Katerina Andreadis is a 2010 graduate of The Manhattan International High School. She will be attending Hunter College in the fall to study psychology and pre-med. This is her graduation speech.
What is an outsider? How do you stop being an outsider? Did you feel this way when you entered this country?
I traveled to America to live with my mother, brother and stepfather in our small apartment on 62nd street in July of 2006. I had no other relatives or friends. I was given a choice of a few high schools to attend. I chose the school closest to us, it was as simple as that. I had no idea what the school was about. I walked in to Mr. John’s earth science class. I entered. I stopped. I looked. There was a Spanish group, what looked like a Polish group and a group of four Asian girls. I sat with the Asian girls. I spent the whole class in silence, trying to figure out why Americans put dots on decimal numbers instead of commas, like they do in Greece. Trying to break the silence, I turned and asked the Asian girl next to me, “Can you help me with this?” Four years later, that girl, Kay, is one of my best friends. In the next few months, in Mr. Moses’ class, we had to write our goals and priorities. My whole life, my main goal was to be with my mother. I had finally achieved that. So now my main and only goal was to lose weight. As time passed, and I was safe at home and I no longer felt different and alone at school, my set of goals began to expand. You, my fellow students and teachers, are the ones that helped me find my motivation and interests.
It wasn’t what subjects the teachers taught us so much as the way they taught us.
Do you remember Ms. Rodica and her human condition mind map? How we used the thesaurus to identity the many themes and states in life which are always represented in literature? I will never read another literature book without going back to that map. When Ms. Rodica was preparing us for the English Regents, she told us to make a commercial advertising a pair of pliers. “Who is the audience? What is the tone? What is the strategy?” Now, before I write anything, I sit back and think about what I learned from creating a plier commercial.
Mr. B, our philosopher of the school took us to an outer world in math class! He would begin with an equilateral triangle, continue by talking about motion and end the class with a trip to the universe! Nobody left his class without a feeling of amusement and learning something new.
Across the hall, was Ms. Marigle’s classroom filled with living things. My three turtles, Kay’s gold fish, and many colorful plants gave the room a feeling of aliveness. Some people might have slept, but I discovered my love for biology. We also learned the necessity of having to take care of living things! You have no idea how terrible turtles can smell!
And remember that nobody would dare be late in Mr. Steve’s class? Five points off! The cold in his room, from the wide-open windows, was ignored due to the heat from our debates in the classroom! People who never spoke participated! I don’t think the founding fathers themselves debated with so much energy!
Energy that our class, the class of 2010, created during our four years together. The bonds that we built, while working in groups on class projects, like making a periodic table with your favorite element in Ms. Amy’s chemistry class. The help we gave each other when it was time for portfolios. The admiration and respect we felt for the seniors who presented their stories in the auditorium, like Omar and Esmerald. We are a family at Manhattan International High School. A family that supports, helps, and teaches one another. And I’m proud to be part of that family.
So, how do you stop being an outsider? I started feeling a part of our high school in my sophomore year. Some people have said that I don’t look like an outsider, but I will always have a part of that feeling in me. Maybe each of us has at times felt like an outsider.
Like many of you, I am happy and sad today because we will each have to find a new place and people to feel connected. That doesn’t mean that our feelings of feeling connected and accepted in Manhattan International HS will not stay with us forever. I will always remember this high school, this community, that made me the motivated and responsible person I am today.
It’s very easy to itemize a list of things that Manhattan International HS does not have: not many afterschool activities, not a great variety of AP courses, even though we do have our great AP Calculus class with Mr.Seth, and I’m sure you can think of more things. But what this school does have is a special and unique group of students and teachers. There is a feeling of community and family. No one is an outsider in this school. My group of friends debate on just about everything. Dandara from Brazil, Magda from Poland, Leah from Columbia, Liliana from Peru, Christine from China, Kay from Thailand, and I do not agree on much, but we do share laughter, adventures, support and our friendship. In 9th grade, people sat with people who looked like them. By 12th grade you could care less and you sit wherever there is a seat. Hopefully, each of us and the whole world will continue to be more like this and sit where there is a seat!
I want to thank all the parents and families and friends of our class for coming today. We know that you have watched, and worried and applauded through all these years. I thank you mom, Niko and my brother Alex. Thank you Mr. Alan, Ms. Gladys, our wonderful teachers, our councilors, Ms. Marlene and Ms. Michelle and most of all you, thank you Class of 2010! I shall never forget you!