Manitoulin Secondary School valedictorian Eliza Ermilova’s speech

Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) valedictorian Eliza Ermilova delivers her speech at the graduation ceremonies held June 28. photo by Tom Sasvari

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is the speech that Manitoulin Secondary School valedictorian Eliza Ermilova presented at the class of 2022 graduation held June 28.

Good evening parents, guardians, friends, staff, teachers, the baby that might end up screaming during my speech, and most importantly, graduates. My name is Eliza Ermilova and it is my pleasure to be delivering the valedictorian speech for the graduating class of 2022.

These past four years have been anything but ordinary but we can proudly say that we made it and survived high school. We are now ready for the ‘real world’ our parents have always talked about. We can solve logarithmic equations, name every part of the plant cell, and recite Shakespeare lines, you know, the things adults do on a daily basis.

Graduating seems exciting but at the same time really scary. As children, we all looked forward to the question, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’

Many of us wanted to be astronauts, veterinarians, teachers, doctors or maybe a princess riding a white horse into a castle; spoiler alert: my dreams were crushed. We were so small with such big dreams. Now, that exact same question is nerve-wracking. Some of us know what we want to be; others might not have a clue at all. Although every single one of our paths differs, the majority of us began our exciting new adventures when we walked through those front doors.

We came into MSS four years ago as scared young teenagers, unsure of what to expect. The first weeks as little Grade 9s, it was emphasized that under no circumstances can you sit at the back caf tables. I mean it. Imagine how terrifying it is to see a grumpy huge Grade 12 glaring because you’re sitting in their seat. I know some of us, you guys know exactly who I’m talking about, somehow ended up in the trash cans or even locked inside the lockers simply because we were ‘minor niners’ and an easy target to pick on. On the good side, we went to our first high school sports games and cheered on our friends on the packed bleachers. Some of us participated in our first provincial sports meets, musicals, band performances, robotics competitions and attended events like the winter formal.

Grades 10 and 11 quickly crept up on us, and a lot of the things we took for granted were taken away from us. I promised I wouldn’t talk about COVID for more than a minute, but it did take half of our high school years away from us. What seemed to be endless lockdown announcements, crashed Google meets, and teachers realizing their mics had been muted for 5 minutes into a lesson soon started taking over our ‘high school experience’ that we all dreamed about for so long.

Despite the pandemic, the teachers at MSS never stopped pushing us to our full potential-even if it mean motivational talks over Google meets. I have asked my peers what they will miss most about MSS, and the most common answer was some particular teacher’s name. I have yet to meet a teacher at MSS who isn’t prepared to sacrifice their own time, lunches, and, frankly, their own sanity to make sure that a student receives the guidance and support they need. So, on behalf of the graduating class, I would like to thank every single one of our teachers. You are heroes. Thank you for looking after us. Thank you for pushing us and believing in us even in the most challenging times. And thank you for never failing to put a smile on our faces, whether that was laughing at Mr. Becks for spelling cubic with a q, the line that goes through Mr. Doane’s forehead when he’s mad, or the one and only famous ‘bread and sugar is evil’ speech from Mr. Balfe.

I would also like to thank all of the staff and guidance team at MSS and all the siblings, parents, friends, and guardians who have supported us along the way, whether that was helping us choose our classes for the next year, giving us a ride to a sports game, or even being our personal therapist. We couldn’t have done this without your support.

With the help of our staff, admin, and student body, our Grade 12 year was one of the most memorable years yet. Our lives started going back to the ‘normal’: normal periods, lockers, packed bleachers, sports games, the talent show and the MSS annual powwow. Our school reintroduced Spymaster, leaving us afraid to eat in the caf and running through the halls with the fear of being tagged.

Doing laps in the halls was no longer a crime, though; you may have spent your lunches looking through old sports team photos, just to realize Gurney probably wasn’t known as the old Phys-ed teacher at MSS 40 years ago. Don’t worry, Gurney, your energy and enthusiasm is as young as it gets. We instantly knew that the moment you heard Mr. Balfe’s voice on the PA, it was going to be an amazing soup day! The soup was killer, but surprisingly didn’t give Balfe enough strength to keep himself on his feet once the epic tug of war rope snapped. If anyone wants to see a video of Balfe flying to the ground, I may or may not have it.

None of us believed it when others told us how fast time would fly in high school. But here we are, the huge grumpy Grade 12s we used to be scared of, about to leave through those doors to start a new chapter in our books. The experience might have been different from what we expected because the more we grew up, the more we realized that life isn’t as easy as we thought. The hardships we might have faced, failed tests, first heartbreaks and the utter feeling of discouragement do not define us. We are, after all, human. Well, at least I think most of us are. I want to revisit the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Our success shouldn’t be measured with high grades, popularity, or money. I challenge all of us to start asking ourselves ‘who do you want to be, rather than what you want to be.’

Who is the person you want to be as you enter adulthood? Take your strengths that you have learned within the last four years and use them to shape yourself into someone ‘little you’ would look up to. Your pride, kindness, and resilience will undoubtedly leave an impact on others and the world.

Graduates, I am incredibly proud of each of you for enduring through the last few chaotic years. You have worked hard. You have earned the right to celebrate your accomplishments. Whatever your next adventure may be, pursue what makes you truly happy. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you all best of luck along the way. Peace out MSS; it’s been a wild ride. “And we made it!”