John Mahoney OPC '16
Throughout my high school career I have never been one to stand up at assemblies, or perform at Showcase, in fear of embarrassment or making a fool of myself. Luckily for you all, I have been given the opportunity to write down my thoughts prior to today’s ceremony.
I began my career at Penn Charter in eighth grade after moving from Norfolk, Virginia, where I had spent the previous four years of my life. Before that, I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and having been born in Denver, Colorado, you could say I had moved around a little bit. Moving around that much, I never really found one place that made me say, “This is good, I belong here.”
I remember thinking on the long car ride to our new house in Cheltenham, “Why again? Why are we moving again?” That whole summer before eighth grade I spent convincing myself that I would hate it here, upset that I had left my friends and my entire life behind. But within my first year at Penn Charter, I realized that moving was possibly the best thing that could have happened for me.
My first couple of months of school were a little shaky. Getting my feet planted on the ground and getting a great start to the new school year has never really been “my thing,” and the stress of a new school and trying to be friends with everyone did not help. But I finally did get that footing, and I am so glad I did. By simply opening myself up and accepting my circumstances, I have found that welcoming place where I know I belong.
Now I’m not saying that every single moment at this school has been an amazing-peachy keen-best time of my life-I want to stay in high school forever- type of time. Of course there were those early-morning swims, those late-night study sessions on Skype, and those teachers who would just not let up on the homework. But looking back on it, I can’t help but see how necessary those things were. The hard times that we have gone through while at this school were all for a purpose: to prepare us for life after Penn Charter. This school challenges its students in ways that sometimes we may not initially want to be challenged, but it’s all for the greater good.
Take giving this speech for example. Originally, I didn’t want to stand up here and address you all today. I even voiced to some of my classmates that I did not want the job. But, when Mr. Larrabee pulled me into his office and told me that I had been selected, it was as if a switch had been flicked in the back of my mind. I had been gifted this amazing opportunity to voice my appreciation for the school and for my peers.
What I did not take into account was that senioritis had taken full hold of me at this point, so the writing process has been rough to say the least. I was at a loss for words and in need of inspiration, so I inevitably turned to my classmates for ideas. I went around asking them what they thought the one memory at Penn Charter was that defined us as a grade. What I found troubled me at first. Nobody told me the same anecdotes. Everyone had one memory that they believed defined our grade, but they were all different:
- the entire day we all spent on the lake at the Senior Retreat
- winning PC/GA day
- the collective relief we all felt after May 1st
- the All-School Musical
- and even getting yelled at in the senior lounge for being too noisy
The point is, our class has countless narratives that describe our experiences at Penn Charter. We don’t have that ‘one story’ that everyone looks fondly back on because we are all so different. To be honest, sometimes I think the only thing that we have in common is that we all went to Penn Charter.
Penn Charter. The school that has always provided us the opportunity to thrive in all aspects of our lives, and has also provided us with a swift kick in the behind to get going when we weren’t. When thinking back on my time here I can’t help but feel deep appreciation for all that this community as a whole has done not only for me but the entire Class of 2016. From our coaches who saw in us great potential and believed in us perhaps even before we believed in ourselves, to our teachers who, despite our best efforts to ignore them, molded us into the success stories we are today, and finally to our classmates with whom we were thrown into the world of high school ... and who have now become family.
At what other school could I have gotten a detention from my own father for having a marker fight with Tim Zurcher in the eighth grade? Where else could I have had my first-ever high school class be with Dr. Comiskey, who would later on in the year terrify us little ninth graders by throwing our lab reports at us and telling us our answers were “rubbish?” (Don’t worry though, deep down she really is a sweet person, so don’t let her try and convince you otherwise.) And finally at what other school could I have been elected to speak at graduation by both my peers and the faculty? All of these experiences were firsts for me, and Penn Charter provided them.
But now it’s the end, and for the past 277 days since our first day of senior year, (yes, I actually sat down and did the math), we have been counting down until it’s all over. People always tend to think of their senior year in lasts, but being a glass-half-full kind of guy, I try not to focus on the lasts and look at this year as a transition. A transition into college, into the future, and into the unknown.
It was good, and we all belonged here, but now it’s time to say goodbye. Penn Charter has done its best to prepare us for what comes next, and now it is our job to take the leap and ascend into life with one another. So congratulations and good luck Class of 2016, and above all, thank you Penn Charter.