Text of Sara Donatello’s Commencement Address, May 19, 2019

Text of Sara Donatello’s Prepared Commencement Address, May 19, 2019. The speech as delivered may have varied slightly from the text.


Good morning faculty, friends, family, and the graduating class of 2018,

A few weeks ago, I made an announcement at school meeting for Ms. Locke regarding girls lacrosse. After I had finished the announcement and sat down, Mr. Riffle said “Everyone heard her right?”. I had been making school meeting announcements here and there for the past 5  years….but still…. I could not get over the nerves and raise my voice loud enough for the people in the back to hear. But….. here I am right now, can everyone hear me??

I recently looked through my old school pictures that my mom keeps in a frame, one picture on top of another.  The top picture is my recent school picture, taken this past fall, and the others go all the way back to freshman year. When I was placing each picture back in order, I began to realize how much I have grown and matured over the years. But, when others look at the pictures, they only see the top picture. What they do not see are the years before. The years of successes, failures, setbacks, opportunities, and everything in between.

When an outsider looks at Northwood, she sees a private, boarding school with students, faculty, staff and the five core values of courage, compassion, integrity, respect and responsibility posted everywhere. When I walked through the doors of Northwood five years ago, I thought I understood what Northwood really was. I had grown up as a faculty brat, living on Second West until I was seven, and even when we moved across town, I still hung out in the living room all the time. I was twelve for about two months when I first started school here, and no one has ever let me forget it. Anyways, I thought I knew what Northwood was. I played soccer, hockey, lacrosse and tennis so I figured that my life was going to consist of sports, school and hopefully a bit of a social life. But, my expectations didn’t extend beyond that. I did not realize that Northwood was going to be my life for the next five years.

Even though everyone’s top picture represents the selves we know today, the pictures behind the picture are different. Going deeper than just Northwood’s core values, I see much more. I see friendship, support, community and opportunity, just to name a few.

The friendships and the support system that I have gained over my years at Northwood are indescribable. All of my friends and all of my teachers have shown me what it is like to have people truly care about you. Mrs. Walker, you always made yourself available for me when I needed help with AP Bio, or just needed to talk. You are a role model to me and I will miss you. Getz, I just met you this fall, but it feels like I’ve known you forever. You were my coach but you were also my friend. I’ll miss hanging out with you on road trips and saying hi on my way to class. Riffle, you’ve been my advisor for 2 years now and you have only ever taken us out to eat twice. Schach, learning French was fun, but I will always remember your life lessons, stories and advice. Merci pour ces années des bonnes expériences. But that aside, you’ve always gone out of your way to help me and I truly appreciate that.

If someone ever asked me to give them an example of Northwood coming together as a community, my first thoughts would be Winter Carnival and Pink the Rink. Winter Carnival is without a doubt the highlight of the year. There are four teams, each team having five captains. My first four years all went the same way; I found out what team I was on from a list that was put on the windows outside Mr. Spear’s office. This year was different; I was a team captain. I did not think that being a captain was going to be too stressful;….. to put it bluntly, I have never been more wrong about something. About a week before each winter carnival the captains all gather and draft every student in the school. I thought it would be a casual discussion; I was very wrong about that too. Sam DiBitetto and Pat Callahan showed up in suit coats, dress pants and ties. The hour after that was a strategic bloodbath. People were yelling over who got who,…. and Tomer gave me a nasty look for picking Aleksei before he could. It was a relief when it was all over. But winter carnival itself was a blast as always.

Pink the Rink is a bit more mellow but equally as fun. Myself along with the CARE board spent months putting together a mini 3v3 hockey tournament with a bake sale and a silent auction. Even though everything was in order the day of the tournament, it wasn’t complete until Pat, Sam, Shanklin, Jake Mucitelli, Sean, and Cody showed up wearing short shorts and Hawaiian button-ups and the “FIS Boys” arrived with their ski-racing helmets and skates.

The opportunities that Northwood has to offer are those that you can’t find anywhere else. Going ice climbing with Mr. Mellor may have been the coolest,… and coldest,… experience of my life. Or, mountain day……never would I have chosen to climb Mt. Marcy, never will I regret having climbed it. Or, going bobsledding with Mr. Roy, which I am personally too scared to try but I’ve heard great things from those crazy enough to do it. Or, participating in the LEAP program and spending a week learning outside the classroom either near or far, like Iceland, where I went last spring, thanks Ms. Fagan and Mr. Spear for an incredible trip!

To the underclassmen: I encourage you all to try every activity that is presented to you because I promise you, you will not regret it.

As last year’s graduation approached, it began to hit me, as well as many others, that we were losing some of our best friends. Kaden, Lexi, Dugan, Freddy, Saara, and all the others whom we may never see again. It was hard to even imagine, let alone actually endure. Coming into this year, everyone including myself, really had no idea what to expect, having lost so many personalities, both small and extra large. The first day of classes my senior year, I spent so much time being sad over not seeing my old friends, I didn’t even realize all of the new friends I was going to make, some being Santeri, Logan, Cam, Matt, Jack and Jan. Even though we missed some pretty great people, the new additions had filled the holes, and we enjoyed a memorable senior year.

Once I really got to know Northwood, I began to have a daily routine, seeing the same faces and doing the same things everyday. I never even realize many of the things that happened. But since it’s all coming to an end, I have been looking back on all the lessons I’ve learned and all the memories I’ve made, and it makes me emotional to think that I will no longer see Ashley’s fire…….or Keeley and Cote on the windowsill…….or sitting in the dining hall and being able to hear Kendall talking in the living room…..never seeing Shane at a first period class……or have my daily conversation with Dave-O…..seeing Jax carry Nemo’s backpack everywhere for her, or Tomer bench pressing 300 pounds in the gym.

So, to the faculty, staff, and most importantly the class of 2018, thank you for giving me friendship, community, support and opportunities to last a lifetime. And, although our journey here is ending, we will always have the pictures behind the picture.


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