Mikaela Mikulec ‘24 Addresses Her Peers at Commencement

Valedictorian Mikaela Mikulec ‘24 addressed her peers in the Class of 2024 at their Commencement on Sunday, May 19. Here are her remarks.

Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for being here today to support the class of 2024. I’ll be honest, I really had no idea what to say today. An “address to your class” doesn’t exactly narrow it down, but if MICDS has taught a student one thing, it’s to write without a prompt. So here we are.

I know these speeches traditionally include some sort of advice but let’s be real: what kind of insightful wisdom can one eighteen-year-old impart on another? I’ve hardly lived 20% of the average life, so maybe take my thoughts on the next 80% with a grain of salt. Although words will never do the MICDS experience justice, I hope to give some sort of insight into the privilege it is to attend this school and how much it means to me.

I came to MICDS in fifth grade and was quickly sucked into a whirlwind of four square and Quizlet classes. I wore neon blue shoes, we had rugs and chandeliers for our lockers, and we spent our days playing tchoukball and powerball. At least, those are the parts I remember.

Then came high school, where we suddenly had ice cream for lunch and could finally listen to music in study hall. So many doors opened, and everyone found their place. We all settled in and found new interests and people, and MICDS gave everyone the freedom to choose their own path. I love math and am so excited to study it at the next level, and it is this school that nurtured my fascination for the subject. What other school would give their students the opportunity to pursue their interests in a four-person class with the most amazing teacher anyone could imagine?

MICDS offers such a wide breadth of classes and activities, and I have, in particular, enjoyed the athletics atmosphere here. We all know I’m a sucker for a drum and flag, but I just absolutely love being on a team. I have treasured my times on the tennis, swim, and lacrosse teams, and they have given me the opportunity to grow myself in so many ways while making friendships I know I will always value.

What I really love about MICDS, though, is that no matter what classes we took or what activities we did, we’re still on the same “team.” I feel so connected to all of you, and it will forever be an honor to call myself a member of the class of 2024. Maybe it’s the 80 million polls we all endured in the GroupMe as we changed the Senior Assassin rules for the tenth time, but no matter how we bonded, there’s never been a doubt in my mind that I can count on every one of you. Ameer and I spent a lot of time up in assembly begging people to come to games, but in all my eight years here I never had to beg anyone to support me. There is an unwavering love that exists in our community that we are all so fortunate to have experienced. From the Quizlets we shared way back in fifth grade to history study guides to staying up late on FaceTime doing math problems that never seem to end—thank you, Ananya, for sticking that out with me—to peer editing twenty-page monsters of ALT papers—thanks Maddie—we are graduating because we did it together. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today, standing before you, without my classmates supporting me every step of the way.

We have an army of teachers who genuinely want to see us succeed and who come in early and stay late to answer our many questions. It’s funny, as my time here comes to a close, I really start to understand how lucky we have been. I have a math teacher, Mr. B, who emails his students on their birthday whether it’s during school or break. And just the other day, my freshman year English teacher, Mr. Terrell, emailed Maddie and me a picture of us together at May Day, saying he wished he could have seen it. Although he no longer works here, I have seen him intermittently at a tennis match or lacrosse game, and even saw him yesterday at our Sweet 16 game. Also, a quick plug because who would I be if I didn’t, Girls Lacrosse plays Ladue in the State quarterfinals on Tuesday at home!

Anyways, it is this type of unconditional love and support, where teachers go out of their way to make genuine connections with their students, that is so unique. Same goes for our coaches. They sacrifice so much time with their own families to see us succeed. I’m pretty sure no adult enjoys listening to singing, or rather screaming, in buses but they sure put on a fake smile and tune us out. MICDS coaches truly go above and beyond, like Coach Heinemann risking his life on the road to Columbia four years in a row. Or Coach Tom, stopping me with a huge smile every time I see him, asking me how I’m doing. I feel at home at MICDS, with all of you, and it has been the greatest gift of my life to go through high school here with these people. So, thank you to all the moms and dads out there who made that happen.

It’s really nerve-racking to leave such an amazing place, and believe me, I’m scared, just like I imagine a lot of us are. But I know that we will all thrive in the next phases of our lives, because one, while we may not see each other every day, we will always be cheering each other on, and two, MICDS has prepared us for this. Every one of us graduating today has been shaped into a leader, whether we know it or not. Collab and even Flex way back in the Middle School have taught us to advocate for ourselves. Humility and being able and eager to ask for help are such important traits that will serve us well as we move out into the real world. The day after a tough test, it’s common to see half a class in Collab, asking their teacher to explain a question or review an answer. Not because they want a higher grade, but because they want to understand. This is the mentality that MICDS creates across the board. If we don’t get the result we want, we come out firing the next day and work even harder. Coach Haff, while I might not have appreciated the 6 a.m. sprints after a bad game in the moment, I sure do now.

I think this is what I am most appreciative to take away from being a student here. It’s such a privilege to be around all of you, who excel in so much, because you all inspire me to work harder each and every day. This is what leads us to State championships, and awesome plays, and killer concerts. MICDS pushes students in amazing and, I’m sure everyone would agree, extremely challenging ways, but the resilience it creates is unmatched. I mean, after staying up all night working on a Song of Solomon research archive, which, by the way, I still don’t know what the peacock means, when it feels like you were just pulling an all-nighter on Prezi finishing a cursed visual essay, you feel invincible. I mean really, c’mon life, what can you throw at me that Mr. Tourais hasn’t?

Jokes aside, MICDS creates students with an unbreakable spirit and an unmatched love for life. This past winter term I had the life-changing opportunity to travel to South Africa with seventeen other students. Unfortunately, we arrived without one of the girls on the trip, Hala’s, luggage. So it’s about the sixth day, and we’re in the middle of nowhere. And when I say middle of nowhere, I mean Phalaborwa, South Africa, where our bunk beds were five meters from hippos. Literally. Anyways, Hala was on day six of the exact same outfit. When I close my eyes I can picture it: a black shirt, black pants, and a tan jacket. She also had another shirt we bought in Johannesburg, which she had conveniently spilled toothpaste all over. So, we’re up at 4 a.m. for the fifth day in a row, getting ready to go on a safari, and she asks her bunkmates, “What shirt should I wear?” Now again, let me preview the options. Her black shirt that is well worn in at this point, and the other shirt that is covered in dried toothpaste. Now, anyone else might have crawled into bed and wanted to go home. But not Hala. She was game for anything, and we spent the day getting charged by angry elephants as she multitasked, calling Phil from American Airlines on his private number, asking if he could please, PLEASE get her luggage to camp. If that doesn’t sum up an MICDS student, I don’t know what does. Hala was lighthearted and made the most out of every opportunity, just like we all do.

I know it’s terrifying to leave the familiar, and there will be so many obstacles in our future, but I’m confident we will all be like Hala, taking life as it comes with the comfort of knowing that we will always have each other’s backs. I’ve done my best, but at the end of the day, I can’t fully put into words how much MICDS has meant to me. It has given me my best friends, the most incredible role models, and experiences I will never forget. My grandparents went to Country Day and Mary I, so I’ve always been connected to MICDS through family. I’ve heard their stories, but it wasn’t until I came here that I genuinely understood what a special place this is. If I could have changed one thing, I would have slowed each day down and savored each moment just a little more. I truly feel I’ve made my own family here, and although we’re spreading across the nation, with some in Southern California like me, and others in Upstate New York, and even some in Scotland, Canada, and Italy, we’ll always be united. So thank you, class of 2024, and everyone along the way, that made this journey so meaningful. There’s no other group of people I’d rather go through the past eight years of my life with. I love you guys. Thank you.