Students, families and friends attending the William Mason High School Class of 2016’s graduation ceremony were treated to two powerful speeches by the class Valedictorian and Salutatorian during the school’s commencement ceremony on May 22.
The Valedictorian is Alvin Zhang. Zhang, of Mason, is the son of Jiachun Zhang and Yinxia Lin. He plans to study engineering or mathematics and will attend The Ohio State University.
The humble Zhang shared three important lessons he learned at Mason: Live a more carefree life, Don't be afraid, and Be thankful.
"If I had the opportunity to go through high school again - I wouldn’t take it. But if I were absolutely forced to do it over, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to become valedictorian. I regret spending the countless hours locked up in my room doing homework, enduring tireless nights of reading an entire chapter from APUSH and possibly, this speech.I truly wish I could replace all that time with meeting more people and making new friends, doing more community service, discovering passions, and basically doing anything that would make me happier than studying just for a better grade."
The Salutatorian is Amith Rao. Rao, of Mason, is the son of Ragesh and Latha Rao. He is enrolled in the six-year BS/MD NEOMED program at Northeast Ohio Medical University.
Rao encouraged his classmates to go forward and achieve their dreams.
"Some of you are probably extremely excited, ready to slam this chapter of life shut and begin a new one. Others of you are probably sad, unwilling to let go of the deep friendships you’ve cultivated over these four years. However you feel, it is important to note that this is only the beginning. There’s at least about half a century of life left for all of us. The passions that you always wished to pursue in life are now open for you to pursue."
Valedictorian Alvin Zhang’s speech
As I awoke to brighter and brighter mornings throughout the past few weeks, I began to feel a sense of uneasiness, knowing my life as a high school student was dwindling down, day by day. No, I don’t remember my first day of high school as if it were yesterday, mostly because of how traumatizing that day was – I recall being lost in the large commons for 10 minutes trying to find D pod and painfully sitting alone on the bus and at lunch.
But now that high school has come and gone, I can honestly say despite my negative experiences, there were plenty of positives. I will miss the most important parts of high school like forming memorable moments with friends, serving the community together, learning to become better leaders, and I will miss the little joys like Primetime days, taco salad, and the times we collectively hoped for snow days – or even a power outage.
All of us have come so far, struggled so intensely, and achieved so much. And to think that after tirelessly climbing the ranks of freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior, most of us will be back to being mere freshmen, having to start the cycle all over again.
I find it ironic that out of the 868 amazingly talented students in our class, the quiet Asian nerd who spends life studying in his room all day gets the honor of delivering the final address. Let me assure you that just because I’m up here, I am by no means a student role model -
I’m a chronic procrastinator
I’m extremely socially awkward
and I’ve even received a Friday Night School once for pantsing someone in middle school.
So hopefully what you will get out of this speech is advice to not do a lot of the things I did, and keep in mind that any advice I do give is probably not the most credible.
With that being said, I’d like to share with you the three most impactful lessons I’ve learned at Mason.
So number 1 – live a more carefree life, which might include caring less about school. Grades aren’t everything in high school. Off the top of your head, can you remember your final grade, to two decimal places, of your sixth period class? Probably not.
If I had the opportunity to go through high school again - I wouldn’t take it. But if I were absolutely forced to do it over, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to become valedictorian.
I regret spending the countless hours locked up in my room doing homework, enduring tireless nights of reading an entire chapter from APUSH and possibly, this speech.
I truly wish I could replace all that time with meeting more people and making new friends, doing more community service, discovering passions, and basically doing anything that would make me happier than studying just for a better grade.
So unless you are truly passionate in what you study, I don’t think overworking yourself for better grades is worth it. For those of you going off to college, know that grades are obviously important, but remember there are so many other things that you should value more than grades.
On with number 2 – don’t be afraid! I'm a hypocrite for saying all of this, but
don’t be afraid to speak up
don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone
don’t be afraid of what others think of you
don’t be afraid to pursue an impossible dream
don’t be afraid to fail
don’t be afraid of the future
and don’t ever experience regretting an opportunity just because you were too scared.
And lastly, number 3 – be thankful.
it’s your parents who have put up 18 years with you (and possibly more after college)
or a buddy who has picked you up when you were down
or a teacher who has impacted how you think
or a friend who says "hi" to you everyday
be gracious for all the people who have had a positive impact on your life.
When you walk up here today to get your diploma, I hope you will think of the people who you couldn’t have made it here without.
Before I say my final words, I would like to thank those who have accompanied me during my journey.
For providing a prospering learning environment and instilling their knowledge onto us, thank you to the wonderful administration and devoted teachers.
For giving me useless instructions on how to write a graduation speech, thank you to wikiHow.com.
For being a second family to me, thank you to my Science Olympiad team.
For all the memorable moments and laughs, and making high school less painful, thank you to my closest friends.
For food, shelter, and money, and basically everything, thank you to my parents.
For being the most understanding person that I can always share my feelings with, thank you to my sister.
And thank you, to all of you, for being who you are.
Class of 2016, I wish you well. Congratulations!
Salutatorian Amith Rao’s speech
Slim Shady himself once said “The truth is you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.” Walking into this school for the 1st time few years ago,a crazy ride was pretty much a fantasy. I’d heard stories about the sheer size and breadth of MHS, and felt that my ride would end most probably in a fiery explosion. My parents had beat to death (figuratively) the importance of high school into my brain and I felt that one misstep would result in a lifetime of failure. I was weak, timid, and very frightened and unprepared for what would happen tomorrow.
As the years passed, I began to grow into my own person, tossing aside my feeling of inadequacy and replacing it with resolve. I survived the awkward pubescent underclassman years, the jarring change from trimesters to semesters, and falling asleep during the Writing OGT and forgetting to do the last essay. What I thought would be 4 years of utter torture, hard work, and death turned into 4 years of comfort. The unchanging routine of MHS became a sanctuary to me. Outside the walls of MHS there was uncertainty, chaos, and unpredictability. Global terrorism and ISIS were major threats, police brutality afflicted various cities, and diseases like Zika and Ebola became global health issues. So many issues plagued the world, and I was powerless to do anything about them. Inside the walls, however, I felt peace. The change of class bell would always ring 3 times, then cut off randomly on the 4th ring. The guy on the announcements would always tell me I was a camper. The price of flaming hot cheetos at lunch would always continue to rise year after year, even if i wasn’t getting any richer. The impending fiery explosion I had envisioned as a freshman quickly became a manageable, if not entirely comfortable ride.
Here we stand, or sit i guess for all of you, only a few speeches and 890 names away from finally being done. Some of you are probably extremely excited, ready to slam this chapter of life shut and begin a new one. Others of you are probably sad, unwilling to let go of the deep friendships you’ve cultivated over these 4 years. However you feel, it is important to note that this is only the beginning. There’s at least about half a century of life left for all of us. The passions that you always wished to pursue in life are now open for you to pursue. As Slim said, nothing is guaranteed in life. You don’t know if that internship opportunity is the only one you’re ever going to get. You don’t know if you’ll get into a medical school and become a successful doctor. You don’t know if you’ll get on Wall Street. The only thing you do know is that you have the tools to achieve these goals. We’ve all learned from our time here how to survive in a group. We’ve all learned how to stand up for ourselves and our beliefs. And most importantly, we’ve learned that nothing is ever given, and everything is taken, whether it be in the classroom or on the field. I have full faith that all of you will be takers as you move forward in life, and do everything necessary to achieve your dreams.
Before I let the real slim shady stand up and give his speech, I’d like to thank some of the people who have made my life just a little brighter these past 4 years. To my friends and family, thanks for guiding me and helping me through all my problems. To the entire staff at MHS and all the counselors, thanks for giving me an education and getting me into college. Thank you Dr. Gail Kist Kline for saving us from all the horrible inclement weather even though we all really wanted to go to school. And finally, I would like to say thanks and congratulations to the Class of 2016. We made it.