- This is Poly
Talia Marash ’21 was the Senior Speaker for the Class of 2021 Commencement on June 4. She reflected on her life at Poly since she arrived as a nervous sixth grader and how the Poly community rallied and persevered through the pandemic that turned routines upside down. She also shared her gratitude for teachers, parents, friends, and even Dyker Bagels. Enjoy her beautiful speech!
Good morning, guests, administrators, teachers, families, and everyone who managed to get one of the two prized invitations to this very special event. And, of course, welcome to the Class of 2021, the reason why we are all here today. Welcome back to campus! I know it was an early wake up compared to what many of us are used to since ending school May 7, so I am glad to see all your faces here. My name is Talia Marash and I am so happy to be here speaking to you today. Thank you to my fellow students for entrusting me with this speech; I hope I live up to your expectations. Now I don’t want to stand here for the next however many minutes and throw cliches at you, but stick with me if I throw in a sappy comment or two.
I want to bring you all back to my first day at Poly. It was sixth grade and I wanted to do literally anything else than go to a new school where I knew almost nobody. I spent every day of the first week crying to Ms. Ty [Middle School teacher Patti Tycenski] begging her to let me go home. I am so impressed by her kind reactions toward me because if I were in her position, I don’t think I would have been as understanding of a complaining child at a gorgeous campus school like this. After a solid week of pestering, a switch inside me flipped, either because my mom told me to just buck up and deal with it, or because I stopped crying long enough to meet some really cool people.
There is a deep sense of awareness and connection to the communities both in and outside of these gates that enhance our everyday experiences.
Ever since then I have continued meeting new and interesting people who have enhanced my education and taught me how to be a better person. The strongest aspect of Poly is its people, who constantly strive to make it a more knowledgeable and perceptive place. The fact that on any given day you can walk onto this oasis in the middle of Dyker Heights and see performers working on their craft on the stage, athletes giving it their all, both on the field and in the weight room, and intellectuals challenging themselves with a complicated math problem or philosophical question, is a feat within itself. There is a deep sense of awareness and connection to the communities both in and outside of these gates that enhance our everyday experiences. The unmistakable identities that are brought onto this campus every day, as well as the way they come together and interact, creates not just a school but a family.
Not only have we faced a global pandemic, but also difficult social and political tensions both at home and abroad. We have made memories we will tell our children, grandchildren, and therapists.
Now, this year, and the end of last year, were anything but normal. Tent school and the many versions of it definitely challenged the routine we had come to know. In the past, a test being blown out of my hands was never as big of a worry as it was this year. I have grown an attachment to my computer charger and became painfully aware of the slow death of my computer battery. As Charles Dickens put it, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This rings true more so now than ever. We can all see that just from the way we had to go about these end-of-year celebrations. Not only have we faced a global pandemic, but also difficult social and political tensions both at home and abroad. We have made memories we will tell our children, grandchildren, and therapists.
In the context of this year’s abnormality, however, our experience and relations with each other were enhanced. So many facets of our identity come out in times of struggle. We see the true way people communicate with each other in times of need, the way that they show up and advocate. The power of a person’s voice and their actions are only amplified when their passion allows others to be consumed by their cause. The power of each of our voices is undeniable in the advocacy and message it provides. Even over a computer screen, we tackled a lot of hard issues and created a distinct way of advocating in a time that did not allow us to physically support one another.
Political philosopher John Rawls (Thank you for that one Mr. Rankin.) seeks to create a more peaceful and tolerant society through equality on both a social and political level. This year was a time for justice in all facets of our society. Our social media, classrooms, and conversations were filled with rousing words of passion and distress. The past election year comes with its own drama and action, coupled with a pandemic that exacerbated existing issues in our healthcare, police, and political spheres created new tensions and challenges we all have had to learn to traverse. Once again, we can turn to each other from our Poly community, seeking comfort in similar ideas as well as discomfort and challenge from those who hold different ones. Our adolescent experience is only enhanced by the people that go here and their backgrounds that inform them.
If I could go back in time, I would tell the sixth grade me a few things. First of all, don’t worry. You won’t have to wear a collared shirt forever; they chill out about the dress code. The time of leggings and sweatpants is coming soon. If anything, you’ll embrace the layers of sweatpants during the 40-degree days on the back fields. Secondly, and debatably more importantly, soak up every connection and interaction you have in the seven years you are here. Ok now here is my cliche comment: time really does fly. They told you this when you got here and you brushed it off, but it’s true.
Thank you to our teachers, for dealing with us amid the craziness in the world and in your own lives. We know the adjustment from in person school was hard and want you to know that we appreciate and notice everything you do for us.
A few more thanks before I start to finally wrap up, because past me knew when writing this it would be extremely hot under those gowns. Thank you to our teachers, for dealing with us amid the craziness in the world and in your own lives. We know the adjustment from in person school was hard and want you to know that we appreciate and notice everything you do for us. To the parents who supported us throughout it all as well as supported our larger grade and community, we would not be here without you. Although we may not be the nicest during finals or other high stress situations, we always appreciate what you do for us and I think I can speak for the rest of the class when I say we will miss you when we go off to college. And to Dyker Bagels and Baya Bowls, thank you for allowing us to find solace away from our constant stress in the Chicken Ridic and Bella Nutella.
We have an experience unlike any other graduating class that, in itself, creates a distinct bond.
To the Class of 2021, the affliction of senioritis finally is over, and its symptoms of arriving to class late with a coffee in hand, forgetting a pencil, or a pen, or even sometimes your whole backpack, have finally subsided. All those stories of our parents having to walk uphill both ways to get to school will be nothing compared to the many hours we spent masked in these very tents, attempting to learn calculus. We have an experience unlike any other graduating class that, in itself, creates a distinct bond. I am so excited to see where everyone ends up, knowing that they have the support of each other and that this school will constantly be propelling them forward. I know I would not have the confidence or words to stand up here and give this speech without the effect every one of you has had on me in my time here. Thank you for everything you have taught me.
Even as we disperse throughout the globe, let’s keep pushing each other. As Will Rogers said, “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” Although the memories of running the mile in Middle School weren’t fond ones, they allow many of us to relate to this quote and understand the push and tenacity with which we must tackle all of life’s challenges. Let’s always move forward as graduates of this institution with a solid foundation in the ideas and passions of the Poly community, contributing toward a life of mind, body, and above all, character.