Elizabeth Bazhenov achieved her goal of becoming Valedictorian of the Class of 2022 at Montville Township High School. On Thursday, June 23, 2022 she shared with her peers several lessons she learned as she worked toward achieving her goal.
The 51st Annual MTHS Commencement ceremony was held for 255 graduates on the field in the Mustang Stadium.
Bazhenov, who will attend MIT in the fall as a Chemical-Biological Engineering (Course 10B) Major, took the stage with a selfie-stick in hand.
“I feel so proud and honored to share this day with all of you. In fact, today is the last day that we’ll all be together in the same place at the same time, which makes today my last possible chance to take a selfie with the entire graduating class,” Bazhenov said as she snapped a pic. “Now I have photographic evidence that we went to high school together in case any of us become famous later on”.
A transcript of Elizabeth Bazhenov’s Valedictorian speech to the MTHS Class of 2022 is featured in italics below.
The enthusiastic valedictorian went on to share two important lessons she learned at MTHS as she embarked on her high school career.
“I try not to give people unsolicited advice, so instead I’ll share some things that I wish I’d known before starting high school and that I hope will help you all when you start the next chapter of your lives,” explained Bazhenov. “First, never be ashamed of being your authentic self. More specifically, never try to hide your enthusiasm toward whatever you are passionate about.”
Before making her second point, Bazhenov shared a cautionary word: “. In our culture, perfection is a myth. The thing that we consider to be perfection is attained through two things: the willingness to take a risk and try something new, followed by months or even years of hard work.”
Then Bazhenov made her second point, “Mistakes and missteps are inevitable, but at the same time, they don’t always equal failure. As you lose one thing, you might discover something new…. In short, learn from your mistakes, and use them as opportunities.”
Having lived in Montville Township, New Jersey, for 16 years, Bazhenov attended Montville Township Public Schools’ Hilldale Elementary School and Robert R. Lazar Middle School before entering MTHS.
Before concluding her speech the aspiring chemical-biological engineer made a point of thanking many people who made the past four years at MTHS possible.
While there were many shot-outs, such as thank-yous to Mrs. Gizas for the “best baklava,” and Ms. Migs for reminding everyone every day “to be kind to others and make smart choices,” Bazhenov also made a point of thanking the maintenance staff “who keep our school running smoothly and have kept our building clean throughout the COVID pandemic, making it safe for us to come to school every day.”
“The most important wisdom I will take from high school,” Bazhenov recently noted, “is that it is important to always be open to new opportunities for growth and self-improvement… As high school comes to an end, I know that it is only the beginning of an interesting journey of new people and new experiences.”
The full speech presented by MTHS Class of 2022 Valedictorian Elizabeth Bazhenov to the MTHS Class of 2020 can be viewed on the Montville Township Public Schools YouTube Channel.
The full transcript of Bazhenov ‘s speech can be read below:
“Good evening, everyone. Congratulations to the class of 2022. We did it!
I feel so proud and honored to share this day with all of you. In fact, today is the last day that we’ll all be together in the same place at the same time, which makes today my last possible chance to take a selfie with the entire graduating class.
Now I have photographic evidence that we went to high school together in case any of us become famous later on.
On a more serious and possibly unrelated note, I want all of you to think back to the first day of freshman year. We walked into this building thinking of the next 4 years as something that would never end. We were young, inexperienced, and unsure of what would happen to us in 4 years. At the end of that first year, we watched the seniors among us graduating and going off to college and wondered, would that ever be us? However, we’ve somehow managed to make it to the end of those 4 years, and we’ve all come a long way since then. Our class has persevered through a lot together, and although we’ve supported one another throughout a pandemic that is still ongoing, we’ve never really been together like we are tonight. There have been a lot of challenges we’ve had to overcome throughout the last 4 years, and the fact that we’re all here graduating is a testament to our strength as a class.
The events of the past 4 years have taught me a lot, and I would give you some advice before you graduate, but as a general rule, I try not to give people unsolicited advice, so instead I’ll share some things that I wish I’d known before starting high school and that I hope will help you all when you start the next chapter of your lives.
First, never be ashamed of being your authentic self. More specifically, never try to hide your enthusiasm toward whatever you are passionate about. In our culture, perfection is a myth. The thing that we consider to be perfection is attained through two things: the willingness to take a risk and try something new, followed by months or even years of hard work. I know that standing before you as valedictorian, I’ve managed to convince you that I’m somehow perfect. But I’m no genius. I set myself on the path to success by taking every opportunity that life threw at me and working as hard as I knew I could, and then a little beyond that. We’ve all worked at various things during high school and found areas we’re passionate about; I happened to work hard enough academically to get myself to where I am today. Working toward success is a choice, and it’s a choice that any of you can make.
At the same time, there are so many choices to be made in every step of life that it’s impossible to know which one is correct. And let me tell you something. Mistakes and missteps are inevitable, but at the same time, they don’t always equal failure. As you lose one thing, you might discover something new. A new opportunity. A new way of thinking. A totally new goal to devote yourself to. In short, learn from your mistakes, and use them as opportunities to take your life in a direction you may not have envisioned in the past. For me, the times when I might not have been included, chosen, invited to one party or another were the motivation I needed to pour myself into something I truly enjoyed in hopes of discovering a potential career path and working for the next step: MIT.
No matter where life takes you, it’s important to have faith in yourself, work hard to reach your goals, and be grateful for all the opportunities you’ve had thus far. I want to thank our school’s administration, which has provided us with so many opportunities to improve ourselves academically and socially that I can’t even begin to name them all. In particular, I want to take a moment to recognize Mr. Sanford, Mr. Nadzak, and Mr. Gelber for working as a team to give us so many ways to thrive and for keeping our school running smoothly every day, even during the most uncertain times. The variety of advanced classes, online learning throughout the pandemic, the athletics program, and a supportive academic environment have helped shape our high school experience. I also want to thank all of the teachers and staff members, since they have played a key role in our success. However, there are a few people who especially stand out.
Thank you to Mrs. Forst from Hilldale; I still remember looking forward to Fun Fridays.
Thank you to Dr. Wos and Dr. Pretto from Lazar, for making science and math fun for me, and for showing me that as a woman in STEM, I must never allow my ambitions to be limited by a glass ceiling.
The math and science department at MTHS has been especially influential in shaping my high school experience. Thank you to Dr. Schwartz for believing in me and my dreams, and for your kindness and advice on course selection every year.
Thank you to Mrs. Gizas for making the best baklava for our class after the AP Calc AB exam, and for encouraging me to learn from my mistakes.
Thank you to Ms. Migs for reminding us every day to be kind to others and to make smart choices, and for telling us on our 18th birthdays that we can now legally buy lottery tickets and spray paint.
Thank you to Mrs. Einstein for giving me a way to do research applicable to the “real world” and for making the experience exciting for the entire year.
Thank you to Dr. Glanville for your patience in teaching us physics, both during the pandemic and as we began to return to “normal.”
Thank you to Mrs. Campbell for making AP Statistics a class that I genuinely looked forward to and enjoyed every day.
Thank you to Mrs. Fuhrmann for three amazing years of computer science, and for making it possible for me to hang the “We Can Do It” poster with my face on it in my kitchen.
I also wanted to give a few quick shout-outs to Mrs. Kurland, Ms. San Filippo, Ms. Waxman, and Mrs. Reilly for being amazing mentors and role models for me.
And finally, thank you to Mr. Carey for perhaps the most important lesson of high school: that on Wednesdays we wear pink.
I also want to thank our school counseling department for helping us navigate high school from our freshman year course selection to our college applications, and for being there to support us through the challenges of life and the pandemic. Thank you especially to Ms. McGinniss for helping me discover opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
I also want to thank our maintenance staff, who keep our school running smoothly and have kept our building clean throughout the COVID pandemic, making it safe for us to come to school every day.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, I want to thank my family. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find the words to thank my mom and dad for everything they’ve done to support me throughout my life. You’ve shown me the value of hard work from an early age, and I am especially grateful for this life lesson, as it has shaped my personality and work ethic. To my relatives in Europe, who will hopefully get a chance to see a recording of this speech, and to my parents, I want to say, “Спасибо вам за всё, и за вашу поддержку. Я вам очень благодарна. Ни пуха в Кембридже и, как всегда, к чёрту.” (Translation: “Thank you for everything and for your support. I'm very grateful for you. Break a leg in Cambridge.”)
Before my speech is over, I want to say one final thing to the class of 2022. Each one of you sitting here tonight is talented, creative, and skilled in your own unique way. You are all fortunate for the opportunities you have received during your four years here; don’t let them go to waste. Don’t let this be the end, but rather the start of the best years of your life as you enter the ‘real world’ and make a difference in it. The potential is in your hands. Thank you and best of luck in the future.”