Co-Valedictorian Isabelle Sehati’s Great Neck North High School Graduation Speech

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Isabelle Sehati
Isabelle Sehati

Class of 2016, it’s been a good run. By “run,” I’m referring to the unique set of experiences that have come to shape our high school careers. I’m referring to the various races that we have run over the course of our four years here at Great Neck North.

Sometimes we were lucky enough to run a smooth 100-meter dash—a quick sprint. Other times, we had to persevere, to give more of ourselves and to travel a little extra distance, to run the extra mile. And sometimes, we needed to give up running solo, learning to work with a team as in a relay. Relays worked against our independent and competitive natures, requiring us to relinquish control. They challenged our ability to trust in and rely on our peers. How many of you have gotten stuck with an annoying partner for a group project, to the point where you wanted to strangle them? As hard as it was, there were some good lessons to be learned there. Patience, cooperation, compromise, thinking outside the box—all qualities that are necessary to thrive in the real world.

As proud supporters of YOFO [You’re Only Fresh Once—slogan of the ninth-grade class], we started out strong and shared our first victory. Weeks of hard work, sweat and tears paid off when we stole third place at Battle and made history. Cheering from the sidelines and chanting “1–6,” we embraced the unity and sat on the edge of our seats as our teammates prepared to fight. And when one person fell, our hearts skipped a beat because it was like we all fell. That night for the first time ever we felt like a real class—a whole.

But bringing home a trophy wasn’t always possible. Forced to accept defeat, we left this year’s Battle of the Classes with a bitter taste in our mouths. Just like this year’s Battle, many races involved a handful of hurdles, and oftentimes we found ourselves stumbling. Maintaining a comfortable balance of speed and efficiency was never easy. The reasons for the stumble, of course, varied from race to race. It could be that in the heat of the moment we temporarily lost our vision. Or maybe we couldn’t properly judge the height of a particular hurdle. Maybe we struggled with the concept of a relay—of knowing when to seek help or when to step aside so that another team member could take his turn. Or maybe we fell simply because we held back—because we were too scared of jumping high enough.

At some point many of us realized we needed to face the fears that stood in our way of the finish line. For some of us, that meant a fear of disappointment, of failing to live up to expectations. For others, it was a fear of shedding our outer layers, of opening up and rendering ourselves vulnerable. Maybe it was a fear of rejection from our dream university or a fear of going alone to prom. A fear of letting go and stepping outside our comfort zone. But as we look forward to this new chapter and we approach a new hurdle, we should not be discouraged. No doubt we’ll be intimidated or overwhelmed, tempted to take the backseat in our lives. Some of us may want to sit idle, “waiting” for opportunity to present itself instead of running after it. But we should never hold ourselves back simply because we are afraid to fall. There’s no not jumping! We must take the leap, take initiative and be open to the unexpected. Be bold. Because what’s the worst that can happen? So we fall flat on our faces. Big deal. We might be surprised at what the journey can teach us.

Now we approach the finish line. We all ask ourselves, now what? Some of us may be thinking, “I made it; this is it.” But is it? Now we rely on all the skills we have acquired over the years. We must trust in our knowledge, have faith in our intuitions and lead our own lives. Our coaches—teachers, mentors, guidance counselors—have taught us well, instilling in us a motivation to learn and a drive to succeed. As we pursue our separate paths and contemplate which direction to turn, remember that it’s okay to fall. We should expect that hurdles will present themselves, and we should be prepared to stumble. We should allow our failures to inspire us, to fuel our ambitions and to reawaken our spirits. We should allow them to guide us onto our next track. And as we search for our own individual identity, we should always recall our roots and not forget we are also part of a larger whole—a team.

Class of 2016, congratulations. On your mark, get set, go!

Read the complete graduation speeches from the Great Neck North Class of 2016: Adir VegonGraelin MandelIsabelle Sehati and from Great Neck South: Annabelle GoldenAnnie YangEmily BaeHaley RoachLance Kim and Michael Shen.

Learn about the 2016 valedictorians and salutatorians here.

Find out about other 2016 award winners here and here.

See who the 2016 Great Neck North graduates are here.

Find out who graduated from Great Neck South here.

For a list of The Village School graduates, click here.

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