Highland Park High School graduation speaker: 'People make the place'

The following is the speech by Highland Park High School student commencement speaker Emet Mandell at the high school's graduation ceremony May 26 at the Ravinia Festival.

I would like to begin by saying hello and thank you to everyone for being here: esteemed faculty, family, friends, graduates, and people who showed up early for the Pitbull concert.

I'm sorry to say that's not for a few more hours. I would sing something for you; I am, in fact, a singer. I sing all the time - in the shower, in the car, at home, so I have a huge fan base.

I'm Emet Mandell, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak to you all today. My time at Highland Park High School has shaped me into the individual standing before you. An outgoing, passionate, optimistic 18-year-old who plans to pursue a career in just about the most unsteady path offered in modern society, performing.

Thanks to the amazing Mr. Shallenbarger and HPHS, I will go through the better part of the next 10 years of my life with people asking me: "Really? You want to be an actor?"

In all honesty, I have so much to thank Highland Park High School for. One of my favorite quotes, which I have heard many times over the past four years, is "people make the place," and I can confirm the authenticity of that.

The joy of my HPHS experience was guided by my incredible fellow graduates joining me today. The memories of our time in high school that we will carry with us will not be the tests we did poorly on or the teams we didn't make, or parts we didn't get. Rather, they will be the successes we've achieved, the fun times we've had, and the lessons we've learned.

For example, in my trigonometry class I learned that Mrs. Gapinski makes the best homemade buttermilk pancakes, and I also learned ... don't waste any time trying to be "Tik Tok famous." Social media is fake, unhealthy and, to be honest, Mr. Pujara already beat us to it.

The high school experience that the Class of 2022 had was quite different from that of previous generations. The backdrop of our second half of high school was a global pandemic that ultimately forced us to re-create our reality. Online school was quite an experience. After we all finished binging "Tiger King" on Netflix and baking sourdough bread, we logged onto our computers to attend school.

Zoom classes inherently had their challenges, but the main one was the form of communication. Learning and talking to people through screens is no comparison to face-to-face collaboration.

Then again, even in person, we don't communicate that much face to face anyway. What's the need for human interaction when we have the HPHS Giant Life News and Ms. Finn's Weekly Newsletter to keep us up to speed? Big shoutout to Ms. Finn!

But despite any bearing that the hardships had on us, we have shown that together we are stronger than any obstacle.

Despite the adversity that is COVID-19, there have been positive outcomes of the situation, and I'm not just talking about the beautifully refurbished cafeteria. The isolation made us understand the value of in-person learning and helped us realize how fortunate we truly are to be granted an education from such an outstanding school.

From these trying times, we learned resilience and perseverance.

Additionally, our time at Highland Park High School has taught us how to dream, believe, and achieve. Each of us entered Highland Park with a dream. Over the past four years, our dreams have grown and changed, and we are all about to step into the world ready to pursue them.

Seeing how our lives had adapted in 2020 to the unique situation in the most creative ways through online and outdoor meetings, practices, performances, and competitions shows that we maintained the courage to believe. And by just sitting here today, surrounded by our fellow classmates dressed in the trademark HPHS Giants-blue colored cap and gowns, we have achieved.

We are a family. We will forever have this community as a part of our lives. Yes, I mean it - forever - and in the true nature of a family, you're never getting rid of me, whether you like it or not. Because once a Giant, always a Giant!

To the Class of 2022, we should all be so proud of what we have accomplished. Congratulations to us all.

Wherever our personal endeavors may guide us, I know we will all live Giant lives.

Thank you so much for your time.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.