When the 76 members of the Class of 2017, along with their families and friends, gathered for Baccalaureate on Saturday, May 13, 2017, Neha Reddy was voted by her peers to share a personal reflection. A classical Indian dancer and pianist, Neha volunteered at St. Anthony's Hospital, co-captained a Relay For Life team and was a member of 4 Honor Societies. She started Shorecrest before kindergarten.
I am so honored to be up here today; however, I’ll be very honest with you all, I really had no idea what to say. So I asked my dad, while he was eating curry of course, “Dad, do you have any ideas of what I should say on Baccalaureate?”
He replied, “Neha, speak from your heart and try not to mess it up... all of your friends and their families will be there.” So basically, he reaffirmed the one thing that I am already terrified of doing.
Then, I asked my mom. She said the typical, “Tell your peers to call their moms everyday in college.” So, here it is: Call your parents, text, Facetime, maybe even ask for some extra quarters for the laundry machine while you’re at it. I heard it takes a couple times to actually get the clothes dry.
Finally, I asked my brother. He told me to make it as short as possible so we can all get to the one thing that everyone is actually thinking about, our $50 dinners.
So I went back to my room, sat on the floor, stared at the empty screen on my laptop with SkinnyPop in hand, and still got absolutely nowhere. However, I couldn’t help but notice the mixed emotions, the nostalgia, that lingered in me.
Many of us have heard Mal say, “happiness is underrated.” But once I also heard him say, “Sadness is underrated.” I thought he was joking at the time, but while I was trying to write, I realized what he meant. Somewhere in the frustration of writer’s block, I was overwhelmed by happy memories that also made me sad.
I began to think about our past experiences, about the people we love, those who made us laugh, the obstacles we’ve overcome… all the memories that have brought us here together today. These memories for many of us go far, far back. Do you remember the pet parade in Junior Kindergarten? We walked on stage, shy but with so much excitement, to introduce our favorite real or stuffed animals to our class.
Or do you remember when we learned the fifty states song in third grade? Everyone was so proud to have all fifty states memorized in alphabetical order; we could not stop singing that song. Sorry, parents!
I remember “recorder Karate” with Ms. Diaz Leroy. She’d give us a colored string when we reached the next level, and that became the goal of the year: to get as many strings as possible. Clearly, our class was always aiming high.
There was Fall Festival, when we could just not wait until it was exactly 12pm, and we’d rocket out of dismissal and to the playground where our parents would be. There were games, crafts, rock climbing, face painting… I loved Fall Festival so much. I loved all those things we did as a community. I loved all of you for being a part of my community, my extended family.
Those times feel so simple and happy, and upwell a real sense of strength in me, and I want to thank you all for those wonderful experiences.
And then came Middle School. While we all survived our own trials and tribulations, I have to say that my most painful memories revolved around taking part in the physical fitness test. This could be because my chubby, Middle School self just physically wasn’t capable of doing anything related to fitness. I’m not sure which memory has scarred me more: the heat while running a timed mile or the desperation of arm hanging on a pullup bar. But I know I took solace in the fact that I suffered through it with you. I always suffered and celebrated with you. We have helped each other through our struggles as much as we have celebrated our accomplishments. We all got through our awkward stages together, and that itself, is a huge win.
In Middle School we even came to realize our teachers were mortal. There was the unforgettable Mr. Marchetti, who was known for elbow patched sweaters, getting angry at us when we ate cookie cake with our fingers, and being terrified of bugs. And there was Mrs. Bassford, such an amazing, kind, and patient teacher who listened to everything we had to say. We met Mrs. Jeakle, an energetic lady who taught us very important skills like taking care of grass. Yeah, you did not hear that wrong. We took top notch care of dead grass that year. Many of us are really the next generation of farmers.
Then we entered Landy Hall, the scary building that only older kids went into. It felt surreal and intimidating when we reached ninth grade and became those older kids. It took us a little while to learn the ways of high school but we all eventually got a hang of it, most of us at least. We learned from amazing teachers, too many to name. They taught us so much both inside and outside the classroom. I do not believe there is a single one of us who does not consider one of his or her teachers a dear friend and mentor.
And, of course, we won the Homecoming games this year. My class came together, not as a school requirement, but on their own, to make a hype video to show and intimidate the other grades, which we successfully did. We won nearly all of the events and really bonded as a grade.
Then, there was Prom. I remember looking around on the dance floor watching my peers bust out their silliest moves. It was our last dance together so of course we went all out that night. I felt as though we were those young children again as we danced away foolishly together.
But, we really aren’t those young children any longer.
We have grown up.
All these things we’ve done together - sharing our lives with one another through these many experiences that you’ll hear about today, have made us so close. Letting go, as we all know, as Holden Caulfield has taught us, can be difficult... I’m sad to leave you and I cannot underrate that sadness, but I am also happy - happy to have spent this time with you. Let us be happy and sad with each other for this last day. Let us cry and laugh when thinking about all these moments we’ve shared together - because as one of our greatest teachers has told us, it’s all underrated. Let’s embrace each other and love, and forgive, and thank, and remember one another in the best sense, for it is one of our final days together, and that makes it an important day indeed.
Meet the Class of 2017 and read more of their stories at: www.shorecrest.org/2017