Sixteen days ago I was in Mr. Brissette’s room and had the pleasure of putting the final touches on my last drawing. Even though the lines turned out to be straight, I’m pretty sure I was shaking because I had been anticipating that moment for four years. I was more than excited. It was my last Friday ever, my last day of classes. I had finished every single assignment that needed to be done. High school was over for me, save the daunting task of writing this speech. I thought it would require me to deeply think about the purpose of education, or click through Google for inspirational quotes, or dig up some sentimental memories of high school to plague my classmates with nostalgia.

But all I can do is stand here and tell you what I know. And what I know is that there are 156 of us in purple or white here today, and we all went to the same high school. We all have experienced different things, seen different places, heard different stories, thought different thoughts, and laughed with different friends. We all approached high school differently. We all tried to define ourselves over the past four years or figure out who in the world we were, and we all were motivated in different ways to get us here today. Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School is our commonality. From here we are headed in 156 different directions; 156 different life paths await us.

This is a big day for all of us. It’s the last time we’ll all be under the same roof, the last time we are obligated to attend an MVRHS function, and the last time we are high school students. But getting here was not one big event. It consisted of innumerable little moments. All our little actions, little thoughts, little desires, little experiences, little judgments, little feelings; they add up. Early in each of our educations, we were presented with a little lesson on the alphabet and progressed from there. So today, to conclude a leg of our educational journey and prepare us for the next part, I give you an alphabet of advice to live by, for all the little things we should appreciate or adhere to:

Awareness, Balance; Curiosity, Determination, Exploration, Forgiveness, Guidance, Honesty, Integrity, Joy, Kindness, Love, Motivation, Nonviolence, Opportunity, Patience, Quality, Respect, Sincerity, Truth, Understanding, Value, Wonder, Excellence, and Zeal.

So finally, congratulations. We’ve probably all heard that word a lot in the last few weeks. It has leaked endlessly from the lips of our adoring parents, or our proud teachers on the last day of class, or maybe an envious underclassman or two who wish they were on summer vacation also. So to spare the graduates from “congratulations” overkill, I turned to my handy, dandy friend, the thesaurus. To the parents and relatives and friends listening, I’m going to quickly feed you some thesaurus-generated greetings you can say when we file out of here. You can say, “Cheers, brava, kudos, well-done, or mazel tov.” You may want to tell one of us, “This is an achievement you have truly earned,” or, “You’ve made me proud.” My personal favorite is, “Way to go,” because the last few weeks, or days, or even just hours that have led up to the conclusion of our senior year truly represent a fantastic way for us all to go.

Forest Gump told us, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” We may not know what lies ahead of us, but I can tell you that we are not afraid to eat that chocolate.


Maya Harcourt is class essayist for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 2012. This speech was delivered at graduation last Sunday.