May I thank all of you in the audience for being here to support us at the end of four years of what Chadd Cassidy, my hockey coach sophomore year, constantly reminded us was a process – a seemingly never ending series of steps to reach our goal. Accepting that it was going to be a lot of work and quite a few missed passes and shots before we got to where we wanted to be as a team, helped me accept that it was going to be a process for me to get to be where I wanted to be individually, as a student, athlete, and person. Everything has a process--- writing this speech included. Fortunately, there is plenty of help and advice here from coaches, teachers, and peers. That’s what I want to focus on today. What we learned at Northwood about calculus, chemistry, and composition is not more important than learning how to go about studying for a U.S. history test, performing on stage, or getting along on the corridor with people with different passions and personalities. As freshmen doing one of the themes Ms. Carmichael assigned, learning to rock climb, even walking through the living room trying not to get negative comments for our haircuts or sneakers, were all processes to be mastered. We are here today at the end of a thousand processes.
Whether we ski, dance, skate, or paint, we’ve all figured out that we need to be humble because we aren’t born at the end of the process and we’re not all that good at the beginning of it. We also figured out that we better take enough pride in the process, so we do get good. Just like with our activities, in our classes there is a struggle to get to master the material and discover the right methods. For me the biggest challenge and stress was AP Calculus. Early on in the course, Mr. Emery said “Before you start this class, you need to know that your test grades have nothing to do with the kind of human you are.” I think he meant it as reassurance, but it sounded to me like a warning. Getting my first test back sure made it clear what he meant. That class really gave me a hard time despite his jokes. At the end of the day, though I’m forced to admit I’m not much of a mathematician, I am a better student whose grade wasn’t embarrassing, because, just like our coaches, Mr. Emery’s class rewarded our commitment to the process of excelling. Teachers are AWARE of us here; we are more than just numbers at the top of a page filled with red ink or stupid penalties taken. I know from alums that Northwood students do well at hard colleges; I think that success comes because the teachers here do an amazing job of fostering hard work and letting us earn confidence.
Most of us here have a passion outside of the classroom, whether hockey, soccer, skiing, or participation in dance or the outing club. Whatever we choose, we all know that like the classroom, there is a path to follow that will hopefully get us to the level we would like to achieve. When we are beginning this journey, it’s all too easy to get sucked into where you might end up. Coach Miller, my coach my first year, told us on the first day of practice, “The only thing each of you need to worry about is getting 1% better each day.” This can be translated through any activity that one of us decides to take on. We are always so eager to get to the end goal that we forget that the process is where we need to direct our effort. A student here last year, Peppi Delliquadri , is a perfect example of this. He was here for four years and each year he found himself being placed on the varsity hockey team. Peppi wasn’t the flashiest player, but he never stopped putting the work in. His desire and positive attitude was finally noticed and in the middle of his last year. He was given the opportunity to play on the Prep team. Where many others would have stopped trying, Peppi continued, and he was rewarded for it. His achievement exemplifies what Bobby O’Connor, our NOC Director, loves to say “You just can’t beat the person that never gives up.” I have had the pleasure of going kayaking with Bobby and learned from my peers in NOC. One student in particular, Alex Randall, epitomizes this quote. Despite flipping more than a few times, he continues to kayak with intensity, putting himself in precarious situations to become better at the sport. He understands the emphasis our coaches and teachers put on the process. That’s why he and the rest of us can leave Northwood with a “never quit” mindset that will allow us to excel in anything we put our minds to.
Although many students come here to excel academically or athletically, many of us don’t realize that we are in the process of becoming better people. As an athlete, I know how much pressure we put on ourselves to perform. Something that Coach Morris says all the time is “Hockey is ultimately a means to an end.” You could easily substitute any activity for hockey because the point is the process. When we join different teams or clubs, we work endlessly to perfect our crafts. Most of what we do is setting us up to be worthwhile humans. We learn the importance of leadership, teamwork, and true hard work. We chisel away at our flaws, forming us into who we will become. Our sports and our time here at Northwood will prepare us to take on any profession that we choose. For the underclassmen its hard to realize that now but I have been in your shoes, and I understand it now. My grandma, who passed away earlier this year and inspired me to take on this speech, always used to tell my mom “Things have always worked out in my life, so why waste time worrying.” This was a woman who didn’t worry about the trivial things, she trusted the process of life and that she would end up where she needed to be. Leaving Northwood is going to create a lot of uncertainty for us seniors, but the school has done its job in turning us into adults that can handle adversity and understand the need for creating a plan and practicing and perfecting the techniques that will lead to success. Regardless of grades or win/loss record, the teachers and coaches here have always done a great job in allowing us to figure out what we must do as individuals and teammates to get the job done.
So, here we are finally reaching the end of our prep school process. For most of us it is a bittersweet moment. Finally beginning this new adventure ahead but leaving a place of achievement and comfort. I think back to a statement that Coach Morris said earlier this year, he said “How will you guys leave your legacy. In a few months a lot of you will be graduating, what will you do to leave your mark.” At the time he was trying to hype up our team in between periods, but when I really think about it, it makes me wonder how we have really left our marks at Northwood. I realize we’ve all left different ones -- on mountains and rock faces, on classroom and labs, on the stage and art rooms, on rinks, slopes and fields -- but hopefully we leave here without anything left on the table, having given our all through tests, games, practices, and so on and by taking advantage of every process that Northwood has guided us through. When we leave here there will be uncertainty, but it will be up to us to find what path we will follow next. Thank you, Northwood, for building us into people that will face each new learning experience with the confidence that we understand and embrace the process.