Salutatorian Emma Scally ’22 Addresses Her Classmates

Emma Scally ’22 is the Class of 2022 Salutatorian. She addressed her peers, friends, and families at Senior Night last spring. Here are her remarks.

Hello, class of 2022! I am so honored to be speaking with you tonight as your Salutatorian. We should all be proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished. I know it’s a cliché, but these past four years have flown by. So, I want us to take some time to reflect on how far we’ve come as a class and acknowledge the teachers, mentors, and family that helped get us here.

I entered MICDS in the third grade at the age of eight. I remember that I was in Ms. Levine’s class, A Section, with Ms. Bender’s B class next door. That class was my first exposure to MICDS’ philosophy of nurturing a student’s curiosity and creating a genuine love of learning. We were taught to keep an open mind, to be inquisitive, and to be good friends to each other.

Our class relied on these skills as we traded the Beasley playground for the Black and White Hallway, and 26 of us graduating this weekend made the transition to Middle School together. We had to contend with new challenges, academically with the introduction of letter grades and socially, as our class doubled in size and continued to grow. A wise friend of mine said it best: “Middle School is where we learned how to be actual students.” We wrote TEEC paragraphs (a format that would, unfortunately, stay with us until high school), analyzed books for the first time, and had our first exposure to “real” science classes and labs (miraculously, we never blew anything up). Outside of school, we began to discover and explore our passions in arts and athletics. But with this greater autonomy came more responsibility that the School and our teachers impressed on us: a responsibility to do the right thing, examine the impact of our actions, collaborate, and strive to be kind to each other.

The transition to Upper School was probably the most difficult. The class size grew even more than it did in Middle School, and we had to navigate a pre-collegiate curriculum. There was an even greater sense of responsibility now, not just to each other and to the MICDS community but to the world at large. We knew we would need to take the skills we learned and apply them in the real world to enact positive change. This idea wouldn’t really hit home until later in high school, however. Still, as freshmen, we hit all the standard milestones for MICDS underclassmen: we survived BOOM and study hall, squished together on the ends of lunch tables on the “freshman” side of the cafeteria, took our first Wellington surveys, and braved the (sometimes awkward) team building and enrichment activities with our advisories.

But then came the pandemic: COVID-19 interrupted our established routines, and our commitment to each other and our community was tested when we were thrown into isolation and virtual learning. The challenges of the pandemic required us to uplift each other and work together, even though we were socially distanced. But it also spurred us to be considerate of others and re-evaluate our responsibilities to protect vulnerable people outside of our MICDS community. Drawing on the values we learned in Upper School and Middle School, we were able to band together, supporting one another through a difficult “new normal.” We accomplished so much from 2020 to now, academically, athletically, and artistically, despite these pandemic hurdles. For our class, there were so many sports “firsts” with state and national championships. We continued the traditions of Blue Whale and dance, band, strings, and choir concerts. We had competed in, often virtually, TEAMS competitions, debate tournaments, Science Olympiad, and Mock Trials. We overcame challenges to start nonprofits, pass bills, and hold fundraisers.

When the pandemic began, I felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to my community. After watching a documentary, I became aware of the significant menstrual inequities in St. Louis that were exacerbated by COVID-19. I wondered what I could do, as an individual, as a high schooler, to effect change in this unprecedented situation. So, I found an organization called Period that would allow me to help menstruators in need and applied to start a chapter at my school. I worked over the course of the pandemic with Dr. Roth and the members of my organization to promote period advocacy. Additionally, during the height of COVID-19, I noticed an issue with accessibility and in-person training in the dance world. Combining my interest in computer science with my passion for dance, I, with guidance from a computer science research mentor, Mr. Menghini, and Mr. Zahller, created a program to help dancers correct their position and technique at home. Although the conditions in which we were collaborating were not always ideal, I felt that I was able to finally put into motion the skills MICDS had given me to become a better leader, activist, and human being to address the needs of my community.

Reflecting on all that we were able to achieve made me realize all the support from teachers, advisors, coaches, and administrators that made this possible. Through everything, they continued to nurture our curiosity and love of learning and helped us to explore what we were passionate about. I’ll always remember, from our very first Mandarin class to our last, Ms. Childs insisted we only “shuo zhong wen” (speak Mandarin) because we would “use it or lose it.”  I’ll never forget the early morning debate meetings with Mr. Cox and his tireless efforts to keep the debate team going strong, even when what few tournaments remained were virtual and often a logistical mess. And I’ll cherish how my advisor Dr. Hansen always checked in on all of her advisees individually during our advisory period, even if half of us were over Zoom and half of us were in person. She made sure we always felt supported and valued.

Now, standing here, it’s hard to imagine that I was that little freshman sitting upstairs in Brauer only four years ago, where it felt like I couldn’t be farther from this stage. So as long as I’m here, let me share some things that I have learned this year as a wise senior: 1) you should not make your entire boat out of one piece of cardboard (RIP to the Hansen advisory boat; we lasted a valiant two seconds) 2) Mr. Small will always find a way to connect major world events to the dress code 3) bringing livestock to school is not an acceptable senior prank and 4) that no matter what upheavals we experience in life, be it moving away to college, to even another global crisis, we have the tools to get through it. We can rise to any challenge and come out stronger and more united than before if we continue to work together for the greater good. Coming from this school and this class, we can all be great scholars and leaders. I have loved the last four years with all of you. And in the words of Dean George: “Cheers.” Here’s to our next chapter.