School co-president Aunyae Romeo ’22 gave this talk at Commencement 2022.
I can’t remember everything, as I look back to my first day on this campus. But the things I remember the clearest are what greeted me as I entered my dorm room on Pell: my first ever roommate, Emily Murphy, and a box placed on my desk by my advisor, Mrs. Duprey. This box contained essential items often forgotten during the process of packing for school: snacks, disinfectant wipes, a journal, and a pack of blank cards with “Thank You” written across the front.
For the next three years, I received similar boxes from Mrs. Duprey. Interestingly enough, the thing that went unused every year were these Thank You cards. Before the end of my fourth and final year here, I’d like to break this pattern. This speech is a short accumulation of gratitude to the place and people that have transformed me as a student, friend, leader, daughter, and overall person. This is my thank you letter to St. Andrew’s.
Reflecting on my time here, I've come to realize that one of the main reasons why I’ve been able to grow so much is because of the people that I have surrounded myself with. I’ve made beautiful connections with so many people here. To the people in my grade, thank you for being the first to comfort me when I cry and the first to join me in laughter. As a grade, we weren’t perfect, but we were us, and I thank you for that. I also say thank you to all of my upperclassmen and underclassmen who took the time to get to know me and in turn, love me. To the friends continuing their journeys here, thank you for spending time with me during our free periods, dinners, and weekends. And thank you to my most unexpected friendships: the adults here. Thank you for getting to know me and my peers as more than students or kids, but as people you challenge and truly respect. The accumulation of friendships that I have made here has helped me become a more empathetic and caring person. My St. Andrew’s relationships have taught me how to be truly compassionate.
Everyone always says that your time here flies by so quickly, and I somewhat agree with that. When I think of all the things I didn't get to do, my time here seems too short. One thing I wish I would’ve done is taken more time to build relationships with people outside of my close circle of faculty and students. However, my time does feel longer when I recognize all of the opportunities I did take to build unexpected relationships. I am thankful for the relationships I began to build all the way back to my freshman year. People like Mr. Stanley in the Dining Hall have always given me guidance and checked up on me. Fun fact: he even helped me practice public speaking for my co-president candidate speech my junior year! Then there are the women who I’ve seen everyday of the week: Ms. Tammy, Ms. Faith, and Ms. Dolly. You may know them as the women who clean our dorms, but to me, they kind of feel like aunties. They’ve watched my performances and rooted on all of my successes. In my freshman year, I would’ve never expected to build these relationships, but I’m so grateful I did. These are just some of the people that have done more than their job to support me and my classmates.
But, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate this place without appreciating the parents who made the choice four years ago to send their children off to this beautiful school, and a special thank you to my own Mom and Dad for trusting me and believing in my success. I say thank you to all of the parents here today. So many of you have taken us under your wings and loved and supported us when our parents couldn't. You, parents, are the real Saints, and on behalf of my Class, we thank you for putting so much faith and pride into us as we head into the next chapter of our lives.
This wouldn’t be a complete thank you letter to St. Andrew's without thanking the literal structures that make living, learning, and laughing here possible. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to create memories in every building on this campus. I can tell you a story for every building here. For example, one of my favorite memories in the Field House took place this year when a small group of seniors were bored on a Saturday night and decided to play a childish game of tag. The longer we played, the more people joined, and soon our silly little game turned into a heart-pounding battle to avoid the tagger.
I'm also grateful to add to each building's history. Founders is the one of the most historical buildings on this campus. The archives, alumni, and passed-down tales tell this history of thousands of Saints and their presence here. I am a part of the history of this building and school. I am the first Aunyae Romeo to walk the halls, to learn in these classrooms, and speak and eat in the Dining Hall. You are the first, and you add to the history of this community in ways as small as the little actions you do in Founders to the big moments you make to transform this school. This ground also has an unspoken soul that goes way beyond the year 1929; it goes back to the people who were here before this land was bought by Felix DuPont. It holds the history of Thomas Noxon and the Native people here before. Although I can never know the full history of St. Andrew’s, I appreciate the parts I do know, good and bad. I am grateful for the chance to feel the beauty and heart of the land we’re on.
To end my letter, I’d lastly like to thank the spontaneity that I’ve experienced at this school. The unexpected here has led me to so many people and places that I would’ve never imagined. My favorite thing is waking up on a Saturday morning having no idea what I’m going to do for the day. By the time Saturday night reaches and I lie in my bed, I know that I had a great day because it was filled with unexpected, spontaneous fun which was fueled by people simply enjoying each other’s company.
So, this is my thank you letter to St. Andrew’s.
To the Class of 2022, I encourage you all to think back over your time here and appreciate the moments that made you a Saint and who you are today. As we head off to a new world outside of this beautiful little bubble, appreciate the moments as they come, and I promise you, you’ll be able to savor the time you have in that moment.
To the Classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025, our Class knows how quickly the opportunity passes to show your thanks. We want to tell you to practice your gratitude here and now. Get to know the people you wouldn't expect to befriend. Roam the buildings and make them your own. Know the history of this place and know that you are part of the history of this school. Gratitude makes you a Saint, and it’s never too late to learn this lesson.
The scared, little girl who started this journey had no idea that this place would transfom her so much. St. Andrew’s has pushed me to not only challenge my perception of myself and those around me, but also to better myself for others. By reflecting on all of my reasons to be grateful, I see the power that I’ve gained because of this school.
Thank you, Mrs. Duprey, for planting that seed of gratitude in my life four years ago, and thank you St. Andrew’s for giving me so many things to be grateful for.