Student Voices: 2015 Graduate Speaker Theo Menon

Minnesota Connections Academy

high school graduate at podium

First and foremost I’d like to thank the dedicated teachers and staff who worked for us to get us to where we are today. It has truly been humbling to be the product of those so who are so dedicated to today’s youth…and of course, our dedicated parents and guardians. I couldn't have done this at all without my devoted mother and father, who I can thank for literally everything I have done in my life.

Well, I can't start this speech with the typical high schooler’s crooning about leaving behind the crowded hallways and clanging bells of the standard brick and mortar school. We at MNCA left those behind long ago, with relish and hope for a better education, a more nurturing learning environment and a focus on developing individually instead of as part of a crowd. Our school house has not been a huge crowded building; rather it has been both a computer on our desk in our home and the gigantic World Wide Web with its wonderful slew of knowledge just awaiting our exploration. With teachers and the MNCA curriculum we learned with focus and wonder. We do not leave behind hallways and bells, but rather carry forward a keen ability to explore the world and its vast knowledge through utilizing this new and growing technology.

Unlike our brick and mortar peers, we take our school with us. We will continue to reach for the world and learn from devices as small as our hands. We leave nothing behind...nothing behind. That is exciting! The words of Robert Frost apply here almost more than anywhere else: “Two roads converged in a wood…and I took the one less traveled, and that has made all the difference."

We graduates this year have been both the guinea pigs and the pioneers of an incredible new era in public education. I remember, as an 11 year old, being very reluctant to leave my brick and mortar school experience behind. My parents took me for an initial meeting at a "virtual school". In my mind, I toyed maliciously with the term "virtual". Words always fascinated me and still do. I had just learned “virtual” meant “almost” or “nearly, but not exactly". I was stunned I was going to be put in an “almost” school "not exactly” a school, but "nearly". How could this be like a school experience at all? Did any of my classmates wonder exactly what they were getting themselves into? Did you feel like it was “almost a school” but not really? Well, it didn’t take long to realize, with the LiveLessons, teachers, principals, and the dreaded “portfolios,” that we were indeed a school…a real school…no "almost" about it.

But now that time is over. We’ve made it here to the milestone. The first of many finish lines in our lives. And now it’s time to move on. We may be leaving our homes and our chores and our schools taking up new challenges and new responsibilities. Some of us will be going to colleges and universities around the country. Some of us will seek to defend our country in the armed services. Some of us will immediately join the work force. And ALL of us will be forging a new path. We will look to the future with hope driving us forward, providing an untamed passion to pursue our most fantastic dreams. But, in schools across the country, this message has been echoed for years. “Go now! Carpe diem!” they say. We rush forward with our eyes on the horizon that lies outstretched in front of us. But with our eyes fixed on happiness on the too distant future, we can’t forget to be happy today. Whatever it is that might be driving us; our culture, our families, or our own desires, we must find contentment in the moment. We’ve been conditioned to live life striving to do more tomorrow than we did today, but too often that can lead to forgetting to live today.

Yes, it is true; we graduates will be the next political, business, and cultural leaders of our generation. We will strive to be greater and to build a better society, but the splendor of our future and our goals shouldn’t cast a shadow over the time we spend building and shaping who we are. The future, however bright, is clouded and uncertain. There will be challenges. This is why it is important to enjoy what you have. Count your blessings in every moment and find contentment with who you are today. It's been great! It is great! It will be great!"