Today is our 1363rd day as students of the Dublin School and it is also our last. The past 1363 days felt to be at times the shortest and the longest period of time of my life.
Recently, I was at Wesleyan University to hear a group called the Invisible Men give a symposium. The title of the event was called “Sankofa,” a word from the Akan language of Ghana meaning “to reach back and get it”. To me that means to look back in my past and realize the decisions that have brought me to my current state. It means thinking about the people and structure that helped to facilitate my growth and that sometimes, you must actually look back before moving forward. It also means thinking of the people that helped our class get to the graduation stage that we are on now. This is my sankofa:
I came into the Dublin School as a freshman in 2010 unconfident about who I was. The dining hall that I now see as a home looked so foreign to me. I was sure that I would only go to Dublin for one year and then transfer back to my public high school in Virginia. My first trimester was one of the hardest times I have ever had in my life. I stayed in my room at the top of Hill House for most hours of the day, was disruptive, and often angry at others- and myself. My classmates had already branched out to each other, but I had no desire to. Finally, one day I built up the courage to leave my room one Saturday afternoon and go to the TV room. In retrospect, this is one of the most pivotal moments of my life. Once I got there, I sat down on the group and watched the TV quietly, trying to make sure no one noticed me. Luckily for me, a girl from my Algebra I class came up to me and asked, “Aren’t you that kid in my Algebra I class that knows all of the lyrics to the Nicki Minaj songs?” I guess that’s who I was, but we hit off the conservation and soon enough we were able to tell each other about our lives.
My first friendship at Dublin to Mekhi was weird at first, you can ask either of us. We talked to each other on the weekends, but for some reason that I still do not know we completely avoided talking to each other Monday through Friday. Four years later, Mekhi is one of my best and truest friends in the whole world. Many of my early friendships and decisions at Dublin were odd like this; I didn’t know how to be an active community member. I lacked confidence and tried to not allow Dublin to change or break me.
I struggled throughout my freshman year and the school administration was hesitant to even give me an invitation to come back for sophomore year. The pressure on my parents to find another school for me was the start of my change. After this impetus, I found that my teachers, coaches, and friends were all ready to help me grow- they stood up for me to grow. But, my class was the most helpful part of my transition.
We all came into Dublin unsure of ourselves. We have all experienced tremendous growth at the school and come to realize our potential. I see now that even then my class was the biggest reason I wanted to stay at Dublin for my second year.
I will miss my class the most of anything about Dublin. I will miss rafting with them; I will miss building houses in the sweltering heat of Alabama with them; I will miss coming together during class meetings and voicing complaints for thirty minutes straight; I will miss all sitting in Gillespie on a run of the mill Saturday night talking about our fears about the future. I thought for the longest time that graduation would be one of the best days of my life. I thought that I would just miss the people of my senior class, but nothing else and I would easily be able to move on.
But I was wrong in this assumption. During the senior trip, I started to see more clearly the other things I will so dearly miss from Dublin: I will miss going into Lehmann for a meal and feeling comfortable to sit with so many different people; I will miss being able to compete at sports at a varsity level; I will miss seeing teachers as not only instructors, but also as coaches, advisors, dorm parents, and friends; I will miss the little things that make Dublin, New Hampshire Dublin, New Hampshire. I will miss coming to morning meeting and still four years later being amazed that the entire school is able to fit inside of the Recital Hall.
There comes a part in every graduation speech to thank Dublin. I thank Dublin for opening doors that certainly would not have been opened without them. I thank Dublin for being the reason that my class is able to attend the prestigious universities that we are attending. I thank Dublin for installing a sense of confidence in me. I am comfortable enough to voice my opinion and have the courage to speak at graduation in front of many people that I have never met before, but more freighting than that is speaking in front of the people who know me best. I thank Dublin for being personal enough with me to understand who I am as a person and under which situations I thrive. I thank Dublin for helping me realize my potential as a leader and supporting me with leadership opportunities.
While I do thank Dublin for many more things, simply thanking a school does not amount to a graduation speech that endures, or a message that our senior class would completely agree with. I would also like to challenge the school. The cohesiveness and strength of our class has come when we have been the most frustrated. So often, we spoke up with increasing tenacity, not because we do not love Dublin, but quite the opposite: it is rather that we love it so much.
It is more destructive to the school to simply accept everything that is given to you. As one of my favorite authors Howard Zinn said: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” To the teachers, students, and administrators of Dublin, please allow this conversation to occur between the students and teachers. Allow challenging to go both ways.
To my class: this is the end of our time at Dublin, but it should not be the end of us. You are my best friends, my brothers, and my sisters. To you, I am forever grateful. I love each and every one of you.