Jenna Jeletic, daughter of Kellyann and James Jeletic, of Annapolis, MD, has been named Valedictorian and Emily Short, daughter of Sandy and Nick Short, of Bowie, MD, has been named Salutatorian of the Class of 2021 of Elizabeth Seton High School. Jeletic will attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and Short will attend Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, PA.
Valedictory address, June 1, 2021 at Prince George's Stadium, Bowie, MD:
It is my honor to speak to you all today. And, on behalf of all my Seton sisters, thank you to our teachers, staff, parents, families, and everyone who has brought us to this point in our lives and made today possible.
At this moment when we are transitioning between two major stages of our lives, I like to think about a quote from William Butler Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Our education at Seton has kindled a fire within us. But what do we do with it? Fire can be damaging, or fire can be healing. Even though fire is devastating, good can come of it. If used wisely, it can be cleansing. During our years at Seton, we have seen a great deal of divisiveness and unrest. From presidential elections to racial justice movements to a pandemic, we’ve seen a lot during our short time here. These past few years have illuminated a great deal in our world that is in need of cleansing and healing. Now is the time for change, and we are the ones tasked with bringing it forth.
But how do we do that? Most of us are doing what we can now. However, because some of us, as teenagers, can’t even vote, it sometimes feels like we can’t do anything at all. But that is not the case.
Even the smallest flame can light up a room. Most change happens through little everyday acts. One idea could lead to one petition, which could lead to a new law. Now look at that, you’ve made a difference. But…making a difference doesn’t have to be changing the world for everyone. If you do the little things, you never know what impact they may have on a person’s life. One smile or a passing hello could mean the world to someone who is having a rough day. This idea isn’t new to us. We help the young kids at the elementary schools, we visit the elderly at nursing homes, we do little acts of kindness every day. At Baccalaureate, Father Ray reminded us that it is better to give than to receive and challenged us to do just that. Make the commitment to do what you can to make a difference in the lives of those around you. The little things add up and can make big changes.
As a freshman, we were tiny embers. Some of us couldn’t open our lockers for a week. We were trying to figure out which doors to use and what stairs to take. We buttoned our shirts all the way and were afraid to roll our skirts. But we have changed so much since then—we have grown to be much stronger flames. We are confident, intelligent young women who have made our mark on this school and are ready to make our mark on the world. Even if some of us still don’t know which stairs are which *look at Tyne*.
Fire, like people, reacts to its surroundings. It needs oxygen and nourishment; a fire’s environment is critical to how it evolves.
Our fire has been nourished by our teachers, our staff, our families, and our friends. These people have built us up. And, although we can’t necessarily bring them along with us to the future, we will always be able to see them when we look back because they are a part of the foundation that made us who we are today and a piece of the people we will become. Now that we are graduating, there is a flame that is burning bright within us, ready to take on the world.
Fire can be delicate. People will come in and try to pour water on your fire to extinguish it, but don’t let the haters stop you from reaching your full potential. But be careful, people will also try to pour gasoline on it to ignite you out of control, but don’t let them cause you to be destructive.
Every one of us sitting here today has a different plan in life. Whether our next step is going to college, learning a trade, enlisting in the military, joining the convent, or following another path, we are all going to do great things and impact the world in every way imaginable. Burn positively with a purpose. Each person here has a bright future ahead, so don’t dim your light for anyone. But, be cautious to not burn holes where holes are not meant to be.
It only takes one small spark to start a fire, and we get to choose what kind of fire we will be.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Our Seton education was the match, and we are the flames that have grown from it. We have been given the light to know and the grace to do, so take those gifts and go burn bright. Thank you, and congratulations!
Salutatorian address, June 1, 2021 at Prince George's Stadium, Bowie, MD:
Good morning parents, staff, and fellow students. I would first like to start off by congratulating my fellow classmates on graduating, and would like to thank our teachers, families, faculty and everyone else who helped us along the way. This has been a challenging year, and even through the virtual classes, google classroom notifications, and last-minute office hour appointments, we managed to finish strong and hit it out of the ballpark. I think we can all agree that the perseverance Seton instilled in us brought us where we are today. I used to run cross country, and almost every week, my dad would remind me that school was a marathon, and you had to persevere to finish strong. However, after 4 years at Seton, I like to think of my school experience as more of a baseball game, full of both challenges at every base and teammates cheering me on in every play I made. So I would like to walk you all through my baseball game, specifically, my four years at Seton.
First base, freshman year. We had just started our game, and really had no idea what the next 3 bases had in store for us. I think this base started off with a few strikes for a lot of us. Freshman year, none of us knew the person we would be by the end of our time at Seton. I can vividly remember Ms. Cooke telling us on our first day that we had no idea how much we would change in 4 years. I, and I’m sure many of my teammates, probably thought she was being crazy; I mean how much can one person change in such a short amount of time? Looking back, I laugh at how naive I was about myself and the game I was playing.
Second base, sophomore year. This year was all about becoming more comfortable with our environment, and settling into the game. I think at this point in my high school career, I, like many of my teammates, thought I had everything figured out. I guess the meaning of the word sophomore, “wise fool,” is exactly what I would describe us as. Sure, we were maybe a little smarter, but we still had no idea who we were as players and how we fit into the game.
Then came the third base, junior year. I think we can all agree that this year threw a curveball at us for a number of reasons. This year was definitely the most challenging year for me, both academically and personally, from a sudden beloved teacher’s passing to the complete shutdown of schools due to covid, and there were times I considered walking off the field. It almost felt like we were handed a bad pitch, so what was the use in even trying? We had no idea what the end of the game would look like, when the pandemic would end, or even when we would go back to school. This sense of hopelessness contributed to the burnout all of us were feeling at the time. It seemed like no matter what we tried, we were forever stuck on 3rd, just waiting for our normal lives to resume so that we could finally get back to playing the game and see our teammates again. We were all tired of waiting around and just wanted to make it to home.
Senior year, home plate. After all the bases, we have finally come full circle, or in this case, full diamond. After all the waiting, we’re finally where we wanted to be all along. Sometimes we were so focused on getting to home plate that we forgot to enjoy the game we were playing. We were so lost in the game that we didn’t realize we were at the bottom of the ninth inning and had just scored the winning run. And before we knew it, the game was over, and it is time to move on to a new field, with new teammates. This idea can be daunting, to say the least. I mean, we liked our field, had fun with our team, and formed friendly relationships with our coaches, so why should we want to leave?
Even though the game is over, the lessons it instilled in us will last a lifetime. My past 4 years of Seton haven’t always been easy, but I’m forever grateful for the lessons I learned about teamwork, pushing through adversity, and learning to be confident in myself. In the words of Bob Feller, former baseball player for the Cleveland Indians, “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day.” Elizabeth Seton Class of 2021, I hope you take all of the lessons you learned in the great game of high school and use them every day, in each new game you play. Thank you.