Nathaniel Kelley – Graduation Address – June 9, 2021
Brandeis has been my life for the past three years. I remember my first day of school at Brandeis perfectly. I looked around at my fellow classmates and realized that I knew nobody. The weather matched my mood perfectly, dark and cold. Those first few hours were possibly the hardest of my time at Brandeis. I just wanted that day to be over. Then somebody came to talk to me, and then another. And I realized that these people didn’t want to ignore me and that even if I didn’t know anybody that I could still be among friends. People who looked so intimidating on my first day grew to become some of my closest friends. The memories we built together will last with me forever.
I can recall a Friday morning with perfect clarity, it was mid-march and I was looking forward to the seventh-grade Ashland trip. Ms. Franklin walked into our classroom and gave us the news that we weren’t going to Ashland, and a week later that we wouldn’t be going anywhere but home. They told us it would last a couple of weeks, that we would be back by spring break. Then spring break came and went and weeks turned into months. Graduation and the end of the year came with little change. And it came to summer without me having seen any of my classmates or friends since that Friday in March.
When I first learned about the Israel trip I thought it would be so interesting. Two weeks away from my parents and going among my friends, I couldn’t wait. My interest at first wasn’t in Israel itself but the prospect of going to another country and meeting people that lived their lives in stark contrast to my own. But when I realized that we wouldn't be able to experience what so many other classes got to be a part of, I felt like somebody was conspiring against me, why me? I thought, why should I have to lose the experience of being able to enjoy a foreign country with my friends and peers? We went through many emotions in reacting to the news but eventually, we came together and tried our hardest to make the virtual experience the best that we could.
It’s been over a year now and though we haven’t been with our friends as much as some of us would like, and though we haven’t been at Brandeis as much as we would like, Brandeis is still my home away from home. No matter what happens in my life I will always remember the kindness and how inclusive my classmates were, and how friendly my teachers were to me when I was struggling.
Brandeis is an amazing community full of amazing people and I am so thankful for my friends and teachers for supporting me through my three years here. They have been there for me when I need them and have always been so kind to me. It’s been a great time here and my classmates have made it even better. Thank you all!