Please enjoy the Class of 2014 Valedictorian Speech:
Good morning! My name is Daryth Gayles and I am extremely honored to address the Holy Trinity class of 2014 on the day of our graduation. I would like to thank everyone who helped me get to this point: my incredible and loving family, my amazing friends, my teachers, my guidance counselor, and my coaches.
I never thought this day would come. I don’t think any of us really did. Until recently, graduation day seemed to be in the very distant future. Our graduation marks the beginning of the transition from adolescence to adulthood, the end of one era in our lives and the beginning of another. In a few months, many of us will no longer live at home, and we will be faced with a new sense of independence and responsibility that is all at once exciting and frightening. Initially, the rapid changes, foreign environment, and unfamiliar challenges that we will certainly face may be overwhelming. However, our time at Holy Trinity has prepared us well.
Holy Trinity has changed us and shaped the people we have become, perhaps not in a single, defining moment, but rather in a series of small, seemingly insignificant experiences. Over time, these little experiences—field trips, interactions with our teachers and peers—have gradually and almost imperceptibly come to define our values, our beliefs, and our outlook on life. Each year has brought new lessons, disguised in the most mundane experiences and events.
7th grade taught us a great deal about ourselves. Many of us were new to Holy Trinity, and 7th grade taught us how to make friends and find our social niche. The jump from 6th grade to the 7th represented the beginning of the slow and awkward transition from childhood to adolescence. We learned to see ourselves in a new light; no longer were we children, but rather young adults trying to discover where we belonged. In 7th grade, many of us learned what it meant to leave behind the security, innocence, and dependence of childhood. We learned what it meant to grow up.
Then came 8th grade. No longer were we the smallest. As the oldest students in the junior high building, many of us learned how to be leaders, how to set an example for the so-called “sevies” that looked up to us. In Mrs. Biscardi’s English class, we read The Pearl by John Steinbeck, one of the first books I read in school that had a grim and shocking ending. The Pearl shattered the myth of the fairly tale perpetuated throughout our childhood, teaching us that in life, as in literature, the endings are not always happily ever after. That year, we also embarked on the memorable Washington DC field trip, where Austin Riffe fearlessly entered a dance contest and won, teaching us the importance of being bold and unafraid to embrace competition.
In 9th grade, we were again the youngest. I thought the junior high building was large, but the high school building seemed impossibly gigantic, as did the intimidating upperclassmen that populated its halls. Thus, 9th grade brought with it many differences—a new building, new students, new teachers—and in the process taught us how to cope with change, although on a small scale. In Mr. Chiarella’s infamous honors biology class, we learned what the term “studying” truly meant and the value of the reward that comes with facing a challenge. Mr. Lovelace taught us countless new words and the importance of proper grammar. And of course, Aliyah’s unforgettable fall during the homecoming pep rally taught us that it’s ok to laugh at ourselves when we make mistakes.
10th grade arrived, and we found ourselves in a sort of limbo, not quite the youngest but not quite upperclassmen yet either. Looking back, memories of 10th grade seem hazy and vague. The year’s events seem run together with those from 9th and 11th grade. One of the year’s few defining factors was that many of us took our first AP classes that year, classes that gave us greater independence in our learning and taught us how to deal with the greater responsibility that followed. For many of us, that first AP was Mrs. Duguid’s AP Euro class, in which we learned not only a great deal about the renaissance and the enlightened monarchs, but also how to manage our time effectively. In Mrs. Rehill’s Lit class, we read Catcher in the Rye, a novel that was both irritating and hilarious. From Holden Caulfield we learned that the world may be full of “phonies”, yet genuine relationships with others are necessary for survival.
Then came 11th grade, with its many perks. We were officially upperclassman, gaining greater authority and commanding more respect among our peers. Most of us now had our licenses and relished in the newfound freedom that came with the ability to drive. However, despite the many perks, junior year brought its fair share of challenges. Often declared the hardest year of high school, junior year taught us how to perform under pressure. Many of us were bombarded with endless work in APs and honors classes, be it Calc, AP Psych, AP Lang, or Mrs. Baxter’s unforgettable AP lit class, which taught many of us the importance of reading and observing very, very closely. The dreaded SAT, a necessary evil, also contributed its fair share the chaos of junior year. The 5 hour tests spent bubbling in tiny circles taught us the value of stamina, and more importantly, self belief. And of course, Mr. Herter’s mind-boggling card tricks during Physics class taught us that it’s still possible to believe in magic.
Finally, after three years of high school, we reached senior year, and suddenly the idea of college didn’t seem so abstract. The tedious college application process, often the source of stress and agitation, hid many lessons. For many of us, college rejections taught us how to cope with disappointment. For many more, our acceptances taught us how great reward comes from hard work, dedication, and perseverance. However, perhaps the most meaningful lesson senior year has taught us taught us deals with the passage of time. It seems that not long ago we began our journey through high school as eager freshman, yet now we find ourselves at its end. Each year, time has seemed to pick up speed, going faster and faster and pushing us farther down the road of life. Our senior year has taught us the importance of savoring each moment and each experience—each test, each interaction, each class, each sports practice, each moment spent with our friends and family. If we don’t stop to consciously acknowledge each moment and each experience, time will inevitably slip through our fingers.
The phrase “you only live once” embodies this concept. Although cliché, it holds a poignant truth, reminding us to focus on the value of time, and more importantly, life itself. The idea that we only have one life should not be an excuse to make rash decisions, but rather an incentive to conquer the fears that hold us hostage and that prevent us from achieving our goals. Personally, one of my fears is public speaking. There is something very intimidating about addressing a large group of people; it makes me feel exposed and vulnerable. When I first learned I was valedictorian, I was happy of course, but my first thought was of the speech I would inevitably have to make at graduation. Like wise, as we go on to our respective colleges and eventually enter the “real word”, fear will be the single greatest factor that holds us back. However, Holy Trinity has prepared us well. Over time, through the smallest experiences and the most insignificant moments, Holy Trinity has given us the tools we need to conquer this fear: work ethic, stamina, knowledge, leadership, wisdom, dedication, and confidence, the most powerful tool of all. As we move forward in our lives, toward an exciting future and seemingly endless possibilities, we mustn’t forget to look back every once in a while to where we came from. Wherever our lives may lead us, Holy Trinity is, and will always be, a part of us.
–Daryth Gayles ’14
Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy