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NSA graduates 68

With humility, humor and a hunger to make a difference, some of the 68 members of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s class of 2019 shared their memories and philosophical musings before all took their first steps as high school graduates.

Student Council President Mason Harrell spoke of shared experiences with teachers and classmates but said there was a highlight and a strong coincidence with the recent opening of a fast food restaurant.

“Luckily for us, our senior year ended with a bang when the Bojangles’ opened a couple of months ago,” Harrell said to laughter from the crowd who gathered on the lawn in front of the school for the ceremony. “For those of you who know me well, that was a huge deal. And I’m not saying there’s any correlation, but our school did win two state championships right after it opened.”

Salutatorian Nafisa Jeb thanked her family first before thanking her teachers and classmates, and had a message for NSA’s junior class.

“I respect you all for coming here today, knowing that you still have to wait at least another year for your graduation,” Jeb said. “Thank you all, for everything.”

She said they were all there to celebrate the passing of a milestone, but it was also a day of fond and funny remembrances. She shared memories of numerous members of the senior class, many of them dear friends.

“Thank you for the memories, and here’s to many more,” Jeb said.

Valedictorian Archana Venkatesan noted the deep sense of diversity and camaraderie among her fellow graduates.

“Take a look around you and consider the countless lasting friendships and relationships you have created at NSA,” Venkatesan said. “I am sure that all of us can agree that the students, faculty and staff here have had an extraordinary impact on our lives.”

And that impact, she said, will be felt upon the world around them as they venture far and wide from NSA and celebrate their commitment to their education.

“This graduation ceremony is the culmination of four long years of diligence and dedication,” Venkatesan said. “It is an event that marks our newfound confidence to pursue our passions and push our boundaries in the arts, research, music, theater, athletics, et cetera.”

She called on graduates to acknowledge the people that have made their journeys possible and made them who they are today, as well as to do what makes them happy.

“Graduating high school is no easy feat, yet here we are,” Venkatesan said. “Think about what you did well, and what you could have done better. What impact did you have on your community? What skills have you gained? Think about your experience at NSA, and I have no doubt that you will realize how much you have grown as a person, and how much you have accomplished.”

She recalled a pair of classmates who would dance from class to class in noting how life is about more than bank accounts and titles, saying everyone is entitled to a breather now and then, and to have fun.

“Treat every day like a new opportunity, and don’t limit yourself to society’s expectations of you,” Venkatesan said.

Head of Upper School Kim Aston said the class of 2019 did things right. She noted the $5.1 million in scholarship offers the new graduates received while getting accepted to 98 colleges. They’ll be attending 40 of them.

Aston then shared that many students have “profound thoughts and advice about life,” evident in yearbook quotes and musical messages. They touched on 10 themes, including:

  • Have the courage to live your dream
  • Perserverance
  • Learn from your failures
  • Slow down and enjoy the important things in life
  • Be kind
  • Don’t forget where you came from and who helped you along the way
  • Surround yourself with good people
  • Stay humble
  • Enjoy the journey
  • Be thankful

“To the class of 2019, as you go off into the exciting world of the unknown, my wish for each of you is a lifetime of love, learning, good health, strong relationships and prosperity,” Aston said.

Katelyn Grasso, the founder and chief executive officer of GenHERation, told the new graduates that she was not there to give them a guidebook on life, because there is no such thing, and noted the plethora of prepackaged college and high school graduation advice in pop culture.

Rather, Grasso said being a 2019 graduate is a lot like being an entrepreneur, operating in a degree of uncertainty. She said there is no timetable for success, and called for graduates to  wake up each day and create the world they want to live in.

“While some people view uncertainty as unknown challenges, I’ve always seen uncertainty as the pathway to unlimited possibilities, and I want you to do the same,” Grasso said.

Harrell called for the graduates to soak in the moment and appreciate the importance of their graduation experience, and to enjoy this last hurrah before everyone goes their separate ways, away from the place they have come to call home.

“It is officially the end of our time at NSA, but while we may be leaving, we’ll never truly be gone,” Harrell said. “We are a part of NSA, and NSA will always be a part of us. So, as we go out into the world, let us not forget where we all came from.”

And who they are: forever Saints.