Commencement 2024 student speaker: Emma Shub

Upper School Student Council President Emma Shub delivered the following speech to her class at Commencement. You can watch the full speech here.

Good afternoon, Beaver. Welcome to teachers, staff, family members, friends, and most importantly, the class of 2024.

I have a secret. A secret I’ve never shared. And that secret comes with a message that I want to share today.

In the spring of seventh grade, I pursued an off-cycle admission at Beaver Country Day School. My mother called the admissions office, eager to learn if there were openings for the rising eighth-grade class, and soon after the call, my application process was underway. On May 16th, 2019, I stepped foot on the Beaver campus for my interview and tour. I walked through the front circle, up the main stairwell, and into the admissions office. With my mother and the tour guide walking ahead of me, I had the opportunity to absorb the Beaver magic. I saw teachers on the C-level engaging their students in language classes, students on the science level wearing scrubs and preparing for their dissections, teachers and students collaborating on the design level over laser cutters, and students and faculty sprawled throughout the research level speaking about their work with urgency and excitement. ‘

When I climbed the stairwell in the VPAC, the magic truly hit. There it was—neon pink, smooth paint strokes, and an intricate design—a graffiti-style painting on a large piece of plexiglass. I felt the inspiration in my bones. I turned to my mother and said, “I need to come here.” The fit felt perfect. But, it was not my turn. After receiving the call that I would not be able to join the class of 2024 in the fall, I was distraught. But I still returned to my previous school the next day. With my legs shaking, I climbed the stairs to my 7th-grade homeroom.

I decided to inhabit and embrace the place that I was in. Amidst my disappointment, I spent my last year of middle school in the very place that I needed to be. And my infatuation with Beaver–the feeling that permeated throughout my body when I experienced the graffiti art hanging in the Beaver stairwell in the spring of 7th grade–kept me committed to the idea of attending Beaver in 9th grade.

Though it was difficult in the moment, I realize now that there was tremendous value in completing eighth grade at my previous school. Because I properly closed out my nine-year chapter in that faith-based community, I was prepared to transition into a secular environment with diverse opinions, where I could be respectful of all. I was prepared to tolerate living in an unsettled world in uncertain times, without veering from the truth and adopting identity politics. I was prepared to take advantage of the many fruits that Beaver has to offer. I became ready to immerse myself in the ninth-grade class without wanting to look back.

I share this story with you today, on our final moment together, as an important lesson for all of us to take with us wherever our paths may lead. You must go forth and fill the space that you are in. Fully inhabit it. Speak up. Go after what you want. Trust your instinct. Trust your Beaver education. You earned your spot. In every space, stand by your grit, hard work, and creativity.

I came to Beaver and did everything without letting this hiccup negatively influence me in any way, shape, or form. I raced through the hallways with passion and gusto and never once discussed or thought about the past and how many tries it took me to get to Beaver. None of you knew this about me; not everyone wears their “losses” on the outside. Remember that: you never know what’s happening on the inside. Treat everyone with respect.

Sometimes, in our eagerness to move forward, we miss the important moments—the moments to begin a new project, celebrate a friend, enjoy the value of your own company, and immerse yourself deeper in an experience. I am glad that I learned to embrace every moment and experience–good and bad. Nothing in our world is linear. To grow, we must simultaneously not rush away from the present and make the choice to embrace the current.

Embrace your moment here at graduation. Look around and understand that this is the last time that many of us will be with one another. Do not rush away from today. Let this chapter come to a close without worrying about the next stage and its possible complications. It won’t always be easy, but it is in the ups and downs that we learn the most. Extend a hand. Hug your friends. Even share a secret. And most importantly, find moments to express your gratitude for the culminating moments that brought you here.

Let me start. Thank you, Beaver, for allowing me to flourish in unimaginable ways, for allowing me to lead the upper school as student council president, for every smiling face in the hallway, for every teacher who listened and extended a hand when the days felt tough, for every adult who has taken the time to see me and hear me, for every classmate that has inspired me in unthinkable ways, for every friend who has caught me as I have fallen and made my stomach ache from laughter, and to the hallways for being so inviting and enticing on May 16, 2019, that I had to come to Beaver, no matter how long it was going to take me.

Class of 2024, we came in as strangers, and we are leaving as friends. We entered as students, and we are exiting as alumni. We walked into the building with a desire to learn, and now we must walk out with a desire to give back and lead. To whom much is given, much is expected.

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