Editor’s note – From September 2019 to April 2021, Danika Nielsen wrote for the Seaway Scoop feature in The Leader. In recognition of her selection as class valedictorian, we have reprinted her speech to the Seaway District High School Class of 2021 in its entirety.
By Danika Nielsen – Class of ‘21
Welcome dedicated faculty, family members, guests, and most importantly the 2021 graduating class of Seaway District High School. I know we may not be here in person, but I know we are all here in spirit… through the camera.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Danika Nielsen, and I’m honoured to be standing here today representing the graduating class of ‘21. Although I don’t want to focus on our past hardships and challenges during this speech, I believe it’s important to acknowledge them.
Our senior year was certainly below par compared to many; no sports or clubs, we don’t get a prom, or to go to a prom party that we probably wouldn’t remember going to, and we don’t get a proper graduation. I know a lot of students fought with depression, anxiety, and a shadow of loneliness, but despite these challenges, we made it graduates!
I have never met such hardworking students as the ones here today. I am so proud of each and every one of you for achieving your accomplishments – you deserve everything the future holds for you.
When we were first asked what we wanted to be when we grow up, we were about five-years old, and the truth is no one really cares what the answer is at that age. It is just an aimlessly asked question to get cute little answers from kids like astronaut, pirate, model, or in my case a ballerina. But as you get older, the expectations rise, and they are looking for more serious answers, and the honest answer is, who knows?
This question may inspire kids what they want to be, but it does not inspire them of what all they could be. Carrie Gilmour, one of our high school English teachers, was also a 9-1-1 operator. Mr. Edge can teach pretty much any class that exists, and he worked in the Coast Guard. And then there are people like Martin Anderson who seem to excel in just about everything. We call this multi-potentiality; you can have many different talents that can bring you success in more than one career path.
We may be graduating from Seaway, but we will never leave behind the memories created within these walls. Studying in Mr. Edge’s secret room; playing sports until our legs felt like Jello; falling for Mr. Williamson’s lame pranks. We will miss Mr. Looyen hitting us with his keys as we walk past, and Mme. Martin’s obsession with tuxedo cats and bad tennis players. The Christmas concerts and air bands will not be the same anymore; I feel so bad that Seaway won’t be able to see another Lukas Gillard performance.
Albert Einstein once said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” I chose this quote because it is something I try to live by. The world is not painted in black and white, so why should we live like that? Our imagination will take us further in life, allow us to connect to the world and community around us. We will paint a better portrait in colour than we ever would in black and white. After today, we will be going through many changes. No, not those changes again, thank God. But we will start to have to learn to do things on our own, be truly independent, learn how to control your shopping addiction, and most importantly figure out who we are and who we want to be.
On behalf of the graduating students, I would like to thank all the teachers, educational assistants and office workers – we would not be here today if it weren’t for you guys. Your hard work and dedication make our school radiate with happiness and success. Has anyone thought to thank the janitors yet? Let me be the first – thank you for keeping our school clean, by re-painting our school walls, doors, and lockers, by keeping us safe, and by cleaning up after us. And most importantly, I wanted to thank you all for keeping us safe during the pandemic, your work will never go unnoticed. I would like to thank everyone for this opportunity to stand here and be able to be a representative for our graduating students. As well as represent what hard work, initiative, and a little bit of fun can bring you.
Before I end this speech, I would like to give a special thanks to my family and friends; you guys are the best support I could have ever asked for. And for my fellow graduates, you have my utmost admiration for all the bravery, kindness, and success you all have shown during these trying times. Let all the memories you made, and lessons you learned here at Seaway be a reminder of your strength. See you at the reunion Spartans!