Every Friday the Waldorf School of Garden City High School gathers in the student room for the weekly Student Assembly that consists of an extended speech by a senior on a topic of particular interest to them. The Senior Speeches as are a rite of passage for Waldorf students and are a required part of the high school curriculum. See below to read recaps of all the speeches given in the second quarter of the High School Year!
Sean Sullivan’s Senior Speech was bursting with gratitude. Despite his public speaking anxiety, Sean calmly told the audience about how his life experiences have instilled in him a powerful feeling of appreciation. From his parents, who adopted him and brought him to the United States in 2001, to his teachers and classmates, Sean expressed how thankful he is to the people who helped to shape his life and for the opportunities they have provided him. He clearly remembers how warmly he was welcomed into Ms. Gliksman’s 6th Grade Class and how he was lovingly guided into becoming a more mature person. Then, he was again embraced as he entered the High School. He went on to personally thank each and every teacher in the room and explain that his Waldorf experience has been a wonderful part of his life. Furthermore, despite his worries, the support of his teachers and peers during the preparation of his speech helped him overcome his nervousness. “Thank you to all the people who helped me grow up,” Sean concluded.
“Who am I? Why was I born? What is the purpose of my life?” Rachel has met a variety of people who each have different answers to these philosophical questions. Some people believe their purpose is to amass wealth, others desire simple happiness. After years of contemplation, Rachel came to the realization that her purpose is not to live solely for her own happiness & well-being, but to also increase the happiness and well-being of those around her. She attributes this to her upbringing. Growing up in South Korea, Rachel’s family always made sure that she and her brother had everything they needed. Her parents made many sacrifices to ensure that their children would have more opportunities for success than they had. One way they attempted to accomplish this was by allowing Rachel to study in the United States. Rachel also spent time volunteering in Cambodia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, & Guatemala. In these developing nations, she encountered people whose needs were so great, that she had to reevaluate her priorities. This eye-opening experience helped Rachel more fully appreciate what she had, and also inspired her to give back to those less fortunate. Rachel closed by expressing the hope that her words would help others discover their own purpose in life as she has found hers.
Erik Beauvais used his speech to reveal how Soccer has played an integral role in his life, and how he would feel incomplete without it. Erik explained how he has been playing soccer since he was 5-6 years old, and how even as a child he loved the sport. However, soccer became especially important to him after he lost his mother to cancer. During that difficult period, Soccer became a refuge–a place where he could feel free and express himself. Since that time he had come to understand that soccer was an excellent source of motivation that helped him learn perseverance. He closed by explaining that his experience truly helped him understand what people mean when they call Soccer “the beautiful game.”
Isabella Persaud began by confessing that she was blessed with a very privileged childhood. During her early years, her parents were fortunate enough to be able provide her and her family with solid financial security that allowed Isabella a freedom and confidence that she came to realize she had taken for granted. When that security suddenly disappeared, Isabella was confronted with the need to reevaluate what she once knew and adjust her perspective. This is when she became truly grateful for what she had and she began to value her relationships more than things. When her grandmother came to help their family, she told many stories about those who were less fortunate living in other countries. Through these stories, Isabella realized that there are always people who are less fortunate and that she should always be thankful for what she does have, and not worry about what she does not have. This idea was reinforced when she took a part time job to help her family. The job not only taught her responsibility, but also exposed her to people from a variety of backgrounds who she has since formed close bonds with. Isabella closed by saying how she is grateful for the “hardship” she faced as it facilitated her growth by opening her up to other worlds while also helping her to appreciate her life as she looks forward to college and beyond.
Conchetta discussed the important role that travel and exposure to a variety of cultures has had on her life. She explained that she has been to 20 countries spanning 5 continents. Throughout her speech, she delighted us with stories about her community service trip to Costa Rica where she helped construct a greenhouse, her trip to Australia where she fed wallabies and saw aboriginal performances, and her 10th grade exchange to Munich where she was an assistant 2nd grade teacher and also rode a bike 14km (8.7miles) to school each day. For a time, she was also a nanny who was responsible for caring for young children for long hours. An experience that not only opened her eyes to the challenges of parenting but also taught her how to be responsible. Conchetta explained how her travels have not only strengthened her language skills but also instilled in her powerful feelings of independence, confidence, and open-mindedness and how she especially loves meeting new people. As she heads off to college next year, Conchetta plans to focus on International Studies.
One of the great loves of Kate’s life is canoeing. She began canoeing for fun at Camp Arcadia in Maine but it soon became a passion for her. For the past 8 years she has been participating in the camp’s canoeing program, progressing from novice to certified instructor. During her speech, she reminisced about the rigors of preparing for her first tip test (preparation for when a canoe inevitably tips over), her first dock landing, and subsequent trips to the local islands. Kate presented her prized canoe paddle, painted with her achievements, which she received after completing a difficult level II canoeing exam. She went on to be 1 of only 12 chosen to participate in a 7 day trip with nothing but bare necessities. When she achieved level IV she began a CIT program which she describes as some of the best days of her life. She explained how she has developed grit, determination, and strength from canoeing and also learned valuable lessons about life. She also has a greater sense of independence as well as the ability to persevere. As a certified canoeing instructor, she is excited to share her love of the sport with others.
Sarah used her speech to talk about one of her favorite places in the world, Ireland. Ever since she was a child, Ireland has kindled a sense of history in Sarah. To her, it is a place where she can slow down from the daily grind of life and truly experience her roots. Her first trip occurred when she was 6 months old. While in the countryside of Ireland, she experienced more freedom than she was accustomed to in New York. There, she especially loved taking long walks through the streets as well as feeding carrots to her grandmother’s horses. These times for Kate were both sentimental and reflective. They helped her truly appreciate and connect with her past in ways that she never could in America. Kate concluded by expressing how she is happiest when time is forgotten, and when she can spend her days with those she loves the most.
With humor and a little sentiment, Emma shared her experience as being a triplet. While many people tend to see her and her sisters as a sort of “package deal,” she does not see it that way at all. To her, each of them are unique individuals with their own distinct personalities. Emma’s sisters have always had a meaningful impact on her life, even if she was not always the most appreciative. As children they would often play practical jokes on each other. They would also share the consequences when one of them would get in trouble. In addition, everything turned into a competition between them. Looking back, Emma sees that growing up this way taught her 2 important lessons: First, a person can only control themselves and not others, and second that having people around you can provide healthy motivation to always give 100 percent. In the 10th grade while on a language exchange, the triplets were separated for the first time, each of them visiting a different area of Germany. This was the first time in her life she was just Emma. Although the sisters had intended on meeting regularly, their busy schedules made it nearly impossible. Although she did miss Sarah’s laugh and Kate’s enthusiasm, Emma took the opportunity to develop her own sense of self that made their inevitable reunion all the sweeter. She concluded by saying that her experiences taught her the importance of discovering one’s uniqueness, and she thanked her teachers for treating each of them as individuals.
Isaac’s speech took the audience on a tour of a typical Sunday with the Stumme family. His father is a pastor, so his day begins as expected–in church. Despite his father’s profession, Isaac admits that he has not become the religious expert that his dad is. However, his time in church has provided him with a unique cultural experience that he continues to be grateful for. Since his church community is so diverse, this exposed him to a world of different cultures and ways of thinking that he does not think he would have found elsewhere. After church on most Sundays Isaac takes part in CYO Baseball or Basketball (depending on the season). During his time on the team he is inspired by his coach Joe, to always give it his all. Coach Joe taught Isaac to be competitive, and the team provides him with a second family that is always supportive. After the game or practice, the family traditionally sits down together for dinner. Isaac concluded his speech by confessing that while his Sunday’s may seem ordinary to others, but to him they are nothing short of extraordinary, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Amanda’s speech focused on two very similar events that have radically shaped her life over the past 4 years. Her story began in May 2014, when she was incredibly excited to be completing the 8th grade and moving into High School. After an athletics event at another school, everything changed when she injured her leg while running. A short while later she learned that her ACL had been torn. This would require surgery and intense physical therapy to overcome. While the recovery was tough, Amanda was always inspired by the people around her. They helped her push through the difficulty and make an incredible recovery. Every milestone was meaningful and she learned much from the experience. However, the last thing she anticipated was going through the process again just 2 years later, when in 2016, she tore her ACL again during soccer season. Despite the feeling of “de ja vu,” she once again committed herself to her recovery. This time however, she strove to be the example for others that she had looked to during her first recovery. She helped other patients overcome the difficult therapy, and ultimately came away from the experience feeling like she had given back for all the help she herself had received. She closed by saying that even though the road was hard, she had learned so much from these experiences and she was grateful for what they had given her.
For Boris, the concept of home is something he has given a great deal of thought to. He began by explaining that he was born in Gabon and that he was a loud and energetic child who loved his home life and family. However, due to his father’s position at the United Nations, his family often moved, and was sometimes separated. In 2004 his father moved to New York. Boris, his two brothers and his mother would visit his mother’s family in Cameroon but he continued to miss his father. In 2006, Boris and the rest of his family moved to New York where they were all together. While he was happy about this, Boris missed his home in Gabon with its markets and his friends. He spoke no English and was often frustrated, returning home from school in tears. When Boris joined the Waldorf School of Garden City in 5th grade he received a warm reception and was instantly comfortable, but another move loomed as his father’s transfer was inevitable. When the time came, Boris did not want to give up yet another home and he actively petitioned his parents to allow him to stay. His efforts worked and Boris remained while his family moved out of the country. However, being apart from his family proved to be a bigger challenge than he expected and Boris had to shift his perception of home once again. During this time, Boris contemplated his identity, reconnected with his African roots and realized that home can be defined in many different ways. In the end, Boris explained how he has grown to appreciate the fact that he now has multiple homes that he cherishes and he also is looking forward to his next big move when he attends Yale University in the fall.
Bea began by explaining that throughout the course of her education, she has so far attended 10 different schools in 4 cities. From Brooklyn to Ithaca then back to the Waldorf School of Garden City on Long Island, Bea’s educational experiences have run the gamut from public to private to home school. However, the thread that connects her experiences together is how nature and experiential learning has been consistently infused into her days and has kept her grounded through even the most difficult aspects of adolescence and beyond. She credits these experiences, and specifically her trips to Glen Brook, with her ability to collaborate and work as a team toward a common goal. Another activity that requires group effort is also a highlight in Bea’s education–musical theater. Bea discovered of her love of music and theater along the way and has participated in theatrical productions and choirs at many of the Schools she attended. Bea is grateful for her diverse educational background and is now eager to see where the future will take her.