A New School Year: Inspiration from our Student President

Good morning everybody! I’m Allie and welcome to the 2018-2019 school year! Although I love coming back to school and seeing all of my friends, I am also very familiar with the adjustment of having to wake up early once again. So I just wanted to say welcome and I hope you are all awake.

On the topic of welcomes, there are some people here in the audience who are joining us for their first year at Hamlin. I’d first like to give a warm welcome to our youngest sisters, the Kindergarten class of 2027! Kindergarteners, please stand and turn around to face the audience and give everyone a big wave. In addition, can we have the 16 awesome new students joining us in grades 1-7 please stand up. Welcome to the Hamlin family!

For the last couple of weeks, all of our teachers have been working here at school. They have experienced the changes that our school has undergone over the summer. The blacktop is now painted gray and we have new flooring in the dining rooms. Because we have beautiful new floors and we will be getting new white tables in October, let’s do our best to keep the lunchrooms clean. This year when we bus our plates, one thing will be different. We will now sort everything into its correct bin, instead of handing our trays to Mr. Sandoval, Ms. Molina, or Ms. Martinez to do for us. We should start being more independent in this regard, and not rely on others to clean up after us.

Our teachers have been working extremely hard to make this school year amazing for us while we have been spending our last few weeks of summer. I want to welcome all of our new teachers this year. New teachers, please wave to us so we now who you are. Not only do I want to thank all of the new and returning teachers who have been working so hard, but I also want to give a warm welcome to Dr. Kelsey Twist Schroeder. Dr. Schroeder is our new Head of Middle School and we are so excited to hear all of her great ideas this coming year. Finally, I’d like to give a shoutout to the 8th grade. (Could you guys please stand up?) Class of 2019, I love you all and we have all made our time at school so enjoyable. Let’s make this year our best one yet!

Before I introduce the theme of the year, I want to share a short story with you. During the first half of 7th grade, I was in the theatre elective. Some of you might remember our production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. When the semester came to a close and the elective was over, the whole cast was really sad because we had been a pretty tight group. During our last class together, Ms. Abbott had us do an activity. She told us to all pick partners as she passed around gold stars about this big. Ms. Abbott told us to write our names on the stars and switch with our partners. We then wrote things like messages, compliments, and stories on each others stars. When my partner handed my star back to me, I was shocked. I honestly almost started crying when I read it. Not only did she make it look really nice and pretty, but she wrote the NICEST notes. My friend went above and beyond. Not only did she compliment my acting in the play and how I showed a lot of emotion on stage, but she also praised some of my personal qualities and talked about us being best friends. Although this project was an assignment, because my partner put so much heart and work into it, my star became a true gift of friendship. I currently have that star hanging above my desk, and whenever I’m having a tough day, I take it down and read it and it always makes me feel happy and greatful. Deeds like this are why the theme of the 2018-2019 school year is, “What you do matters.” “What you do matters” means thinking about the impact of your actions. The decisions of community members either add to the joy and unity of the group or take away from it. For instance, my friend didn’t take the activity from Ms. Abbott just as an assignment, but she really put in the extra effort to make it something that mattered to me. It made me feel happier and even closer to her. With the impact of your decisions, there’s no neutrality. In other words, your actions always have an impact, an effect on others.

Now, I don’t mean to sound like a parent. My parents are always nagging me about my actions. These are things like, “have good manners,” “make sure you’re developing good habits!” “stay off your devices,” “use your time constructively!” These all seem like such parent things to say, but what they’re saying is actually teaching a really important life lesson. And even though “What you do matters” seems very self-explanatory, if we dig a little deeper and break down the different parts of the theme, we can see that it’s pretty deep and full of meaning.

The first part of the theme I want to focus on is the beginning: “What you do,” with emphasis on the word “do.” Although you may overlook that little word at first, it is actually essential to the essence of the theme. Our theme doesn’t begin with “What you say” or “How you act” because those two activities are incredibly specific and are missing something key. “Do” is an all-encompassing word that adds that key element to the meaning of “What you do matters”- that element is action. At Hamlin, we value taking action. After all, we are young women meeting the challenges of our time. So sure, what you say and how you act matter, but the real power of “What you do” comes from the action we decide to take. Saying and acting become so habitual. For instance, you see someone trip on the stairs and you ask, “Are you okay?” You act polite. But really, you don’t need an answer, because this routine is just habit. It’s very kind of you, better than just walking by, but it’s not the same as doing. Doing is when you are actively aware of the situation and stop to help the person up and gather their books for them. You laugh along with them and dismiss the awkwardness of the moment. You made the active choice to stop and help this person, and this mattered. This is the reason for the word “do.” And guess what? Doing can also be even bigger than this. Imagine if each of us stopped using plastic water bottles. It might seem like a simple fix to you, but 500 people making this switch (assuming we all use one plastic water bottle a day) would result in 182,000 fewer plastic bottles being dumped into garbage patches in one year. Not only that, but we would be examples inspiring our friends and family to do the same. We wouldn’t just be feeling bad about the environment, but actually making a change. In a book I read recently, The Running Dream, somebody says, “There’s often a deep, wide abyss between good intentions and concrete action.” Let’s be the ones to cross that abyss and take action!

The second part of the theme I want to talk about is the last word: matters. I think of the meaning of this section of the theme in three parts: connection, self-worth, and responsibility. As I was reflecting upon the theme of the year, a particular idea that resonated with me was that we are all part of a greater whole. Whether it’s your family, school, group of friends, or team, each one of us matters to different communities of which we are a part. Nothing you do is ever in vain, because everything you do matters. Your actions matter to individuals in these different communities. That’s connection. Secondly, I want you to remember your self-worth. YOU matter. WE matter. I don’t want any one of you going around doubting your self-worth or thinking that you don’t matter, because each and every one of you does. And along with this comes responsibility. As Dalai Lama said, Everything you do has some effect, some impact.” If all of your actions have an impact on somebody else, we want to make that impact a positive one. We also need to make sure that what we do doesn’t hurt anybody around us. If you remember earlier, I said everything you do either adds to the joy and unity of the group or takes away from it. Our responsibility is making sure that our actions aren’t the ones taking away from the joy and unity of the group. After all, part of the reason that the theme “What you do matters” was chosen is because we want Hamlin, and all of our other communities around us, to be the happiest and most united place it can be.

To end this speech I want to share with you a quote I found by a young author, Al Carraway. “Be kind to yourself. Be proud of yourself. Because you matter. What you do matters. You make a difference.” So let’s go make that difference! Let’s work together to make 2018-2019 the best possible year we can at Hamlin!

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