Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Congratulations to our 2018 Graduates!

This past Spring, we had two students graduate from our 5th grade program. It was a joy and privilege to have taught these now young gentlemen and watch them grow over the years (Daniel has been here since he was three years old in our Montessori program and Michael joined us when he was four years old in our Montessori program). 
Below are excerpts from the speeches that they each wrote and delivered at our Annual Spring Performing Arts and Graduation Night. 

Congratulations and May God continue to bless your future endeavors!

May it be blessed, 
Mrs. Blankenstein

The Farewell by Daniel
I remember my first day at Agia Sophia Academy as though it was yesterday: my mom entering the bedroom telling me it is time to get up, a warm bagel waiting for me in the kitchen that I could not really eat because I was terrified of what lay ahead that day, a picture taken in our driveway as I was departing for my first day at school, a drive that made me more and more fearful as we approached the building and of course Ms. Rusudan holding me tight in her strong embrace as I was crying my life out seeing my mom running for the exit.  It was my first time away from the familiar confines of my parent’s home.

In those early days I knew that I had come here to learn and to get an education. What I could not foresee was that through the zigzags of experiences, ups and downs, tries and misses this place would come to be my second home. A home from which I would draw spiritual inspiration. A home where I would make friendships and where I would be mentored by people who not only shared their wisdom and knowledge with me, but filled these walls and all that is here with love and understanding.

As I sat down to write this speech, memories flooded from my days in Montessori, the chores, activities, field trips, projects and of course how I looked forward to every show-and-tell presentation. I truly enjoyed it all. But more importantly, it was the teachers, Mrs. Padma and Ms. Rusudan, who undoubtedly left a most lasting impression that I hope to cherish for a long time to come. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was their Georgian and Indian accents that filled the room and interplayed in beautiful ways, or their calm demeanor interlaced with warm emotions when they wanted to complement or even reprimand you or maybe it was their full and undivided attention that they gave to all the students: I don’t know what it was but I always felt engaged, loved and safe in their classroom. Being as shy as I was in Montessori, this was a huge deal for me. Thank you Mrs. Padma and Ms. Rusudan.

My journey from the first grade to this very hour has been rather methodical. I took small steps forward, learned my way around, began trusting the teachers, and eventually built bonds with students. Though gradual and slow in coming, this process has shaped my worldview and I hope has prepared me for what lies ahead. Forever instilled in my memory are our daily morning prayers and liturgies where I cemented my spirituality and connected deeper to the roots of my faith. I will carry this through my life and would like to express my gratitude to Fr. Theodore and Fr. Matthew for guiding and supporting this school.  The instruction in Latin, Greek, Art and Music was deeply enriching for me. While not present in many schools where my non ASA friends go, it helped me develop the love for reading, history and playing the piano. Christmas and Spring Fine Art Night performances have always been a highlight of the year and I feel extremely fortunate I was able to be a part of them for the last eight years. The library has become another special place as I looked forward every week to checking out new books and talking to Ms. Ferris about them. Mrs. Powell, Mrs. Perussi, Ms. Ferris, Kiria-Maria thank you for everything! The exposure to science and math is another thing I will cherish about the school. All my elementary school teachers provided excellent instruction and have given me intellectual certitude to be curious.  But above all, they taught me how to love those who are close to me, how to feel empathy for those in need, and how to respect those who disagree. Father Ed, Mrs. Rice, Mrs. Blankenstein, Ms. Chiprout, thank you for caring, teaching and guiding me through these past five years. Thank you for always encouraging me to do the right thing! It means a world to me and I am sure to everyone in this room. I will remember you and cherish these experiences long after I leave ASA!

Throughout my years at ASA one thing remained constant. My parents and grandparents always provided their full and unconditional support. They did all they could and more to create an environment where I could learn and enjoy school. I am forever grateful for what they have done for me and my brothers. I know that for a long time to come I will miss the walls of this building, the chatter that fills these rooms, the solemn silence of prayer and many meaningful friendships that I built over the years. I can only hope that as I forge forward in this world I will always carry the warm memories that have been created here. During one of our trips back from Eugene earlier this year, as I was sitting and starring aimlessly out the window from our car after a long and tiring day, my father looked at me and said, “Learning can be a long and lonely journey but the joy and satisfaction you get from understanding or creating something is worth more than any frustration.” I caught myself thinking that strangely I can relate to this, thanks largely to my many years at ASA and the students and teachers that make this a very special place. Thank you!

Spring Fine Arts Night by Michael
Hi! My name is Michael. Like every great comedian, I’d like to start off this speech with a joke.  So here goes: 
            A priest walks into a bar.  (pause).  He said, “ouch!”  I kid, I kid.
            Here’s a true story.  When I first came to ASA, I thought I’d have a “direct line” to God, if you know what I mean.  As in, he would hear my prayers, or hear more of them, or hear them more often.  Well, I now understand that wasn’t necessarily the case.  You see, every day I prayed that I’d be taller than Father Ed by the time I graduated.  Turns out God let me down by just a couple of inches!
            I know you all want to eat snacks, as I do, so I’ll make this quick. I have been lucky enough to experience this time in my life here at ASA with some amazing people.
            First off, my parents.  (eye contact) In my first years at ASA, they packed both me and my sister’s lunches. I learned how to do that later. They also drove me to school everyday. They helped me with math, spelling, and reading - well, mostly my dad did.  This past year, they drove me to school, often cutting it close to being late with some last-minute poopy diaper changes. They have been great mentors and have helped me get through some tough times myself.
            Second, my teachers. Father Ed (eye contact) was a great teacher. He was humorous, strict and loved to teach. One of the best moments in my academic life with Father Ed was when he taught us how to build a telegraph.  When Miss Chiprout announced that Father Ed was coming back after his break from teaching in the middle of the year I was really happy for him.  And speaking of Miss Chiprout (eye contact), she took on a huge responsibility when she was chosen as the long-term substitute for Father Ed.  She’s a fellow comedian, she made us laugh a lot and she laughed a lot, and I really loved that about her.  Next, Mrs. Perrussi (eye contact).  She has been an amazing art teacher and I don’t think I’ll ever have a better one.  Magistra Downs has been an incredible Latin teacher (eye contact). I still can’t believe that she knows 5 or more languages. Next, the principal, Mrs. Rice (eye contact).  She started out as Ms. Wright, and along the way tweaked her last name.  We have a fair bit in common, as she too had her life impacted by a baby fairly recently.  Last, but definitely not least, Mrs. Mackenzie (eye contact). Every time I got hurt on the playground, she fixed me up.  Which was a lot. Thank you to all the wonderful ASA teachers and staff.
            Most people think I’m a pretty good kid. But I’m not perfect. Here is a story………. once, maybe around Kindergarten, there was this time where we were playing soccer on the playground, and my friend Landon kept picking up the ball.  Now, everyone knows you can’t touch a soccer ball with your hands! So I’d had enough, and   I drilled him in the chest…hard.  Apparently picking up the ball isn’t a foul, but punching your friend is.  When Ms. Lubliner e-mailed my parents to tell them of my unfortunate “mistake”, my Dad asked if I threw a left hook or a right cross, before apologizing for my actions.  My Mom’s still hopeful that she laughed.
A couple years ago, my sister joined my class and had the best years of her life, because every time I did something wrong, she would know and she could tell my parents.  Which she did, often.  I’m not sure, but maybe I should say, “thank you?” (eye contact)
            ASA has impacted my life in ways I never thought it would. It made me a better Christian, it hopefully made me a better person, and it helped me find amazing friends.  ASA also taught me that punching a person probably isn’t the first, or the best, way to solve problems. 
            We live in a world of turmoil, where the only constant is change.  As the great Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  ASA has prepared me to do just that, and I’m forever grateful.
            In conclusion, I am forever grateful for my parents, ASA teachers and staff, and most of all I thank God for my many blessings.  Thank you for listening, and have a great night.


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