WHS Assistant Principal Greg Theriault: “Our next speaker has also maintained a 4.0 GPA during her four years in an academically rigorous program. Her academic efforts have earned her a number of awards, including PTSA book awards in mathematics, social studies and French, as well as the Princeton book award. She also earned the distinction of being named a National Merit Scholarship inalist and has the honor of being a candidate for the Presidential Scholars program.
“Her teachers acknowledge her work ethic, her kindness, her humility, and her positive influence on all aspects of the classroom community.
“This co-valedictorian has served in leadership roles for a number of co-curricular activities, including service as president of our mock trial team and our National French Honor Society, and as a member of the student government executive board. She’s also been a ballet dancer since the age of three and dedicated significant time each week pursuing this personal passion at the pre-professional level. And of course, we all remember her more public roles as a presenter and producer on the ‘Morning Warrior’ news program, including her year as the host of the regular ‘Principal’s Corner’ segment. This student currently plans to study political silence, dance, or physics at Haverford in the fall. I am pleased to welcome Avery Baumel to the podium.”
Avery Baumel: “A few months ago in the midst of college admissions, I was crying in Ms. [unclear]’s room, as one does. And as we talked about my situation, I explained that my first impression of one college had been awful. She looked up at me, smiling, and said, ‘Maybe that’s your story.’
“It was one of those moments that didn’t seem incredibly important when it happened, but later I couldn’t stop thinking about it and remembering those words, ‘Maybe that’s your story.’ I was faced with an obstacle and instead of telling me to accept it or to find a path around it or to move on, she was telling me that I could embrace it. I could define it in any way I wanted, big or small, a passing moment or a lasting memory. It could be my story or not. That decision was up to me. Because ultimately we get to choose which moments we embrace and which ones we pass over.
“And as a class, we have had a lot of those decisions to make. Our four years have not been normal or easy. We’ve been faced with so many obstacles. We’ve heard the word ‘unprecedented’ an unprecedented amount of times. But we’re here! We made it to this moment that we’ve imagined and feared and dreamed about. We made it through a world that seemed to change every day. We created and accepted new definitions for school and for normal.
“What comes next is entirely up to us. As we move forward, we have the chance and the gift to define who we are and to define every step along the way, because we are in charge of our own stories. We can rewrite the meaning of the word ‘obstacle.’ During summer, I know that most of us will redefine what an acceptable wake-up time is.
“But seriously, there is so much that we haven’t been able to change throughout it all. We have found ways to make the best out of our situations — or we haven’t. And we’ve written those moments into our stories too. We’ve turned failures into successes, grief into remembrance, and pain into joy.
“And I know that for all of us, these four years mean something different in the context of our lives. Maybe this is the prologue. Maybe it’s the fourth chapter or a footnote, the climax or a single page. I do know that I can’t wait to find out.
“So thank you, all of you — the students and the parents, the teachers, and the custodians, the administrators, and those behind the cameras. Thank you for being a part of someone’s story. And thank you for being a part of mine.”