Kika Otiono
Kika Otiono

High school is a bizarre time in an individual’s life. It’s a budding, self-reflecting stage between childhood and adulthood—a time in which puberty may (or may not) strike like lightening, and when you realize that studying is actually important. In June, when I crossed the stage to receive my diploma, several things dawned on me simultaneously. Primarily, I will never see some of these people again. The students I high-fived in the hallway would remain in my memory, but we may not remain friends. It was a thought that both disturbed and liberated me.

Social media has made communicating with your friends and family around the world incredibly easier. But in my opinion, Instagram posts and Facebook statuses will never replace the organic nature of real conversations. This makes me realize that even with these social media platforms…I will never be able to recreate the friendships I built in high school. And I’m okay with that.

I realized as I progressed through high school, that I was gaining emotional intelligence and I was growing. High school taught me the importance of balancing school and life, and that my grades are not a reflection of my self-worth—they are simply a result of hard work and effort (this was a particularly difficult lesson to learn). I had to take responsibility for my actions on several occasions, and even now, I continue to bask in my memories of what seemed like forever spent in the hallways of Colonel By, a time that has now passed. A time I continue to celebrate as I look forward to a brighter future.

A stanza one of my favourite poems, ‘Permanence in Change’ by Goethe reads:

 “If you want to grasp the fruit then,

Hurry now and take your share!

Some of its begun to ripen.

Some is germinating there…”

Here we are, Class of 2016, grasping at the new fruits of life. The title of the poem reminds me: change is permanent. It is painful, bittersweet, and hard to grasp—but it is unavoidable. Class of 2016, we made it! And to make it an even sweeter victory, more students in Ontario are embracing this change. In 2016, Ontario had the highest graduation rates ever—85.5% of the secondary students are graduating five years after entering Grade 9, with 78.3% graduating after four years.

Be it high school, university, college, or trade school, your academic journey has ended, and another has begun. How lovely it is to say that I am in the midst of a transition and a change in my life!  2016 has been an amazing year, from graduating with a 96% average, to winning multiple scholarships I never thought I would (the RBC Black History Month National Essay Contest, the Carleton Prestige Shad Valley Scholarship for Excellence, the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership), and going into an amazing program at Carleton (a Combined Honours in Humanities and Biology). I have so much to look forward to in the future, and I am proud to say that I am graduating with thousands of intelligent, capable, innovative young people.  To the Class of 2016, congratulations!