When her name was announced, she felt her stomach turn over. She walked up to the stage thinking about the speech she was about to give. Her family was watching. Her teachers, classmates, and much of the student body were looking up at her. She was nervous. But when Gigi Tedesco stepped up to the microphone and looked out at the people in the crowd, things came into focus and her nerves quieted down. “It was kind of nice that everyone was wearing a mask,” she says. “That way, I couldn’t see their faces.”
Tedesco has experience in theater and Model U.N., so she’s accustomed to performing in front of people. But writing a speech to the class of 2021 felt more vulnerable. “I’m used to performing what other people write,” she says. “Talking about my own feelings is really different, and this is one of the last things that they will ever hear from our Berean experience.”
Graduation speeches all over the country had a single common experience from which to draw inspiration – COVID19. The Coronavirus has unified the world in a shared trauma unlike anything since the great wars. Teenagers from every country had their education disrupted in some way by the virus. Tedesco drew from her feelings about this extraordinary experience as well.
“It’s scary to go through change,” says Tedesco. Leaving home and going to college is a mix of anxiety and excitement for any high school graduate. But this year’s graduating class is no stranger to uncertainty. “Everyone was really scared at the beginning of COVID. I used that to talk about the lessons we’ve learned while adjusting to changes that seemed to happen every week,” Tedesco says.
Tedesco is confident that her generation has learned important lessons by going through this pandemic. “We have learned to persevere and to not take anything for granted.”
When she finished speaking and stepped off the stage Tedesco received congratulations from her teachers and friends. It was done. Mr. Harris called each graduate's name in recognition of their achievements at Berean High School inviting them to commence with the next chapter of their lives.
The graduates threw their caps in the air. Families took pictures with their sons and daughters under the blue and gold balloon arch. And everyone gave thanks for a day to celebrate the future of our country represented in the eyes of the young men and women who have endured an unusual year with patience and hope.