Courage is inner strength at work, and you often know it when you see it.
As one of our core values at SCH, we see courage displayed in our community in myriad ways: supporting a classmate, auditioning for the play or honors music ensemble, striving to move up to varsity or that next-level class, or simply owning mistakes.
There is also courage in being vulnerable.
At SCH, an experience that all seniors have in common is the completion and delivery of the senior speech. Each speech is unique and reflects the individual sharing their message. Seniors have the opportunity to deliver their speech in a variety of spaces: in front of their advisory group, the entire grade, their athletic team or another meaningful audience that reflects their interests, or the entire Upper School. The speaker is not the only person who is affected; the speech can serve as a window to better understand the person sharing their message and can act as a mirror in which the listeners see themselves reflected back.
The first senior speech that I witnessed was delivered nine years ago. The student spoke about commuting almost an hour each way to school alongside her father, every day throughout her years at SCH. This commute, she said, was something she initially resented as a young student, but as time wore on the experience transformed into the daily connection that she would miss the most upon graduation. As a new mother who had a stressful 45-minute commute with an infant, I felt like she was speaking directly to me, assuring me that these difficult moments were also beautiful. She’ll never know, but her speech has stayed with me to this day, and I always remind myself that my now nine-year-old son may one day remember our daily commutes as special moments together.
This year I have heard many speeches (including from my own senior advisees!), some funny, some tragic, some deeply honest, yet all providing a window into the person standing in front of us.
One speech that is particularly powerful was shared recently by Hirmand Azimi, an Afghan-American student who joined our community in September 2021. This is a student who has seen and lived through things that most of us have only watched on the news. Yet, the message that he shared was one of hope and of being a changemaker. The final sentiment of his speech reflects what we all hope that our students, both speaking and listening, take away from these moments.
“I decided to share my story today—which is not your average high school senior’s story—to show that you can overcome challenges and redirect negative experiences into positive, fruitful, and fulfilling goals for yourself and for society. Yes, the world can be dark, merciless, and violent, but we can’t give up. We can each be an agent of change, in small or big ways.” I encourage you to take a few minutes to read Hirmand’s full senior speech here.
Every day I am proud of the strength that I see in every one of our students. Being open and letting people see the real you is what really shows what courage means.
~ Katie Bechtold, Dean of the Class of 2024