The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

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The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

First day of speeches bring senior voice to the stage

Everyone has a story behind the person that they are. Each day, there are new ways to express opinions, thoughts, interests, and identity. However, there are few times when one has the eyes and ears of the whole school fixated on them. Senior speeches are one of those rare opportunities. On Thursday’s X-period, the first four seniors from the class of 2024 took the Huss stage and presented their speeches to the community. These speeches introduced a new format and a new wave of fresh faces to the long-lived SPA tradition.

In a familiar fashion, students, teachers, and family members entered the dark Huss Auditorium for the first senior speeches of the year on an otherwise ordinary Thursday afternoon. Sitting on the stage were the first four speakers of the year: Anja Seifert, Carys Hardy, Clara Ann Bagnoli, and Audrey Senaratna.

To Senaratna, it was like a senior awakening. “Having watched them [seniors] give their speeches for three years, it was very much a senior thing,” she said. “So, when I was up there giving my speech, I was like, Wow, I feel like a senior. It’s all real.”

This year brought some format changes to speeches. Because of the new schedule, X-period is shorter, so there is less time for the assemblies. All introductions now occur at the beginning, and speeches are shorter.

Regardless of the change, siblings and friends eagerly provided lively and humorous introductions for their beloved seniors, the auditorium quieted, and all focus shifted to the four seniors on the stage. The silence amplified the footsteps of the first speaker of the class of 2024, Anja Seifert, as she made her way to the podium.

“Lipstick,” Seifert said, starting her speech.

She delivered a powerful speech about feminism. The highs, the lows, the happy, and the sad. Seifert shared happy memories of her and her mother navigating feminism together through makeup. But she also spoke about her experiences with misogyny. As a little kid, she loved playing four-square and often played with boys. These boys would purposely rig the game to keep her out of the king’s spot. Little Anja would walk to the back of the line, fighting back tears to experience it all again.

Clara Ann Bagnoli took a more symbolic path in creating her speech. “I love metaphors, but I hate potholes,” she said.

For the next 6 minutes, she used metaphors to connect parts of her outside life to her innermost weaknesses. Bagnoli shared her experiences of anxiety and social isolation, comparing them to being stuck in a pothole while driving or feeling the sting of water in her goggles when she dives into a pool. Her voice bravely projected across Huss, sucking everyone into her unique speech and personal story.

“This speech isn’t unique. I am confident that though I am the first one to give a speech about my mental illness, I will not be the last,” Bagnoli said, at the end of her speech. “My story is my own, but it is also anyone at this school who relates to it [..] This year, I hope I can translate my language and speak without the walls of metaphors.”

Most of you are lucky enough to still have all of your aunts and uncles

— Audrey Senaratna

Last but not least, Audrey Senaratna rose and gave the final speech of the afternoon, sharing the emotional story of the workplace shooting that killed her uncle and the trauma that came with it.

“Most of you are lucky enough to still have all of your aunts and uncles,” Senaratna said, “Most of you are lucky enough to have solid, concrete memories of your family. Most of you are lucky enough to have never dealt with the aftermath of a mass shooting.”

What happens to a six-year-old when they lose a family member in such a tragic way? For a long time, Senaratna allowed the shooter to be the main character of this story. She addressed how the media presents victims as a name and a number while the perpetrator is given a story, an excuse. Tears welled in her eyes as she talked about these injustices, and her voice shook.

But she didn’t want the shooter to be the main focus. She wanted her uncle to be. She shares how she has found new ways to remember her loving uncle through happy memories of bonding and playing together. Her tears became those of love and happiness, ending her speech on a high note, with her uncle as the main character. “I am lucky to have had an uncle like Eric Rivers. I am lucky to have known him; I am lucky to have laughed with him. And I am lucky to have such a happy memory of him.”

These were only the first stories of the Class of 2024. Seniors will give ninety-two more speeches on a weekly basis over the rest of the school year.

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About the Contributor
Thomas Chen
Thomas Chen, Sports Editor
Hi, my name is Thomas Chen (he/him). I work as the Sports Editor for RubicOnline. This is my second year on staff. At school, I’m the Upper School Council treasurer and I'm also involved in the Asian Student Alliance. I love to figure skate and watch reality TV. I can be reached at [email protected].

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