CLASS OF 2023: The valedictory address

The following is the full text of the Class of 2023’s valedictory address written and delivered by Yasen Kadiyski Colón.

Ladies and gentlemen, faculty, family and friends, School Committee, and members of the Class of 2023: 

Today, we stand at the pinnacle of our academic journey, the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and relentless pursuit of knowledge. As we gather here, I am filled with a mixture of emotions — pride, gratitude, excitement and perhaps a tinge of apprehension. But most of all, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. 

While all of that is definitely true, as Mr. Ryan and Mr. Moloney could probably tell you, those words are not mine. That opening paragraph was written by ChatGPT. I remember reading an article a couple years ago about a girl who built a robot to do her homework for her. At the time it seemed impressive; she built it herself, so of course she deserved to be excused from her algebra.

 Now, we all have that robot, just a few keystrokes away. AI has changed the world, giving us recipes and gift ideas, crafting apologies for celebrities and, of course, writing our English essays. That paragraph I just read is grammatically correct, fairly well-written and consistent with my beliefs. It also lacks depth, and is devoid of emotion. We live in a world where an increasing number of jobs are being taken by computers. We see it everywhere, from Amazon’s warehouse machines to Marty, the spill-detecting robot in Stop and Shop. AI will certainly continue this trend, and that is a scary thought. However, Class of 2023, this does not worry me. Our class is filled with the one thing an algorithm cannot replicate: personality. A computer can’t laugh like we can, can’t cry like we can, can’t find comfort in each other like we can. This is what we offer the world; the complex and varying personalities of our class. When it comes to productivity, we can never be more efficient than a machine. It is our personalities that differentiate us, make us who we are and have shaped our past, from Marblehead High School, to our future, wherever that might take us. Everyone’s journey is different, but no matter where you’re from, or where you’re headed, the past four years and our time in Marblehead have helped shape all of us into the people we are today. 

I don’t know how many of you know this, but Cate and I are actually both from Seattle. I don’t remember much from where I was born. It hasn’t felt like home in a long time. But the things I do remember weren’t big or grand experiences. I don’t remember going up the Space Needle for the first time. I remember the little things about the city where I was born. The Starbucks a couple houses down where my parents would go get coffee in the mornings. The park we lived

next to, with its towering trees and its bright green swings and the taste of the chai tea in its colorful box I often had after coming back. Then we moved here. The little moments shifted, became summers of wind and salt at Children’s Island or the Crocker Park dock, and ice cream and frozen yogurt at Terry’s and Orange Leaf. My winters are filled with memories of sledding at Seaside and Gatchells, and climbing mountains of snow in fourth grade when it seemingly snowed every other day. Then we entered high school, and they changed again. Looking back on the past four years, we feel the big moments the most. They’ll be what we remember. The Super Bowl win. Proms. A pandemic. The little moments will be what we miss. The Thanksgiving Pep Rally where Mr. Bauer cartwheeled across the gym after our teachers channeled their inner harlie D’Amelio. The roar of the crowd under the Friday night lights at Piper Field, and the NGSS bike path cleanups the next day. Pickleball tournaments in the gym, rushing off to practice or rehearsal after school, or even something as simple as saying hi to a friend in the hallway, or a whole group of friends in the bathroom. These are the moments that make us nostalgic, that connect us to this place and to these people. And sure, we’ll always make more of them — in college, the workforce, military or wherever else life might take us. But not again as a class, and not again with these people. 

So Class of 2023, as you look forward to the future, remember the past. Remember the memories you made, the experiences you had, the lessons you learned. Then go forward. Try new things. Meet new people. See new places. Make your mark on the world, but don’t forget who you are, where you came from and what you’ve accomplished to get to this point. You are incredible, Class of 2023. Never forget that. Thank you, and congratulations.

Yasen Kadiyski Colón
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