As proud parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends settled into their seats on the evening of June 24th for the Pawling High School Graduation Ceremony, it was Madeleine Clemmons – the Class of 2013’s Salutatorian – who welcomed them with a speech. She had earned this honor by achieving the second highest GPA in her class, a distinction which took years of hard work and dogged dedication.
Madeleine, like Valedictorian Magdalene Fogarasi, was drawn to the sciences throughout high school. Chemistry was her favorite because “the course material was interesting and the labs were fun and interactive.” Math also appealed to her because she enjoyed the challenge. English, however, didn’t come as easily. She admits that, “the toughest for me was when long papers were due. I tended to procrastinate.”
Having learned from that experience, Madeleine encourages those still in high school not to put off assignments, since “getting homework finished early will really take a load off your shoulders.” And Madeleine needed to get her homework out of the way as quickly as possible, considering all her extracurricular activities. She played both Varsity tennis and indoor/outdoor track, along with her participation in Drama Club, Peer Leadership, Math Honor Society, French Honor Society, and National Honor Society. She co-founded Pawling High School’s Art Club and even works at the Pawling Free Library during the summer.
When fall rolls around, Madeleine will begin studying Engineering and Neuroscience at Union College. “I eventually want to work in the health field, helping others,” she explains.
This salutatorian’s philosophy on education is simple, but something that everyone needs to hear: “Focus on your studies but to keep a healthy mind you also need to take a break. Go outside, have fun, and find a hobby, or hang out with friends. If you can, get involved with extracurriculars – they make high school a lot more fun. Don’t get too caught up in grades and competition. Just do your best. Make your own goals and aim for them. That will be your greatest accomplishment.”
Good evening everyone, family, friends, and faculty. I’m Madeleine Clemmons and I’m so glad to be here tonight. It is finally graduation, the last step in our high school career and the first step in the next chapter of our lives. I am also glad because it is a Friday, which is my favorite day of the week.
I would like to begin with the ‘thank yous.’
First, I would like to thank my mom and dad for everything they’ve done for me, specifically these past four years. You have taught me to put effort into everything I do. Even if I don’t reach my goal you support me and are proud of me anyway. Thank you grandma for being awesome and backing me up 100%. And thank you to my little sisters, Elisabeth and Julia, for you have taught me what true patience is.
In addition I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends. Thank you for making the past four years such an incredible journey!
Not one of us would be graduating today if it weren’t for the amazing teachers in our school. Thank you for teaching us how to be diligent with our studies. A huge thank you to Mrs. Callan, Mr. Bellucci and all the other faculty and staff. Without you the school day would be chaos. And, thank you Mrs. Zoltan, Ms. Hildenbrand, and Mrs. Gallagher in the guidance office for answering our many questions and for helping with college applications. Finally, Ms. Hildenbrand, thank you so much for being our Class Advisor. I don’t know how much fun senior year would have been without your hard work and planning.
Moving on, while writing my speech, I contemplated on what I should focus on…fond memories, bright futures, or should I try to make some sort of metaphor that sends a deep and meaningful message. Trying to gain inspiration about what to write about, I of course became hungry. Yes, time for a metaphor. While eating my homemade corn muffin I realized that life is very much an improvised recipe, lots of ingredients, and many outcomes. Our experiences these past four years have brought us together as a grade and have separated us as individuals. A few things that gives our grade the label of being “mischief makers” or “jokesters” are nuggeting each other’s bags in the 9th grade, our recent senior prank, and of course I can’t forget the infamous RHODE chant. But our grade is also more than that. We are intelligent, determined, and imaginative. Once we set a goal, it will be met. We all have our own perspectives of these past experiences, but I know for sure that they have brought our grade closer together.
After today, each and every one of us will be walking down a new and separate path. Some of us will be going to college, while others will be looking for work, or moving somewhere new. There are tons of new experiences ahead of us that will add to the list of ‘ingredients,’ good and bad, that make us who we are and who we will become. Mistakes will be made, but as my parents, say, “if you mess up, it’s ok, just learn from it.” Fellow peers, listen to your parents, they are almost always right. Learn from your past and reach for your dreams. And as the band Journey says, “Don’t stop believing, hold onto that feelin’!” Finally, congratulations to the Class of 2013, and thank you to everyone who helped us get here! Have a wonderful night!