Riding the waves of life: Rachel Schneider’s graduation speech

Riding the waves of life: Rachel Schneider’s graduation speech
Rachel Schneider told fellow Great Neck South High graduates reflects on navigating yesterday’s and tomorrow’s waves. (Photo courtesy of Great Neck Public Schools)

Rachel Schneider, a Great Neck South High School class of 2019 graduate, offered the following speech at the school’s commencement story. It was submitted to the Great Neck News by the Great Neck Public Schools. 

Good afternoon and welcome!

I am sure my classmates remember our first day at South High. We wondered would we be able to find our way around such a daunting building, what would our high school teachers expect of us, and would those intimidating 12th graders in their white tank tops direct us to the non-existent “third floor.” Congratulations! You successfully made it past that frightening first day, and have ridden the waves of South High.

After delving into this year’s graduation theme, “The Wave of the Future,” I’ve discovered there are two different types of waves that we have encountered in our lives. First, the dangerous tidal wave, the one we fear will crash over us and knock us off our feet. The second is the rolling wave, the calm swell we can float over with ease.

I think we can agree that our high school experience can be categorized as full of both of these waves that we will never forget, no matter how much we want to forget some of the tidal waves. Our tidal waves possibly included losing the Student Government election, a first public failure, or receiving that disappointing score on our first freshman English quote ID test, an indication that high school would be more challenging than expected. Both of these obstacles left us discouraged, struggling to stand tall as the waves came crashing over us. But our rolling waves of winning the gym speedball tournament or simply finishing a Graham guide a whole day early complemented these disappointments and kept us going, allowing us to enjoy moments of success.

As we move on, we are far more equipped to face the waves ahead not only because of these incomparable experiences but also because of all of those who have stood by us through the many waves—our lifeguards. They knew when to let us swim on our own but also when to jump in when we needed assistance, all the while supervising us to avoid injuries. It was after these crashing tidal waves and during the rolling ones where we were able to experience our greatest growth and learn the most about ourselves as we worked to stay afloat. South High is truly a special place for encouraging us to step outside our comfort zone and to dive right into the next oncoming wave. The people at South are the biggest factor in making it such a special place, and without them it would just be a building of brick and mortar.

While we have experienced these two waves in high school, we are off to encounter another, new one. The last wave is the all encompassing, forceful power-wave that you see surfers prepare all their lives to ride. As our high school waves recede, we can see that energizing third wave building on the horizon, gaining power, as our future endeavors approach. Thanks to South, we are prepared and finally ready to take on this WAVE OF THE FUTURE that is full of so many new possibilities. As the famous author and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said:  “The wave of the future is coming and there is no fighting it.” We are armed with the skills to carve it up and ride it to shore. While we began high school as those frightened freshmen, next to me now sits an incredible, inspiring class ready to conquer the world ahead of us, but the real question is…is the world ready for us? The horizon is the limit as we surf into the future. Thank you all for being here and for wishing us well as we enter the next chapter of our lives.

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