by Eugenie Park and Flynn Resnick, members of the Class of 2020
Following is an excerpt from the speech by Eugenie Park and Flynn Resnick, who were chosen by their classmates to speak at Commencement 2020.
Flynn: Not a lot of you know this, but Eugenie and I were quite the delinquents in Middle School. And not in a cool and edgy sort of way. We just behaved exceptionally badly in our 8th grade English class and gave our poor teacher the worst year of her life.
Eugenie: I, out of an extremely unjustified superiority complex, would regularly strike up arguments with her for absolutely no reason, and Flynn just generally didn’t pay attention. However, we were worse together than we were apart. Flynn and I having incredibly loud, irrelevant, and often insensitive side banter in the corner of our English classroom quickly became a staple of every class, and our transcripts definitely showed that.
Flynn: In 2014, Eugenie and I were the manifestations of the worst of our grade’s culture at the time. We were rude. Irresponsible. Numb to the feelings of others. However, over the past six years, Eugenie and I have thankfully evolved. And so has the grade around us.
Eugenie: When Flynn and I were discussing the most special thing about our class, the first thing that came to our minds was growth. This growth is evident in my and Flynn’s journeys from ragtag preteen nightmares to the relatively composed and personable individuals you see before you today. However, this evolution did not happen overnight.
Flynn: Freshman year turned out to be just another series of Eugenie and I traumatizing our humanities teachers. [Our English teacher] quickly noticed our rambunctious behavior together during our first freshman English class and abruptly separated our seats. When midterms came around, he wrote scathing things in our comments, not afraid to name drop the other half of our duo when justifying our mediocre participation grades.
Eugenie: And, again, our continued rowdiness reflected the distinctly negative reputation that haunted our grade as we entered the famed roundabout of Red Square in September 2015 … When people first witnessed our arrival on campus, it soon became clear that they were not particularly happy about it.
Flynn: Our class was regularly thrown dirty glances in the library and scowls in the WCC due to our irresponsible and unhealthy behavior. Soon enough, the Class of 2020 was synonymous with the height of toxicity, clique-iness, and insensitivity.
Eugenie: That being said, as the weeks went by, Flynn and I gradually found where we fit into the Lakeside community. I found refuge in the crew team, while Flynn got involved in theater. In the early days, we were still kind of annoying and generally uncomfortable with ourselves, but we found the right people to be annoying and uncomfortable with.
Flynn: And, as Eugenie and I found our respective places and passions, you all did too. Some of you tried football for the first time, while others tried their hand in Tatler. As the months passed, and as we grew more confident and comfortable with the corners of Lakeside that we found ourselves in, we became more secure in our individual identities.
Eugenie: Growing into ourselves finally made space for much-needed healthy community building within our class. Friend groups became more fluid, we slowly learned the value of simple virtues and the list of reasons why people should hate the Class of 2020 got shorter and shorter.
Flynn: One of the moments that exemplified this was the junior retreat. Teams intentionally made up of different friend groups had an amazing time competing during a scavenger hunt, and we all cheered each other on during a class-wide talent show that included sword fights and two gorgeous dance numbers. That day was a pivotal moment, whether we knew it or not, in the journey of making our grade into what we wanted it to be.
Eugenie: Suddenly, it was the fall of our senior year, and we were the ones tossing candy (underhand of course) at the terrified freshmen. And it seemed like our grade was unrecognizable. Due to a fortunate combination of focused student leadership, intentional acts of kindness, and increased confidence in ourselves, we had incrementally become a grade that the underclassmen could look up to.
Flynn: However, unfortunately, we weren’t able to fully enjoy the results of our growth or serve as those role models for as long as we would’ve liked. Having to wrap up such a transformative journey through Zoom screens and Teams messages was not the ending we deserved, but it truly did tie off the bag of oddities that our grade brought to the table. This was not an ordinary ending. But was anything about our grade ever ordinary?
Eugenie: Most people, when they reminisce on their high school years, talk about those quintessentially high school moments: falling for their first love, scoring the final touchdown on their homecoming game as the bleachers erupt in applause, or having a little too much fun on prom night. Flynn and I had zero of these experiences. If we’re being real, the only part of high school that will manage to resurface in our memories five, ten years from now are probably the extremely embarrassing and/or regrettable ones.
Flynn: Me getting rejected twice for spring fling freshman year, don’t worry I’ve… moved on. My mic pack falling out of my pants during my duet in this year's production of “Mamma Mia” – I have not moved on from that sadly. And so many more classic Flynn Resnick tribulations that like to make their way back to me whenever I’m starting to feel a bit more confident about myself.
Eugenie: For me, there are countless moments from my Lakeside experience that have, and I’m sure will continue to, haunt me as I try to fall asleep. Some examples of this are my entire Middle School career, the several times I have fallen up the stairs of Allen Gates during passing period, with the flood of judgmental teenagers making their way around me, and enthusiastically waving back to some random junior boy when I was a freshman when he was waving to his friend behind me the entire time. At the end of the day, the majority of the memories that Flynn and I, and I’m sure some of you, have made at Lakeside have stuck in the recesses of our brains simply because of the magnitude of awkwardness that we associate with them. But that’s okay.
Flynn: The point of high school, at least for this grade, was never coming out of it with rose-tinted vignettes of youth or, in the case of Eugenie and me, startling moments that will torment us for the rest of our lives. What counts is how much we grew, both individually and as a class. That might not be found in a single memory or an individual moment but that doesn’t make it any less real.
Eugenie: Our tumultuous time together has made us become better students, friends, and people, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. So, a decade from now, when you suddenly are reminded of that one awkward high school interaction and it triggers a visceral shiver of shame, remind yourself that there was more to our years together than just that.
Flynn: Going forward, I’m absolutely positive that we will use the things we learned and the relationships we built here to catalyze change in whatever spaces we find ourselves in. Honestly, if we have managed to change our grade from what it was four years ago to what it is today, then helping do the same in our future workplaces, friend groups, and institutions should come easily to us.
Eugenie: There are many responsibilities that this class holds after we finally wave Lakeside goodbye. We are not only coming out of this school so much smarter but also so much more privileged. The education we have received here, the people we have met, the resources that we have had access to, the network that we have become a part of, those are all immense privileges that have been handed to us the day we started our Lakeside journeys.
Flynn: Now, it is our duty to go out and use what we have been given to uplift the voices and efforts of people who have not been given these same boosts in life as we have.
Eugenie: Class of 2020, we have done each other so much good. But now it is time to see all the good we are going to do for the people and places and systems that exist outside Lakeside’s red brick walls. That has always been what has really mattered. And, although I will say we sure weren’t ready to do that work four years ago, we are now. And that’s all thanks to our amazing grade and the journey we shared together.
Flynn: Thank you all so much for everything, and congratulations.