This June, Pawling High School graduated its Class of 2013. Leading this talented and ambitious pack of students was Valedictorian Magdalene Fogarasi, a dynamic young lady whose achievements reach far beyond having the highest average in her class.
Magdalene’s ride through high school had its peaks and its valleys. Math, for instance, was at times a challenge.
“I think my real struggle there was that I spent half my time trying to figure out what the question was actually even asking,” she admits. Nevertheless, it was science that really sparked her love for learning. Whether it was the two rounds of biology and chemistry (both Regents and Advanced Placement for each) at Pawling High School, or her physics class at Dutchess Community College, Magdalene found joy in the logical, thought-provoking avenues science allowed her to explore. “Science lets you ask ‘well, why does that work?’ rather than being told to memorize some fact because it just is,” she points out.
When she wasn’t hitting the books, this well-rounded valedictorian was hitting the gym for the three varsity sports she played: volleyball in the fall, and track & field in the winter and spring. She ran at Nationals this June. To rattle off her other impressive accomplishments… she co-founded Pawling High School’s Art Club, tutored children, worked at the Pawling Free Library, and was a member of Peer Leadership, the French Honor Society, and the National Honor Society. Remarkably, Magdalene was able to balance all this with her stellar grades and a fulfilling high school experience.
This hard-working young lady is headed to SUNY Stony Brook in the fall to study biochemical engineering. She would like to work on developing more efficient artificial muscle and tendon tissues.
Finally, Magdalene leaves us with some words of wisdom from her four-year voyage through high school:
“I think the best way to really do well is to learn to love the subjects that you’re learning. Chances are you won’t enjoy everything and you likely won’t be good at everything either, but find what you do enjoy about a subject because that’s the one way you know what you’re learning will actually stick in your brain. Bring in outside knowledge, read some books, watch some educational television, or just sift Wikipedia – you never know what’s out there that might become your passion. And don’t give up, there are going to be days when you can’t stand another minute in a desk, when you haven’t slept for three days, and when you have five projects due on the last week of school; push through it, believe me: it is worth it.”
I am just going to start off and say that I have never been to a graduation before, but apparently I am pretty smart so I think I understand how speeches are supposed to work.
I’ll assume that this should be nice and formal, a few thanks here and there, a congratulations to our class, and some motivational quote to end with.
But let’s be honest. That just wouldn’t be us.
And I will say us. Because, yes. There are moments when I hated most of you, but there are a lot of moments where I can honestly say I loved this class. I would say we’ve had our ups and down but not only is that really cliché but it also misleadingly assumes that we follow some sort of track. We most certainly do not.
And that’s OK. In fact it’s beyond that, it’s good. Because like it or not, we are the next generation and we will be taking control of the world. I don’t mean that we’re going to insight a rebellion – although we might – it’s just that humans don’t live forever and…well…ya.
And the world doesn’t just need people who can memorize a lot of things and spit them back the way other people want to hear them. And yes, there are great innovations and leaps being made in engineering and computer science and medicine, but those are not the only jobs in the world that make a difference. There are skills and trades that we could not possibly live without. And you will find something that you love, and I urge you to pursue that and to refuse to be beaten down by the systems under which we live.
I don’t worry too much about us in that regard though. After all, we’ve basically become the grade known for fighting against every and anything that we didn’t like.
And in our defense we have dealt with a lot, and in those regards we have become a better and closer grade. There was probably a time where I could name every person in our class, and I don’t promise that I can do that now; I do believe we have a number of memories that still tie us together.
That time we didn’t go to DC.
That time in middle school when we were forced into assigned seating at lunch.
That time that blow dryer in the boys locker room mysteriously caught on fire.
The stink bombs, every time, let’s face it, it’s always us.
That time the school decided to instate community ISS.
That time we couldn’t all agree to not show up to school.
That time we did all agree to show up but apparently sent the memo to too many people.
That time the school enforced senior skip day.
And all the countless other inside jokes that we’ll keep telling because those were the moments that really mattered to us.
Because it doesn’t matter if you didn’t get the top grades. And it is me telling you this, so give it a little credit. Your grades do not determine your intelligence and what you did in school thus far will not dictate every moment of your life to come. Because at any and at every moment in time YOU have the option to change your life.
When I did passively refuse a state “required” assessment I got into an interesting conversation with a certain person and the phrase “find some values to fight for” came up. And this person gave me a nice little talk about all the things they were doing to change the things they didn’t like. And that was nice, but…they completely missed the point of my statement.
I honestly do not care what it is you chose to fight for because that is not the important part. What is important is the fight, the action you take to pursue the goals you seek. Because at its roots I strongly believe that all life is a game and as of now there is no way to win it, but at the very least you should give it a good run. So, if you really want to live your life according to your own rules: find a passion and pursue it because you define the world in which you live and that will become the world that we pass on – so at least attempt not to screw it up?
And finally because I think I have to: Thank you to the teachers and parents for your hard work.
And to my fellow classmates, thank you for your work, your antics, your time, and your determination because some you cut it close.
Now I’ll leave you with the words of Publilius Syrus – this is your motivational quote part – “Necessity knows no laws.” Become a legend and don’t let anything stand in your way.
And a final congratulations to the crazy, the awkward, and the legendary Special Ed Class of 2013.