Quarter 4: Senior Speech Recaps

Every Friday the Waldorf School of Garden City High School gathers in the student room for the weekly Student Assembly that consists of an extended speech by a senior on a topic of particular interest to them. The Senior Speeches as are a rite of passage for Waldorf students and are a required part of the high school curriculum. See below to read recaps of all the speeches given in the fourth quarter of the High School Year!

Ariella Kissin – 4/13

Ariella Kissin considers herself a late bloomer in the area of media use, because she did not become acquainted with computers and cell phones until well into the 6th grade. A Waldorf student since preschool, Ariella shared her experiences growing up in a media free home. Free from the influences of television and social media, Ariella was able to more fully develop her creativity and imaginative thinking. Instead of watching hours of television with her cousins, she would instead, put on original skits that captivated her younger family members, so much so that they often preferred her skits to their usual cartoons. A media-free lifestyle made Ariella a better listener and cultivated in her a voracious appetite for reading that has evolved into a love of writing. She enjoyed outdoor activities and even spent time on a yoga ranch in the Catskills where she fully appreciated the natural world that surrounded her. Most importantly, a media-free life taught her to seek out and develop strong human connections, which she is particularly grateful for. Although a media-free childhood had challenges, to Ariella, it was more than worth it.


Gilee Herscho – 4/20

Gilee Herscho can deadlift 300 pounds! Her passion for weight-lifting began when she discovered Cross-Fit, in her efforts to increase her fitness and become a more competitive scholar-athlete. She discovered that she was particularly well-suited to weightlifting, and in the 8th grade she earned a gold medal at a Cross-Fit weightlifting competition. At age 15, her goal was to lift 250 lbs. To reach this goal she began practicing before and after school 5-6 days a week, often beginning at 4am. She did this while maintaining her academic responsibilities and participating on three School athletic teams: soccer, basketball, and softball. Gilee is grateful to her family and Cross-Fit friends who have supported her through enormous challenges and injuries and motivated her to reach her goals. This experience has increased her confidence in her ability to meet and work through life’s challenges and well as to manage her time. Gilee is very proud of her ability to deadlift 300 pounds, and she looks forward to facing her future head on.


Jennifer Chen – 4/27

Every one of us has a passion. For some it is a sport or hobby, for Jennifer Chen, it is tea. To many people tea is a simple beverage consumed without much thought. However, through her speech, Jennifer explained the cultural and historical significance of tea to her native culture in China. She began by explaining the history of tea, its origins in the Yunnan Peninsula, and its importance to the various Chinese dynasties. She discussed the four main categories of tea: green, black, white, and oolong, where they originated from, and in what regions they are most popular. She explained how different ethnic groups in China have their own unique tea customs regarding preparation and consumption, a practice taught to her by her parents who cultivated Jennifer’s love of tea. She then performed a traditional tea ceremony using an authentic tea set, after which she let students sample the tea she had prepared. She concluded by saying that tea is more than a drink to her, it is an art form unto itself and it makes her feel at peace whenever she enjoys it.


Aiden Akaba-Koubel – 4/27

Aiden Akaba-Koubel is passionate about filmmaking. Since he was a child, he had always been fascinated with the medium. He began by producing short stop-motion animations using Legos. While these projects could take hours to complete, he was completely focused and loved working on them. As a teen, he continued to hone his craft with short films and even took courses at the New York Film Academy starting in 2015 to learn about filmmaking techniques and directing. Eventually, he settled on video editing as his specialty. At age 17 he landed a summer internship at the NY Film Center after a visit during his Junior Career Day that greatly influenced him. During this time he transcribed footage for Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda a documentary about a famous Japanese composer, for which Aiden was featured in the credits (and even got an IMDB page). Aiden concluded his speech with a vacation video montage he had made and expressed how film allows him to share his ideas visually and is excited to see where it takes him in the future.


Youval Abermen – 5/4

It has been said that, “you only really have 7 seconds to make a good first impression,” according to Youval Abermen. To her, those 7 seconds are completely nerve-wracking, filled with uncertainty about saying the right thing in order to make sure that the critical first impression is a good one. Youval explained that this made her middle school years a challenge, despite her incredibly supportive parents. However, when her parents found the Waldorf School of Garden City, her life changed in incredible ways. Those first 7 seconds no longer mattered to her as she realized that she had many opportunities to make good impressions in the classroom and with her friends. The pressure of trying to impress people immediately was gone and Youval experienced a newfound confidence that not only helped her feel at home, but for which she is truly grateful.


Rena Ikenishi –5/4

Rena Ikenishi began by asking, “What would my life be like without figure skating?” This is a difficult question to answer because she could not imagine herself in that world. Skating has been such an integral part of her life that she cannot even remember when she started and she still loves it to this day, despite the challenges it presents. Her skating career underwent its biggest change when she moved to the U.S. and met her new coaches. These coaches got to know her very well and developed specific techniques that helped her improve dramatically. In her first competition with her new coaches, she immediately broke her old score records. Since then, skating has been a constant for her, one which she has found much success with. It is more than just a hobby, it is what keeps her grounded, and pushes her to always better herself. She explained this by saying, “sometimes a passion can grow into something beautiful that changes your life in major ways!”


Ana Allen – 5/11

Ana Maria Allen took the audience on a journey down her path of self-discovery. Growing up as an Afro-Latina, she always felt like she needed to discover who she really was. At first this made her withdraw, but with the help of her parents and her abuelita (grandmother) she learned about her rich, multi-faceted heritage and developed a greater sense of self and connection to her family. In 9th grade she began writing as a way to express herself. When she was selected for the Alice Hoffman Writing Seminar at Adelphi University, she realized that not only was she not alone in her feelings, but that she had found a safe environment to write about them amongst her like-minded peers. This allowed her to be true to herself and feel empowered. Ana is proud to call herself multi-ethnic, and she has developed confidence that will help drive her into a successful future.


Will Clauss – 5/11

Where can one find happiness? Will Clauss began by reflecting on this question. He answered by explaining that happiness is not external, it is something inside of everyone, and they just need to find it. He found his happiness through music, specifically Electronic Dance Music. EDM gave will a purpose, it filled his life with light, inspiration, and energy, and gave him the drive to produce his own tracks. EDM allowed Will to express his emotions through intense sounds and rhythms, and this became a passion of his. Following this passion allowed him to discover his own happiness, and he hoped to share that happiness with the world. Will then pulled up an original track he had produced and dedicated to his fellow members of the Class of 2018. The track featured the vocals of Zara Larsson and MKEK’s 2015 single “Never Forget You.” He concluded his speech by telling the audience to, “Do what you love, and you will love life.”