Karen Koski graduated from Parcells in 2001. She was a nominee for the Fred Adams award as an 8th grader, and is graduating this year from Grosse Pointe North at the top of her class. Over the past four years, she has been active as a member of the girlsí cross country team, the dance team, the robotics team, the GP North womenís mentoring program, Italian Club, National Honor Society, and as a student council senator. As a senior, she was selected as a Co-captain of her cross country team, elected student association Senator-at-Large, and elected President of the Italian Club and President of the National Honor Society. Karen was recently honored by Channel 7 WXYZ as one of the areaís ďBrightest and the Best."
Next year, Karen plans to attend the University of Notre Dame, and there she is considering pursuing her interest in math and science through study in the field of Biomedical Engineering.
Itís hard for me to believe, but it wasnít that long ago at all when I sat where you are sitting right now. The stress of final math quizzes, position papers, and social studies tests gone, replaced in the corridors by summer breezes. Youíve made it! Congratulations! Each of you has a lot of which you deserve to be very proud. Iím honored to be here, to share this milestone with you. And I know what itís like. Youíre happy to be finished with school, and a little nervous about what to expect next year. How much homework will I get? Will I get lost trying to find my classes? Will I make new friends? Are the teachers strict? I know I had all these questions, and remembering that feeling, it seems almost surreal that Mr. Mulhollandís introduction described me. I never expected to accomplish all that I did in the past four years. And I did not expect to be offered the privilege to share with you today what Iíve learned.
Though you are celebrating your completion of middle school, it is important to keep in mind today that the real celebration focuses on what awaits you next year. The real triumph is that you have developed the skills and gained the knowledge to help you adapt to beginning a new era of your education. Leaving your old lifestyle is an inescapable part of this growth. But knowing many of you, and looking out at our 8th graders today, I think you should be confident that you are ready.
If there is one practical piece of advice I could give, it would be to get involved in whatever you can, and to try your best to brush aside fears of trying something new. When I was in 8th grade, Mr. Cooper, who coaches the girlsí cross country team, asked me if I was interested in helping out the team the following year at North. I agreed to be the manager, and take attendance at practices and support the team. He always reminds me how on the first day of cross country practice, I came ready to run, as part the team, not merely the manager that holds the clipboard with the statistics. I decided I wanted to expand my interests, and that decision proved one of the best I have ever made. Mr. Cooper laughs because when I was at Parcells, I did not even like walking home, and insisted on being picked up every day, from the back parking lot, by my mom. I was never on the track team, or in the running club. I had never ran before that day I decided to join the cross country team, but I discovered how fun it was to be involved, to be part of a team. I went from being one of the slowest runners at the back of the pack of 100 girls to earning a place on the varsity squad, going to state competition as an alternate my sophomore year, and becoming a captain as a senior. I didnít even like to run, and it was never easy for me. But I learned to enjoy it. And, more importantly, I learned the true meaning of determination and commitment. I learned to appreciate the friends I made and the pride I had as I represented my school, my classmates, and my team. I strongly encourage you to do the same. Adopt a will to succeed, because that is what you owe yourself. And find your true definition of success. Even if you donít become the best athlete, test-taker, or artist, you can always be the best you can be, and that is just as rewarding.
I think many of you have probably heard how well Northís basketball team performed this past season. Going to the state semifinals is a remarkable feat. Grosse Pointe North had 18 athletic teams win Michigan Athletic Conference championships this year. We had an impressive number of seniors that became AP Scholars with Honors and Distinction, excelling in 3 or more college courses while still juniors in high school. Our band, orchestra, and choral groups received highest honors at their competitions, one of which was in Walt Disney World this spring. None of these star athletes, academic achievers, and musicians were born 16, 17, or 18 years old. They were kindergarteners once. They were 5th graders once, apprehensive about middle school, and 8th graders once, wondering about high school. They came from the seats you are sitting in this very moment. We were you. Give your integrity priority, maintain high standards, and, regardless of what high school you find yourself representing, you will see the same success! The Class of 2009 is anticipated by the high schools you enter next year. You may not realize it now, but the whole community is excited to see what you have to offer as young individuals overflowing with talent and bound to excel. Contrary to popular belief, high schoolers donít sit and formulate evil schemes to close all of you in your lockers. Nor do they plan to put stink bombs in freshman hallway, or tell you your science classroom is on the second floor when itís really on the third. No, these are all myths. Instead, we talk about how excited we are to see our younger counterparts succeed.
In middle school, I know how important that good math grade was, or how important it is to make a free throw when your friends are depending on you. But while these things are significant, your integrity is the most important thing you can develop during your middle school and high school careers. Being honest, persevering, doing your best, and treating others well. These are all ethics that you know and strive to practice. Right now, today, as you stand on the edge of a new phase of your lives, is the perfect time to prove to your parents, friends, the new teachers youíll meet in the fall, and, most importantly, prove to yourself, that you have integrity. Developing integrity is a very exciting and rewarding triumph, whether you are an eighth grader, a high school graduate, or grandparent. Itís an accomplishment worth more than excelling in a sport, success in the workplace, or even the satisfaction you all feel now, as you anticipate crossing this stage, because without integrity, no such accomplishments have significance. Right now, youíre in the driverís seat. As you enter high school, you are in control of your life. You choose who you want to be. Middle school was your driverís training for life. You learned how to survive a big test, get a project done on time, and how to effectively study. Now, in a few months, as 9th graders, it will be time to fill up your gas tank. It will be time to fuel yourself with more expansive knowledge, set your own individual standards, and absorb experiences that will teach you just as much as your earth science text book. There is so much waiting for you. Then, in four years, youíll be in my place, ready to merge onto the expressway of college, the workplace, or the armed forces. Those years between pass quickly, but they are filled with valuable lessons and changes. You will be amazed at the things you can accomplish! There is nothing limiting your success. Everyone here can reach fantastic heights, whether it may be in academics, athletics, music or fine arts. You have established the roots, here at Parcells, to achieve whatever you aspire to achieve.
Whether you have noticed it among yourselves or not, there is within each of you a small part of one another and the memories and lessons of the past three years. Every person you have met, every instance in which you have struggled, and every challenge you have overcome composes your identities; the valued identities so enthusiastically supported by your parents and classmates. These experiences will provide the basis on which you will build your future.
I ask you to see your class of 8th graders as a batch of cookies, just removed from the oven after years of preparation. Each one of you sitting here today has a unique recipe, and an outstanding characteristic to share. Yes, you are all smart cookies, but there are differences that cause some of you to be the reliable and traditional chocolate chip, and others to be the mild and loveable oatmeal raisin, the sweet sugar, and the bold gingerbread. Now that you have completed your middle school years, today marks the beginning of the summer in which you will prepare yourselves further for the fall. As the weather gets warmer, you will be cooling to perfection on the stovetop. You, and only you, can decide the ingredients of which you will be made, and those that will characterize you.
A man named Roland Barth once set the following criteria: ďExcellence can be achieved if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.Ē Follow this advice, and you will move mountains! I look forward to learning of your successes in years to come. Congratulations on your promotion, your legacy, and the extraordinary opportunities that will fuel your future as the Class of 2009.
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