Before they graduate, Brooks students have the chance to address the entire community and share their thoughts or advice through our annual Senior Speeches program each spring.
Riley Baker '18 and Emma Dawson '18 kicked off the 2018 series in Chapel this morning with two personal speeches sharing thoughtful remarks about their time at Brooks and words of wisdom to those in their first year on campus.
The Senior Speech program began around 1990, estimates Rev. Dr. Timothy B. Cogan H'98, Brooks' Chaplain Emeritus, who served at Brooks for 17 years until he retired in 2002. He shared how it all began: "As part of the planning for Chapel services, the Chapel Advisory Board ... decided to set aside Mondays after spring vacation, about six or so, to hear seniors with different points of view speak about their Brooks experience. [We] tried for a broad spectrum of experience and insight, and representative seniors spoke so that everyone would hear something they could identify with [from] foreign students [to] artists, athletes..."
The same is true today, yet with many more students stepping up to share with their peers before saying farewell at graduation -- in just four short months.
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"I've always looked forward to the senior speech season, and I've envisioned myself giving one before I graduate," said Dawson (shown above). "I hope that by giving a speech my community will gain insight into the way I see the world and what makes me, me."
Baker (shown above) said she'd become excited about the opportunity after participating in oratory class this fall and discovering that she enjoyed writing and delivering her speech. "Being a part of this tradition is also very special to me because my mom [Jenna Baker '91] went to Brooks and delivered a senior speech," she added. "There are so many shared experiences we've had, but this is one I've held on the horizon during my four years here."
She settled on her topic, about the difference between being busy and finding fulfillment, "because it encompasses how I spent my time here, and the shift that occurred between my underclass and upperclass years after I found my passions [music and crew]," she said.
Dawson's focus came about in a different way. "I channeled the energy that I felt about giving a speech and essentially wrote something that celebrates vulnerability," she explained. "If I take one thing from my Brooks experience, I think it will be the skill of learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. After falling into Brooks' safety net a few times, I realized that there really is no better time or safer place to take risks."
And that's exactly what the two soon-to-be graduates did this morning by standing at the podium in front of a packed Chapel audience, taking a risk in sharing their thoughts and feelings.
"I'm excited to help set the tone for an incredibly inspiring few months," said Dawson, prior to her speech. "But I'm also very nervous to be the first student in the class of 2018 to share my story with the whole school."
Going for it, though, was worth any butterflies, the duo (shown above, celebrating afterward) agreed. "It's an opportunity for the oldest students in the school to offer a mature reflection of their years spent here with their younger peers and entire community," said Dawson. "I know I really appreciated the messages and wisdom that I was given early on, and I would love to do the same for someone else."
Baker added, "[Third- and fourth-formers] are just starting out here and many of them haven't yet found their passions. I hope that my journey of finding mine will help them find theirs."
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