Class of 2021 Valedictory and Salutatory Addresses

Cecilia Barras, Class of 2021 Valedictorian

"Good evening friends, family, faculty, my fellow graduates of the Class of 21, and of course, everyone watching the livestream from home. It is truly an honor to be able to speak to you on behalf of the Macs of 21. I can’t believe it has been 13 years since I first stepped onto this campus and told my parents it looked like Hogwarts. If you had told little Kindergarten Cecilia that I’d be up at this podium giving a speech to the whole class at graduation, I either wouldn’t have believed you or would have been terrified at the idea. But I’ve changed a lot since then, growing in confidence, and also in a way, growing up with Ursuline, so this seems like a fitting end to my time as an Ursuline student. Of course I never could have gotten here on my own, and I’m sure most of you feel the same way, so I’d like to take a moment to thank the people who have helped us along this journey. 

First, I’d like to thank our families for supporting us and pushing us to develop into the successful, well-rounded adults that you knew we could be. Your love and sacrifices made this possible; because let’s be honest, Ursuline tuition isn’t cheap, but you knew it was worth it for us to get a high quality education in such a close-knit, loving community. 

Next I’d like to thank our faculty and staff. We may have complained about difficult tests and lengthy homework assignments, but at the end of the day, we wouldn’t have become the people we are today without you. You pushed us, but you also stepped back and gave us the room to develop our independence, both of which have prepared us to face the challenges ahead. On behalf of my class, let me say that we will miss you immensely and we will hold tightly to the lessons you’ve taught us in our coming college years. 

Last, but of course not least, I would like to thank my fellow classmates. I don’t think I could have made it this far, especially in these last two years, without the incredible support from all of you. I remember a teacher last year saying that Ursuline students have a reputation for standing up to their teachers and administration when they feel something is wrong or unjust, that we’re not afraid to speak our mind. That’s one of the many things I love about this class, our strong, independent attitude. You’re also all incredibly talented, smart, funny, and incredible at adapting to new situations. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to pull off rally under this year’s strange and difficult circumstances, but we did it. Even if we had to change our songs at the last minute, everyone rolled with it and we had a great time, which is what really matters. And our poster and mascots looked amazing, so, shoutout to the poster and mascot committees for their incredible work!

We’ve had to put up with a lot of change during our time at Ursuline, especially in these last two years. I’m sure you don’t want to hear me complain about COVID, but I think it’s important to address how well we all adapted (students and teachers) to going online last spring, and continuing through the very turbulent half online, half in person learning at the beginning of this year. As we all know, it wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t something we wanted to have to deal with in our last year in high school, but we rolled with the punches and pushed through. 

If there’s one thing that we can take away from these last few turbulent years, it’s the importance of staying flexible and adapting to new situations as they arise. In a way, everything we’ve had to go through in the last two years was like a “vaccine” for the change and uncertainty we’re bound to experience as we leave Ursuline.  I think that the speed, flexibility, and persistence with which we responded to all the changes thrown at us proves that we are more than ready for this big shift into college life. 

The unknown can be scary, as can be big changes in our lives, but they can also hold promise and hope. As American author and journalist Gail Sheehy once said, 'If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living.' I can’t wait to see how we  grow as we diverge onto the diverse, twisting, and changing paths of life. Thank you."

Sophie Chevis, Class of 2021 Salutatorian

"Good evening and welcome fellow graduates, faculty, family, and distinguished guests. Before I begin, I would like to thank a few people for a few things: 

I want to extend my utmost gratitude to the faculty and staff of Ursuline, as well as the friends and families watching this graduation ceremony today. Without you all, this year would not have been possible. We are so incredibly lucky and grateful to have teachers and faculty who want the best for us, and will do as much as they can to put us on the path to success. Our families and friends have put forth so much to support us, to push us through till the very end.

And of course, I would like to thank my classmates. This speech is dedicated to you all, and the last handful of years we have spent together. 

I understand that we’ve been told to stay positive, to focus on the good things; however, let’s not ignore the obvious: this year, and I’ll also include last year, have been very trying for all parties involved. I’m not here to tell you that this year was the perfect senior year - it certainly was not, I’m sure we can all agree. I will be honest with you all - I felt a little lost when attempting to compose something to say that was worth your time, something that hasn’t already been said before. 

What I will say is this, because I believe that it is imperative to highlight in our potentially last moments together in this building: Everything that was thrown at us, every hardship we encountered, we took in stride. In spite of everything, we have finished high school in an incredible way.  Many friends I have spoken to have made personal bests in terms of academic, athletic, and artistic achievements this year. We did this all while juggling college applications, heavy workloads, the notorious senioritis- what we have accomplished this year alone is nothing short of amazing. 
 
And the accomplishments don’t begin in 2021- from our maybe clumsy, awkward 8th grade days to the rise and fall of our junior year, we’ve never stopped giving what we can, and making the most of what we have. Despite everything, I know that I will leave here with memories of fondness and nostalgia: the joy of finally, finally winning blue ribbons at Rally our junior year, the seemingly life-or-death (albeit ridiculous) senior sweater color decision, our impromptu water day on the last day of class, the fantastical disaster that was Lepbusters, our dearly, dearly missed flex mods- the list goes on, and I invite you to fill in the blanks. 

I understand that this is a bit cliché, but again, I feel like it should be said, so please hear me out- what I see before me is a room of strong, capable, intelligent people. People well equipped to continue out of high school into unfamiliar territory, and press on in the face of adversity. And while that is said in many graduation speeches, I feel that for our class, it rings true. 

We have a grand stretch of time ahead of us. I urge you all to have confidence that with the incredible gifts you all possess, you will make the absolute most of it. Thank you so much for everything, and I wish you all the best."
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