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Voices of DSHA

Class of 2023 Valedictorian Graduation Speech

Kate Hemsworth, DSHA '23
Kate Hemsworth, DSHA '23, will attend Washington University in St. Louis where she plans to study biochemistry. In addition to being the DSHA CLass of 2023 Valedictorian, she is a National Merit Finalist, a United States Presidential Scholars Program Semi-Finalist, and a Wisconsin Academic Excellence scholarship recipient. 

Although I’ve never been in love with public speaking, I’m sure this can’t be any worse than our Catcher in the Rye presentations. Looking out at this crowd (which is significantly larger than my sophomore-year English class), I am immensely grateful for each and every one of you surrounding us today. Behind each graduate are parents who suppressed amusement while listening to our rants about high school drama, grandparents who cheered us on whether we were first-place contenders or dead last in every competition, and teachers from our grade schools and high school who consistently ushered us through our academics whether we were receptive to their lessons or not. Thank you. Each and every one of you has played a vital role in getting us here tonight.

To the class of 2023, congratulations! This is the milestone we dreamt about for years, the day that seemed ridiculously far away when we were stuck studying optimization at midnight the day before a calc test (shout out to Jane and her boat). More often than not, we wished we could grow up a little faster, so we could reach this exact moment and get on with the rest of our lives. Back when we were freshmen, we would’ve done anything to drive ourselves to school, even if it meant parking in the neighborhood. But then, by the end of our sophomore year, we seemed to have forgotten how cool we thought it was to drive, for all we wanted was to move onto the big plaid. Yet, as soon as these dreams were fulfilled, we all wished to jump ahead to senior year so we could be freed from the burdens of the ACT and graced with the gift of senioritis. However, when we received our 20th reading assignment for Jane Eyre, it became rather easy for us to lose sight of the fact that these were the moments we’d wished for! So, we all prayed and prayed for graduation to come sooner.

Now, as overjoyed as I am to be graduating with you all today, I am also so glad we had to live through every last seemingly mundane moment of high school. Because if we had been able to skip ahead to this day, we would’ve missed out on watching the sunrise together before seizing the only opportunity we will ever have to pour glitter on unsuspecting freshmen. If we had skipped ahead, we wouldn’t have gotten to cheer on our classmates at Airband, write each other palanka notes at senior retreat, or learn the circuitous and direct routes to the homes of classmates who live in cities and suburbs outside of our own.

But even when nothing big or memorable was happening, and the longing to break free from the confines of high school was at a peak, I’m glad we had to live through the more ordinary times. Even our most boring days at DSHA were filled with moments we often take for granted, like talking with lab partners about absolutely anything besides the lab, waiting for new word searches and sudokus outside the den, laughing with friends during Dasher Time, getting an adrenaline rush when you’re wearing plaid pajama pants and see Mrs. Duffy (Theology Faculty Mary Duffy) speeding down the hallway on her secret weapon – her scooter, and even just smiling at each other as we pass in the stairwell. And to think of how eager we were in September to just get it all over with!

Now that we are about to part ways, we have a decision to make. We can either spend the rest of our lives looking forward to everything we are to achieve in the future, or we can consciously choose to embrace the moment we are currently living in. As we embark on our next journey, I encourage us to pause, to cherish the present, and to find comfort living in the less eventful parts of our lives. I challenge you all to use these past four years as a lesson in embracing the ordinary. After all, it was the seemingly ordinary moments, the ones we never really think about as they’re happening, that have made our high school experience one to remember. So, even when nothing exciting is happening and the days begin to blend together, don't wish away the present. Instead, remember how much joy something as simple as an orchid day or a cafeteria cookie could bring during our years here, and try to find those little joys wherever you are. No matter how eager we are to grow up and no matter how badly we want to move forward with our lives, let us all stop and be grateful for the present moment. Be grateful for the friendships you make and hold them close while you can. Because as much as it felt like we would be with our classmates forever, here we are, saying goodbye. Be grateful if you ever meet a professor who is as passionate about teaching as Mrs. Strandberg (Science Faculty Stacey Strandberg) or as kind as all of our teachers here at DSHA. Be grateful for the people in your life like Ms. Wissing (Mathematics and Specialized Studies Faculty Libby Wissing, DSHA '10), who always tells her class to have a great rest of their day, and Mr. Montgomery (Social Studies Faculty Tom Montgomery), whose killer recorder skills never fail to stun us all. As hard as it is to accept, so many wonderful people, places, and things are not permanent aspects of our lives, so be thankful while you still can. Let us all appreciate every little moment along our journeys, for so often, our longing to grow up eclipses the beauty of the present.

As always, Taylor Swift says it best. So to the class of 2023, “Even though you want to, just try to never grow up.” Enjoy the little moments because before you know it, it’ll all just be a fond, messy, beautiful memory to look back on
    • DSHA Class of 2023 Valedictorian Kate Hemsworth, DSHA '23

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