Senior Speaker Shaza Mousa ’23

Shaza Mousa ’23

Voted on by her peers, Shaza Mousa ’23 was the Senior Speaker at the Class of 2023 Commencement ceremony on June 16. She reflected on being grounded in the journey of life at Poly, facing the transition to college that is on the near horizon, and the passing of time. Painting a picture of life at Poly, she touched on everyday things that now hold a certain fondness — like yogurt in Commons, the mystery of proper semicolon usage, and Mr. Jared Winston’s shirt signage, as well as learning to not take things for granted as the pandemic taught us all. Enjoy her beautiful and witty speech!

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My fellow classmates, esteemed trustees, illustrious faculty, beloved family members, favored guests, and everyone else not included in those categories, what’s good?

I’m going to be honest, the senioritis hit pretty hard so I may have Chat GPTed some of this speech. Let’s get right into it. Thank you all for coming! It’s an honor to be speaking here at [school name]. That was a Chat GPT joke. I would never actually misuse ChatGPT. I have far too much integrity for that, or at least that’s what my lawyers have told me to say.

Shaza Mousa

Anyway, we are gathered here today to celebrate the class of 2023’s accomplishments, partake in the consumption of free refreshments, but most of all to see what inspirational sign Jared Winston is gonna attach to his shirt on this very special occasion. This is a time to commemorate our growth as students, as young adults, and—hopefully for some at least—as productive members of society.

I’ve learned so much at Poly, from derivatives and integrals, to gaga ball, to how to skim the goods off of the top of the Commons yogurt before it’s all gone. And yet there’s still so much I don’t know and frankly may never know, like how to use a semicolon properly, basic algebra, and why we still read The Great Gatsby

Looking around at all of us, it’s clear that we’ve grown so much, some more than others. We tend to view change as a gradual force, one that happens before our very eyes, only revealing itself when we zoom out. And yet we’re about to experience a huge, sudden earth-shattering, groundbreaking, world-rearranging change. Suddenly there’s no more familiar faces, no more debriefs with the deans. More importantly, there’s no more access to their cozy offices when they’re not there. There’s no more student center hangs, no more conversations that gradually get louder in the library that are inevitably interrupted by the librarians shushing you or threatening to kick you out (usually both at the same time). There’s no more playing basketball with friends in the legacy gym, and (fortunately or unfortunately) there’s no more commons chicken and rice. Instead we’ll be faced with the challenge of acclimating to new environments, new routines, new schedules, and new social circles, all while trying to figure out how to get internships, do laundry, and cook rice. 

The transition from high school to college is a daunting one. It just feels so momentous and grand and… scary. I think that’s mainly because it feels like for the past 4 years and maybe even longer we’ve made such a big deal out of going to college. It seems like our whole lives—our classes, our grades, our extracurriculars, our hobbies, all of it—revolved around this one thing. It got to a point where every workout, every second in a game, every meet, every brushstroke, every note, every word could be used as a tool to impress college recruiters or admissions officers. 

I think that’s where the senioritis phenomenon comes from. It’s the result of seeing our lives as a means to an end, focusing on a goal rather than feeling ourselves grounded in the journey that it took to get there. When you make something your whole world, once it’s within your grasp you look around you and the actual world is nothing to you. So once you finally get there, then you’re just burnt out, unable to start any of your three philosophy essays that were due a month ago.

And while I feel like I should now be trying to reassure everyone and say that “college actually isn’t all that. It’s all gonna be totally fine!”, I’m not sure if I believe that. In reality, we are so privileged for college to even be an option for us. Not everyone is able to think about college, let alone do nothing but think about it.

Shaza Mousa

Maybe we have been making mountains out of molehills, but from a different perspective a molehill could just as well be a mountain. And even if it is just a molehill, that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. Honestly, I don’t really know what a mole is, let alone a molehill—another failure of the Poly Prep education—but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t mess with one. Changes are scary because there are so many unknowns involved. 

At least this kind of change is one that we have some control over. We had a choice in it. Making it through the pandemic taught us to never take anything for granted because in a moment’s notice, we can lose it all. Call us the Fresh Prince of Bel Air the way our lives got flipped, turned upside down. 

But we’re here now and we’ve worked our butts off for it. So many times throughout my Poly career—during a particularly boring class, while filling out an unnecessarily long survey in chapel, after bombing a physics quiz for the 13th time—I would think to myself, “Man, I can’t wait to graduate.” I would look forward to this very moment, hoping it would come faster. And now here we are. In a little bit, Mr. Stone is going to call my name, and I’m going to walk across this stage (hopefully I won’t trip or fall on my face). I’m gonna shake some hands, people are gonna discreetly wipe off the clammy feeling of my sweaty palms on their robes. I’ll do my little awkward smile, wait for Linda Busetti to take my picture, and I’ll shuffle off the stage with diploma in hand. I’ll have finally done the thing I’ve been waiting for for so long. 

The funny thing is, right now all I’m thinking is, “What? No. I can wait to graduate.” The only thing I want is more time. Give me one more week. Please, just one more week. Give me one more day to laugh and joke. Give me one more day to wander the halls. Give me one more chance to get to know some of y’all just a little bit better. 

Poly wasn’t perfect by any means, but I don’t care. So much of my growth was done here. So much of my growth was done because of here.  

So maybe I’m only saying this because believing otherwise is pointless, because it has to be true, but we’ll be okay. Life is an endless cycle of changes with each quickly becoming the new status quo. So we will find comfort again. We will find routine again. We will find wholeness again. We will find hope. 

Now in a bit, we’re gonna do the thing like Angela Bassett. So walk that stage. Take your time. Feel every second. This is our moment. We made it (hopefully on time although I have my doubts)! But really take it in. 

And what comes afterwards, that’s up to you. We’ll inevitably go on and make a big deal out of something else, whether it’s grad school, the bar, med school, a job, a relationship, the NFL, a novel, the MLB, Broadway, traveling, a Minecraft world, Papa’s Freezeria or whatever it is that you choose to worry about, to fixate on, to look forward to, and to dream about. And when we all come back for our 5 year reunion, I just hope that we can all say that it was worth it. So choose wisely. It’s ok to be afraid of change, just don’t let it get in your way. We made it through a pandemic. We made it through high school. We’ll make it through all that comes next with fear in our eyes and hope in our hearts. 

Thank you for everything. It’s been real.