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An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12

Riya Soni ’24
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Tara Lennon

In her speech at Commencement 2024, Co-President Riya Soni ’24 reflected on growth fueled by failure and the support system of the St. Andrew’s community. 

My dad always says I should not let failure discourage me. I have interpreted his words in two ways: “Failure should not discourage me from being brave enough to try, or strong enough to try again.”

That was a direct quote from my application to St. Andrew’s, which I received last night during the senior wall carving. Upon reading that, I immediately thought to myself, “Why was a 14-year-old version of me kind of smarter than me right now?” 

I go on to say, “Truthfully, whenever presented with a new opportunity to explore an interest, the thought of failing always initially crossed my mind. But now, I know failing is okay and a part of life, and if I don’t fail, how will I learn, grow, or better myself?” 

While this was well said and absolutely resonates with me today, I can’t help but feel that 14-year-old me was simply saying what sounded good in her head, rather than preaching what lived experiences have taught her. 

I can now say with the utmost confidence that during my three years at this school, I’ve reached lofty goals through all adversity by knowing I have an abundance of support through the Class of 2024 and the greater SAS community. 

One moment I felt this immense support was in the winter crew season—if you know you know—where we completed an annual triathlon. 

Now, this triathlon entailed a 4,000-meter erg piece, followed by a two-and-a-half mile run around campus. And if that wasn’t enough, it was met with sprinting up and down 10 flights of stairs in the field house. 

On this particular day, despite going into the triathlon with as strong of a mentality I could muster, I felt defeated in every component of this workout. 4,000 meters felt like 10,000, a typically do-able run had me stopping halfway through, and where I could usually tap into my remaining energy for stair sprints, said energy was nowhere to be found and I ended up stopping immediately after the running portion. 

Now, we’ve all had these moments during which we don’t reach our fullest potential and feel down on ourselves as a byproduct. However, that feeling fueled my motivation in not only wanting to complete the next triathlon, but also shoot for a personal best in each test. 

My teammates on both the Founders and Constellation side saw my determination and wanted to help me reach my goals, so thank you for that. They showed their support by erging next to me, staying with me after practice to supplement the occasional ab workout, and pushing me to load more weight on the bar despite my reluctance to do so. 

In the end, our combined efforts helped me reach the personal best I sought after. 

Judging from my experiences in this community, I find that all of the students here have extremely high expectations of themselves—not just as athletes, but as intellectuals, performers, and role models. What I’ve also learned is that the people in life who have the highest expectations also tend to “fail” the most, especially when being stretched across multiple disciplines in the way we are here. 

That being said, I’ve never considered myself a failure during my time here. Instead, I think St. Andrew’s students, particularly the Class of 2024, are resilient, hardworking, and extremely capable individuals. I urge you all to keep your goals lofty and your expectations high, and to lean into each other’s support when the going gets tough. 

The loyalty we have for one another, as well as the responsibility we feel, is something I truly have never experienced anywhere else, and I want to thank my class specifically for being so willing to accept me as a new sophomore. As we embark in different communities in the fall, I find peace in knowing that over the past three years, I’ve retained little bits and pieces of all of you through our interactions and experiences—such that the person I am today is the person you all have pushed me to be. 

I will always feel close to this class because no matter where I go, I carry a piece of you all with me. And for that, there are no words to express my gratitude.

This day is a celebration of all we’ve accomplished together, and I’m truly honored to be a part of this class. Thank you. 

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