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2018 Graduation Speech

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When I walked through the front doors of Staples High School for the first time in August of 2014, I remember looking around and seeing students who looked like they found their place. I too had a goal to one day be a student who had his own community at Staples. As important as academics are, like most freshmen I wanted to find my niche. Looking around and seeing the football star, the tennis captain, the lead in the play; they had their niche. I had trained for countless hours over the summer playing tennis, hitting hundreds of forehands and backhands a day against a wall. I was sure that was my price of admission towards acceptance. But as fate would have it, the next four years turned out much different than expected. As many of you know, that can be a good thing. Here’s my story
Shortly after beginning my freshman year, it became apparent that I had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. In short, my joints are much looser than the average person, which causes frequent dislocations. Imagine a routine walk to the car, and without warning collapsing because your kneecap is completely out of its socket. Not exactly the ingredients for an aspiring tennis star. I was devastated. What now?
Now would look like Beatles albums wall-to-wall. Now would look like movie posters; Rocky, Scarface, The Godfather. Now would look like microphones on stands, dimmed lights, and the smell of vinyl album jackets. I walked in wearing a faded Yankees jersey and Knicks sweatpants, but when I heard the sound of John, Paul, George, and Ringo I found myself humming immediately. I found the place that would become my home for the next four years. Now would be room 450, better known as the media lab, home of WWPT 90.3FM.
WWPT is the Staples’ radio station, and it was my ticket to a niche. It was an environment that allowed me to channel my passion for sports into broadcasts, while also building a passion for the past 60 years of music and diving deeper into news, politics, and opinion.
I realized I had found my home at Staples, and was hopeful for the chance of a smooth future. But as you know, hope is not a guarantee. In order to be successful, you also need grit, passion, and a little help from your friends. I started to sink my teeth into preparing for and hosting multiple radio shows a week that covered various topics, along with obsessively listening to professional radio hosts, and understanding the nuances of my idol Michael Kay’s play-by-play. I began to become known as the “radio guy” at Staples, calling games for football, baseball, and my favorite hockey.
In January of my sophomore year, I severely dislocated my left knee. The surgery and recovery that followed put me in a wheelchair for the rest of the school year. My grit, persistence, and passion were put to the ultimate test. Come March, our Staples hockey team was playing in the state semifinals at Yale’s 60-year old hockey rink. As I began to prepare for the broadcast, I discovered that wheelchair accessibility wasn’t a priority when the arena was built in 1957. This was the biggest game of the year, but I didn’t think I could get away with calling it on wheels. I felt sad and embarrassed.
Reluctantly, I asked for help from classmates and family. We all expect family to help us through these times, but what was so special was how members of our class, including the hockey team, helped me through this. They rallied around me, arriving to the stadium 5 hours before puck drop to get me through that stair-filled stadium and into the press box. I successfully called the overtime Staples win, and to this day I still feel that it’s the strongest broadcast I’ve ever had. But without those who supported me, it would never have happened. I learned that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Often times, we can’t get by without it.
Ever since that experience, I’ve continued to pursue my passion in broadcasting and journalism. What’s unique about the Staples experience is that you aren’t sheltered or cradled. You learn about real, relevant issues and are given public mediums to discuss them. WWPT has an active listenership, and the school newspaper Inklings has a strong following. With that comes major responsibility.
When I first joined those organizations, that responsibility seemed as exciting as it was daunting. What if I made any mistakes? And wouldn’t you know, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve gotten hate calls on the radio, and had heavily-criticized articles in the paper. But one of Staples’ most important qualities is that students are allowed to fail. Through my experience, I’ve learned that if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. Every time I’ve faced failure, I’ve learned from it and emerged a better person.
For the next 4 years, I’ll be living in the biggest and most competitive city in the world as I attend Fordham University. With that comes exciting opportunities, but also many excuses to get in my way. But I feel incredibly prepared for this journey from my time at Staples. I’ve made friends that will last a lifetime, discovered my true passion, and learned that if you want something, go out and get it. Don’t let setbacks or a fear of failure get in your way. In the words of John Lennon, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Never be afraid to ask for help when needed; and if you can’t walk there, wheel.
In a world of fake news, I’ve learned to pursue my career with honor, respect, and integrity. These are all things that can’t be taught just by reading a textbook, but more so by being opened to new ideas and learning from your mistakes. That’s what it means to be a Staples graduate. Thank you.

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2018 Graduation Speech