2021 Senior Farewell: Aadi Nashikkar

May 27, 2021

The Senior Class of 2021 selected Aadi Nashikkar to give the Senior Farewell Speech at The 56th Commencement Exercises on May 27, 2021.

Aadi Nashikkar '21 the Senior Farewell Speaker 13 years! Wow! I can’t believe that’s how long I’ve been part of this CSS class of 2021. With so many years as a big family that’s learned to appreciate and celebrate each other, I don’t necessarily want one year to define us. Admittedly though, this past year has been extraordinary. A pandemic shut the globe down. Everything, classes, events, and ceremonies shifted online. It’s become important to not look others in the eye when speaking, but rather to look at the camera on zoom. And never before has it been just so looked down upon to be positive… Yet this year has actually demonstrated the values of our class best.

Before anything else, I want to thank some people who made this (gesture to graduates) possible. I counted through all of the people I thought were critical for my journey in the last few years and got nearly 50 names! If we assume that this number is consistent for everyone up here, some simple math demonstrates that our class depended on nearly 1300 people! I asked around and got all of these names on a list, so… to show just how appreciative we are; I’ll be reading each one of them now.

I’m kidding. But to all those involved in our journeys, thank you so much. I especially want to thank two groups. First, our teachers. Thank you for all of the lessons you’ve taught us inside and outside of the classroom. Thank you for giving us grace and understanding that it can be tough to be a high schooler with sports and extracurriculars and projects, and hopefully also social lives.

Now, I want to thank the parents. For me personally, I would not be here today without my parents. There are multiple reasons for that… the chief of which is… I had to be born. But honestly, to my mom and dad, I want to thank you so much for all that you have done for me: staying up late to support me when it got stressful, being the expert proofreaders for many college essays, and understanding me when I was frustrated. You knew that I would eventually understand that your guidance, and at times, tough love, was for my own benefit. Reflecting today, I fully understand that. Sometimes, I honestly get worried about whether I can ever be as good of a parent to my own kids as my parents have been for me. I know all of my fellow graduates feel the same way for their parents, so y’all, please, after this ceremony, when we’ve thrown our caps into the air, make sure you go to your parents and thank them.

The Class of 2021 listening to the Senior Farwell speaker, Aadi Nashikkar '21 Now, to refocus on our class. After all, my purpose here today is to share with you why our class is so special and also to be able to speak to all my classmates for one final time.

I’d like to start with… kind of an odd story. Those who’ve taken a Mr. Johnson physics class know that to demonstrate principles of physics, he’ll have students try “feats of strength.” These tasks are nearly impossible, and thus, Mr. Johnson promises an automatic A in the class if you succeed.

Once, Mr. Johnson wanted to demonstrate the concept of the conservation of energy. To do this, he harnessed Dane Cohn to a rope, put the rope through a pulley 6 feet above Dane, and offered an A to anyone who could hoist Dane to the height of the pulley. Basic energy laws tell us that this is extremely difficult: you must support Dane’s entire weight while walking 6ft backward. Still, the task began; some students gave it a shot. Dane hardly rose an inch. I tried, but my soul was torn apart by this impossible task. No, literally, my shoe sole tore apart.

Then, Ty walks up to the rope. Leaning backward, Ty starts pulling, and… could it be true? Dane’s shoes leave the ground. It’s unbelievable, but Dane continues to rise. Ty is huffing and puffing, but now, Dane is nearly 6 feet up in the air, and Mr. Johnson… his expression looks nearly 6 feet underground, as he probably thinks to himself:

“Why did I promise an A for this?”

I bring up this not to highlight Ty but instead to help you understand the environment that this class thrives in. An environment where students earnestly believe they can do things that are supposedly impossible and that no high schooler would be expected to do. For capstone, Brooke, Alair, and Bailey, all independently looked to the wilderness, organizing solo trips to learn more about their chosen topics. This independent search for self and break out of societal limitations is totally unexpected for students of this age. Zoe, Elise, and Kaylin are all interested in helping others in the medical field. Well, though medical school completion is still a long way away, how amazing is it that they are already investigating topics like orthopedics and radiology. Orlando investigated climate change with a firefighter as his mentor. Dane offered well-researched solutions to historical housing discrimination. These are such complex topics, but our class is already taking them on.

And while our class does incredible things, nothing about their approach will be conventional—our class is full of creatives. Among us, we have artists like Aaron, who is known for drawing incredible comics and superhero captures, or Owen Gaul, who is taking welding and applying it to art. Diamond is practicing a different kind of art: the art of food, and Alex is a digital artist designing immersive virtual worlds for audiences. And so, I encourage you, my classmates, to continue pushing boundaries everywhere you go, even if it means breaking some laws of physics along the way.

Another quality I’d like to talk about: just how interconnected our class is. Our domination in dodgeball demonstrates this well. Other grades may protest, but they know it’s true, and we were so good… because we were connected. At the start of a dodgeball game, running up to the line of dodgeballs is terrifying. If you are outnumbered, the enemy grade will barrage you with hits, as you quickly regret your initiative. So, in the past, our class has decided to all run up together to guarantee outnumbering the other team. This takes a level of trust: knowing your teammates won’t flake out on you, that you all will go up, even at the risk of destruction. You do it because you like your class that much. This isn’t to say we haven’t had our arguments. Most recently, we had a massive debate, splitting up our entire class over… urinal dividers? Yes, that is, unfortunately, something that happened. But we came back together as a class and got through it. That’s what it means to be interconnected.

This interconnection works because our class has incredible people who care about others. I will always remember Owen Walker’s jokes making everyone’s day better. Zach always greeted me in the hallways, and his friends knew how much he cared for them. Lydia chose to spend her capstone hours teaching and helping children’s school students. In an increasingly globalized world, this experience with connecting to people, applied with our classes’ discovered passions, will make a difference. For example, Aidan and Asher revealed themselves as intercultural communication superstars, with Aidan teaching french and Asher recently winning a major international Model UN conference. Lukas computer simulated the process of making meaningful change internationally and in our community. Truly amazing.

Finally, I’d like to talk about resilience. For this, I’m going back to Walkabout. Okay. Five years ago, we trekked through Utah, weathering desert and river, to learn about responsibility and to forge lasting friendships. But, on the last day, it was raining and snowing, and it was miserable. When rain flies couldn’t do enough to stop the constant downpour, we put tarps over the tents too. Sitting in my tent, it felt awful not to be able to do anything. But then I heard some noise outside. People were… running? I didn’t understand. More running. “No tag backs!” I figured it out. Of course—in the middle of the storm, people were playing tag! How ridiculous? But also, how resilient? We were ignoring the conditions to still make the last evening of Walkabout the best one yet.

When resilience gets woven into the fabric of your class, it means great things. Our class is going out into the future, ready to take on challenges. For her capstone, Heather dealt with real estate, and William learned about forming a start-up. Who wouldn’t want the people who will be managing significant properties or creating new technology to be well-versed in reacting to change and staying strong?

Finally, it takes leaders to encourage resilience in others. I’d like to point out a few. As of 11th graders, Ben and Ethan became captains in basketball and soccer, respectively, and improved their teams this year in shortened seasons. Ty is well-appreciated by everyone for leading by example in theatre and forum, never being the loudest, but alway saying something meaningful. And Whitney, of course, our faithful class president for 4 years, led us through tough senior year decisions and had incredible success leading in athletics as well.

With this context, I want to return to Walkabout. Playing tag in the rain… playing tag in the rain… I wondered for a while why I found this memory just so profound. And then I realized it—we’ve been playing tag in the rain this whole year! A pandemic can’t stop us from presenting senior mementos. It can’t stop us from finding ways to safely serve hundreds of hours of Community Service. It can’t stop us from going out and doing a senior skip day—that too, a real one without school approval, and that’s word to all the classes before us. The world is so complex, and it continues to change rapidly, but this resilience, combined with classic CSS thinking and problem-solving, means that we can handle the unknown frontiers of the future with experience that no other class has had.

And so it’s now that I urge you all, fellow graduates, to continue playing tag in the rain! Destroy expectations, and break the laws of physics! Lead your teams with the same trust and confidence with which we would always go into dodgeball. Do not… let urinal dividers divide you!

We are soon at the moment where the story of the first 18 years of our lives closes, but this is positive; I assure you all because we all will go out and make positive changes in the world around us. And as I finally close, I want to once again thank my class, everyone here, and everyone who couldn’t be here today. But I also want to say one last thing to all of you in the audience: Look at all of us graduates here today. Just wait and see what we can do.

Aadi Nashikkar '21 the Senior Farewell Speaker
The Class of 2021 listening to the Senior Farwell speaker, Aadi Nashikkar '21