Class of 2018 President, Mason Cohen

Class of 2018 Valedictorian, AJ Kawczynski – Scroll down.

Class of 2018 President, Mason Cohen

Faculty, students, parents, alumni, and friends,

I am truly honored and grateful to be invited to speak at the commencement of Haddonfield Memorial High School Class of 2018.

It has been a tremendous honor for me to be a small part of the HMHS Class of 2018. Most people have no idea just how unique and amazing the HMHS Class of 2018 really is. The totality Class of 2018 is far more than the endless athletic accomplishments that we have achieved year after year. Far more than the countless academic fetes that we have consistently delivered for all four years. And far more than the tireless contributions to society that our class members have made and continue to make both here in town and abroad. Yes, we are more than all of that. We are a family.

A family unit that looks out for its own, cares unselfishly for one another, and offers each other unconditional love even during times of challenge and discomfort. There have been a few challenges along the way, and we have faced them down together. Just like parts of this institution have been torn down, only to be reconstructed, better, stronger, and sturdier than they were before, we, the members of the Class of 2018, have learned from the process that we don't need a cafeteria to enjoy eating lunch together. We don't need a fancy senior lounge. We can have just as much fun, good times and laughs in the Stower. We don't need a basketball gym or a home field to rally the rowdy gang troops. Every single member of this family added value and we will leave this institution that we have each become an integral part of one another. Each and every one of us is a world-class athlete, an accomplished artist, an acclaimed musician, a celebrated scholar, a social justice warrior, and a thoughtful philosopher. We are all of these things and so much more.

HMHS is a fine institution. In fact, I have experienced some of the most exciting moments of my entire life during the past four years here at HMHS:
•  As a freshman, I had the esteemed honor of bench-warming for the freshman basketball team.
•  As a sophomore, we’ll … nothing really exciting happened sophomore year.
•  But junior year made up for it when I smoked Cohibas on the beaches of Cuba with my now two good friends Castro and Tupac. One might even say that half of my heart in Havana ... ooh nah nah.
•  And as a senior, I finally landed my first Fortnight solo win – six kills, if any of you were wondering.

All kidding aside, my time here at HMHS has been fruitful, eye-opening, and rewarding in ways that I had never imagined possible. It may come as a surprise for many of you to know that remarkably, I did not hate one minute of my entire high school experience – besides maybe Spirit Week. But I digress. In fact, my time here at HMHS has been so overwhelmingly positive, that I fully anticipate getting smacked square in the face by reality as soon as I get to college because there is no possible way that the real world will be nearly as cushy as my experience has been here at HMHS.

I have a message that I would like to share with my fellow graduates. This is important, so please pay attention. Life ... is truly ... a self-fulfilling prophecy. What I mean by this is – whatever you envision for yourself and whatever you truly believe your future holds will ultimately become your reality. In other words, if you see yourself as a failure, then you in fact will ... fail. If you see yourself as happy ... you will in fact find happiness. And if you see yourself as successful, if you know in your heart of hearts, that you are destined to succeed, than it is success that you will find! I am standing here asking all of you, to believe in yourselves. Because if you believe in yourself, then everyone around you will also believe.

Indulge me, please, a brief story. Four short years ago, directly out front of HMHS, a frightened, nervous, 14-year-old, half-Chinese, Jewish little boy, stepped anxiously out of the passenger side of his mother’s car … wearing braces … with spiky hair molded into a faux hawk ... and dressing a little bit more urban than what most Haddonfield kids might be used to. No Sperrys … no Vineyard Vines … just some High Top Jordans and a pair of True Religion jeans. Glancing briefly at the flagpole that stands guard out front of the HMHS gates as he walked cautiously, yet with great determination, towards the seemingly overwhelming crowd of faces that he had never laid eyes on before in his life. There was, however, a great confidence within him that told him that one day he would be accepted, embraced, and even celebrated by these strangers that he would soon come to know as friends.

I am that little half-Chinese Jewish boy. And it is because of the education that I have received here at HMHS that I stand before you today as a half-Chinese Jewish man! Think about that for a second. Yeah, pretty powerful huh?

Many of you may have noticed, I dedicated a poem to the graduating class in the yearbook. I would like to recite that poem for you now.

Questions linger in our minds.
I long for answers all the time,
Sometimes as I wait for sleep,
All the while my thoughts so deep.
Does our future look so bright?
I wish for guidance through the night,
Knowing that tomorrow holds,

In closing, I would like to say a special thank you to my guidance counselor, Mr. Jeffrey Holman, for making my high school career and my tennis career a resounding and enjoyable success. Mr. Holman, you are the true embodiment of the spirit of HMHS and an inspiration to us all, and I am certain that everyone here today believes that the world could stand a few more Jeffrey Holmans. Everyone please join me in a warm round of applause, to my guidance counselor, and our esteemed tennis coach, Mr. Jeffrey Holman.

Always remember, The Man Bun Got It Done!

Congratulations, Class of 2018! We did it!

Class of 2018 Valedictorian, AJ Kawczynski

Hello everyone.

I wanted to take a moment to thank the faculty and administrators for organizing everything tonight and making it all possible.
•  My amazing teachers, for all their help along the way
•  All my friends, especially Harry Williams Buzzerd IV, for proofreading my speech last night. So if you don’t enjoy it, you can blame him.
•  For all the students in our class, who made it fun to come to the school for the past four years.
•  My family, for always being there for me.
•  The school, for being so accommodating during the construction.
•  All the parents and all the people who make our community so great.

With that being said, I want to tell you all a story about an experience in high school that really resonated with me.

In junior year, I was assigned to do a history project with my friend, Jimmy.  Now I’m not sure if everyone is aware of this, but Jimmy has a bit of a reputation – for being a hard worker and a great partner.  

So, you can imagine my surprise when I opened our Google Doc late the night before our project was due and saw that he had done … nothing.

As a result, I worked into the wee hours of the night, researching notable figures of the Roaring Twenties, and stumbled into first period a few hours later with a barely completed project … and a bad attitude.

Suddenly, like a high school junior walking through a door … Jimmy, of all people, walked through the door.  Sensing my bad mood, he approached me with caution. He placed a bag upon my desk which I begrudgingly opened to reveal … some Dunkin' Donuts donuts, and a refreshing Coca-Cola-brand beverage.

At that moment, I realized that I was happier to receive a gift from a friend than I would have been if I had gotten the physician-recommended 8-to-9 hours of sleep that a growing boy like myself desperately needs.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that you can learn something from every situation. If you make a mistake, you can look back. You can think about how to prevent it from happening in the future. If you’re having an argument, t’s an opportunity to see things from someone else’s perspective. So on and so forth.

At first, I thought what Jimmy was trying to teach me is that you can get out of any situation if you buy people Coke and donuts. Trying to apply this to my life, I realized that I could simply buy the audience tonight – Coke and donuts – instead of writing a speech. However, I took the liberty of crunching some numbers, and I found that with around 2,000 people in attendance, and at about $4 for this nutritious meal, this cop-out would cost me a whopping $8,000 dollars – or about three weeks of college tuition.

So this option was off the table.

Now, this was a setback. But I knew that there were a couple of possibilities:

A – Jimmy is a kind person, and just felt bad that I ended up doing more of the work, or
2 – Jimmy was trying to teach me something profound.  

Now, I realize that the former is much more likely. But I knew that I had to dig deeper. After some reflection, this is what I have taken away from my experience: It doesn’t take much to change someone’s day. And if you decide to make that small effort, that small act of kindness, those people will do the same for others. You can start a chain reaction that will spread and have a positive impact on more people than you can imagine.

It doesn’t take much effort to make the world a better place.

So – say hello to strangers. Make small talk with the person next to you in the elevator. Call your parents from your dorm room. And, if all else fails, buy someone Coke and donuts. If they’re anything like me, they’ll remember it for a long time.

I’ve been AJ Kawczynski. Thank you very much.