Administrators, teachers, family, friends, and distinguished guests – good evening and welcome to the Melrose High School Class of 2024 graduation! My name is Jaya Karamcheti, and I am honored to be this year’s valedictorian.

Before I start, I’d like to say a few thank yous to the people who have made it possible for me to stand before you today. First, thank you to my family. You have never told me there was anything I couldn’t do or couldn’t be, and it is this mindset that has allowed me to achieve what I have thus far. I am blessed to have you in my life. Thank you to my teachers, who have put so much time and effort into educating me and every student at MHS and taught us lessons beyond just English and mathematics. Thank you to the administrators, who care so deeply about each and every student. I’ll never forget watching Mr. Merrill sprint into the school to find me a pair of crutches after my infamous Powder Puff accident. And of course, thank you and congratulations to the Class of 2024. You are the most wonderful collection of people I have ever met, and I am lucky to have shared these past four years with you.

If you asked me my grade on an assignment, I could probably tell you. In fact, even if you put every homework assignment, quiz, and test I’ve taken this year into a hat and pulled one out at random, I’d say there’s an 80% chance I could correctly guess my score. That was how I lived from freshman year to April of this year, hyper-aware of one thing and one thing only – school. If you lined up every one of those approximately one thousand three hundred seventy days, I don’t think there was one where I didn’t think about college applications or becoming valedictorian.

You would think that with this mindset, I would have had some sort of heart attack when I was told I was valedictorian this April. But I didn’t. In fact – and no shade to Mr. Merrill and Ms. LoGrasso, who told me the news – I don’t remember what they said, or what I said, at all. I remember being happy, and then some sort of wave falling over me and all of that washing away. Life felt completely and utterly the same.

As I was writing this speech, I spent a lot of time reflecting on that feeling, and I eventually came to this conclusion. Yes, I was happy. Yes, I was proud of myself. But this one moment wasn’t the moment that changed my life and made my time in Melrose so special. It was the “little things,” the present moments that defined and continue to define my high school experience.

And this doesn’t appear to be a perspective that only I share. I asked my fellow students about their favorite high school moments, and I’d like to read some of them to you.

Dunkin’ runs before school, a quintessential MHS experience. Long runs with the cross-country team. Morning meet-ups in Ms. Edsall’s room. Getting dismissed (valid). Randomly seeing Tinker in the hallways. Getting yelled at for laughing too loudly during class (I second this one). Temporarily becoming best friends with your group for a group project. Sitting at the high-top tables in the Learning Commons with friends. Competing with people for the best spot at the Knoll.

None of these moments are big achievements, even though we’ve all had those. But they are what has made our time at MHS what it is. Think of a novel, oftentimes described by only its biggest plot points. You could read the Spark Notes, as I know we’ve all done countless times, but then you’d miss out on the beauty of every little chapter, every little paragraph, every little sentence, every little word.

As graduating seniors, we are frequently asked the question, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” In ten years, I don’t know where I’ll be, or what I’ll be doing, and to put it quite frankly, that’s terrifying. But I do know this. In ten years, I won’t remember my GPA down to the thousandth of a decimal point. I won’t be able to recite all of my AP Econ test grades in chronological order. I won’t have my morning meeting schedule memorized or know exactly how many times I stayed up until two in the morning reading a book for AP Lit (although I will know it was a lot). But I will remember all the conversations I had in the hallways, the inside jokes I shared with my classmates, the friendships, big and small, that brought joy to my days. I’ll remember eating lunch outside when the weather was warm, Blooket and Jeopardy! games, and sunrise runs. These moments – not any achievement – are what I’ll miss most, and I only wish I had a little more time to soak them up.

I’d like to end with a quote from someone who has arguably shaped our high school experience the most – Taylor Swift.  “For there were pages turned, with the bridges burned, everything you lose is a step you take. So, make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it, you’ve got no reason to be afraid.” As we enter this next chapter of our lives, I urge you to be kind, treasure every moment, and never lose sight of your dreams. Who knows – they might just come true. Thank you for everything, MHS; I would not be me without you. Congratulations to the Class of 2024!