Ridgefield High School Valedictorian and Class President Graduation Speeches

Ridgefield High School Valedictorian Hersha Chauhan and Senior Class President, Molly Lyons, address the Class of 2022 at the one hundred and sixth annual commencement today.

Valedictorian, Herscha Chauhan's graduation speech

Even if it is unnerving at first, jump into whatever you do with complete devotion, challenge yourself, and take risks, because as daunting as leaving your niche may seem, there are a myriad of opportunities outside these doors.

Parents, Faculty, Guests, and the Class of 2022 - Congratulations. If you are here today you undoubtedly played a role in guiding at least one of the 385 students sitting in front of me past 13 years of quizzes, tests, assignments, projects, and papers. It has been four years with a global pandemic in the middle, but we made it. And I promise, that is the last time I will mention COVID because I wholeheartedly believe that our high school experience and our class is not defined by disruption and sickness but rather steadfast optimism and a desire to overcome.

Now, I apologize if you aren’t a fan of the biological sciences but I have to take this opportunity to share a lesson from this past year. I guess the words on the page of my unit 8 ecology study guide spoke to me, and for the very first time, I was excited about the opportunity to use my biology knowledge.

Let’s talk about animals, more specifically habitats and a funny-sounding word called a niche. Ecologically, a niche describes the role of an organism in a community. It encapsulates the physical and environmental conditions as well as the interactions it has with other species. No two species have the same niche, necessitating adaptation to the flow of constant changes.

Each person, whether they realize it or not, has built and adapted their niche yet still we share many common experiences. We all read Of Mice and Men and The Iliad and The Great Gatsby, at least we were all supposed to. We all know about the mitochondria being the powerhouse of the cell, possibly more from memes than from class. And more seriously, we all had assessments that shook us to our core, the ones that you couldn’t help but be upset about as you walked out of a classroom and blankly stared into the hallway. My most devastating one happened to be for the push-up test in tenth grade, luckily I literally cannot do worse next time…. We also built our own, smaller communities, from our clubs, to our sports teams, to even just your desk neighbors.

And I can give a few examples. The RHS mock trial team, a team of individuals scouring over pages of case law, though our conversations mostly surrounded college applications, politics, and pretty much anything but mock trial at times. The basketball teams have mastered their intricate plays, while us fans have mastered celebrating after each championship. And even smaller and more random, my 10th grade chemistry lab table where we discussed the lives of stars, experimented with titrations, and built friendships that extended beyond the classroom. Ranging from social to academic to extracurriculars we all found our niche.

I could rattle on for hours naming every group and every accomplishment everyone in the seats before me has had. But that is not my point. In a minute here our class president and friend Molly Lyons is going to direct us to turn our tassels. This is the signal that our high school years are over, that we have passed the first of many stages of learning to come in our life. And unfortunately, that niche, that comfort zone, will be challenged and pushed towards adaptation and growth. Yes, you will maintain relationships with the many people you found pivotal.

Yes, in 20 years we will all be at a reunion in the Lounsbury House, eating cheese and cringing at our senior quotes. Yes, Ridgefield will always be our hometown, but never will we return back to the same niche that we leave behind today. It sounds scary at first. I will be the first to admit comfortability in my comfort zone, finding solace in my routine. Anyone close to me knows that my phone is on Do Not Disturb by 9:45pm every night, pushing towards 10 on a late night if Stranger Things is on a cliffhanger.

So the thought of leaving our accustomed schedules frightens me too but we have practiced the art of becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable. This ability to adapt will serve us throughout the duration of our lifetime. If it provides any consolation, species have been doing this for billions of years, changing, surviving, and growing, and you probably will not be the first one to end this phenomenon.

Even if it is unnerving at first, jump into whatever you do with complete devotion, challenge yourself, and take risks, because as daunting as leaving your niche may seem, there are a myriad of opportunities outside these doors.

As Survivor show host Jeff Probst says, “this challenge is on.” I think what I have truly learned is that the education process is sinusoidal and upward sloping in nature. There will be peaks and there will be valleys and I look forward to us learning from our mistakes, being invigorated by our challenges, and succeeding in the face of adversity.

Congratulations Class of 2022.


Ridgefield High School Senior Class President, Molly Lyon's graduation speech

"Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” 

- John Lennon

The other day I was driving home from Massachusetts with my dad after a long weekend of rowing. I was mentally and physically exhausted, which was why I didn’t fight him when he wanted to play his music. Like I have since I was little, I tuned out most of his Pearl Jam and
Led Zeppelin since those bands aren’t really my speed.

After a couple of long and painful songs, “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon began to play. I was thankful for this change of pace and found myself listening to what the former Beatle had to say. That’s when I heard this line:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” (John Lennon).

These words made me think about our class. Looking back at our four years, I feel like we spent so much of our time at RHS telling ourselves that things will be better once we get over some sort of hump. “Things will be better once we’re not the youngest in the school; I can’t wait until we don’t have to deal with online classes anymore; I’m counting down the days until my college applications are done.” Yes, many of these “humps” were less than favorable, but today, I want to talk about how beautifully transformative our class has been throughout these four years, and how those “humps” have allowed us to become one of the most resilient, kind, and impressive classes RHS has ever seen.

I remember how terrifying freshman year was for me: new school, new teachers, new classmates, new responsibilities. However, with all of these scary “news” came new opportunities. While some of us were so keyed into trying to navigate this intimidating new environment, others were taking full advantage of the opportunity to create a foundation for greatness. By getting involved in clubs, sports, music, theater, or volunteering, many of you were able to take initiative and take your first step in your high school journey. These small steps allowed us to blossom into the strong students and leaders that sit here today. This room is filled with future CEOs, doctors, musicians, professional athletes, politicians, and people who will truly make a difference in the world. This transformation happened right under all of our noses, and I hope that you can sit here today and appreciate how much we have evolved as a class from freshman to senior year.

I feel like it would be remiss of me to not mention one of the most impactful humps we have had to deal with during our time here at RHS, which is COVID. No one expected it, no one wanted it, and most importantly, no one really knew how to navigate it. A lot of our time was spent planning what school would be like when it “returned to normal,” not knowing if it ever would. All of this negative attention took away from one of the most beautiful things that happened to our class; we learned the importance of support and developing meaningful relationships. Things like daily walks, hour-long facetimes, and socially-distanced hangouts allowed us to help one another get through this confusing time and create bonds that will last a lifetime. Not only did the arduous nature of COVID connect our class for life, but it also emphasized how positive an impact others can have on your journey.

As a class, we became more compassionate, caring, and supportive individuals because of this “hump,” and we will continue to create future relationships with these valuable skills.

Even after “returning to normal,” life continued to change. Many of us had to deal with loss, rejection, and separation. Hell, we witnessed the start of a war and continue to watch the devastating effects. With all of these seemingly impossible humps, our class still managed to
make a difference. We saw that the world could be a better place and did something about it. We raised support for muscular dystrophy, we gave blood to local hospitals, we sent money to Ukraine, we even pledged to make our community a No Place for Hate. All of this good came from something bad, and it came from all of you. Without darkness, there is no light, and our class proves that we can and will make this world a little brighter.

No journey is ever straight or smooth. There will always be turns, bumps, and times we wish we could skip. As I close up this speech, my advice to you is to embrace those humps and learn to enjoy the now. We all have so much to look forward to, whether that be college or jobs, or summer trips, but I promise you will get more out of life if you take full advantage of what’s right in front of you.

So, enjoy today. Enjoy tonight. Tell the people who are here with you and here for you how much you love them. Soak in the fact that you’ve just graduated. Look around at the people sitting next to you. Whether you met these people in Kindergarten or high school, take the time to
celebrate the meaningful relationships you have developed and let your friends know how much they mean to you.

This is the last time we will all be together as one, so cherish this moment. Each and every one of you contributed something special to this class and are more than ready to take on life with the lessons we have learned and the memories we have made from RHS. Thank you and good luck, Class of 2022!


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