Under clear, crisp skies, 280 members of the Montville Township High School Class of 2021 graduated on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Graduation 2021 was held outdoors, on the field, in the Mustangs stadium. Four student leaders addressed their peers and the community at large. Senior Natalie Rossinow, President of the 2021 Student Activities Council, was the second senior to speak.
Rossinow’s words focused on leaving a legacy of positive change.
“We all have the shared privilege of receiving a high school education and graduating here today,” Rossinow said. “So many communities, even just a few miles away, are homes to eighteen-year-olds who don't have this privilege. And, across the world, Montville Township High School would seem like a haven for millions of children who just want to learn. So please, don't take these last 4 years for granted…. I hope that all of you really think about the legacy that you want to leave.”
This fall, Rossinow will be majoring in Community Health at Tufts University.
“The most important wisdom I will take with me from high school is to use my privilege to change the world,” Rossinow said when asked about the most important wisdom she learned at MTHS. “It's safe to say that many of us are extremely privileged, and I have seen so many of my teachers and peers use this as an opportunity to make the world a better place. This is what I hope to do as well.”
In her speech, the SAC President also discussed the mental and emotional challenges that affected her both individually, as well as those that challenged all members of the Class of 2021, particularly during the 16 months prior to graduation when COVID 19 changed the high school experience for the entire world. Rossinow emphasized the importance of a strong support system and seeking out help to prevent anxiety and depression.
“I loved my four years at MTHS and wouldn't change it for the world,” Rossinow noted in a recent email to the Montville Township Public Schools Communications Office. “I am so thankful to my family for their support along with the help from teachers, administration, and my friends. The Class of 2021 is so special, and I'm glad we were able to celebrate our achievements. Being SAC president was a challenging responsibility, however, I am so grateful to have had this privilege and use it as an opportunity to shape our time in high school.”
A video of Natalie Rossinow’s entire speech can be viewed at this link. Below is the transcript of her entire speech.
Natalie Rossinow - President of the 2021 Student Activities Council
Graduation Speech 2021
Good evening family, faculty, and mustangs. Welcome to Montville Township High School, where you can't hide from mustang pride.
I want to start by saying that it is impossible to put together words- ordinary words- to such an extraordinary experience and life. To such a remarkable class who has faced so many obstacles to get to this graduation stage. These past few years, especially the last sixteen months, have brought immense strains on all parts of our lives, and most of us have deeply felt these effects.
Nonetheless, we are a privileged bunch in many ways. Aside from the privilege of being born into families of wealth, success, or prosperity, we all have the shared privilege of receiving a high school education and graduating here today. So many communities, even just a few miles away, are homes to eighteen-year-olds who don't have this privilege. And, across the world, Montville Township High School would seem like a haven for millions of children who just want to learn. So please, don't take these last 4 years for granted.
Most of us are going to get an amazing college education or enter the workforce. Most of us have open doors to future careers, or those doors won't be too hard to budge open. Don't feel guilty about it, though. This privilege means that we have an incredible opportunity, not to be entitled, superior, or more than, but to acknowledge our privilege and do something about it. Create non-profits, volunteer in your community, or go outside of our Montville bubble and change a world that is really hurting from racism, injustice, prejudice, and hate.
We can't live forever, but I know each of us can create something that will. I hope that all of you really think about the legacy that you want to leave.
As I've written and edited this speech, I've always felt that I continue to fall short. I've come to realize that I've had such trouble orienting these past four years within the confines of a conventional high school graduation speech because MTHS is such an unconventional place. Everything here, from the people to the programs, is crafted with the unfaltering invasion of the usual. On my first day here, I remember realizing all the unusual, placing me outside of my comfort zone, from the seniors who seemed 15 years older than me to the hallways that felt like never-ending tunnels. However, before I knew it, I was that senior and, today, I could draw a map of the building (with the one-way stickers for extra credit). Throughout my time here, I found so much comfort but also excitement in the unusual, and I found a place that I am so heartbroken to say goodbye to. Some high schools are simply a place to punch in the hours and days then receive a diploma, but I believe MTHS has offered us all so much more than that. While I stand here today with the understanding that not every graduate has the warmest feelings towards MTHS and hasn't yet realized the profound impacts it has had on their lives, I am optimistic that in the future, each of us will remember a time from our high school experience that proved invaluable.
Now, I would like to thank some people who have helped me get to this graduation stage. I am only a product of the relationships and encounters I've been in, whether that be as simple as being my pickleball partner in gym class who taught me that losing isn't fun and is truly unacceptable- thanks, Bella.
I'd like to start by giving some context. Barely two weeks into my junior year, which was anticipated to be a turning point in my athletic and academic time at MTHS, I sustained a concussion. There's no doubt that this injury left me hurting physically since a whack in the head with a field hockey ball doesn't feel great. However, the mental and emotional side effects were far worse. I had zero control over my situation, which I assumed would last a few weeks- not ten months. As a type A and admittedly controlling person, this feeling suffocated me quite literally. I began to struggle greatly with my mental health falling into a deep depression. While a concussion is utterly lonely as it is an unexplainable and intangible injury, I never truly felt alone. I had the best support system, which I am so grateful for, and I know I would not be here today without them.
First, I'd like to thank some teachers and staff members at MTHS who have used their privilege as teachers as an opportunity to make an impact on students like myself. I would like to note that while I won the superlative of teacher's pet by the class of 2021, recognizing these teachers is not part of the agreement of that wonderful recognition. Of course, Mrs. Kilanowski for being my go-to person if I needed life advice or needed to vent about certain classes. You are on that shortlist of people, along with Ms. San Filippo and Ms. Marotta, who I feel like I could break down the wall that usually keeps me pretty guarded. To my senior year teachers, including Dr. Kalinowski, Dr. Glanville, and Mrs. Sheehan, thank you for ending my MTHS career with the most incredible memories and being understanding when I had to dip out and go to the main office.
I'd also like to give a big thank you to our administrators. Mr. Nadzak, when I think of my meetings and small interactions with you, I can't help but remember how calm and composed you always stayed, even when faced with some daunting tasks. Mr. Gelber, thanks for not only respecting me as a student but respecting me as a person. Also, a big thanks from the senior class for teaching us how to back into our parking spots at 7 am even if there were a few mistakes in the process. Lastly, thank you to our principal, Mr. Sanford. I have learned so much from you and the way you have led MTHS. To all three of our administrators, truly thank you for believing in me and dealing with my persistence, eagerness, and tendency to never take no for an answer. You really helped build my confidence when I struggled greatly with imposter syndrome thinking I was not deserving of this position.
Next, my friends. First, of course, I have to thank Annabel Park, my VP. You've always shown me support and utter kindness, and it's scary how we think so much alike. Elliot, thanks for doing all this and being a great friend along the way. From BOE meetings to navigating how to lead our senior class through this year, I couldn't have done this without you. I know Elliot and I both want to thank our fellow student council officers. The nine of us have formed such a special bond working together throughout the last four years and have worked so hard to celebrate the Class of 2021. I'd also like to thank some of my friends, including Nhean, Maddy, Julia, Jules, Maria, Julia D, Christina, Taylor, Anna, Bella, Dani, Alexis, Micaela, and so many more, for being such rocks, especially through our senior year which we managed to make the most of. Although some of you have gotten me horribly addicted to playing Hay Day and 2048, I love you like family, and I can't wait to see where life takes us- maybe go worldwide?
Lastly, to my family. To my Grandma Ann, Mema, and Pepa: thanks for being my biggest cheerleaders and astonished and proud of all the little things, even if it was just one of my bad ceramic projects. To my Grandpa Harvey and Uncle Norman, there's a lot of moments in my life that I wished you could've witnessed, but today tops them all. I know if you were here, you'd sneak your way to the front row you could firsthand see all of my accomplishments. I know you would both be cheering me on.
To my big sister Julia- you have been my role model for my entire life. You are such a strong and hardworking person who seeks to help people in every sense. To my little sister Kaitlin and the understudy of the morning announcements. We've come a long way from our marine biology camp and tee-ball days. But, through all these years, something has always been constant, and that is me and you. Our car rides to and from school will be sorely missed, but not as much as the comfort of knowing you are always right there beside me through everything. I've never been at school without a sister, so this will be the most challenging part of the next stage in my life. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not me without them. I could never thank you enough.
Next, I would like to thank my parents. After taking honors and AP classes in high school, I've definitely been exposed to students who have felt immense pressure from their parents to succeed, and I think I've become the person I am today because my parents never did that. All they ever wanted was for me to try my best
To my mom: the sacrifices you've made for our family are too many to explain. You are simply put the most selfless person I know. I will forever be in awe of your kindness and empathy towards others which I strive to emulate. If I am ever a fraction of the leader, friend, mother, and daughter you are every day, seemingly with ease, I will know I did something right. You consistently make everyone around you a better person, including myself.
Now to my dad, who I know with every bone in my body is why I have become who I am. Everything I know is because of you. Your work ethic is unmatched. Your generosity is moving. Your ability to overcome so much loss is insurmountable. However, how you do everything is so much more inspiring than what you do. You put so much effort, thought, and precision into every conversation and action even as little as talking to me about my day or fixing your bike. It is no wonder why every conversation we have turns into a lecture, and these lectures were integral parts of my childhood. Just like when you taught me how to ride a bike, I think it's almost time for you to let go, but I know I will always be able to look back to see that smile that has given me so much support countless times.
Also, mom and dad, if this doesn't make me your favorite daughter- I don't know what will.
I know I have the incredible privilege of publicly thanking all the people who have helped me make it through high school. I urge all graduates to look into the stands or across the field right now to someone instrumental in helping you make it to graduation.
I would like to end with this note. Regardless of your religious or political beliefs or your favorite sports team or any other way we like to divide ourselves into tribes, I think we can all agree that a successful life is one where you leave the world better than you found it- a sort of net positive change. There's a lot of people who are critical and seek to tear others down or who have made a ton of money but are just terrible people, and by my definition, they're not successful.
Our legacy and success will not be measured by grades, likes, follows, or money but by relationships. What kind of person are you?
Lastly, thank you, Class, of 2021. I feel so honored to have been part of such an incredible class. In one way or another, we've all impacted each other's lives and been through an incredible journey together. I wish you all the very, very best. Thank you.
The 2021 MTHS Graduation ceremony was broadcast LIVE on the Montville Township Public Schools YouTube Channel. Live music was provided by senior members of the MTHS Concert Choir under the direction of Kristen Markowski. Processional and Recessional music was recorded by the MTHS Symphonic Band and Orchestra under the direction of Ellis Jasenovic and Andrew Harrington. The Class Advisors for the MTHS Class of 2021 were Richard Mosera and Laura Rivera.