The past year has been one of the most intense and eye-opening years to say the least, but not much can compare to the past two weeks. I’ve had the honor of meeting some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met in my lifetime. These people aren’t just SBRHS students; these people are game-changers. They undoubtedly will change the world, and already have begun to do just that.
The Raiders Remember scholarship finalists impressed our committee so much that we awarded not just two scholarships, but Honorable Mention Awards to the runner-ups. This happened last year and we assumed it was just a one-time occurrence. When it happened again, we realized that this is not a coincidence. The towns of Somerset and Berkley, as well as the Somerset Berkley Regional High School, and parents, together have produced top-notch, compassionate, inspiring and driven people that have already started influencing the communities they live in.
I had the honor of talking to these students for hours in their interviews. They made us laugh, they even made us cry. I witnessed some of them giving tremendous graduation speeches. Meeting these students has impacted my life on a much deeper level than I can express. I cannot simply sit here and give congrats – but I feel a deeply-rooted need to express how it has impacted me with the hope that it will not only shed light on these amazing individuals, but also help us all appreciate our roots and what we have here.
Throughout my life, and especially at graduation events, there is a lot of talk about going into the “real world”, almost as if to insinuate that life before 18 isn’t “real”. I want to express to these students that everything they have accomplished and experienced in their lives so far has affected their elders, their peers, their faculty and staff, and their communities more than most of us here in the so-called “real world” could even ask for. You have impacted us so much more than we can even wish to have impacted you. The feeling is similar to how some of you expressed feeling with the success of building the SBRHS Unified Track Team. We cannot thank you enough. Nor can we put it into words (but I am still trying).
Somerset/Berkley is not a normal place. Just because something isn’t normal doesn’t mean it’s not real. Just as real as big cities. It took me traveling 3000 miles multiple times and lots of money and heartache to learn that what we have here is gold. It took time and experience to truly get it. Sometimes learning the hard way is the only way. I am not saying that you have to travel 3000 miles or move 10 times to understand it; most of you already know it. You embody it. What I will say is that there will be times throughout your adventures that will challenge your perspective. Moments that will challenge your impression of “home” and moments that will challenge how you remember your roots. People out there might make you feel like you have to leave Somerset to be considered successful. People will make you feel that if you return to your hometown, that you’re a failure. The truth is that neither of those to statements are true. Yes, leaving home is healthy; exploring the world is eye-opening; it’s good to get out from under shelter; however, you’ll quickly realize that there really is no place like home.
I’m not telling you this so that you can simply “take my word for it”; I’m telling you this just to reassure you that you’re not alone. Please remember this during those times of doubt and never forget your roots. Always remember that you have support from home. Always remember home.
The reality is that we come from a place with deep history. We come from a place where our friendships go back to infancy. We come from a place where the bonds we build and relationships we make are life-long. We come from a place that was built on education. We come from a place with strong family values. We come from a place that we are all proud to call home. None of this has changed in my lifetime. This is not normal. This is very very real.
Don’t let anyone tell you how it’s supposed to be, how you’re supposed to be. This IS how it should be and you already ARE how you should be. You come from a very unique place. Don’t let the world dictate how you perceive life. Never forget your roots.
Thank you all for reminding me. Thank you for reinforcing how incredible our home is by just being your inspiring, genuine, authentic self. Thank you for being you.
Good luck out there. And I’ll leave you with two quotes. One, I know is one of your favorites. The other is from your class president:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. – Ferris Bueller
“Now guys I’m sad to see you go, but do me a favor and go change the world.” – John Myron
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