Whitney Schroeder is the class valedictorian of MVRHS. She gave this speech as part of the graduation ceremony on Sunday.

Welcome students, faculty, friends and family. First and foremost, one fact that you should know about me is that I am a lover of math. Proof of this lies within the pages of my third grade diary, where, instead of talking about which boys I liked and what I did at recess, I solved math problems. Addition, subtraction, complex fractions, you name it — it is all there. Clearly, I have had a passion for calculations for a long time, but even I can appreciate that grades and GPA are merely numbers, and therefore the words I am about to say are not drawn from calculations, but from the experiences our class has shared. I’ve drawn on these experiences from both within and outside of the classroom, for there are lessons to be learned all around us.

When we entered through the doors of MVRHS four years ago, there were many things we did not yet know. We didn’t know what really goes on inside a high school classroom or what the teachers were going to be like. We didn’t know, for example, about Mr. McCarthy’s amazing Martian impression or about Mr. Joyce’s rule that you have to do twenty-five push-ups if you throw something and it doesn’t land in the trash. I, for one, was definitely not expecting to do a total of 125 push-ups in my freshman Biology class. We didn’t know that the beautiful plant in Ms. Hennigan’s classroom would end up shriveled by midyear due to lack of water. And most tragic of all, we didn’t know that having a short conversation with Mr. Sharkovitz just isn’t possible.

Now, as seniors, we have the ability to learn valuable lessons from each of these examples if we are eager and willing to see them. From Mr. McCarthy’s Martian impression, we can learn that even the smallest and weirdest of voices can resonate with others, so we should never be afraid to speak our minds. From Mr. Joyce’s push-up rule, we can learn that every action has a consequence for better or worse. From the comeback of that one plant in Ms. Hennigan’s room, we can learn that all forms of life can rise from difficult circumstances and come back stronger and better than before. And from Shark’s long conversations, we can learn that there is always something more to be discussed and that digging deeper can elucidate ideas that we had never even considered.

Distinguished author, anthropologist and activist Zora Neale Hurston once said, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

We arrived at MVRHS with millions of questions. Would we ever find our way around the school without the help of a map or upperclassman? Would we be able to break out of our middle school groups and make new friends? Would we follow the status quo or forge our own paths? As we sit here as seniors, we can feel confident in knowing that we were able to seek and find the answers to these questions.

It is important to now consider the questions that lie before us as we begin a new chapter of our lives. We are faced with questions about college majors, career paths, relationships and leaving home for the first time. These questions may be daunting at the moment, but we should have faith in the fact that the answers are out there, ready for us to walk towards them. We must approach these questions with an open mind, for this is how a simple Martian impression can be viewed as either a funny joke or a powerful declaration of justice. The answers are all around us, but it is how we approach them that matters most.

Class of 2017, I’d like to pose to you the same question many of us were asked on our first day of freshman year: Does the world shape us, or do we shape the world? As freshmen, we may have not been able to consider this question as deeply as we can now. As we sit here ready to graduate, I ask you to please reconsider it. Some people may be thinking that the answer is obvious — since the world is more powerful, it must be shaping us. But this is not necessarily true.

We all have the power to choose how we perceive certain situations. It is not easy to draw on this power, but if we are open-minded, curious, and willing to embrace new ideas, our paths will slowly but surely unfold before us. We must ask questions and seek their answers with diligence.

The journey towards these answers begins with the small influences we can have on one another. Whether we know it or not, we have all impacted our community and its members in some way, and we must continue to do so.

I recently asked various members of our faculty to tell me one word that best describes our class. I would like to now show you what they said. Faculty members, if you are holding a sign, would you kindly stand, and hold it high. As you can see, the signs include words such as: driven, resilient, spunky, adaptable, committed and passionate. So, Class of 2017, look around, look at the people we have affected, look at the positive impact we have had. We are all leaving a legacy, and we have all shaped the world in some way. It has been an honor to stand before you and recognize our class today.

Thank you and congratulations.