Grade 8 Class Speaker reflects on middle school experience

Selected by Grade 8 students and members of faculty, the Class Speaker is a respected member of our community, demonstrates scholarship, and models the school’s Core Values. This is the text of Rishi Kurada’s speech from June 12.

Photo courtesy of Lydia Condon.

In 2015, I moved from Connecticut to London and ASL. When we got to the airport, my dad asked security if we could take the ball that was in my suitcase. Security said no because it had to be deflated. So, we left it there because we didn’t have a pump. This was pretty hard, as it was my favorite soccer ball. My dad bought it for me and I used to use it all the time. So when we left it, I was pretty angry because I thought it was a stupid rule. What’s their problem? It’s not like I was going to kick someone’s head off in the plane. But, we had to leave it.

How do you fit in to a place where you don’t even know the people? For me, there was a simple answer: wear a mask. Traditionally and culturally, amongst other things, masks have been used to hide. That’s what I felt like I needed to do. We all know how it feels to be the new kid. And because of that, we also know how it feels to have to create new friends. The fear of being judged has always been the toughest part for me.

I wanted to change because I felt trapped in this lie. So, I would wear a mask that created a personality that fitted in. However, I never needed this mask on the soccer field because I was confident of my ability. One of my favorite soccer players is Mesut Ozil. He once said, “The key to failure is trying to please everyone.” And that’s what I was trying to do every time I moved.

I was forcing myself to wear this mask because everyone else liked who I was with it on. I needed to stop wearing a mask in order to feel as confident as I did while playing soccer. But, it was still hard. Would they like the real me?

On orientation day of fifth-grade, I met one of my best friend’s who was more interested in my Xbox and my gaming ability than actually showing me around. For the first time, I felt like someone took actual interest in me, and I found this very funny. Four years later, Ritesh still calls me to play Xbox.

I arrived at ASL acting myself, but I was still cautious. My plan was to put on a mask when I felt judged, but to my surprise, the mask never came out. Green color group, where are you?! In the green color group, I was with some awesome people that were fine with me being me.

I was scared of judgments but I realized that judgments will come anyway with or without a mask. I realized that there was no point in wearing a mask anymore; I could be myself and I was confident. I was me. Some people may have not liked me, but who cares; other people were fine with me: not the masked Rishi, the Real Rishi. So looking back on this story, I’ve realized that ASL has played such an important role in my life. It was here that I gained the confidence I needed because I knew that my friends had chosen to be with me.

Every single person in this eighth-grade has potential. On our trip to Wales, we were pushed to come out of our comfort zones by jumping off piers, experiencing being together in cabins or tents, dunking ourselves into freezing cold water. It would be impossible to keep on a mask during this trip because we were together 24/7. During our sports season, some of us didn’t make the team that we wanted but we never gave up. In Valencia, some of us even ate snails…

Photo courtesy of Liz Allen.

So, who is going to a different grade or moving? All of us will make mistakes. Do not be ashamed of who you are. People will judge you but don’t let those people determine who you are. Don’t let yourself down because you aren’t able to please everyone. As long as we have people who understand us, we can be ourselves and all will be okay. As my good friends Snoopy and Woodstock say, “Friendship picks you up when the World lets you down.”

The person I am today is because of the risks I took, even if they didn’t work out, the friends that haven’t been afraid to criticize me, and all of you. I want to thank every single teacher in the middle school. You stayed after school hours to help us with time management and study habits. You make our classes fun with games like Grudgeball. You were sports coaches for us as well as teachers and taught us discipline and confidence. You have prepared us and that’s why we are who we are today. Class of 2023, You are the reason we have had a great middle school experience. I am so happy that I get to graduate with you all. I couldn’t have asked for better people. Thank you.

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