Joseph Dana Allen Award Winner Rory Schoenberger ’23

Rory Schoenberger

Rory Schoenberger ’23 was the recipient of the Joseph Dana Allen Award, a recognition of highest scholarship combined with commensurate character. As part of this honor, Rory presented the following speech at Poly’s 166th Commencement on June 16, 2022. She reflected on what her time at Poly has meant to her, the power of unity and community, and her gratitude for her teachers and family, as well as the opportunities Poly provided. She shared the collective desire that the Class of 2023 leaves Poly better than they found it – and that they’ve achieved. We wish her well as she embarks on her new journey at Yale University and to all the students as they head to their next chapter. Enjoy her thoughtful speech.

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Good morning faculty, families, friends, and Poly’s 2023 graduating class! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share what Poly means to me with all of you.  

Rory Schoenberger

In many respects, our world has been defined by distance and space these past four years. Covid forced us to create physical space between ourselves and our politics have amplified that distance as an increasingly polarized America has become fixated on forming strict, isolated groups. Although the “co” in Covid stands for “corona” the root “co” also means “together” and Poly has been able to rebel against this divisive trend, remaining a tight-knit, supportive community. 

This brings me to the most essential of my takeaways: the power of unity and of community. Our class is incredibly diverse, not just in terms of geography, race, or ethnicity, but in terms of our interests and our lived experiences. Yet, one way we are all linked is in our desire to leave Poly a better place than we found it and ourselves as better people. We are often characterized as the grade of “do-ers,” and I am continuously amazed at all that we’ve been able to accomplish in coming together, from Service Saturday’s with One Love to winning sports championships, drawing strength from our different perspectives. We haven’t always agreed on the best ways to do things, but the discourse that came from our differences has been key to creating the change and progress that truly serves Poly the best. 

I’ve also learned the beauty of synergy. In Mr. Leeklymenko’s Latin and Greek classes, he constantly highlighted connections throughout etymology and history, urging us to do the same in our own lives. I’ve grown to love the satisfaction of flipping through my APUSH textbook and connecting the name Dorothea Dix to its Ancient Greek roots of “doron” (gift) and “thea” (goddess). Connections and combinations are key in a society that is increasingly trying to limit us to choose a single passion and stick with it. Poly is special in part because it’s a school of “and,” rather than “or,” of debate-artist-mathematicians, crew-SSB-historians, and wrestler- environmentalist-poets. As we graduate, there’s an urge to move forward and leave our past behind, but instead, we should draw upon it, learning from the combination of our high school experiences with our future ones. I hope we all continue to view the world & our lives through this lens of synergy to ensure more interesting, complete perspectives. 

Finally is the importance of gratitude. When I was told I’d be speaking today, once again living out the plot of Rory Gilmore’s life, I watched her Chilton graduation speech for inspiration. I’ll share some of her words now, as they perfectly encapsulate the bittersweetness of our graduation.

“We never thought this day would come. We prayed for its quick delivery, crossed days off our calendars, counted hours, minutes, and seconds. And now that it’s here, I’m sorry it is because it means leaving friends who inspire me and teachers who have been my mentors, so many people who have shaped my life and my fellow students’ lives, impermeably and forever.” 

Shaza Mousa and Rory Schoenberger

Oftentimes, I found myself and my classmates wishing high school away, viewing it as simply a means to an end. This was an incredibly flawed approach. Although it’s a cliche, it’s true: high school, along with any other period in life, is about the journey and the growth – not just the destination. I hope we can all take a moment to appreciate just how supportive our teachers and families have been throughout these four years, and how many incredible opportunities Poly has offered us. Most of all, I want us to honor how far we’ve come, both as students and as people. In college we’ll continue to spend long nights writing papers and stressing over tests, but I urge us to focus more on what inspires us the most, the laughter we share with friends, and on the immense privilege of receiving a new opportunity to work hard and grow as much as we possibly can. 

And of course, with all of this talk of gratitude, I would be remiss to not offer some of my own thank you’s: Thank you Ms. Perez for your perpetual support and to Ms. Moslander for your mentorship and for teaching me to turn my ideas into actions. Thank you to my mom, dad, sister, and my friends, for their endless inspiration and encouragement. Lastly, thank you Poly; I will forever cherish the memories and carry these lessons with me.