Class of 2022

Dear Graduating Class of 2022,

I am honoured to stand before you all today on the graduation of our class of 2022. Every graduating group is special. You, however dear graduates, are a particularly special group because you are otherwise known as the babies of HeadStart. Nearly half of you have been with HeadStart since Year 1. Nine of you have been with the school since you were 3. Wow! Whether part of the old guard or not, what a fine specimen of young people you have become. You will always hold a special place in my heart as you are the first group I have seen through Sixth Form. I actually remember most of you in my previous role as Head English and Humanities when you were in Years 8 & 9. You were a spirited bunch then. I did not know, however, from the confines of the English classroom just how ambitious you were to become.

You have submitted approximately 144 applications between you and some are still going… you have secured excellent offers from some of the top universities in the world including Psychology at Cambridge (#2), Political Science at Science Po (#2), We have many students going to Thai universities, including Prince of Songkla in Phuket and top universities in Bangkok to study Medicine at King Mongkut Institute of Technology, others study Pharmacy, Business, Politics, food related courses at Chula, Mahidol, Thammasat, Dusit Thani College, Bangkok. So many of you will join Russell Group and other well established universities in the UK such as Bath, York, Manchester, University of Greenwich, Royal Holloway, Sheffield Hallam, Buckinghamshire new University and the best universities in the Netherlands: UVA, Maastricht, Twente, Groningen, Radboud, Utrecht, Amsterdam Fashion Academy, Wittenborg. In Europe The University of NY Prague, and Atelier De Sevre in Paris. And Temple in the US, What an awesome list. Let’s give them a round of applause. Your achievements are to be applauded especially because your success has come at a remarkable time in our lives, a time when world events and the pandemic have continued to cause chaos. Just like your predecessors however, you have set the bar high and whilst the globe continued to reel from the fallout of COVID 19 and world conflict, you have been able to keep your eye on the prize and showed your resilience, adaptability and determination. Of course the university applications and offers are not the whole story.

Alas, it is hard to capture your HeadStart, even the last two years in a few minutes. I would like to share a few highlights for me though. You have been community builders. The Student Leadership team ran Lunch Bunch in the Atrium, you ran days like RUOK and led on events in Kindness Week. It is wonderful to see you perform as you did last year and last night. What a talented, vivacious group you are. In everything you have done, you have modelled what it means to be part of the HS community. You have grown with the school and we might even the school has grown with you. You have left your mark in setting high standards, be it in running community events, performing or academics. In the SFCR, you operated as a family, cheering each other, sharing meals, teaching each other, playing Chess, UNO, chewing the cud on the best films & tunes of all time (we never did get around to creating those posters Nick and Reece). The cheers that rose from your group were symbolic of the love you share and that you have a zest for life which is truly contagious. Thank you for touching my heart, for keeping me young, for sharing your successes, for the hugs, the smiles, for sharing your dreams and donuts with me. I have had the pleasure of connecting with each of you over the course of the last two years. It has been wonderful to get to know you all. Thank you especially to Nutcha and Calvin for heading up the leadership. Thank you to Esther, Gemma, Anya, Sara and Sophie our Heads of committee. You all went beyond your roles on a daily basis as you sought to make this school even better and model kindness and empathy. I will genuinely miss you.

You have many gifts, Class of 2022. Your commitment to your studies, your ambition, your sense of humour and friendships have kept you sane through the challenges you have faced. You are also all smart and very capable. You have other gifts too, parents who love you, teachers who have gone above and beyond to support you in your learning. Siblings and friends who are always there for you. Feel the power of these gifts today and be grateful for them. Take some time to thank all those who have played a part in your success so far. Congratulate yourself for the metal you have shown and the work you have put in. How you use these gifts from hereon will be up to you but I would like to offer you some advice. A do and a don’t, if you like.

The do first. Whatever you do, follow your heart, even if it takes you off the beaten track. Follow your passions. Be prepared to take risks for things you love. Don’t compromise on this one thing even when life throws you a curveball. Life beyond the school gates is very different from the one you have known up to now. Most of you are going to university. Some have decided to sit this round out for now but even you will come to this moment in due course. Whether it’s this October or next, you will be entering a much more serious relationship with your chosen field one day. Your studies and subsequent work will fill a large part of your life. The only way to approach this then is to do what you love and love what you do. Some of you know what you want to do. Congratulations. But in the wise words of Steve Jobs, “If you haven’t found it, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”. So follow your passions, your curiosity, your intuition. We always know more than we realise, that knowledge lies in our hearts, but the noise of our lives, the noise of others’ even, can drown out our inner voice. So stay true to what you love, then trust the process, know that it will always work out in the end.

Now to the don’t.

Don’t play it safe, don’t accept mediocrity, don’t guard against failure. Remember growth lies in failure. Whilst I hope that you will always achieve what you set your sights on, when things don’t work out, and sadly sometimes this will be the case, it will feel devastating, everything you have worked for may feel like it’s been taken away. Disappointments are part of life but there is a beauty in them as they help us gain clarity and conviction. Some of you have had moments like this this year and have had to make drastic U-turns, compromises or even decide to hit the pause button on your plans. Disappointments in life can feel like facing rejection and can be so demoralising . But, Winston Churchill once said “success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”. Just as you have already experienced, there will be many twists and turns yet to come. So When this happens I implore you to not lose faith, prepare to start anew, to be a beginner. You always have a choice. There will always be opportunity. Choose what will define you. And I can assure you it will not only be your grades. But also how you survive. If there is one thing, other than good grades, that we have given you I hope it is the super power of optimism. That there is always a Plan B, there is always a solution. There are multiple ways to achieve what we seek.

We face around 20 adversities on a daily basis. Some are tiny and some are more complicated and personal. But whatever the issue, the skill is the same: “Knowing there are possibilities even when you can’t see them.” Knowing that any adverse situation you face is temporary (not forever), is isolated (it is not your whole life), and that you can do something about it.” Researchers have also found that one’s level of hope is a better indication of success than standardised test scores. Who’d have thought. Well this confirms, you are your thoughts and you will write your own narrative with them. In life, the only character you truly have control over is your own. So, whatever life throws at you, as the Navajo song goes, know that there is a way out of every dark mist, over a rainbow trail so don’t compromise on your dreams.

Now as you graduate I wish for you to always stay grateful, stay in love, stay hopeful.

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