The ‘amazing class of 2013’ graduates GHS, looks to future

It was declared a “perfect night” and the 674 students in the Greenwich High School graduating class of 2013 surely agreed as they threw their caps in the air and celebrated their accomplishments after the school’s 144th commencement.  — John Ferris Robben photo

It was declared a “perfect night” and the 674 students in the Greenwich High School graduating class of 2013 surely agreed as they threw their caps in the air and celebrated their accomplishments after the school’s 144th commencement.
— John Ferris Robben photo

The 674 students making up the Greenwich High School graduating class of 2013 deserved high praise for all their achievements. And the word “great” simply wasn’t sufficient.

That was why GHS valedictorian Victoria Hoffmeister declared them to be “the amazing class of 2013.”

In her address to her fellow graduates at the school’s 144th commencement, Victoria talked about how much they had learned from their early days there navigating the hallways and attempting to decipher the block schedule and also how much further they had to go.

“Standing here in front of my talented and capable peers, I realize I’m not really in a position to offer advice about how best to live your lives and approach the future, because I’m still figuring that out and I don’t even know what I’m doing this summer,” Victoria said.

But offer advice she did, drawing upon the lessons she took away from music class to tell her classmates to “go for it” even if it’s outside their comfort zone, citing the idea of “you only live once” (aka YOLO).

“I’ve heard YOLO so many times this year that it’s become almost meaningless, but the message is actually constructive,” Victoria said. “You only live once so we should gather our confidence and face the uncertainty in every performance or big game or art project or even conversation with that cute guy or girl and just go for it. And, if things don’t go quite according to plan, own it … Be brave, be proud and make no excuses.”

GHS Headmaster Christopher Winters noted the “perfect summer evening” with clear skies, a nice breeze and a sunset in the background. And he probably wasn’t just talking about the weather when he said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Dr. Winters wasn’t just speaking as a headmaster. This was an emotional night for him as the class of 2013 was the first to spend all of its four years with him as headmaster and also because his son, Roger, was among the graduates.

“I am very proud of each of you and excited for your accomplishments,” Dr. Winters said, noting achievements in the areas of academics, athletics and the arts. He urged the graduates to be ethical, be imaginative, be courageous, be generous and be hungry for adventure.

The accomplishments of the class of 2013 were celebrated throughout the Friday evening ceremony at Cardinal Stadium. In his senior address, Class President Brad Kim looked back on the four years they had all been together at GHS and the challenges they had faced, many of which seemed to be focused on the physics courses taught by Dana Schlosser.

“For some those years might have been long and difficult, full of social awkwardness and academic pressures,” Brad said. “And for others those years probably flew by as the best years ever. We’ve had some good times, sports games, lunch blocks open, prom and every one of Mr. Schlosser’s classes. And we’ve had some bad times too, making mistakes, humiliations, hurricanes and every one of Mr. Schlosser’s tests. But for all of us I hope those years were a learning experience and I don’t just mean the hours spent in the classroom. I mean the hours we spent staying up all night writing essays and the hours we spent staying up all night hanging out with our friends.”

Brad said that his fellow classmates should remember succeeding and failing and then having to get up the next morning to do it all again. He added that those experiences had all taught them well but they should also remember that “we all still have a lot to learn and we’d better learn hard and fast because if you look at the world around us, it needs us to be smart.”

Wisdom for the journey ahead was a major theme of the commencement as Jordan Abbasi, one of the two class salutatorians, recalled an experience from last summer where he led a youth group of six 11-year-old boys through the Adirondack Mountains on a canoe trip. He talked about how intensely focused he was on the single goal of reaching the camp site before dark despite the complaints from the boys that they were hot and tired and how they came upon, like a mirage, a 60-foot rope swing attached to branches hanging over the lake.

As the boys urged him to stop so they could check it out, Jordan said he insisted they didn’t have time, only to be overcome by their persistence.

“We flew through the air with abandon and we felt free,” Jordan said. “It turns out it was just what we needed. Swinging on that rope taught me it’s OK to deviate from our expected path. It’s not only OK, but it’s important. I had been too focused on our destination to see the rope swing as an opportunity and the decision to get out of the canoes for a few minutes drastically changed the mood of our trip. We were re-energized. With the support of the faculty, staff and our parents we have worked hard to get from point A, freshman year, to point B, graduation. Reaching our destination is important but we must not forget the importance of exploring life’s rope swings and going for the things that might not be part of our plan, but make the experience enjoyable along the way.”

In urging his classmates to do things they don’t necessarily think are part of the way they’re headed, Jordan found his sentiments echoed later in the program by no less an authority than Chris Berman. Mr. Berman, an icon at ESPN in its coverage of football and baseball thanks to his well known catch phrases and creative nicknames for players, was the commencement speaker and he also told the graduates that they shouldn’t be afraid to try new challenges and experience everything that was out there for them.

While a student at Brown University, Mr. Berman knew his passion lay with sports, but he graduated with a degree in American history and made sure to take courses on everything from the films of Alfred Hitchcock to probability.

“Don’t have tunnel vision,” Mr. Berman said.

While telling the graduates to wake up with optimism and have conviction while trying to do things “the right way,” Mr. Berman also had the good advice of urging them to not forget to enjoy the moment.

“You’re going to go off to college and while you’re not going to forget anything, it’s also not going to be the same,” Mr. Berman said. “If you have a chance to soak it in, whether it’s tonight or this summer, make sure and take a good look. It changes, not for the worse, but it just changes. There are a lot of people you enjoy that you’re not going to see as much of, so spend an extra five minutes with them.”

A former resident of town, Mr. Berman’s parents still live here and he said he accepted the invitation to speak as a way of saying thank you to Greenwich. At the end of his remarks he even called for an ovation for all the first responders in the audience to thank them for everything they do, not just for his parents, but all town residents.

The day ultimately was about the students going forth into the future of colleges, universities, trade schools and the job market. And as he sought to inspire his classmates before they went their separate ways into “the biggest party ever, which is the rest of our lives,” Brad had one final thing to say to the students he led as class president.

“Good luck,” he summed up. “And may the Force be with you.”


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