not just to do and to learn that balance is something we must always strive for, even though the lines between too much and just enough, are sometimes blurred.
Some things, however, will never change. The boys dressing room will always remain a second dressing room for the girls, the water fountains in 1950 will always taste just a little weird and honestly people will still occasionally wander into our buildings, not knowing it’s a school.

This school is game changing. You don’t notice it at first but over the three years at this school it creeps up on you. The product here, instead of a slow decline towards insanity, is a steep climb to 139 mature, adults who, rather than being thrown out into the working world to swim for their lives, are presently riding the waves.

We’re very fortunate to have been able to spend this time here. It is because of Jon Ketler, the founding teachers, our current teachers and support from this community that our school is alive. We owe them. We owe them our first borns, or possibly an arm, because education like this is scarce and we were lucky enough to have been given three years of it. I am a better person because I came here. Because I met all of these people. I don't regret a day of it. I know no one else up on this stage thinks any different.

I can’t give you advice, friends, because I am on exactly the same bus you’re on. And while sometimes it’s the classy, half empty 100 to Gig Harbor, every now and then it’s the too-full, too-loud, half-broken 1 bus traveling down 6th Ave. All I can say is that we must attempt to duplicate the mindset of the black knight from monty python and the holy grail. When someone tells you ‘your arm’s off’ you must hold your head high and say ‘I’ve had worse’. You must claim, as you fight, that it ‘tis a scratch’ and move on. Always, always move forward.

Now friends, I want you to think of your most cherished moment here. A time when you were just plain thrilled to be here. Do you have it? Yes? I guarantee that every single one of you are thinking of a moment when you were not alone. Your best memories are shared experiences and half of the joy of it, is brought by the ones you shared it with.The reality of not just the way our school works, but the way the world works, is that it's a culmination of effort on so many parts, that not just one person does it alone.

Cheers,
Nikki



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