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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2020 8 months ago

Legacy High School valedictorian's speech: Shivani Pirmal

I know this speech is kind of unconventional, but so has been our senior year, so it almost seems fitting.

By Shivani Pirmal

I know this speech is kind of unconventional, but so has been our senior year, so it almost seems fitting. And on a positive note, you do not have to sit through this boring speech in person, and you can pause me whenever you would like. I know that the last few months have been hectic, and it was by no means how we expected to spend the last few months of our senior year. Trust me, I am still mourning the loss of our prom, Grad Bash, senior skip day and senior walkout. But, do not worry, as soon-to-be adults and mature seniors: We will not feel bitter about it at all. 

While trying to write this speech, I was forced to reflect on my time at this school and one quote constantly came to mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness …” by Charles Dickens from “A Tale of Two Cities.” Even though this was intended to be about the French Revolution, I strangely felt like it summarized our years together. It may sound pessimistic and critical, but I view it as a testament to the many years we roamed these narrow halls together during such an integral period of our lives. It demonstrates the duality of our experience; it was here, in this house of wisdom and education, that we made some of our most foolish decisions, and it was from those foolish acts that we derived some of our greatest lessons. 

It is often said relationships grow the most during periods of hardship, and these past four years were a great demonstration of that. Adolescence can be a time shrouded in self-doubt, fear for the future, confusion and seeking a sense of identity, and everyone here can agree this is not an easy process to go through. This, along with other personal, academic and social problems, can become a burden on any of us. But as a group, we went though this journey together. We helped each study for the SAT, comforted each other when life was not going as planned, or at the very least was a pleasant distraction to each other’s daily hassles for the eight hours we were together. We pushed forward hour-by-hour not knowing what lay ahead but realizing we had each other to rely on to lessen the burden. This included everything, from cracking light-hearted jokes in the halls between classes to a time when a graduate (who shall not be named) threw a stewed tomato in English and got it stuck to the ceiling. And the entire 9A class, as unit and well-oiled machine, collectively lied to Mr. Stacey and blamed it on a very innocent and very confused eighth-grade class.  

Even though this story is strange and slightly worrisome of the people now becoming legal adults, I believe it adequately demonstrates the bond we built throughout the years. Whether we noticed it or not, we watched each other grow from the naïve and confused kids that crossed that threshold four years ago to the mature adults crossing the stage today. This is something few others than those graduating alongside you will ever get to say. In my case, I am one of a few students who have been attending Hope and Legacy since kindergarten, and I can positively say, I have seen some things. I have watched people come and go, seen as friends I have known since 5 who loved to play MASH, Pokémon, share silly bands and found the joke “I CUP” absolutely hilarious get their driver’s licenses and start dating. But I also had the pleasure of witnessing amazing boys and girls grow into respectable men and women whom I am proud to have known.  

As we all diverge from this point on, I hope it is not done so with fear but with faith that you are prepared to dive into the world head-on. For graduating is not the end, but the beginning of your future — one that you can design to fit every dream and desire you can imagine. And I hope that when you look back at your time here, you can do so with a smile on your face, knowing that these were great years, surrounded by amazing people, pride in your heart, because you came from the Class of 2020, and they are who shaped you into the person you are today, and absolutely no regrets, because even though not every day was perfect, you were able to find a lesson in every mistake, and it was worth it. 

So, thank you, everyone! Thank you to the students who made mundane days colorful, thank you to the teachers — no level of frustration or anger could waver your commitment to our education — and thank you to our families who supported us through it all.  It was an honor being your valedictorian, it was an honor being your student, and it was an honor being your classmate.

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