On Thursday, May 21, the Senior Assembly was held in Haertter Hall with members of the Class of 2015 seated on the stage and many parents in the audience. Alumni Board President Jim Hullverson ’71 welcomed the class into the Alumni Association, and, with input from the faculty, Andy Abbott toasted the class with memories from the past six years. The seniors were also addressed by class president Sachit Bhat, and class-selected faculty member Jaclyn Yetter (Science), whose remarks follow. NOTE: video clips from Sachit's and Ms. Yetter's remarks appear at the end.
Good morning Mr. Abbott, faculty and staff, fellow students, and of course you stunning class of 2015. When I sat down to write this speech, I quickly realized what a daunting task I had ahead of me in condensing all of our memories and great times together into one brief piece of writing. It’s quite difficult to comprehend how far we’ve come together.
I want to take you all back to our seventh grade year here at Burroughs, a time that consisted of extremely sweaty pickup basketball games after lunch, excessive walks to Ladue Market for a bag of chips, and of course, cargo shorts, everyday. Everyone came in with their own unique qualities, talents and personal flair, and knew the seventh grade was their time to make an impression on both their classmates and the school. Emily Shands definitely dressed to impress with her bubblegum blue and hot pink Juicy sweatsuits. Justin Moon proved to the world that it is possible to form your mouth into an equilateral triangle. And Tre Moore, whether you realized it or not, you were God.
As we progressed through the Burroughs journey, more and more memories were made as we shared meaningful experiences together. We found joy in being with one another, whether that meant taking a walk down to Laughing Lake with a friend, or getting that hard-fought win in tug of war ... juniors, watch out for tomorrow. When we think back to our time over the years, it is these little moments that I cherish. I know some of you are probably stressing about finals next week, or wondering how that last English paper will affect your grade. But while there is so much value in the facts and information that teachers can give you, I promise, you will learn and grow so much more by spending time and making memories with your class.
For example, Jacob Schechter made me aware that the best way to show school spirit during spirit week is to cross dress. Kelvin and John made it clear to me that I do not have a future in the freestyle rapping industry. Faraz made me realize that while backpacks may seem handy, the best way to move around campus is by piling every binder, paper, and folder in your arms. And by electing me senior class president, I learned that it is a extremely smart decision to correctly count the number of years you’ve been at Burroughs before announcing the wrong number to the school.
While in my mind it is fairly clear that our class is the best class to have ever gone through Burroughs, each and every one of you have a chance to leave your mark on this wonderful place. You are part of this community because of your creativity, curiosity and passion. And in the six short years that you have here, make the most of what you have; have a conversation with a teacher about something other than school. Do a performance for a Music Friday. And for those of you who are too scared to try it, eat the blueberry dump cake, because it is amazing. While we are a mere seven days away from the end of our Burroughs adventure, all the rest of you have at least a year to make that impact.
Now to the class of 2015. First off, congratulations for all that you have accomplished over the past six years. When I first came here in seventh grade, I felt out of place. Lost in the world of 600 new faces and personalities, I was just that chubby “sausage” kid that wore glasses. Initially, I didn’t know who to talk to, or what to really do with myself. But it didn’t take long before I found a sense of belonging to this close-knit JBS family. You all made me feel like I was part of something special, and I knew in an instant that I had chosen the right place. We have made so many strides together, and while not everything has gone our way, we continued to trek onwards. Today, we’ve reached the pinnacle of our ascent, and I could not be more proud of how far we’ve come. And while I cannot predict where the next chapter of our journey will take us, I am confident that the Class of 2015 will continue to do great things for their community. Liam and Jeremy, never stop looking for ways to bring fun to the quads of the world. And Tre, keep doing your thing, because you may just end up being God.
All jokes aside, thank you guys for everything. I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for all that you’ve given me, and it’s been an honor serving as your class president. I will truly miss seeing you all every day, but I’ll never forget everything we’ve been through together.
Good morning, seniors, students, faculty and members of the Burroughs community.
I would like to thank the senior class for the opportunity to be with them on stage for their final assembly as students. I am truly honored (and a bit terrified) to be with you all for this moment. Jimmy said this was the year of the trust fall when all of you were on the stage at the opening of your last year here. The many performances, talks and discussions have truly made this the year the members of the Burroughs community felt comfortable to make themselves vulnerable and try something new. Class of 2015, this is my trust fall – I know you all will catch me.
You all were my first class of eighth graders when I came to teach at Burroughs. Ninth-period science was the class I felt the least prepared to teach. Coming from teaching at the college level, the Burroughs students were so young. I hadn’t worked with middle school children since I was in high school. I remember being in middle school and all the eye rolling, the attitude, and “knowing” that I knew the answer to everything. This senior class is the last class to remember there was a Burroughs without me, to know that I had experiences besides my own schooling and teaching here. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of working with 73 of these graduating seniors. The 2010 school year was a year of firsts: the first time I had a student tell me they hated the periodic table, the first time I had a student nearly catch her hair on fire, the first time I had a student upset over earning a 98% on a science test, the first time a student told me I was mean to my face, the first time I’d even seen a student fall off of a stool during class, and the first time I became a mom.
Since then, I’ve watched this class grow, mature and support each other through difficult times. As part of the last group of sophomores to have seven periods of regular chemistry, I’ve witnessed members of this class find confidence in their abilities, help each other in the lab, and break into song when the mood strikes – chem lab, Monday mornings, afternoon problem solving. This class sings more than any I’ve ever had. And it’s mostly the guys. I can no longer listen to Justin Timberlake without being reminded of a certain individual singing the high notes every day that spring of 2013. Everyone would beg him to stop, but he just kept singing. To me, that’s courage – knowing you aren’t very good but doing it anyway because it’s something you enjoy.
On this final day with me as your teacher, my last lesson for you is some advice I wish I had heard, or listened to, when I was in your position.
I remember my senior year vividly. The summer before was filled with such excitement and hope and high expectations. Everyone had said it would be the best year yet. What those people failed to mention was all of the work that was involved. Everything seemed to require so much effort during senior year. Classes were taxing, college applications loomed at the edges of all tasks, and friendships needed much more effort to sustain. By Thanksgiving of my senior year, I was ready to be in college, ready for new experiences, new people and new adventures. The last place I wanted to be was in St. Louis. I wanted to escape. I didn’t want to be trapped in the same social scene, doing the same things, being the same person I was in high school. I convinced myself that the only way to leave St. Louis was to be a great student.
I threw myself into my studies. I enrolled in all the honors classes. Before tests I would recopy all of my notes by hand, making sure everything was the best I could make it. Along with school, I worked 20 hours a week at a sandwich shop, eventually becoming a manager by my senior year. My mother always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do as long as I knew I would have to work for it. The more I wanted to leave St. Louis, the harder I worked. I wish I had known being successful does not mean being perfect.
The first weeks of college went by so quickly. I was doing well in my courses. I was making friends and exploring the big city. With all of my free time, I adopted a strange new sleeping schedule – long nap in the afternoon, then dinner and studying until the 1 or 2 in the morning, another long nap, and then up at 7 so I could be to calculus or physics class. If there was a test or paper due, I could be found in the study room of my dorm until 3 or 4 in the morning. I would drill myself with problems until I got all of the answers correct, then I would get a few hours of sleep, and be ready for the test.
This schedule seemed to be working well. I was succeeding in my classes and still had time for a social life. I knew if I wanted to go to graduate school my grades needed to be awesome. I’m not talking good, not for this girl. I wanted to be the best in my major. That’s how one gets to grad school – just be the best, work hard, and it will happen. That all changed in November.
It was the night before our last physics test before finals. I took my usual afternoon nap, grabbed some dinner and headed to the study room. I was determined to ace this last test. I studied until 4:30 am. I remember debating if I should just stay up and wait for the 8 am test. Even now my heart is racing thinking about that morning. I laid out my pencils and calculator. I set my alarm for 6:30 am, just in case I pressed snooze I would still have enough time to get up and be ready for the test. I put my hair in a ponytail, placed my head on my pillow, and fell fast asleep.
The next time I opened my eyes, the room was bright, much too bright to be 6:30 am in November. And it was quiet. Slowly my mind was catching up to where my heart was, already the adrenaline was racing through my body. I rolled over and my two roommates were not in their beds. I looked at the clock and it said 9:05. I grabbed my pencils and calculator, put on some shoes and ran from my room. The exam period ended at 9:30. I had to get there. I couldn’t leave the entire test blank.
By the time I made it outside, I was crying. Every stride toward the physics class felt like another opportunity being lost, another door closing. It was a cold morning. The tears stung my cheeks and the wind ripped through my t-shirt. I ran as fast as I could. The class was only three blocks from my dorm. I burst into the physics building, banging the door against the wall, and took the stairs two at a time. I ran into the room and froze momentarily. The seats were full and suddenly all eyes were on me.
I hadn’t noticed if anyone was on the sidewalk on my race to class (there had to be – it was Chicago). I tried to pull myself together as I approached my professor for the test. At this point I was sobbing, gulping for air, the epitome of a ‘hot mess.’ She looked surprised to see me but didn’t say anything and calmly handed me the test. I climbed the stairs to the first open seat, ten rows from the front, glanced at the clock — 20 minutes to take the test. I wrote as fast as I could, not bothering to calculate, just getting as much information on to the pages as I could.
I felt sick to my stomach, thinking how I had just ruined everything by oversleeping. My mind kept repeating how all of the hard work had been for nothing if this test went poorly.
Looking back on it, I can’t believe I thought one test could change my whole life, could keep me from my goals, could make or break my chances of being a successful adult. Things worked out in the end. I still went to grad school. I still found success. I wasted a lot of time and energy trying to make things perfect when it did not matter.
At 19, my world was black and white. You get this much time to take tests, the points you earn in a course calculate your grade, and there was no wiggle room. Whatever the numbers said had to be true. Through one small act, granting me 20 more minutes on the exam, my physics professor showed me that one should always look at the bigger picture, and that kindness is always appreciated. Every one of you will make a mistake. Take the time to learn from it, to grow as a student and as a person.
My final advice, seniors, is to trust yourself. Only you can identify your passion. I went to college as a declared chemistry major. My family didn’t understand why I’d want to study chemistry and many of the people I met in college would start to slowly creep away when I told them my major. Chemistry fascinates me. It explains the world around us. It’s challenging and combines math and physics – what’s not to love? All the long hours in the computer lab typing lab reports, the summers of barely making enough money to pay my rent, the 16-hour days in the lab in grad school when the laser system was finally working never felt as long as they were because I enjoyed what I was doing. A few weeks ago Beau Willimon (’95) admitted he worked 12-hour days, almost 100 hours a week. When you enjoy what you are doing, the long hours melt away and are all worth it. Seniors, trust yourself to take risks in the next few years. Try a new hobby, travel, take that leap of faith, speak up when you feel something is not right. The only things I regret are moments when I did not act, when I did not trust my gut feeling.
You will not regret trying. Trust me, the foundation you’ve laid at Burroughs will catch you. Thank you!