Valedictorian Grayson Marks ’23 Speaks at Commencement

On Sunday, May 14, Valedictorian Grayson Marks ’23 addressed parents, guests, faculty, staff, and his fellow graduates at Commencement. Here are his remarks.

One of the first friend groups I made here at MICDS was in seventh grade when Prajay, Deren, and I were given the opportunity to go to math class in the Upper School. We quickly became friends and have since had the privilege of being put in the same math classes for the majority of our six years here. However, one day in seventh grade, as we were walking back to the Middle School, we decided to purchase some jelly beans from the bookstore. At that time, there were no signs on the windows indicating that Middle Schoolers were not allowed to go to the bookstore before 3:15, so neither I nor the volunteer at the register knew we were breaking any rules. As we were walking back to class and eating our jelly beans, though, I realized that Prajay and Deren were fully aware of this law and its consequences when they heard someone walking in our direction and decided to quickly hand me the jelly beans and sprint out of sight. I was not yet aware of what was happening when suddenly Mr. Storey appeared in the hallway and immediately wrote me up for a lunch detention. While there are many stories from middle school about how I ended up in Ms. Bambenek’s room eating lunch alone, this one is by far the best combination of humor and bitter betrayal.

In light of framing and ditching me during the first semester of my MICDS career, I am still able to look back and reflect on our group’s ability to work as a team, whether it be in math or in any other subject. Often our respective strengths and weaknesses helped to establish a dynamic that made us well-equipped to handle the majority of problems, and it made classroom material much more fun to engage with.

It wasn’t until Mr. B’s BC Calculus class that I truly realized the power behind this collaboration, though. In my second semester, Mr. B proposed to the class the idea of not having tests for the rest of the year. Of course, the overwhelming majority, including myself, supported this, because it meant that the rest of our graded work would be in the form of group worksheets. As the AP exam approached, though, the three of us were nervous that without having taken an individual assessment in almost five months, we would be ill-prepared for the problem-solving necessary on the exam. As it turned out, we each received better than passing scores, and it made me reflect on one of the key ways MICDS has prepared all of us for the real world.

In all of my classes, collaboration has been a key component. In Physics, Computer Science, and Psychology, my table continuously discusses the class content (and only the class content) at a volume only slightly louder than an inside-talking voice level. In English and Statistics, we’ve had multiple group projects or peer review workshops that have allowed us to strengthen our writing or knowledge beyond what we may have accomplished alone. I can still remember almost all of the Economics content I’ve learned at MICDS, and in those classes, we had group worksheets or presentations almost every day. Though Ms. Gioia and the AP Psychology curriculum may hypothesize that social loafing would minimize the contributions each person makes in group projects or discussions, throughout my six years here, I’ve discovered that learning with others is most effective for me, and I would assume it is similar for many of my classmates.

The project-based and collaborative environment that MICDS provides, along with teachers who are always willing to help their students, has given us a sense of community that will truly prepare us for the future. Working with one another in and out of the classroom, whether it be with childhood friends, someone you’ve never talked to, or a brand new classmate, is an important part of being a student at MICDS, and I can certainly say that I would not be where I am today without the help of my peers. In college and beyond, being a member of a team will be vital to success. The ability to network and establish important relationships will be necessary, and the sense of community that is fostered at this school has already encouraged us to develop this skill. Even with something as little as email etiquette when asking a teacher to look over your work or answer a question on a Sunday afternoon (and I cannot thank those several teachers enough), the soft skills we learn at MICDS will help us to accomplish our individual goals, whether academic, athletic, or artistic. The intellectual product of the MICDS class of 2023 is truly greater than the sum of its 158 individual members. As we split off on our own journeys of individual ambition, I hope that whatever we do, we do not do it alone. Congratulations, Class of 2023.