The Choices That Led Us To Graduation

by Cory Gill, Class of 2019 Valedictorian
Cory gave this speech at the Grade 12 Graduation ceremony on June 14, 2019.
Good afternoon teachers, parents, grandparents, dragged-along siblings, friends and of course, the Class of 2019. While I am extremely honoured to be chosen to represent this class, I can’t deny that I am pretty nervous. I know this not because of how I feel today, but because of the lack of sleep I’ve been getting just thinking of this speech. So while this while certainly be a sad day for most of you, I feel absolutely no shame in admitting that I’ll be grateful to have a couple hours of sleep back after this... although I’m sure most of you will as well after last night’s late-night Raps win.

While writing this speech I searched for some theme that could perhaps highlight all of our differences, but also unite us...and after much thought I arrived on the idea of choices. What I mean by this are the choices we made to arrive at this position in our life. These choices could have been small: the classes we chose, extra-curriculars we joined, sports we played...or large, like attending Crescent in the first place. The ultimate significance of these choices lies in how they brought us together. How they could unite so many different students with so many different personalities, interests, and backgrounds into a united grade...the Class of 2019. What I hope to share with you today is a brief, yet hopefully, insightful glimpse into our time at Crescent.

Before I begin, I would be remiss to not thank some people whose choices have in fact brought us to this day. First and foremost, our families. Whether it be driving us to school for 7:15 practices, attending school events, helping us with homework, signing us out of classes early this year, or watching us succeed and fail over and over, and no matter what, sticking by our sides – thank you.

To our teachers, the commitment to your job and the school allows us to carry on during our busiest and seemingly toughest times. It is hard to describe the impact you have had on our time here. You have chosen to go above and beyond. You have helped us no matter how we may have treated you or acted in your class, and beyond that, despite our best efforts, you have molded our minds and our characters into hopefully men you can be proud of. I know I will certainly miss things like Dr. Arendt discussing the profitability of the underground chicken fighting business in Louisiana, Mr. Bigaignon describing to us the benefits of going vegan, and, of course, Mr. Prosser keeping every conversation brief.

I couldn’t give a full round of thank-you’s without mentioning the facilities and lunch staff. Whether it be Abraham and the kitchen staff cooking up some killer desserts, facilities cleaning up the mountain of a mess that was our grad prank, or Pat continually yelling at us to get off the tables in the cafe, your work does not go unnoticed, so thank you.

The journey of the Class of 2019 started what seems like ages ago in 2008. Our class hit the ground running in the Lower School. We demonstrated our early leadership and organizational skills with our short-lived, yet spectacular, full-grade snowball fight in Grade 4, we made frequent trips to the Nurse’s office simply to get some free ginger ale, racked up some incomprehensibly large tabs at the Coyote’s Den and, thanks to Mr. Cranston’s two-litre pop math drill challenges in Grade 6, every student became exponentially better at mental math and in significantly worse health.

Nevertheless, our time in the Lower School was certainly special. It was here that many of the students in our Graduating Class formed the first of some life-long friendships, got to try their hand at brand new sports and clubs, and during these four years we were able to take the first steps on our journey as young men, making some of the first significant choices of our life and establishing the unique culture of our grade.

The arrival of around 40 new students in the Middle School brought with it a few challenges: whether it be not making the sports team you did in the Lower School, not being the smartest kid in the class anymore, or simply trying to find your new niche of friends.

Regardless of this, these new students brought another layer of great personalities and experiences to our grade, and as is the case with so many young boys, the Middle School was a time for, shall we say, “experimentation” – whether it be some students experimenting with a makeshift flamethrower during our Grade 7 BEAR Week, testing out the divided and unknown waters at our first dances with girls’ schools, or shredding our first air guitar. These two years were highly memorable for some, particularly the students, and very forgetful for others, mainly the teachers.

However, there were some highlights from these fast-paced two years: they certainly helped many of us learn more about ourselves, where we fit in with our grade, and what interests us. They were a great time to make new choices, experiment with new people and options, and they propelled us towards our final four years of high school.

We arrived in the Upper School scared, excited, nervous, and curious about what was to come next. While we thought of ourselves as Kings in Grade 8, we quickly fell to Joker status as we stepped into our first taste of this unknown part of the school. Whilst trying to keep up with far greater course work in the Upper School, Grade 9 opened the door to so many new opportunities for students: whether it be extra-curriculars, varsity sports, or brand new students – the start of the Upper School was very fast paced, and very eye-opening. The end of our Grade 9 year also brought with it our first taste of real exams. Some students – particularly those of some of the early French classes – were unable to grasp the weight of this challenge. I would say that we improved in this regard over the next couple of years, but given many students’ performances on this year’s exams, it’s tough to say.

In Grade 10 we started to feel far more comfortable in the Upper School, and the year flew by in a blast. Unfortunately, that same speed was not found during the eco-challenge BEAR week trip, where almost every grad was wishing for a faster arrival home.

I’m sure if you were to ask many students what their toughest year of the Upper School was, they would probably point to Grade 11. Our growing position as leaders of the school in robotics, business, and sports, coupled with rigorous and lengthy course work made for a stressful year for many – and the arrival of Mr. Jansen’s self-proclaimed “widow-maker” multiple choice questions certainly did not make it any easier.

The payoff, however, for our work this year came in Grade 12, where we received the single greatest gift ever at Crescent: the Grad lounge. A type of holy sanctuary only for Grads, filled with a constant stream of Family Guy, Super Smash Bros and other activities. To provide context for the parents and grandparents in the room, losing this space briefly at the beginning of the year could be compared to something like Trump losing access to his Twitter account.

Aside from this, our final year was filled with some spectacular moments. Whether it be hearing everyone scream like babies on the bungee jump at BEAR week, watching some amazing performances and exhibits at LUNA, beating Trinity at our final FNL and rushing the field, spoiling ourselves at our last Formal, building a slip n’ slide in the Upper School Loggia, or engaging in some festive traditions on our Grad Skip Day – thank you, Benji – our final year was certainly one to remember, and provided us with both some challenging and immensely rewarding final moments together.

I would like to leave you today with a story from my first day at Crescent: It was our first recess of the year, I didn’t know anyone prior to coming to the school, and at the time I was highly introverted, making it hard for me to make friends easily. I was exceptionally nervous that day and made even more so by the daunting task of having to ask someone to play kickball, soccer or some other game with them. Luckily, while I was awkwardly pacing around the field, one of my fellow future Grads asked if I wanted to join in playing a game. I was elated and relieved.

Looking back now, I can see why this small gesture of inclusion was so significant. It demonstrated to me why Crescent is so much different from other places and schools. Above all, everyone in the Crescent community cares for one another – we truly are a “Brotherhood”, and I am forever grateful for this portion of the Brotherhood for choosing to let that little shy kid in Grade 3 have his chance to feel welcomed in this school for 10 years.
   
As I mentioned before, we have been labelled as one of the more chaotic grades in recent memory – a title that may have been fitting. Four years ago during our Graduation from the Middle School, I said that I believe this title is a result of one of the things that have made us so unique: our passion. This passion extends across all that we do as a grade, and can be seen by just some of our accomplishments over the last two years: Varsity Basketball won the Crescent tournament last year and came second at CAIS this year, Varsity Hockey won the St. Pete’s and De Salle tournament, Senior Volleyball attended OFSAA the last two years, Senior Ultimate Frisbee were back-to-back champs, Senior Squash was second at CISAA the last two years, Senior Golf came second this year at CISAA, we have sent several OFSAA athletes for both Track & Field and Swimming, Varsity rugby won the Rothesay tournament and came second at CISAA this year, there were countless DECA placings both provincially and internationally, Robotics won the industrial design awards and made the division finals at worlds, we had multiple Model UN awards, back-to-back D2 basketball titles, spectacular drama productions, beautiful concerts and performances, amazing visual and media arts exhibits, incredible national math contest results, we engaged in numerous global and local outreach trips and initiatives…..and that is only scratching the surface of our time here.

While this devotion to each other may result in circumstances that do not always reflect favorably upon us, it is the reason we are such a tight-knit grade. Our differences don’t matter when it comes to our acceptance of one another as brothers. Our choices from our time as boys to men enabled us to get to this point, and hopefully, will jump start us together into the next chapter of our lives. After all, as Albus Dumbledore once said:  “It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

To the Class of 2019: it has been one heck of a journey, thank you to each and every one of you for the joy you have brought to each other and everyone at this amazing school. There is no group of students that I would have rather spent this time with. And even though we are all looking forward to what our future university lives hold for us, I know we will cherish these moments at Crescent forever, and as poet and philosopher Drake once said: “Some nights I wish I could go back in life/Not to change anything, just to feel a couple things twice…”

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