Good evening Mr. Martori, Ms. Clark, Mrs. Shwartzberg, faculty members, friends, families and my fellow graduates. My name is Chrissa Pantazis and I am honored to stand before you as the Salutatorian of Benjamin N. Cardozo High School’s Class of 2014.
In October, when I learned of my ranking, I was confused, shocked, flattered, and elated, all at the same time. As the excitement died down and I began to worry about my salutatory address and a myriad of ideas of what I wanted to say flooded my mind. But, as June rolled around and senioritis kicked in, my speech felt like just another last minute homework assignment I needed to complete. For inspiration, I searched “hashtag salutatorian” on all forms of social media: Instagram, Twitter, and even Tumblr. Unfortunately, these all failed to inspire me and I had to resort to the one and only urbandictionary. According to this esteemed site, the salutatorian is “The person who just missed being valedictorian by a few GPA points. A very miserable person indeed. 2nd place is just the first loser.” Well, I don’t feel like a loser, and I don’t think any of us standing here today are losers. We’ve made it through 4 long years of high school and for that we should all be proud.
Coming from an all Greek elementary and middle school, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first walked through the doors of Cardozo as a freshman. I was terrified as I waited in my dad’s mini van, refusing to get out until I saw my one and only friend; together we took a deep breath, and entered high school for the first time. When I looked to my right I saw a small Asian girl and to my left was an extremely tall caucasian boy. I saw head scarves, which I shortly learned are actually called hi jabs, on 3 of the girls in my official class. And as I walked by the Foreign Language department, I was confused as to why a group of Hispanic boys were engaging in a card game that I didn't know how to play. I had walked into a building containing 4000 other human beings, three quarters of whom I had never even imagined existed before. After just one day of high school for a day and was already introduced to so much diversity.
Besides being surrounded by unknown faces, there are certain things that I’ll never forget about that first day. I recall being flustered with Mr. Lindenauer’s instructions on how he likes his coffee and to never bring him a sandwich with mustard. During my lunch period I refused to go into the cafeteria as it was a room full of strangers. My fondest memory of the day was not being able to find my Math Research class and then being yelled at for not knowing my way around the building. This continued as students trickled into the room until the teacher finally realized that instead of his senior class we were actually freshmen and he apologized profusely. And thus my first memories were made. I didn’t think I would make it past the first week.
However, I soon found comfort in the many hidden treasures at Cardozo, and no I'm not talking about the third floor girls bathroom. Periods 3 and 4 soon developed into my own personal getaway from academics as I entered the dance world with my Performing dance class. I spent my lunch periods being scolded in the College Office for making too much noise and for not delivering passes. And if all else failed, I resorted to the Arista tutoring room. But let’s be honest, does anyone actually get tutored there anyway?
I’m sure the majority of us were frightened freshman just like I was sitting in my dad’s mini van, not knowing what the next four years would bring. But if time travel were plausible, we’d all want to give our 9th grade selves some bits of advice to help us through the day: Do not walk through 42nd street between 4th and 5th period, laugh at Mr. Shea’s speedo jokes because if not he’ll become offended, get to know the person behind you in your geometry class because she’ll become your best friend,...
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