On Thursday, May 26, seniors and their parents gathered in Haertter Hall for the annual Senior Assembly. Speakers included Liam Taylor, senior class president, who spoke about the wonderful support his fellow students have offered during their six years at Burroughs, and Nicole Randall, chair of the math department and a ’22 parent, who celebrates the students’ courage and passion for what’s right.
Referencing the bravery of a young Harriett Tubman, Nicole Randall said: “What I hope for each one of you is that at every crossroad that you encounter in this next phase of your journey, you follow the examples of all the individuals you admire so and you think about Tubman courage, and choose the one that’s hard and right. And know that I will be somewhere on the sidelines like I have been for so long cheering loudly for each of you.”
Mr. Abbott closed the assembly by sharing fond memories of the Class of 2022, both his own and those of other faculty members.
After assembly, seniors and their parents gathered for a short reception hosted by the Alumni Association.
Liam's and Mrs. Randall's remarks are below.
Liam Taylor's Remarks
Hello everyone, I am so excited to get to speak in front of you all one last time. I’m Liam, I was class president this year, so I organized a lot of fun events for our class like the movie night and that bouncy house, and I made spirit videos. But also, as one of my duties, I get to give this speech on the last day of school which is great. I didn’t really know what to write, up until about a week ago. I had initially wanted to make something really funny, then I wanted to do it more dramatic and sad, but I settled for something in between-ish. I knew, however, that I wanted to write about you all, and how amazing you guys are.
One thing I noticed throughout this year in particular, with everyone being back in person and all of the Burroughs traditions returning, is how much we supported each other. I know, at least for me, there were many times this year that were challenging to say the least, with college applications, APs, last-year nostalgia, and all of that. But I was never doing any of that alone–I could always complain about some supplemental essay with a friend or stress out about a test in an AP course with the class before the bell rang. There were always other people going through the same stuff I was, and we were all there to talk about it with each other.
So basically, instead of talking about how much we’ll all miss each other and all of the amazing things we’re all going to do in the future, I’m just going to recall moments this year where I really felt supported by you all, and times when I could admit to myself that I might miss high school a little.
First, I want to thank you all for sticking with me through my Katy Perry phase. That’s real support if I’ve ever seen it. I’m on to bigger and better things now, so look out for a little Dua Lipa in the yearbook.
But the two real first examples are really the ones that got me thinking about how supportive we all are of each other in the first place. As many of you know KIVA sells Kandygrams every year during the holiday season, and after the sale, all the club members get together and assemble all of the Kandygrams with the notes and candy canes. I didn’t read your notes or anything, but just putting them together I could tell how much you all care for each other. There were tons of kandygrams handed out to seniors, from seniors. And I could see the effort and the care in each note or simply in the number of kandygrams made by a single individual. Whether it was an inside joke or just a nice note to a friend, each kandygram was intentionally kind and meant something to someone.
My second example was from a soccer game in November. This year was the first year I went to many sports games, and this was I think the first boys’ soccer game I had attended in years here. I don’t remember much from it, but I remember that Tim was the goalie, and it was a really important penalty kick. It got really quiet and all of the seniors were leaning over the railing in the bleachers, and he blocked the goal, and everyone screamed. It was really fun, but it was also a really telling example of how we’re all always rooting for each other. Even if Tim hadn’t blocked the goal, I know we all would’ve still been right there with him cheering him on.
I joined water polo for about two days in the spring. I wanted to use the new pool before I left and I wasn’t doing a sport so I thought why not, it’ll be easy! It was not. It was just about the hardest thing I ever did: I threw up after 20 minutes in the water on the first day, there isn’t a shallow end in the pool, and you’re constantly swimming. It was hard. But Davis and Erin were the most supportive, motivating people to have gotten me through it. Even though I’m pretty sure they thought me joining the team was some elaborate plan for me to kill them in assassin, they made me feel like I wasn’t a toddler learning how to swim when Coach would give me a ball to use as a floaty while they did drills. They were constantly reassuring me after each 400, telling me it was hard for everyone those first couple of days. And they really led the rest of the team. It was inspiring, but also just another example of how great we all are to each other.
Even things that may seem really small to you, the things that you do for others have a lasting impact on them. Like Sammie giving me her giant bag of green popcorn after the Review marathon meeting, or the more daunting tasks like Cori and me working together to get the seventh graders through trek alive at Drey Land. We were always there for each other.
I don’t have any advice or anything for you all, because we are obviously all in the same boat besides ‘keep it up.’ Keep supporting each other, and your new classmates you have yet to meet. I do, however, have advice for you all. I know I’ve been talking a lot about support in this speech, but I’m gonna keep doing it because it’s important. You all have to stick up for each other, keep checking in on one another, and don’t let whatever gets thrown at you take you down, because stuff will get thrown at you here. A strong group of friends who will back you up really goes a long way in high school. Speaking from my perspective as a 6-year student at Burroughs, you’re not going to get the support you need from your teachers and counselors, you’ve got to get it from one another. I was constantly fighting for what I needed from the school, whether it be understanding, kindness, or simply a little effort. It really helped to have a group of friends behind me, standing up with me, and ready to fight whatever fight I need to. So stick together, stick up for each other, and just as my classmates did so beautifully this year, support one another. Ok, thank you, bye!
Nicole Randall's Remarks
Good morning, John Burroughs Community, Mr. Abbott, fellow colleagues, students, family, and friends, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to be asked to stand before you this morning. If you know me at all, you know this is not a place of comfort for me. I do not like to be center stage and definitely not at a podium with a microphone. This particular class knows me well for multiple reasons, so when choosing me for this honor they knew it was completely out of my comfort zone, which is why I said yes! I’ve asked these amazing students beside me to push, stretch, grow, and take risks every day for years, and today they asked me to do the same for them.
After agreeing to speak, my next thought was what to say to you all. You already know how special you are to me. I have known many of you for the last six years, some of you since you’ve been about 3 years old, and one of you since day one. I’ve wiped your noses, dried a few of your tears, held you close when you were afraid to try that hard thing and cheered you on hundreds of times from sidelines and auditoriums while you conquered that fear and gave it everything you had. The joy you all have brought to my life is immeasurable. You have all made me proud watching you successfully nail the task on the first try or pull yourselves back up when you stumbled and failed the first try, second try, sometimes third try, and then nailed it with your award-winning smiles glued across your faces. I have had the privilege and pleasure to teach most of you at least one, some of you twice, and a few of you very lucky or unlucky ones depending on how you look at it, 3 times. You’ve been called Lovebugs, my babies, sweet peas, and sweet potatoes by me on a daily basis. I have corrected you when you needed corrected, challenged you when you required it, praised you when you earned it, and shared in your joy when you attained something that you thought was so allusive – mastery.
So today I decided to say to you what you always remind me of when you come bouncing into my room excited to share with me an inspiring person you have just discussed in another class, or how you are still moved by a morning assembly presentation, or when you want to chat about the debate you were having about environmental justice. The courageous individuals who you read about, listened to from the podium in Haertter Hall, studied their lives in classes, those you were inspired by their journeys, those who you were energized by their passion, and/or changed by their influences are just people, just like you. They aren’t Super heroes in the Marvel sense of the word, they are just people, people just like you.
For example, Harriett Tubman was 12 years old when she disagreed with the punishment a man who was caught escaping was receiving and stepped in front of a weight being thrown. The resulting injury was severe and caused her a lifetime of headaches and narcolepsy, but her courage didn’t stop there. Facing a lifetime sentence as a slave, she decided that the possibility of freedom was worth the risk of an escape attempt, even with the threat of certain death or an unimaginable beating if caught. You have to understand this idea of Freedom in the North was an uncertainty. She didn’t know what Freedom in the North would look like or even how to get there. Take a moment an imagine the courage it must have taken to decide to set out on this journey. If the slave catchers weren’t enough to make the 90 mile journey to Pennsylvania to freedom sheer terror for this young black woman, she also had to endure the dangers of the wildlife, weather, and ongoing symptoms from her head injury. In spite of the odds, Harriett and her two brothers left the Maryland plantation on September 17, 1849. Her brothers changed their minds and turned back, but this 5 foot 2 inch tall young woman pressed on alone, traveling mainly at night with only the North Star as a compass, and with the help of the Underground Railroad system – an elaborate network of secret houses, tunnels and roads set up by abolitionists to guide slaves to freedom - miraculously, Harriett Tubman made it to Freedom. She recalled the experience of crossing state lines, “I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything, the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.” She wanted this piece of “Heaven” for all those she left behind. She wasn’t satisfied with Freedom for just herself. She decided to go back to that Maryland Plantation about 13 times freeing 70 enslaved men, woman, boys and girls. Nicknamed Moses, she never lost a single one of the slaves she guided to freedom. Her work as a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad was extremely dangerous. Make no mistake this was life threatening work. In 1850 Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Act, severely punishing those who assisted runaway slaves, and the bounty on Harriett was approximately the equivalent of $330,000 today.
The courage and resilience of this tiny statured black woman who was illiterate her entire life is my heart’s desire for each of you. This world needs the unique gifts each one of you possess and have nurtured over the past 18 years. I want you to have Tubman courage when you are living out your individual passions. Don’t worry about who turns around, you push forward. I want you to expect the impossible, like the promise of Freedom in the North was for Harriett Tubman. Not just expect it, but make plans to set out to achieve it, and then step out there with Tubman courage. But don’t miss the important part of her life’s story. What’s most extraordinary about Tubman courage is that her courage wasn’t for herself, it was for others. Of course, she could have built a freed life in Philadelphia and lived out the remainder of her days, but her desire to share this “Heaven” as she called it with others, caused her to risk her life over, over, and over again. My hope for each of you is that you are not content in your personal success. That your Tubman courage will cause you to look around and see who you can bring along, what you contribute to others in the community that will lift us all as a people and nation. We need those kinds of leaders right now with Tubman courage, and know you all and I believe that each of you can be those kinds of leaders. I am not asking you to be Super Heroes in the Marvel sense of the word, but in the Harriett Tubman sense of the word. What I hope for each one of you is that at every crossroad that you encounter in this next phase of your journey, you follow the examples of all the individuals you admire so and you think about Tubman courage, and choose the one that’s hard and right. And know that I will be somewhere on the sidelines like I have been for so long cheering loudly for each of you.