Henry ‘Jamey’ Mayer ’21, Senior Class Co-President
Good morning to the Wheeler faculty, administration, parents, grandparents, family members, friends, and the beautiful class of 2021.
For my entire life, I have learned from my family, and especially the women in my family, the importance of education. In the first two decades of the 20th century, my great-great-grandmother, the daughter of an Irish coalminer immigrant, taught school to dozens of coal miners’ children in a one-room schoolhouse in a coal mining town west of Pittsburgh. My grandmother, who’s here today (hi Oma), was a high school English teacher in Chicago and Boston. As a teacher and as a leader, my mom has dedicated her entire life to creating meaningful socio-economic opportunities for low-income people through the power of education. Because of the work of these brilliant women, I understand the value of the Wheeler education that my classmates and I have been so fortunate to receive, and I want to thank my parents and teachers for making it possible.
I have been going to school here since I was six years old. Wheeler has been my second home, and the teachers here truly feel like my second family. From teaching my classmates and me how to survive the Oregon Trail in lower school, build a gaga pit using geometry in middle school, and curate multiple historic museums in upper school, you are the greatest, most supportive, creative, brilliant, coolest teachers in the world. We will forever be grateful for what you have taught us.
In the final episode of the greatest TV show ever produced, the Office, Andy Bernard, while fighting back real tears, says, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” When I think back on all of my time at 216 Hope Street, starting back to when I was six years old running around the old wooden playground, it feels easy to relate to this quote
But actually, I feel as though the class of 2021 has gained a unique ability to do just what Andy was describing. You see, our class will make history by being the class that spent the fewest days on campus before graduating high school. After leaving school on a Friday in March for what we believed was a two-week spring break last year, we waited 186 days, more than half a year, to return to campus. And even after we returned to campus, we lost the senior room, singing inside, signouts, the senior retreat sleepover, the beginning of the year all-school assembly, the Halloween dance, winter ball, the holiday festival, and most importantly, we lost many, many days on campus.
I believe that all of this lost time has given us precisely what Andy was talking about. The coronavirus forced us to have an exponentially heightened understanding of how precious our time together is after spending so much of it apart, and it gave us a deepened appreciation for time actually spent together in person.
As we skated around the Kennedy Plaza rink in February, gathered together in the GCA for the first time in over a year for the senior assembly, and sat together in a circle at the Farm in late April, making brave confessions lit by candles and togetherness on the senior retreat night, I believe that we were able to realize these moments for how special they were. The good old days of the now.
At that senior assembly, my friend Ben Cohen talked a lot about friends-by-proxy at Wheeler. Ben is definitely not one of my friends by proxy; in fact, his is one of the most important friendships I have gained from Wheeler, but I knew what he meant. The beauty of Wheeler is in both of these types of friendships— these close-knit ones and those within the greater community. This is especially true for our class and is what made me so love the time we spent together.
I have always felt a genuine, kind bond among the members of the class of 2021. It is easy to sit in the courtyard and strike up a conversation with every one of you, which is what made it so joyful when we were all together, like we are today, probably for the last time for a while.
But not to worry, we will have reunions and get-togethers in the future, and all that I can ask is that they get slightly more participation than the senior dodgeball or kickball nights that Ellie and I attempted to host. Shout out to the ten regulars!
When I think about the people in this class, I see welcoming, friendly, inclusive, respectful, athletic, intelligent, creative, bold, brave, honest, and just all-around good-looking people. But the main word that I would use if the common app asked me to describe our class in one word is RESILIENT.
We have studied, performed, competed, and graduated high school in the midst of the worst global pandemic in over a century, an attempted insurrection of our government, and an unprecedented rise in hate against our Black and Asian friends. And that was just in the last year.
We have lived through uncertainty and chaos, learned how to go to school from our computers, and still showed up with a positive attitude, a hunger and curiosity for learning, and a passion for our community. And that is what I am proudest of when I look out at this class.
A few weeks ago, I was driving a freshman home from lacrosse practice. He asked me if I had any advice for high school, and I told him to transfer. Just kidding. I told him three things: take risks, stay open-minded, and enjoy the ride. I think our class has done an outstanding job embracing these messages. We are well-rounded, we have been seekers of discomfort, and we have certainly enjoyed the ride. And it is my hope that we will continue to do so going forward.
In the Wheeler middle school production of High School Musical, Kobe Kase, playing a character named Zeke, stood up on a table and proudly announced, “someday, I hope to bake the perfect creme brulee.” Although we have now finished high school and may think we know ourselves completely by this point, let yourself have those Zeke moments. Go begin your radio show in college, record that first song, direct your first movie, and remember that it is never too late to start. Ok, I promise that was the only High School Musical reference I will make in this speech; I just felt like it had to come up at least once. My bad, I gotta get my head in the game here.
In his 2019 hit song appropriately titled Graduation, while quoting a song by Vitamin C, the rapper Juice World sings, “As we go on, we remember, all the times we spent together, as our lives change, from whatever, we will still be, friends forever.”
I couldn’t put it better myself. Congratulations, everybody, we made it, and I am so proud of the class of 2021. Thank You.