Elgin Academy

Preschool through grade 12 on the hill in downtown Elgin.

taking learning personally

The intent of this blog is to provide a format for various members of the Elgin Academy community to showcase our unique learning environment. We hope you enjoy these stories.

2017 Valedictory Address

by Amelia Deering '17

When thinking about what I wanted to say today, I considered what shared experiences bring the Class of 2017 together. Over the past four years, we have all done unique and incredible things, but one activity we all have in common is watching a lot of Netflix. One show that got me through a lot this year was The Great British Baking Show, so I wanted to share with you all a little wisdom from my favorite baker on Season 3. Upon winning the final Bake Off, they said: "I am never going to put boundaries on me ever again. I'm never going to say 'I can't do it.' I am never going to say maybe. I am never going to say 'I don't think I can.' I can, and I will."

It is often said that a person is their own worst enemy, but I want to implore you all to be your own best friend. There are many people in your life who love you and are there for you, but you are the only person who is with you one hundred percent of the time. There may be people in the world who want to tell you you can't do something, but the only way they win is if you repeat those lies to yourself.

Too often we base our self-worth on small successes and failures. We generalize our shortcomings to encompass our whole selves, turning "I don't know the unit circle" into "I will never be good at math." That's a small example, but those little put-downs add up into a negative image of ourselves that makes it harder to succeed. Self-doubt, like Netflix addiction, is the shared burden of all adolescents, but as we move into adulthood we need to learn how to talk ourselves up. Our first instinct upon making a mistake is to criticise ourselves, but the truth is that you probably did the best you could and none of us really knows what we're doing anyway.

The prospect of going to college and starting a new life can be scary. After four-plus years of the same campus and people, everything changing so quickly and completely is very intimidating. As we move on from Elgin Academy, we are losing a security blanket. We won't be able to run into Mr. Raffety's office with every question and the friends we've come to depend on over so many years won't be there to hold our hands. Though each of us will certainly find new counselors and friends, when we arrive on campus we have to be our own support systems: we have to believe in ourselves and our ability to succeed.

I consider every member of the Class of 2017 to be my friend, and I know all of you are capable of greatness, but my faith in you is not enough. No one can convince you that you are interesting, intelligent, or worthy of love, because faith in yourself can only come from within. Believing in yourself despite setbacks and failures is hard work, but once you are certain of your abilities there is nothing you can't do.

Though, not being British, we will probably never win The Great British Baking Show, I ask you all to take its message to heart. Whatever your dream in life, whether it be perfect layers in a puff pastry or curing the world of disease, always remember: you can, and you will.

Lastly, no valedictory speech would be complete with a little valediction, so I wanted to say some special goodbyes and thank yous to the people who have made our time at Elgin Academy so special. To call out everyone by name would take more time than we have today, but to the all of our teachers both in the Upper School and beyond, thank you for guiding us down the right paths and supporting us in our dreams. I know our class wasn't always the easiest, but I speak for all of us when I say our teachers made us better people and got us where we are today.

To all of our families, if you are anything like my parents this is a very bittersweet time for you, full of both tearful lasts and enthusiastic dorm shopping. Though you may be scared of sending your babies into the big wide world, know that you have raised fantastic, capable young adults who can handle anything. Lastly, to my graduating class, words cannot describe the love I have for all of you. The thirty-eight of us are truly a family, and though this separation is painful I can't wait to see the amazing things all of us accomplish in this new chapter of our lives. Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2017!

Past Blog Posts

A Perfect Hilltopper Day

by Seth Hanford, Head of School

(The letter that follows was sent to the EA Community by Seth Hanford, Head of School, on May 25th. We are including the letter in the blog because we think it highlights what is special about Elgin Academy.)

There are days at Elgin Academy that truly encapsulate the Hilltopper experience as it is described in our Promise Statement. Yesterday was one of those days. All the qualities of what it means to be a part of the EA community were on display.

The day began with our Seniors and their teachers sharing memories and talking about the future at a breakfast provided with care by the Upper School faculty. Afterward, our Seniors dedicated themselves one last time to their studies at EA and attended classes to wrap up their final assessments. In the afternoon, the 2017 Hilltopper Yearbook was distributed to seniors, and faculty and students alike engaged in the ritualistic yearbook signing that always lends itself to reflection, joy, and perhaps a few tears. When the bell in Edwards Hall sounded yesterday at 2:44 p.m. the seniors joined in with shouts of celebration. Although the school day was over, the day had not yet ended for most Hilltoppers.

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Celebrating Seniors

by Jorge Sánchez

Today, my seniors celebrated their last day as high school students. As yearbooks were passed out, they did the traditional countdown to the last bell. I signed yearbooks and told them I was proud of them.

Later, we had a choir concert where I was honored to share the stage with them, other students from the middle and upper schools —as well as with colleagues— all under the direction of Marie Cinquemani. It was so enjoyable, so much fun.

Immediately after the concert, our boys' baseball team played for a sectional championship. Despite a valiant effort, they lost. There were intense emotions, even tears.

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The 2016 - 2017 College Report

by Doug Sept, Director of the Upper School and Director of College Counseling

As we approach the end of another school year, it is a perfect time to pay tribute to the Class of 2017 and the fruitful work that they have done in preparing for the next stages of their education. These thirty-eight students submitted a combined total of 326 applications to a variety of colleges and universities across the nation. Each of those applications included a transcript, standardized test results, thoughtful personal essays, and genuine faculty recommendation letters.

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I Was On My Own

By Sophie Shanae Gould Dulabaum

This week's post features an original story by 7th grader Sophie Shanae Gould Dulabaum. Her narrative was inspired by artwork she studied in a social studies unit on Westward Expansion.

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A Letter to the President

by Tommy Guyett, Jr.

Last fall, prior to the Presidential election, our seventh graders participated in the "Letter to the Next President" program sponsored by the National Writing Project. The letters were penned before November 8th as a way to encourage students to participate in the national dialogue. Our students did a great a great job of articulating their positions on issues of concern to them. We will share these letters in this blog from time to time. Today, we feature Tommy Guyett Jr.'s letter.

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