Tova Cohen’s Graduation Speech


Small is an asset? More like small is a pain in my neck! Look, I know that that phrase encompasses one of the most quintessential, defining elements of our school, and you’re all probably thinking: Tova, what on Earth do you think you’re doing. But let’s face it, guys–being small can be hard sometimes. It can be hard when everyone knows everything about you and a secret never stays one for long. It can be hard when you have just one “sick day” and everyone is badgering you the next day about where you were and what you did on your day off. It can also be hard when you see the same faces everyday for six years–hard, but also extremely comforting.

You see, I like to think that the faces I see everyday belong to the members of a Crossroads family I’ve been a part of these last six years. These faces belong to my classmates and friends; brothers and sisters, and, together, we embody a big family, wonderfully united by all of our disjointed and dysfunctional parts. And just how you can’t choose your real family, we couldn’t have chosen our crossroads family either. And so, we were ultimately stuck with one another from day 1–dating back to when Will, Ivan, Peter, Val, Elizabeth, Essence, Cliff, Abby, Joe, Nick, Daniel, Zane, and LaRenzo, otherwise known as the original squad, first came together as the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the Class of 2016. And, even though we thirteen may have started it–we certainly didn’t finish the task. Kayla took us by storm when she came in 9th grade, and so did Siane–let’s just say we knew from the beginning not to pick a fight with her! Lily graced us with her poetic abilities and amazing spirit and Julia with her breathtaking theatrical abilities. Yussi and Gabe did as well–I will miss calling each other Yiddish names and being a part of the Hebro squad. And lastly, Afia turned our world upside down when she proved her extreme bravery by joining our crazy class senior year. We are not only glad that you joined us for the end of our journey, but honored to say that you were a part of this class.

So, when you take a step back, and observe our class, we really do resemble a big, happy, crazy, smart, and good family. Let’s observe: Julia, Val, and Siane are the grandmothers that smother everyone with their tough, yet unconditional love; Andy, Ivan, and Cliff are the prodigy cousins who work out a calculus problems in their heads while boring dinner conversation drags on; Nick Drake, Will, Jordan, Enoch, and Yossi are the crazy, fun uncles who scare the kids in the family to stay in school after each visit, while Dominic and Zane are the chill uncles who jam out on their guitars and argue whether Phish or  The Grateful Dead is the better band. Abby, Lily, Claire are the free-spirited aunts who show up to family photos barefoot, wearing a flower in their hair. Joe, Alex , Brandon, Rock, and LaRenzo are the thrifty nephews who know how to “fix” the broken T.V. at every family gathering; Gabe, Daniel, Tyler, and Peter are the sporty and competitive cousins who always dominate the game of touch football at Thanksgiving. Leilani, Irina, Francesca, and Lorinn are the sensible in-laws who know better than to comment on the under-cooked brisket and misbehaved children, Su is the sly niece and Nick Zhang the sly nephew,who knock over the cookie jar, spilling its contents and revealing their mischief to the world, and lastly, Essence, Afia, Kayla, and Elizabeth are the matriarchs of the family, who watch over their family with the strength of a mother bear, fiercely and lovingly protective.

Looking at the family portrait I just painted, it is perfectly imperfect–balanced via imbalance. But it works. We work. All 36 of us: Black, White, Vietnamese-American, Chinese, Italian, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Jewish, Muslim, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Gay, Straight, Bi, Transgender–the list goes on–ALL of us make us work. Without one piece, we would be as incomplete as a 999 piece puzzle. The very fact that we can come together as a family, in spite of nature working against us, proves that small is an asset.The very fact that I was able to list every single person in our class proves that small is an asset. Small is what takes disparate parts and makes a singular unit; small is what turns a community into a family. Small is having the opportunity to meet and befriend the greatest people in the world without looking very far (shoutout to Nanning, China!); small is good. It is good when a seventh grader knows your name; small is good when your teachers email you about missing work before you get the chance to; small is good when Gerry says “Hey Kiddo!” down the hallway, or Todd exclaims “Let’s face it guys!” or when Jason sings “Tova!”; small is good when you can hear a cackle from another classroom and automatically recognize it as Val’s; small is good when you hear “sorry about your grandmother” when you come to school teary-eyed. So, although small can get on your every nerve–because trust me, it sometimes did for me–small is what makes our school more than a school, but a true modern family, accepting you as you  are, without tweaks or changes, from day one. So, I get it that you can’t choose your family, and in no way did I have a say in the people I would spend my Crossroads career with. But, boy, am I lucky for the Class of 2016. Thanks, guys.