In a world where war is impending, the sea levels rise beyond our shores, and our country is in political turmoil, our futures seem beyond our control. This generation faces an immense challenge.
Up until this point, most seventeen and eighteen year olds have been forced to raise our hands before speaking or using the bathroom. Now we are entering a world where we will be voting on our future leaders, getting into debt with the hope of a brighter future, and becoming leaders ourselves. This is a great and scary task, but I know that everything that we have learned as Montessori students has prepared us for this point.
I have been a student at Meadow Montessori since I was ten days old. I am deeply rooted in this community. The distant memories of being rocked in the infant room, waiting my turn for snack, rolling the rugs, and the science experiment in lower el where you melt the wax over a candle will always stay with me. Especially since I got wax on the table and couldn’t find any elbow grease in the cupboard with which to clean it up. Thanks Ms. Rebecca for an important life lesson.
In some ways, my life has been paved for me, but I haven’t always been cradled. I follow in the footsteps of my four older siblings who are Meadow graduates. We’ve taken the same classes, so I could often ask for help or look at their notes. But, even though my path has been open and the opportunities have been plentiful, I have often struggled. I struggled for the greatness and the legacy of my siblings. Daydeon would get fives on his AP exams without even reading the textbook, Waverlee was hailed as “a born writer,” and I always worshipped Madde for her ability to balance school, gymnastics, friends, and relationships. I didn’t have these qualities. My grades were mediocre compared to my siblings’. They all had their talents and I was just the cute younger brother. I’ve always been shy and soft spoken. People really only read my mind through my smile. But, I have been observing the hardships and successes of my siblings so that one day I, too, could be as great as them. I want to thank you for being such great role models.
I’d also like to thank Luke and Daydeon for being my greatest academic role models. You’ve been like brothers to me even though really is by blood. Luke, you’ve listened to my problems and taught me so much about history and the meaning of life. Thanks.
I’ve tried to strike my own path so as not to be overshadowed by everyone else’s accomplishments. I’ve taken on their legacies and then some. I’m my own person with my own aspirations; I’ve worn myself to the bone trying to be the best that I can be. My schedule since seventh grade has been absolutely packed. I’ve struggled to balance three-hour gymnastics practices until 9 o’clock at night three nights a week and then waking up early on Saturday mornings to work out for three more hours while doing schoolwork every night and lawn work most weekends. I’ve struggled to finish my homework during the gymnastics competition season when I would be gone all weekend, drive home in the middle of the night on Sunday, then go to school on Monday morning with my work somehow finished. This is the hidden life that my friends, family, and teachers never knew.
I still remember the first time that I stayed up late finishing my homework. In seventh grade, I stayed up until 11:30 at night after gymnastics working on Ms. Maggie’s assignment with my eyes drooping, body worn out. Little did I know that this would be the first of many nights like it. And, I will never forget the time that I procrastinated then worked all day to submit my 24 page AP Capstone paper barely by midnight.
I’ve had meltdowns due to the stress of schoolwork and frustration with the world. But, I wouldn’t give any of these experiences up for anything. I have come out a stronger, wiser, more resilient person. I’ve learned that in a world where I can be anything, I choose to be myself. And, it is more important to do my best than to be the best. But, along the way, I couldn’t have made it this far without some extremely influential people.
I want to thank my mom for being there during all of those meltdowns. She has sacrificed a lot to help me get to where I am. Thanks for driving me to all of those meets, making all of those job connections, speaking for me when I was too shy, and teaching me that it doesn’t matter how others treat you or beat you down. The only thing that I can control is my own reaction. And, thanks to you, it’s always been kindness. I don’t say it enough, but thank you, mom.
Dad, thank you for driving me to do all of those lawns. From you, I have learned how to experiment, to persevere when facing a challenge. You’ve taught me how to be a handy man.
I’d also like to thank the teachers along the way who have encouraged and supported me.
Mr. P, you helped me find myself. Since our first days in farm program, you have been my greatest role model as a man, a citizen, a chef, and a naturalist. Ever since seventh grade, I have admired your passion for teaching and commitment to students. I’ve learned how to respect the earth and the beautiful ingredients that come from it. And, I’ve enjoyed our long days in the kitchen together. I have cooked the same Thanksgiving dinner every year exactly the way you first taught me five years ago.
I’d like to thank Ms. Meg for allowing me to learn to be a confident leader while in upper elementary. Whether that means teaching younger students or baking brownies, this degree of autonomy is integral to any Montessori classroom.
I’d like to thank Ms. Whitney for leading the middle school on all of those class trips. I’ve enjoyed being your copilot whether we were driving to Leelanau, navigating the streets of New York, or freezing on top of mountain in New Hampshire. Your guidance in my life and on these trips has put me on a path to seek out all the travel opportunities I can. Thank you.
I cannot get by without thanking Ms. Sharon. You have been the most understanding teacher I have ever met. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you say, people will forget what you do, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Ms. Sharon, your support has given me confidence in myself and in my writing. And, I will never forget the respect that you have given to me and my ideas, the respect that you give my peers by treating us as your equals. You have made a profound impact on my life. Thanks for listening to my lengthy and confusing metaphors and helping me through many tough times. Oh, and can you proofread this thing I’ve been working on?
Ms. Cathe, you have arguably been the most influential adult in my life up until this point. Even though people quiver when you come around, they don’t really know you that well. I’ve always admired your confidence, your leadership qualities, and the presence that you establish. Everything that I know about being a competent leader has come from watching you. I’ve enjoyed our times traveling to New York city for Model UN, the long layovers when we traveled to China, and the time you gave me a sip of beer in Germany. I’ve enjoyed cooking in your (well-equipped kitchen), I’ve spent many hours admiring your Wustoff knives, your Le Creuset cookware, and your large gas range. I’ve learned so much from you, and I will never forget the dignity and respect with which you treated me.
When I think about what my time as a lifelong Montessori student has taught me, I think about not only how the school has made me a better person, but how the Montessori method is so necessary in our world. It creates more diligent individuals who are willing to engage in meaningful discourse. We learn from a young age to respect ourselves, others, and our environment. We learn to cherish independent thought; here, you won’t find cliques or mindless robots. You will find students who are willing to go against the grain, throw themselves against the gears of the system, and challenge illegitimate authority. These are the kinds of humans that the world needs today.
When I go out into the world, I used to be embarrassed by the fact that we only had thirteen people in our high school. But, we have great strength in our (small) numbers. We are unique individuals with unique experiences. Having a Montessori experience sets me apart on my resume. When I meet people my age through ethics bowl or other academic activities out in the world, I am not surprised when I learn that the leaders of orchestras, the members of NHS, the active teens in our community found their start in a Montessori preschool.
Furthermore, people such as Jeff Bezos, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller, Julia Child, Anne Frank, Yo Yo Ma, and Bill Gates found their roots in their Montessori education.
So, If you want to live in a world where things come easily, this isn’t the place for you.
If you aren’t willing to own your beliefs, this isn’t the place for you.
If you aren’t willing to push yourself beyond your limits, then this is not the place for you.
If you don’t want to make a difference in this world, then this isn’t the place for you.
As I look out at my peers that I leave behind, I know this is the place for you. It is a very conscious choice to go to Meadow Montessori. Own it.
This school has given me a voice and allowed me to grow into a leader of my own. It has allowed me to be creative, the kind of creativity that will enable me to deal with the complex issues facing our time. Just as, as a child, something as simple as scrubbing a table seems like an impossible task, with a gentle voice to guide me and a little bit of elbow grease, nothing is too great a challenge.
As I go on to the University of Michigan to study International Relations, I will take on the world as a conversation between people with infinite perspectives and diverse views as we all work towards a more humane, understanding, and contemplative world. With strong leaders such as these graduates, the future of our world is bright.