Our class of 2017 is the last class of high schoolers that was born completely in the 20th century. When we were born, a Clinton was in the White House, and Y2K was a looming disaster. A young pop star named Britney Spears had just released a song called “Hit me Baby One More Time,” and frosted tips still seemed like a good idea. The average cost of a Big Mac was $2.50 and the average cost of a university tuition was $3,300. Baby photos were taken not on phones, but on cameras that used something called ‘film.’ A world that was pre 9/11, pre-smartphones, pre-social media, and pre every student being given an Ipad. A lot has changed since 1999.
However, despite everything that is different, there are some things that stay the same no matter what.
For instance, the feeling everyone in this room had walking in the first day of high school, nervous, excited, entering a new building where we expected every high school cliche to be awaiting, watching the cool upperclassmen stride around like they owned the place. The feeling on the first day of school of this year, when we realized we were now those upperclassmen, although the ‘cool’ part remains up for debate. The memories of every activity or event: football games under the lights, trying to come up with creative outfits for every themed sporting event, the excitement of getting all done up for homecoming or prom.
Of course, the day to day rigors of a high school education haven’t changed either: trudging in through the main hallway at no faster than a shuffle, tired and dreading the oncoming day. Weekends debating why everything in this area is closed by 8 p.m., and resorting once again to loitering around the Giant Eagle parking lot. Still, there were always classes to make the day bearable, teachers who could make anything exciting, times with people who could make anything funny in the way that only people you’ve known most of your life can.
Naturally, those people may be what we remember most. Teachers that talked to us like adults, who were funny, who made us feel like our opinion mattered. Friends and acquaintances who have stuck with us through our worst times and best, who have grown with us and helped us grow, and we’ve known so long that a world without them seems foreign.
All of these things are important, but I want us to remember the small things too, the little details that remain so constant we take them for granted, that make Bainbridge and Auburn our home, the moments and feelings that are hard to put into words. For instance: the eerie glow of the school hallways early in the morning or late at night; coming home to the smell of dinner; driving around with friends listening to embarrassing music, singing like no one can hear you; the pink and orange of the sunrise over the school each morning; the maple tree you used to climb as a kid; your parents and siblings only a short drive away; the smell of a summer bonfire clinging to your shirt; speeding down green country roads in the summer, your favorite song playing, the windows down.
There are a million things we take for granted for their seemingly permanent nature, and in several months, many of those things will disappear. We have changed–are changing–as much as the outside world ever will. Nonetheless, like those before us we will walk out of those doors in under an hour, proud Kenston alumni, and enter the next chapter of our lives in an attempt to prove the worth of ourselves and our generation.
As the time draws nearer for us to walk across that stage and share our final experience as a high school class, as this final summer ends, as we all face that scary future known as adulthood, I will make no assumptions as to what will happen to the wider world or to us. But, if I’ve learned anything over the past eighteen years, I know that we, the class of 2017, are up to any challenge thrown at us. And while we may stumble and misstep, I know that all of us will recover from those mistakes, because each of us has the capacity for greatness beyond any of our wildest dreams. I can say for sure that the world will continue to change, but now, we will be a driving force in that change ourselves. I thank you for being my classmates, and I can’t wait to see us all change the world.