By MOLLY BERINATO
Good morning students, faculty, staff, family and friends. Thank you all for coming to celebrate with us.
And to the Class of 2023, take it all in! We did it! You all deserve the deepest congratulations.
I am younger sibling. An one thing I’ve learned about being a younger sibling is that, in some cases, you grow up with two names. You have your own name, and you have you older sibling’s name.
So, for 18 years now, I’ve listened to friends, teachers and, yes, even my own parents call me “Emily!” when, in fact, that’s my older sister. My name is Molly.
As any younger sibling knows, this can get pretty old, especially when they say, “You just look so similar.” (We don’t). But you do get used to it. The first time it happens, I might correct the person. The second time, I’ll probably roll my eyes. But the third time, I give up and just answer to her name. Truthfully though — I never actually minded the comparison. In fact, I think it’s a compliment.
After all, my sister is my beacon and my best friend, and while I hope that the name on the diploma says Molly and not Emily, I know that I am standing sphere giving this speech today in large part because of her wise words, which have guided me through high school.
Almost exactly four years ago today, I watched Emily walk across the same stage. She was leaving high school as I was entering, and on the day of her graduation, she gave me a book of advice for my time at Wakefield High. She called it “The Four Year Plan.” For the next few minutes I would like to share some of that advise from Emily that helped me survive high school.
The advice in The Four Year Plan covered every aspect of high school. It ranged from “when you get to Crash Corner, duck your head and plough through,” to how important it was for us to win our gym class’s volleyball tournament, to how “the history hall bathroom has the best mirror for taking pictures.”
Clearly all the vital information someone would need for school.
But, of all the advice big and small in this book, I think about one page the most. A page with only one phrase on it, in simple black letters:
“It’s about the people.”
Back then I skimmed past this page pretty quickly. After all, I was a 14-year-old girl and as many of you know — parents and teachers in particular — 14-year-old girls know just about everything. I had friends. I planned on joining activities and playing sports. And I had lived in Wakefield my whole life with many of you here today. At the time, I cared more about how on Earth I was going to get form history hall to English hall in a five minute passing period.
“It’s about the people” felt like a cheesy sentiment, one that I could disregard entering the 9th grade.
But now, as we all proudly gather here today to celebrate our accomplishments over these past four years, I do think I understand better what my sister meant. And I believe it’s a lesson we can all take to heart as we enter the next adventure of our lives.
Yes, we have learned lots of facts in high school. And we’ve gained incredible amounts of knowledge. We’ve dedicated ourselves to extracurricular activities. We have worked so hard and planned so much to et to this point. For me, I’ve had a meticulous plan for how I wanted school to go and what I thought would come next.
And yet I’m standing here today, comfortable saying to you that I don’t know what the coming years have in store.
But I’m okay with the uncertainty, because of the people around me who have supported me and helped me realize how much more there is to learn.
And helped me understand that it’s okay to be uncertain. We all are. And it’s okay.
I am okay with the uncertainty because over the last four years certain people, my best friends, have taught me to have fun in the moment — to know what true joy feels like as we drive around Lake Quannapowitt singing our favorite songs.
I am okay with the uncertainty because other people, my favorite teachers, have shown me what it means to fall in love with learning — even subjects like history and physics — two subjects I would have avoided at all costs four years ago.
I am okay with the uncertainty because for the last four years, my family members — the most important people in my life — have shown their support at every band competition, lacrosse game, or school event.
I have learned about friendship, dedication and sacrifice — not from a textbook, but from those people I have leaned on for the last four years.
It’s about the people.
It is from spending so much time with this wonderful group of people in front of me — the Class of 2023, the faculty, family and friends — that I have learned the value of listening. That hearing another person’s perspective is sometimes better than sharing my own. I have learned that school is about more than classes. That memorizing that extra formula is important, but it shouldn’t overshadow the equally important experience of being in the Red Sea as the Warriors win another Friday night football game.
And I have learned that you can make plans, but you shouldn’t expect to always follow them. Life will be unexpected. We don’t know what’s in store for us in what the adults keep calling “the real world.”
But we should find comfort in what we do know: that we have people around us to help us conquer the bad days and celebrate the good ones.
It’s about the people.
Look around you, Class of 2023. Look at the people next to you, the ones in front of you, and those behind you. These are the people who shaped you. Be grateful, and make them proud.
I don’t recognize the person I was entering freshman year, the one reading my sister’s Four Year Plan, because the people here today changed me for the better. And I no longer mind when someone calls me Emily instead of Molly, because that is a reflection of the way that my role model, one of my people, shaped me.
I wish I could stand up here and give you the Cliff’s Notes to the next chapters in your lives. But, unlike the classes we’ve taken, life doesn’t have a study guide to go with it.
Instead, the best cheat sheet I can give you is to remind you that the answers are sitting here with you today.
I am here to tell you, Class of 2023, that you know a lot more than you did four years ago, but you are just scratching the surface. Do not let the uncertainty of the future scare you or get you down. It is wonderful to have reached this point. Now, never stop growing and never stop learning. Wherever you go after today, you still have so much to explore and gain.
And it will still be about the people. The people here today, yes, but also a world full of new people with new perspectives whom you will meet.
I hope that someday, you will reminisce about this day with all of the people in your life, and marvel at just how far you’ve come. Appreciative of your past and enthusiastic for your future.
Congratulations Class of 2023, we did it! But this is just the start.