Trinity School graduates Connor Ganley and Marissa Varnado addressed the Trinity Class of 2015 at their awards ceremony on June 2.
Connor has an Academic and Athletic scholarship to UMBC.
Marissa has an Academic and Athletic scholarship to Johns Hopkins University.
Here are their inspiring speeches:
Good morning Sister Catherine, Mister Rickbeil, parents, teachers, faculty, staff, and students of Trinity School, especially the Trinity Class of 2015. I am incredibly honored to have been asked to come back and speak at this ceremony just four years after I myself sat in those seats as an eighth grader. I can remember feeling incredibly accomplished as I walked out of those gym doors after my own graduation, diploma in hand. And I hope you all feel the same way. You’ve made it; and that was no small task. Believe it or not, you are all incredibly well prepared for high school. It may take you some time to realize it, but the academic rigor and the constant demand for personal excellence at Trinity will come in handy this fall and beyond. But this is not to say that there will not be some adjusting that needs to happen. After all, you’re about to become freshmen. And as a fellow Trinity alum (I always keep my alumni card in my wallet), I thought I could give you some useful advice to help ease the transition into next year, and the next four years of your lives.
First, the nerves. Granted, it took me all summer to even become the slightest hint of nervous to start high school. But after that first day, man, I was a wreck. I was so overwhelmed by all the packets of course syllabuses and the new teachers and the unfamiliar faces and the lack of friends that I was done. After my first day of high school, I wanted to quit. Needless to say, though, I didn’t. Looking back, the best advice I think I could give myself, and the advice I’m giving to you all, is be yourself and don’t be shy about it. Stay true to who you are and to the values that are taught so well here at Trinity. High school is a big place with lots of people and so many unknowns, but I’ve found that if you just be yourself, you’ll find people with similar interests. With so many people at one school, I can guarantee that you’ll find a group of friends. Even I did, and I’m a hard-core nerd. I can draw the chemical compound 2,5-dimethyl-3-propylnapthalene or rattle off the fundamental theorems of calculus like nobody’s business, and one of the greatest things about high school is that no matter what interests you, there will be people just like you. People you can identify with and people who will open up to you. In short, don’t be afraid to be yourself next year, because you’ll fit in.
Second, the workload of high school may seem incredibly daunting. By now you’ve probably all heard some horror stories of students staying up all night to finish their homework or study for a test on a topic that the teacher never taught. But I wouldn’t characterize high school like that; it’s absolutely manageable and fair. Notice how I said manageable and fair, but not easy. It’s hard work for sure, but I’m certain that the teachers at Trinity have done an excellent job at teaching you what it means to work hard in the classroom. I know that was the case for me, and I was all the better in high school for it. This is not to say, however, that there won’t be a few nights when you’re burning the midnight oil trying to finish an English paper or those math problems or the history outline. And sometimes all three. But it’s absolutely doable. There’s a certain person in my mind who best illustrates this idea for me. In the summer of my sophomore and junior years, I attended a swimming camp at the University of Virginia, and I had the honor of being coached by a Mr. Don Easterling. Some might say that he’s crazy, some that he’s senile, and others that he’s absolutely insane. If you don’t believe me, he made us do handstands with a partner before every practice. Keep in mind, this is a swim practice. One time, he told those of us in his group to “have fun” because we were finished our practice and had extra time, so a few of us jumped in the pool. Not two minutes later, however, he yells at us to get out of the water because we were “having fun wrong,” then made us take our goggles off and swim underwater to the other end of the pool and back. Now that was fun. He’s a role model of mine, and easily one of the wisest people I know. After a particularly difficult workout in the pool, he sat his group down and talked about how hard swimming is. And he concluded it with the words, “I never said it was going to be easy. I only said it was going to be worth it.” And I feel that adequately sums up a good portion of high school.
For my final piece of advice to you all, I would like to also give credit to another mentor in my life who I believe has made a world of difference. There was a teacher here not long ago by the name of Mr. Thomas Lauth, who taught social studies in the middle school. I know I haven’t been gone long, but I’m not sure if any of you remember him or have seen him at the fall festival. Mr. Lauth was a very commanding presence in the classroom, always demanding excellence of his students and serving as a stellar role model. His favorite mantra was, “Pay attention to detail,” which is the first of two important lessons he taught that I’m giving to you today. This lesson has saved me countless times in many different classes, as details are often all that matter. Pay attention to details, and the rest will fall into place.
When Mr. Lauth retired, he gave a speech that has stuck with me to this day, and quite honestly, it has made all the difference in my life. If it could be pared down to two words, his speech said, “Have passion.” And I think that is the best piece of advice I can offer to you today, Trinity Class of 2015. Have passion. Fully invest yourself in all that you do. Put your heart into your work, whatever it may be. Because it is with passion that you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to. It is passion in life that makes all the difference. Trinity School has so well prepared each and every one of you to follow your passions during the next four years and beyond. And that is such a gift.
If I remember correctly, on the very last day of Mr. Lauth’s class, he projected that day’s homework onto the white board. In all caps, the homework was, “Have a great life!” and those are the words I would like to leave you with today. Be yourself. Work hard. Pay attention to detail. Have passion. And have a great life. Best of luck, Trinity Class of 2015. God bless.
Trinity Class of 2011
Mount St. Joseph Class of 2015
UMBC Class of 2019
Good morning Sister Catherine, teachers, and parents and students of the Class of 2015. My name is Marissa Varnado and I graduated from Trinity with the Class of 2011 and graduated from NDP just about a week ago with the Class of 2015 and next year I look forward to attending Johns Hopkins University where I will study psychology and play on the women’s basketball team. It’s so crazy saying that because I remember hot lunches, recess on the playground, and Mr. Rickbeil’s religion class like it was just yesterday. Graduation is such an exciting time because it causes you to reflect a lot on what experiences have passed you by.
Within the past year I’ve had the chance to travel to both El Salvador and Ecuador for service projects. In both countries, I spoke with high school students my age that were scholarship recipients. It’s so overwhelming to hear about the hardships that some of the students face in order to simply go to school through 12th grade. One girl that I met in Guasmo Sur, a poor neighborhood of Ecuador, had to spend over a quarter of her family’s $2.00 a day income just to travel to school taking 4 different public buses. She was so grateful for her scholarship because if it didn’t cover the cost of transportation she wouldn’t be able to eat.
Each student that I met was so grateful for their education and they worked hard to try to improve their family’s situation every single day. These students were such an in inspiration to me and throughout the two trips, I thought back on my high school experience and noted so many differences; for example my greatest struggle going into freshman year, I thought, was being the single, solitary student from Trinity going to NDP. Talk about perspective!
New experiences like that can be scary, but I believe that in life it’s all about how you react. When I got to NDP it seemed like everybody knew everybody except for me. Instead of wallowing in self-pity (for too long), I set out to get involved in as much as I could. I joined the Athletic Association, the basketball team, got involved in service, and sat at as many different lunch tables as I could. That reaction really paid off as I later found myself the treasurer of the Athletic Association, captain of the basketball team, and even as part of Campus Ministry, among other things. So I guess the moral of that story is to keep thing in perspective, and get yourself out there; try anything and everything you can, you’ll meet tons of people, and you’ll grow as a person from it even if it turns out to not be the most fun experience. From those not so great experiences you’ll learn the types of things you don’t like, so you grow as a person either way. Don’t confine yourself to one thing, I know college seems light years away (but it’s really not) so being a well-rounded person makes you interesting to colleges not only on paper, but it will give your something to talk about in interviews as well. Trinity prepares you so well for the academic side of the transition to high school, so thank you to all of my middle school teachers for that! And trust me you’ll be thanking them in a few years too, but those little tips will help you with the social transition.
The next thing I will say about high school is that it’s all about time management. I know I just told you to get out there and join every single club and talk to every single person, but you do have to think big picture and make tough decisions. You should always wonder that, if by choosing to do something, you are leaving enough time to finish all of your homework, or study fort that test coming up. Learning to manage your time is a big part of high school, and a big part of life as well.
I will contradict myself on final time, however, by saying that by the time you’re my age, 4 years down the road, you’ll know where you’re going to college, and you’ll look back on all the work you did to set yourself up to that, but you have to realize that friends and experiences can sometimes take priority because when you’re counting down the days you have left with your friends, you aren’t thinking about the grade you earned on a particular test.
The last thing I’ll say is that your parents are always right. Even when they aren’t they are, and listening to them will make high school an enjoyable experience for all involved.
So congratulations Class of 2015! I know your transitions to high school will be smooth sailing thanks to Trinity, but even when you hit a rough patch, just remember that it’s you growing as a person, and experiences like that will eventually shape you into the people you will become: great leaders, great friends, and great students that will go on to change the world, I believe in you and I can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish. You’ll be great!
Trinity Class of 2011
Notre Dame Prep Class of 2015
Johns Hopkins Class of 2019