Graduation for the Montville Township High School Class of 2021.was held on the evening of June 23.
At the outdoor ceremony, Valedictorian Victoria Wei, who, just four days earlier, placed 5th in the nation in the Prepared Commentary category in the National Speech and Debate Tournament, congratulated her classmates on their achievements.
“I honestly just feel lucky to be given 5 minutes in the spotlight, when you all deserve the spotlight for surviving not only high school, but also everything that comes with being a high-schooler,” Wei said. “In the past four years, we’ve all worked hard, applied ourselves, and dedicated our time; I just happened to have more time to dedicate to my GPA.”
The top student, who also served at the MTHS Class of 2021’s Public Relations Officer, went on to share with her colleagues wisdom that she explained she discovered during her many hours of academic study.
“In the process of memorizing all that AP material that I might eventually forget, I learned some life lessons that I hope I’ll always remember,” she told her 279 classmates, their families, her teachers, and the community at large, who watched the LIVE broadcast on the Montville Township Public Schools YouTube Channel.
Wei’s wisdom included three life lessons:
- “It’s ok to not really know what you’re doing, because you can usually learn by doing.”
- “Collaborate. Despite going to school from home for the past year, I don’t think I could survive being actually homeschooled because of how much I rely on my classmates. There’s nothing quite like the camaraderie of struggling through the same courses.”
- “Be grateful. Look around and appreciate all that you have. I know I’m grateful for thesaurus.com, the Crash Course YouTube channel, and--sorry to the Kilanowskis,” Wei added in a nod to two of the district’s English teachers, “--Sparknotes.”
Wei will enter Rutgers University in fall 2021. She plans to study environmental policy.
“I've learned the importance of connecting and working with others,” Wei said when asked about the most important lesson she will take with her from her four years at MTHS, adding: “I hope to use what I have to do good.”
A video of Valedictorian Victoria Wei’s speech can be viewed at this link. Below is the transcript of her entire speech.
Victoria Wei - Valedictorian of the MTHS Class of 2021
Graduation Speech 2021
Good evening everyone, and congratulations to everyone!
This year has not been easy, for obvious reasons. But I wouldn’t call any of the past four years easy, especially not for those of you who did sports or were in a thousand clubs or had jobs or had to take care of family… or all of the above.
My point is, I honestly just feel lucky to be given 5 minutes in the spotlight, when you all deserve the spotlight for surviving not only high school, but also everything that comes with being a high schooler. In the past four years, we’ve all worked hard, applied ourselves, and dedicated our time; I just happened to have more time to dedicate to my GPA.
But in the process of memorizing all that AP material that I might eventually forget, I learned some life lessons that I hope I’ll always remember.
First, it’s ok to not really know what you’re doing, because you can usually learn by doing.
Confusing calc lessons began making sense once I started doing practice problems, even if I had to peek at the solutions for the first few. I got the hang of competing in speech once I started going to my first Forensics tournaments, even when I hadn’t even fully memorized my speeches. And, over quarantine, I got real familiar with all the do’s and don’ts of baking macarons, mostly by...doing all the don’ts. I think launching yourself out of your comfort zone and into action, diving right into the deep end, “faking it until you make it,” is an effective learning strategy, as long as you’re also prepared to grow from your mistakes. If this speech flops, there’ll be another valedictorian next year with another speech for you all to focus on. So hopefully you’ll all forget, but hopefully I’ll learn not to write speeches at the last minute.
Lesson number two: collaborate. Despite going to school from home for the past year, I don’t think I could survive being actually homeschooled because of how much I rely on my classmates. There’s nothing quite like the camaraderie of struggling through the same courses. I can’t count how many times I’ve asked my friends to edit my essays, clarify project instructions, or send me study notes. Of course, giving is better than receiving. I often joke that I leech off my friends but it’s really more of a mutualism. Proofread unto others as you would have them proofread unto you. This all sounds obvious, and it is, but I have to remind myself of the importance of these kinds of relationships as I enter college. I’ll need to remember not to let competitiveness force me into isolation, because goodness knows we’ve had enough of isolation. I’ll need to form a new academic community, and, if everything goes according to plan, those unlucky classmates will also have to become my friends.
Lesson number three: be grateful. Look around and appreciate all that you have. I know I’m grateful for thesaurus.com, the Crash Course YouTube channel, and--sorry to the Kilanowskis- Sparknotes.
I’m grateful to be at Montville, a school district with enough resources to put TVs in every corner of the Media Center, with administrators who value student opinions, and teachers who have endless patience, energy, and understanding, who have worked especially hard this year to adjust to teaching over the Internet. I’m sure it’s been a nightmare.
I’m grateful for my Forensics coaches - Mr. Miller, Ms. Iemmello, and Mr. Prescott. Even though
I’ve been doing speech and debate since middle school, the last two years with your guidance have been by far the most meaningful and FUN. Your constant words of support gave me the confidence I needed to speak up.
I’m grateful for my friends, who hype me up more than I ever think I deserve, and also drive me everywhere. Please let me pay for gas.
I’m grateful for God, who is my source of hope and assurance for the future.
And of course, I’m grateful for my family. Thank you Virginia for being the oldest child and figuring everything out about high school before I had to. You’ll continue to trailblaze, and I’ll
continue to admire you and ask you for ALL the advice. Thank you Vivian for giving me hugs
and for putting up with me calling you cute. You are, but I’ll try not to say it to your face as much.
Instead, I’ll say that you’re the coolest and you’re already more responsible than me.
Thank you, Dad, for being a force of calm amidst my stress, who always told me to relax in my senior year, even though I rarely did. Thank you also for being really really smart and always taking the time to explain math and computer science and chemistry. Thank you Mom. You’re my life coach, cheerleader, cook, stylist, nurse, tutor, and friend. I know you worry a lot about me, and sometimes I have to be the one telling you to relax, but I know it’s because you think I deserve the best. But I thank you, because you’ve already given me your best.[sic]
And finally, thank you to the class of 2021. Sorry if this speech has felt like a lecture from your parents or something, because I really need to thank all of you for teaching me so much about working hard, being a leader, having school spirit, surviving a pandemic, supporting each other and about how to have fun in high school, because I genuinely don’t know how to have fun most of the time. I mean, here I am strategizing how to make new friends in college. I sincerely hope that we all find what we’re looking for in the next chapter of our lives: whether that’s a new beginning, a deeper pursuit, a college degree, exciting academic or career opportunities, a minimal amount of student loans… or all of the above. It’s going to require learning by doing, collaboration with others, gratitude and humility. It might not be easy, or linear, or anything like what we’re expecting. But hey, we’ve made it this far, and we’ve learned this much. Let’s see how much farther we can go.