By Sarah Whelden '19
I am not going to lie...this is strange for me. I vividly remember walking in through those doors 12 years ago with my senior buddy, Elisa, conscious of the immense amount of people watching my every move.
Granted, I don't recall most of the presentation because of my focus on side conversations with my friends about important things like recess, but one of the most striking things that I remember is how nearly e v e r y o n e in the bleachers was smiling, as though they really wanted to be there!
I thought to myself, “They must really like it here.” Why else would they look like they’re enjoying a bunch of speeches?
I had the feeling that Randolph was something special and boy was I right. As I’ve learned over the years, Randolph becomes a place that is familiar and comfortable, somewhere fueled by community and trust. Randolph is a family and truthfully very few schools can say the same.
Of course, a lot has changed since 2005. Not least significantly, the people who have been here since then. As a kindergartner, there were few things we did or could do on our own. Our parents were always the ones that had to feed us, dress us, even remind us to use the restroom when we may forget. Depending on which stage of life we’re currently a part of, some of those things, if not all, are tasks that we are now able to complete on our own.
The fact that we are all at different stages of life may seem like a differentiating factor, and in some ways it is. But in reality, it is part of what makes us all the same. You see, at some point in each of our lives, we were completely dependent upon another person for practically everything. From learning to brush our own teeth to transitioning from riding in the passenger seat of a car to driving a car ourselves, we gradually become more independent as years pass. Most of the time, becoming independent is viewed as a sign of maturity and responsibility, or at least that is what we are told, but for those of us going through it, the small steps can be just as scary as the big ones.
We will often try to act like we know what we’re doing to make ourselves seem more independent, because we are afraid of failing or asking for help. But I’m here to tell you that although it is healthy to do things on your own, it is important and perhaps even vital to ask questions and accept help when it is available. Whether we are struggling with understanding how rocks form in geology class, or feel completely lost in Mrs. Hillinck’s world of DNA translation, the discouragement we feel when facing adversities both inside and outside of school is normal.
Take dancers, for example. I know people my age who have been dancing for 15 years, which is most of their life to date, and they are capable of incredible twists and turns that I can barely begin to comprehend. Do you think that, 10 years ago they could have performed all of the numbers that they do now? Or that they even knew how to tell dance positions apart? I’m guessing p r o b a b l y not. No way, right? They had to learn, through trust and reliance, just like we all do when we’re starting something new.
We depend on our coaches and teachers because they have experienced similar circumstances and want to help us grow and learn. It is through the process of watching, listening, and learning from others, that we build up knowledge about how to do certain tasks. These tools are what make it possible for us to try something on our own, allowing us to create our own experiences and make our own mistakes. Only then will we have the resources to become truly independent.
If there’s one thing I hope you remember from this morning, it’s that sometimes, you have to allow yourself to be dependent before you can become independent. It’s okay to tell your dad you don’t understand the multiplication table your teacher gave you for homework. Trust me, it’s better than giving up, and it is never silly to admit when you need help.
Randolph is a family
School doesn’t have to be just a bunch of buildings we see everyday with the same hallways and same people. If you take a second look, and you don’t have to look very hard, you’ll see that Randolph is a family more than anything else. If there is one thing I know to be true, it is that our teachers may have been hired to help us, but they actually WANT to do it too. Believe it or not, they don’t want us to fail any more than our parents do. The fact of it is, they all want us to make it TO and THROUGH college, whether or not our parents’ primary motivation is to finally get us out of the house. At times, it may seem like our teachers are pushing us until we break or fail, but they are challenging us so that we can realize our full capacity and ability to resolve problems on our own.
Without a community of people guiding us through the journey of becoming independent, our parents would still be tying our shoelaces. The point is: life is a process... and not necessarily a simple one, or one that comes naturally. Spending 13 years in school takes up a significant portion of that process, and in a place as wonderful and supportive as Randolph, a lot of our struggles and transitions will feel a little less burdensome when we learn from our own experiences and the experiences of others.
To the Kindergarten Class of 2031, there will be times throughout this year and the rest of your life, when something will seem so hard and all you want to do is give up. I want you to know this: you are more than capable of making it through on your own, but you never HAVE to do it alone. I know great things await you, and I cannot wait to see how your independence paves the way for the rest of your lives.
Sarah Whelden is a Randolph lifer. Her older sister graduated in 2015 and she has a brother in the 5th grade. She has been a student ambassador and a member of the SGA (Student Government Association) since the 9th grade. Currently serving as SGA President, she was their Historian in the 11th grade. She likes to read, draw, paint, sing, play piano and tennis, do yoga, pilates, and snow ski. She also does cheer. Outside of school, she has acolyted at Nativity since 7th grade and she is President of the Junior Grace Club.