Co-Valedictorian Benjamin Newman’s Great Neck South High School Graduation Speech

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Benjamin Newman, South High co-valedictorian

Four years ago, around this time, we were strutting around the school in groups, trading yearbooks with teachers and each other. We owned the school. All those little sixth- and seventh-graders were miniscule ants; we could not have possibly been like them when we were their age.

Two short months later, we found ourselves on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. We walked into a rather unfamiliar building, through a lobby full of balloons and really big kids wearing white tank-tops. I remember staring up at them, not quite believing that I would ever be in their place. They had the same air of confidence around them that we had only a summer before.

Now here we are, about to graduate. We have the confidence now and in a few months we’ll be starting again, beginning new lives. What will we remember about high school then? How about in 10 or 15 years, when we open our yearbooks? What will we see in those random moments caught in pictures? What will we glean from what our friends wrote about us, what they remembered about us? We’ll remember what we did, what we said and who we were.

I don’t think these memories will necessarily include SAT scores (or frankly those of any other standardized test) or college applications or all-nighters spent studying. What I do think these memories will consist of is the times we spent with each other trying new things and taking advantage of the amazing opportunities that South offered us.

This might range from rolling our eyes at the Gazelliott with our friends each April first, to sweating buckets as we anxiously awaited our cue for our acting debut in the One Acts. We might remember frantically scanning the team roster to see if our name was on the list after a week of tryouts, or preparing and practicing for weeks culminating in an amazing Cultural Heritage Night or Fashion Show performance. We might remember the taste of victory after defeating the then-seniors at Rebel War last year, or freezing our tails off at the first sporting event we attended, cheering on a soccer team that made the playoffs, yet again. Maybe being trapped on a boat for four hours during junior prom will come to mind, or maybe winning almost every single raffle prize at an amazingly executed Senior Event. Maybe we’ll remember those times we went to a teacher for help with solving a personal problem or understanding a difficult concept. The list goes on and on.

These are the kinds of experiences we’re going to remember having in high school, and they should be the kinds we strive to have in the future as well. Of course if we go to college, there will still be classes to attend, tests to take and papers to write, but we’re also going to meet people with different ideas and backgrounds and have access to experiences we can’t imagine. I’m not saying that it will be easy to incorporate these new opportunities into our lives either because we’re already comfortable with what we’re doing, or because we’re afraid of failing at something new, but these very well might be the experiences and challenges that contribute the most meaning to our time in the future. We should embrace this opportunity to make new memories.

Most importantly, we can do it. Not only is our class extremely accepting, intelligent and talented, but we’ve already started embracing new ideas in high school. Thanks to our school and our teachers we have a head start and can and should set out with the confidence we have at this very moment.

So Class of 2017, let’s continue being curious, continue fearlessly approaching new opportunities, continue growing, and continue making memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Read the complete graduation speeches from the Great Neck North Class of 2017: Yunyi (Anita) Zhang and Zachary Lee, and from Great Neck South: Rachel Brenner, Isabella Harnick, Isabella MalfiBenjamin Newman, Joshua Putter, Shrinath Viswanathan and Melody Yang.

Learn about the 2017 valedictorians and salutatorians here.

Find out about 2017 award winners here and here.

See the complete list of Great Neck North graduates here and the Great Neck South Class of 2017 here.

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