Following is Glenbrook North student graduation speaker Kelsey Lundgaard's speech during commencement ceremonies on June 5 at the Rosemont Theatre.
If you had told me four years ago that I would be standing here giving the graduation speech, I would have said no way.
After all, I am not here because I am a part of the SA (Student Association) Board. I am not here because I am the most athletic. Or, because I am the most intelligent.
I am not here because I have the best hair -- looking good, Kyle Burke and David Maltiz.
I am not here because I am most likely to be in the Olympics -- go get 'em, Nya Robinson and Paul Wysynski.
And I am certainly not here because I am most likely to have my own reality TV Show -- we'll be waiting for you, Leah Ruttkay and Deirdre McMahon.
I am here today to help all of us do something: to consider the hard work that it has taken us to get to where we are today.
Remember your very first day at Glenbrook North? We were 14 years old and at the bottom of the high school food chain. We walked out of our parents' cars or hopped off the bus, and awkwardly climbed the stairs while a blur of voices welcomed us into the CPA (Sheely Center for the Performing Arts).
Before you knew it, the time for either the most exciting or most stressful part of your day came upon you: Lunch.
And there you went.
You followed the crowd into a space filled with hundreds of terrifyingly long tables. You entered the room with your lunch tray, and felt as if everyone was staring you down as you searched desperately for even a single friend or familiar face.
Awkward, very awkward.
But we did it.
Remember sophomore year when you were finally not the youngest students? Boy, did that feel good.
You knew what to expect and began getting into your high school groove. You knew where to sit in the cafeteria and knew to never take a tray.
But on March 13, 2020, ¨it¨ happened.
At first, we were excited to have a two-week break from school. Little did we know, this was only the start of a never-ending pandemic saga.
Sports shut down.
Spring break trips postponed.
Spring musical -- canceled.
Before we knew it, the school was closed for the rest of the year.
We struggled into this scary reality. Spending every second at home brought a mixture of feelings -- fear, anxiety, confusion.
At times, "it" created space to reconnect with loved ones. Other times, the pandemic caused loneliness and isolation.
Even though the world was unreliable and confusing, we did it.
And then there was junior Year. To me, it felt like a blur.
Each day was unclear whether or not things were turning more or less normal.
School was remote and then it was not.
And despite our incredible teachers, we didn't know if we should show up, login, or tune out entirely and pretend that no one noticed.
Junior year brought additional challenges:
ACT and SAT prep.
Creative college visits given the nationwide restrictions.
Virtual Pep Assemblies, V-Show (Variety Show) on Zoom.
More people than ever struggled with mental health. Some still are. It's hard.
And then, teachers and family began to ask the dreaded question: What are you going to do next year?
And despite all that, we kept going.
Finally, our senior Year.
What about the first football game this year? The crisp fall air. The stands filled with students united in GBN gear. The lights
blazing on the field. Students packed next to each other, closer human contact
than we had in over two years.
The marching band, the cheerleaders, the pom-ers, all bringing the excitement back.
That night, the school spirit was electric.
Assemblies and school dances were back. Masks, removed.
Concerts, "Shrek," prom, and now today, GBN Class of 2022 Graduation.
We made it, and if there is one thing that became real for me is this: Life is hard, but I can do hard things.
And then I think of all of us, life is hard, but we can do hard things.
I think of the 100-year pandemic that we lived through, and if there is one thing I want you to believe it is this: The future is going to be hard at times. But, we can do hard things.
In a few moments, we will be graduates. We will be heading our separate ways: college, gap year, workforce, military service. We are prepared to take our next step into the world.
But don't let a goal of perfection keep you from taking on challenges. Embrace those challenges with hard work.
As my music teacher in elementary school always said, ¨Perfect is boring."
So say yes to facing the hard tasks because the moment we say yes is the moment we begin to grow.
After all, I never thought I would be up here today.
Consider who you were four years ago and all the challenges you overcame to get to this day.
Now, you are a 2022 Glenbrook North graduate. Aren't you proud?
Life is hard but we learned that we can do hard things. We did it.