Dear Class of 2017,

The purpose of high school is straightforward. Having completed a primary education, the goal is to prepare students academically and personally for college and the real word.

High School in its most basic form is another step on the stairway to achieving our ambitions in life. It is what us social conformists must do in order to get a job, career, and live the lives we crave in our pursuit of happiness and the American dream.

To some, it could be the best four years of their lives, and to others, the worst. But at the end of the day, the general consensus of the reason we go to high school is to take that step.

This doesn’t mean, however, that graduating is not a great accomplishment. I realized this when I received a letter I wrote to myself in the 5th grade from my 5th grade teacher, Mrs Zecca. The date written on the letter was June 6th, 2010. Walking was the result of more than a decade of work in the wayne school system, and although there were rough patches for everyone, we pulled through.

I won’t lie and say I had an incredible high school experience, because as in most facets of life, there were a ton of ups and downs. But nonetheless, I feel truly blessed that I was able to attend Wayne Hills High School.

At graduation, I looked around at my peers as I waited to walk. I saw kids who I’ve known since I was 6 years old, who have accompanied me on every step of the journey leading up to last night. I saw kids I was lucky enough to get to know in high school, and I saw teachers that inspired and pushed me to graduate in the manner that I did.

But to truly understand how lucky I was to be a patriot, I had to look at myself. I recalled my freshman year, a boy entering high school with maybe more on his mind than others, yet still naive, careless but hardworking, and a bit ignorant. Now I feel that I’ve grown into adulthood as a mature, compassionate, driven, and resilient young man. I asked myself last night: how did I get to this point?

The answer, for the most part, was in the people surrounding me at commencement. So many, through good or bad, have taught me lessons I will unknowingly carry with me for the rest of my life. There are countless people that have profoundly impacted me as a person over these last four years, something I very much overlooked until yesterday. In truth, I spent a lot of high school questioning myself as a person, not liking who I was and searching to become something different. Now, as a graduate, I can say with conviction that I love who I am, and a lot of that comes down to the friends and teachers of Hills that told me I was good enough and that I had the potential to achieve what I put my mind to.

Mr. Shale, our commencement speaker, emphasized how much the world was in our hands now, and he’s right. This comes with bigger responsibility than any of us have encountered so far. Yet despite this, I know that all of us will be well prepared to take this on because of everything we, and Hills, have taught us over the past four years.

To the class of 2017, I say two things. If you have anything bad to say about Hills, ask yourself who you would be as a person had you gone somewhere else. And lastly, we are class filled of incredible talents and people. Go out, chase whatever it is that you love with the lessons Hills has taught you in mind, and one day look back at all you’ve accomplished knowing you were a Patriot.

With love,

Jake.