Opinion Schools / Kids

Address to CHS Class of 2015: ‘You Can Change the World’


Three student speeches were presented at the Columbia High School Class of 2015 commencement ceremony on Wednesday, June 24, at Essex County College. Class President Nathalie Spidle addressed the audience, as did Kelsey Moore and Mia Goldstein.

Moore and Goldstein’s speeches were selected from dozens submitted then vetted and selected by a panel of teachers, administrators and guidance counselors. The speeches submitted are anonymous so that the judgment is based on content not student reputation.

Below is Mia Goldstein’s address:

Good afternoon.

It’s wonderful to be here on this strange day—it’s incredibly exciting and exhilarating, but strange nonetheless. In just a few moments we’ll go from being students of Columbia High School to being members of an alumni network that includes Zach Braff, Lauryn Hill, and Jar-Jar Binks. All it takes to effectively end our childhoods is the shake of a hand and the passing of a diploma.

For the past few months, the seniors have been staring at the calendar during class rather than the clock, counting down the days until today. Leaving is the natural next step. After four years, we’re more than ready. We know we can’t stay forever. Many seniors didn’t even get lockers this year, so yeah, we’ve taken the hint.

There’s no real reason why I’m standing before you. I wasn’t elected to anything and my GPA is far from perfect. I don’t have any grand wisdom to share; there’s nothing I know that you don’t. But perhaps that’s what makes today so important. Together, we can look back on what our collective experience here has taught us. For the most part, we all know the same things. I want to reflect on this—what all of us know – the knowledge we’ve gained by spending four years walking through the acorn-adorned halls of Columbia High School.

  1. Question everything: your parents, teachers, any authority figure, every text presented to you. Take everything with a grain of salt and don’t be complacent.
  1. Dissenting opinions are valuable. Speak your mind openly; your voice matters and your thoughts are valid.
  1. The biggest failure of all is not showing up. (Mainly because you’ll get an E and will have to sit through many grueling hours of credit recovery.)
  1. Fight for what you believe in. No cause is too trivial.
  1. Spend your time with people who support you and make you happy. There’s just not enough time for negativity.
  1. Be passionate. Find what you love and become excellent at it. Whether it’s robotics or marching band, lacrosse or dance, chemistry or history—put everything you have into your work.
  1. Keep an open-mind. Close-mindedness will only hinder you—whether it’s in a discussion or simply an aversion to trying new things.
  1. Show empathy and be respectful, even to those who you can never imagine seeing eye-to-eye with. A little kindness goes a long way, especially in the Dean’s Office.
  1. Your comfort zone is nowhere to live. Push yourself. Break boundaries, take risks. Do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.
  1. You can change the world, but only if you really want to.

We’re lucky to have gone here. We have an edge on everyone else our age because we’re going off into the world armed with everything this school has given us. This is why Columbia graduates are so remarkable. And the Class of 2015 is a remarkable group of people.

Congratulations everyone, I wish each and every one of you nothing short of the very best. Best of luck and thank you.

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