Graduation speech by Nikita Dutta of University Laboratory High School

Today's featured graduation speech was given by  Nikita Dutta of Uni High School. The school's graduation ceremony was May 19, 2012.

I'm still featuring graduation speeches by high schoolers on my blog, and I'd love more submissions. If you gave a speech at your high school graduation, will you email me the text, a photo of you in cap and gown and a brief description of your plans for next year? My email address is meg(at)news-gazette.com

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Blog PhotoOn behalf of the Uni High Class of 2012, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to our commencement ceremony. It’s been a long few years and we wouldn’t have made it this far without the love and support of everyone who’s here for us today.

But don’t worry; I’m not about to go all sappy and sentimental on you—at least, not yet—because today’s not meant to be a sad day. On the one hand, it is a farewell, and it certainly seems like the world’s coming to an end when we’re asked to write our “last words,” but more importantly, today should be a celebration. We’ve come a long way since we first came to Uni, and we have a lot to be proud of.

I had a hard time when I was writing this speech because all I could think was how no amount of words could ever really express all the things I want to say to my classmates. How could a speech ever truly convey the joy we’re all feeling on having completed this chapter of our lives, the years of lessons and memories we’ll take with us away from it, or the bonds we’ve made with each other as a class as we’ve endured the ups and downs of Uni together?

It short, it can’t; no amount of words can fully capture the spirit of the Class of 2012. However, I did think of a few that do a pretty good job. So here they are: five words to describe the Class of 2012.

Number one: attractive. Exhibit A.

No, just kidding. My actual first word is spirited. A lot of times when students become upperclassmen, they start to feel like they’re “too cool for Uni,” but the Class of 2012 wasn’t like that—we made Uni cool enough for us. You could find us at every dance, whether it was the Howdy Hop, prom, or even the Turkey Trot, in some of our cases.

You could also find us at every big sporting event, often with war paint on our faces or “GO UNI” on our stomachs as we yelled the famous Benito Mussolini cheer and supported our record-breakingly athletic classmates.

We dressed up for Spirit Week, whether that meant digging through our mom’s old clothes from the ‘80s, coming to school looking like Steve Erckel, or sporting matching headscarves for twin day. And this year, when we all came out for the Habitat dodgeball tournament, everyone knew that the senior teams were the ones to beat.

Because the thing is, even though we’re not always happy with Uni, the Class of 2012 knows a thing or two about being proud of where you come from, and I think it’s safe to say that for the last 5 years, we’ve repped this school with style.

My next word is lovable. When I first moved here the summer before sophomore year, I came to school to pick up some orientation-type stuff and a senior from a few years ago was working in the main office. She asked me what class I was going into and when I responded, she did this little all-knowing head nod and told me, “You’ll like the sophomores; they’re fun.”

And she was right; I did like the sophomores, because the Class of 2012 is just filled with a lot of likable people. Sure, we’re loud and rowdy and even a little obnoxious sometimes, but that’s just because we’re all still kids at heart. We still play Pokémon, and Neopets, and even the occasional game of hide-and-seek. We juggle, and unicycle, and fill the halls with the not-so-pitch-perfect sounds of our singing voices.

That’s why it’s no surprise to me at least that even when our teachers are furious at us for disrupting class, you can still tell that they find us just a little bit endearing. And how could they not? I’ve never seen another class who will go up and hug people for no reason at all, yell “I love you Kovacs!” from way across the hallway, or randomly start to give someone a massage just because they’re stressed out and look like they need it.

No matter which way you swing it and no matter how old we get, the Class of 2012 is lovable and charismatic. If you ever need people to put a smile on your face, trust me—you needn’t look any further.

My third word, and I guess it’s technically more than one word, is down-to-earth. When I first found out I was coming to Uni, I creeped on one of those “You know you go to Uni if…” Facebook pages and the first post I read said something along the lines of, “You know you go to Uni if you can walk down the hallway and overhear people debating string theory.” Let me say, I read that post and I just thought oh my god what kind of a freak school is this?

However, that was a completely mistaken impression, because the Class of 2012 is not wound up tight at all. Sure, we’re smart, and we like learning, and sometimes we do have intellectual discussions about postmodernist literature or politics when we’re sitting in the lounge during our free periods, but we are a class that knows when to work hard and when to play hard.

There’s never been too much academic competition between us—no awkward comparing of grades or test scores—because we know that things like that don’t make or break our lives, and that sometimes you have to just put in your best effort and go with the flow.

I have to say that after watching the classes before ours pull their hair out about college, I was not looking forward to this year. But somehow, with the help of Lisa and our wonderful teachers, we handled it.

Sure, it was a lot of work and a lot of stress, but it was never like our entire lives revolved around our college applications, because the Class of 2012 isn’t like that—the Class of 2012 sees the big picture. And now look at us: we’re excited for our futures and excited for each other’s futures, and that is exactly the way it should be.

My fourth word to describe the Class of 2012 is bold. We are a class full of vibrant and colorful personalities, and Doc Walk can attest that we have never been afraid to speak our minds. But beyond that, we are a class that is confident in its abilities and eager to make a statement. We know what we stand for and have learned during our time at Uni how to articulate those values and beliefs eloquently, rather than just by arguing.

It is because of this outspokenness that I think it’s safe to say that Uni won’t soon forget the Class of 2012. Whether they’ll look back on us fondly as a spunky class who never went down without a fight, or bitterly as a class who just liked to complain a lot, we can’t yet say, but no matter what, we certainly made an impression.

However, while only time will tell how Uni High will remember its Class of 2012, I can tell you right now how I personally will remember my classmates. This brings me to my fifth and final word: openhearted.

To me, the Class of 2012 are the people who took in a sophomore transfer and made her feel more at home than she ever thought she would in this town. They are the people with whom I have shared laughter, tears, stress, and smiles throughout the course of my time here. And they are the reasons that my Uni experience has been worthwhile.

I’ll be perfectly honest with you all: I didn’t want to move here, and I didn’t want to come to this school. In fact, I came to Uni on the first day of sophomore year with a plan to not make friends with any of you, because I didn’t see what the point was of getting close to people if we were just going to graduate and part ways in 3 years anyway.

But that all changed when I actually got to school because the Uni High Class of 2012 is a group of the most welcoming and friendly young people you will ever meet, and if you think you can spend even one year with them and not get attached, you are woefully delusional. These people welcomed me into their hearts like they had known me forever, and I am not lying when I say I felt so lucky to have ended up at a school with them.

In fact, I still feel lucky, and I hope that everyone else does too. If you look around right now, you’ll probably see some of the best friends you’ve ever had. You’ll also probably see a few people you’ve almost never talked to, and a few other people you’ve only talked to in order to argue with them. And that’s going to happen at any school.

But today none of that matters because we’ve all endured this journey together and we’re all going to walk out of this auditorium together, so we might as well put any differences behind us and celebrate together, too.

There’s a quote I’d like to share with you all from a wonderful book called The Little Prince that, to me, sums up the value of a friendship, and it goes like this:

You see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat.

I hope, classmates, that as we all part ways and open the next chapters of our lives, we can keep that message with us. When you’re out in the real world curing cancer, or publishing novels, or winning Nobel Peace Prizes—doing whatever it is that you’ve dreamt of doing after Uni—I hope there will be times when you see or hear something that reminds you of your friends in the Class of 2012, because I know I’ll be thinking of you.

And remember, too, the many wonderful teachers, counselors, and other adults who have taken us under their wings at Uni and shaped us into the people we are today. I think I speak for everyone when I saw that to them we will always be grateful.

Congratulations to all my classmates and thank you for making every second of the last few years completely worthwhile. I hope you’ll all find happiness in whatever you choose to do with your lives. Thank you.

Next year, Nikita Dutta plans to attend Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

Photo submitted by Nikita Dutta.

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