Anna L. DeLoi, Valedictorian

I have a confession to make. This is my first graduation – not just from college, but from any school. A couple of months ago, when we took our senior photos in Paresky, it was my first yearbook picture. And four years ago, when we were all stumbling into our first Psych 101 or Philosophy freshman seminars? That was my first first day of school.

Some of you know this about me already, but I was homeschooled from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I always thought of myself as the kind of kid who loved school, but what I thought of as “school” was pretty unusual. School was what happened whenever I wasn’t doing something else. When I was six, it was my mom reading me ancient Greek mythology, and my brother and I acting out the stories with Lego-people that we named Theseus and Ariadne. When I was twelve, it was curling up with a stack of novels from the library – Invisible Man alongside Harry Potter. When I was a teenager, it was largely listening to and playing classical music. School didn’t have hours, and it didn’t have grades. It was finding the things I loved and pursuing them.

Needless to say, when I got here, I had a lot to learn about *ahem* “educational institutions.” I learned to drink coffee, and subsequently I learned how to stay up all night writing papers. I leaned never to sign up for 8:30 classes, and I learned how to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about when I get called on and haven’t the done the reading. I learned what squash is, and what it means to “pregame”.

But part of the reason that I applied to Williams is that I got the sense this place was about more than classes, and grades, and stressed-out students. And what strikes me most as I stand here today, is that Williams has been school in the best sense of the word. I can’t characterize what an education here is like, because for each one of us, our time at Williams has been defined by who we are and by what we love.

We’ve played varsity sports; we’ve played Shostakovich symphonies; we’ve tried new clubs and subjects, and we’ve faced new challenges in the process; we’ve braved organic chemistry labs, and we’ve been brave enough to critique our institution when it falls short. We’ve taken thousands of different courses, in over 500 unique combinations. We’ve had friends and mentors that have changed who we are forever – some of you have been those things to me.

In a conversation the other day, one of my mentors here – and an expert in schools and what they do – told me that she thinks the purpose of school is to help each student become more of who they are. That’s something that these four years have done for many of us, and I’m grateful to have experienced it alongside you all.

My fellow classmates: No matter where you go after today, keep looking for “schools” in the places and in the people around you. Find the things you love and pursue them with everything you have. And keep becoming more of the brave, intelligent, inspiring people you are.

Thank you.