By Ellie Feldman ’21, Senior Class Co-President
Welcome friends, faculty, family, live streamers, and the graduating class of 2021.
I struggled to find the right words to say for this speech. Everything I had drafted did not do justice to the seven years I spent here. As I reflect upon my favorite parts of my Wheeler education, including the amazing teachers, my classes, the many unique opportunities to develop myself, and even the chocolate muffins with the powdered sugar on top that are sold in the cafe, one important characteristic of the Wheeler experience stood out to me. Through my many drafts of this speech, I’ve discovered the best way to express it to you all is to take you through my years here briefly.
On the first day of sixth grade, I was immediately met with a nice whiff of the middle school backpack corral. Every day since the smell of the corral in the morning felt like a smack in the face. My mom walked me to my classroom, which was not cool kid middle school behavior, but I didn’t care; I was extremely nervous.
By seventh grade, I had some friends! I felt more comfortable in my classes and even met this pretty cool teacher named Ms. Leonard. She was my advisor, math teacher, and soccer coach. Little did I know that Ms. L would be an influential person throughout my entire Wheeler experience.
In eighth grade, we all pretty much figured out the concept of deodorant. We all made up Greek god song parodies in English and performed them in front of our class. I learned that I shouldn’t try and make it big in the music industry. At the end of the eighth grade, we all took a field trip to Block Island, and there the Wheeler community started to feel like family to me.
Freshman year. We welcomed so many new friends into our class, each one bringing something new and special to add to our grade. Our ninth grade unit started to feel more complete with all the new faces. We all transitioned into a whole new side of Wheeler. With that came more responsibility, opportunity, and trips to Thayer street during lunch.
Sophomore year feels like an extension of freshman year. Every person I have asked feels like sophomore year was a blur. Not a bad blur, just your typical year of high school blur, with a few failed chemistry assignments.
At the start of Junior Year, I began to feel the college process nerves; we all did. While sitting in the GCA for college family night, Ms. Singer and Mr. Geller turned on the projector and displayed the date of graduation, June 11, 2021. Everyone cheered and clapped, but little did we know that date would creep up on us faster than we expected, and soon we would be walking across this very stage.
Senior year, this year. At the start of the year, Jamey and I hesitantly sent out a virtual game night invitation email. We knew it was a Tuesday night, so people were probably swamped with work, and since it was completely optional, we assumed no one would show up. 9:30 came around, and Jamey and I patiently sat in the zoom room. Within minutes the screen was flooded with our classmates, so many more than we predicted. The zoom ran far past our set end time, everyone laughing and having fun. That moment was one I will never forget; no matter how much homework you had or how little sleep you got the night before, everyone was there to spend time with each other.
What I’ve noticed from the last seven years and these brief anecdotes is the recurring theme of community, not just any community, a tight-knit, accepting, caring, and unique community. Part of what makes this community, so close is the comfort that each person feels when stepping into school every day. I feel no need to always dress to impress or have my guard up, similar to how I feel with my own family.
The thing I value the most about Wheeler is the family I’ve been building since I first arrived on campus. It’s a privilege to get to walk down the morgan hallways and know each one of my classmates’ names, and they know mine.
Picture this: It’s 9 o’clock on a Thursday morning, you are running through the courtyard tardy for your next class due to the lack of parking in Providence. You have a quiz this period, and you have already burned through 4 minutes of your time because you decided to stop Mr. Harris for a tic-tac. You stumble up the morgan steps, and halfway down the hallway, someone says, in my case, “Hi Ellie.” Not just anyone, though, someone that you maybe don’t have the chance to talk to everyday or have not had the pleasure to get to know too well. That greeting may not be enough to forget about the ticket you just got for leaving your car in the two-hour parking in front of the school, but it gives you some new energy to keep chugging through your day.
This is a prime example of how close our community is. Peers lifting each other up, whether you know them well or not, with just a simple hello. As I think about next year, I know I won’t get to experience this type of greeting during a busy day on a college campus. I will not get to know every single one of my classmates’ names, no matter how hard I try. However, I know that I will never forget a single one of you because of the tight-knit community we all have fostered as the class of 2021.
I’d like to thank Wheeler. The teachers, students, faculty, the families who support us, and most importantly, my classmates. Next year will be a change, but I know that we can count on the teachers and friends we have met during our Wheeler journeys to help and support us all in our future endeavors. Although we will not be students here at Wheeler anymore, we will always be a part of this comfortable and caring community. The class of 2021, it has been one hell of a ride; congratulations, we did it!