Equally passionate about academics, athletics, service, and leadership, Emmett Campbell ’21 graduated as a member of the Cum Laude Society and National Honor Society. He also received a pair of annual senior awards, the Dr. Larry Brown Science Award and the Annie E. Heath Senior Mathematics Award.
Emmett served on Student Council, captained the Model UN team, and was a key contributor for Service Council and the boys soccer and baseball teams. As a sophomore and junior, respectively, he won annual awards for U.S. history and English.
A native of Beverly, he plans to study molecular and cellular biology next fall at the University of California, Berkeley.
“I don’t believe I have ever met someone who is more determined to succeed in life than Emmett,” Upper School science teacher Lynsey Panek said. “He gives 100 percent in everything he does. He is always driven and determined to accomplish more.”
Morgan Park Academy’s valedictorian is determined by cumulative high school grade-point average. To be eligible, a student must have attended the Academy for at least three years, including junior and senior years.
Good morning, everyone. I’d like to start off by extending a thank you for showing your support for this Class of 2021, whether online or in person here in Jones Bowl. I am honored to be speaking on behalf of this extremely intelligent, diverse, and hardworking Class of 2021.
These past few weeks, I often sat on my couch next to my two dogs, wondering how on Earth I could encapsulate the past four years of our lives here at MPA into a single speech. Faced with this daunting task, I did what every studious teenager does and procrastinated while telling people I was “gathering information and ideas.”
But in all seriousness, I was hard at work, thinking about my address.
I think the best way that I can condense an experience as impactful and ever-changing as our time at MPA is to give an introspective look into my decision of how I was to go about writing this address.
One of the first things I considered including in my address was my “superhero origin story.” For many of us, our time at MPA may have stretched way before our Upper School careers; some all the way back to pre-kindergarten.
When I came here in the seventh grade, I quickly realized that MPA instills a sense of independence and responsibility into its students, unlike anything I had seen. I could see it in how the students got around the campus, how they behaved towards each other, and in the classroom. Although occasionally, Mrs. Scolan did have to remind us about our tardiness to class.
From my first year as a wide-eyed seventh-grader, I made friendships that I still maintain today; in fact, most of them are sitting here behind me. From getting sent to Mrs. Kurut’s office for petty offenses to getting into prestigious universities with life-changing scholarships and opportunities, all I can say is look at us now!
See, part of being a student at MPA is that the school almost forces us to look at things with a new perspective, to take that next initiative, to try something out of our comfort zone, and that has molded us into the young adults we are today.
Hmmm … maybe it’s a bit too personal; the crowd won’t want to hear me drone on about our evolution as MPA students.
Oh, I got it! All great valedictorian addresses always include extremely niche memories from high school that only a select few people will understand. Perfect.
I could talk about our legendary boys soccer homecoming game against Lycee Francais that you just had to be there for: a game in which we won, 6-1, but also received three separate red cards. I swear we aren’t thugs; it was just a crazy ref.
And who could forget the amazing Project Week trips we got to experience, traveling to places like Hawaii, Tennessee, Budapest, New York City, South Korea, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas, to name a few.
I vividly remember how at peace I felt on my trip to Hawaii as a sophomore staring up at the stars with my friends. But when we returned from the trip we got into a heated debate with the kids from the Tennessee trip as to which trip was better. They wrongfully claimed we only went to Hawaii to take pictures, although we did take a lot of sweet pics, am I right?
When COVID-19 first emerged, my biggest concern was the cancellation of my Project Week trip to China. Little did I know of the many challenges we would all face as a nation, as a city, and as a community, and the many lessons we would have to learn (and are still learning).
I believe MPA taught us all to be compassionate and creative problem solvers — vital attributes that helped us support each other this past year and a half, and will continue to serve us well during difficult times.
When the pandemic robbed us of events and privileges typically enjoyed by previous senior classes, we as a community found ways to safely bridge our isolation like outdoor movies, cohort classrooms, and eventually getting to play a modified sports season.
The past year and a half taught us to be flexible. When things didn’t go our way, MPA taught us to find new ways to make it work.
Eh, I don’t know … this COVID stuff is kind of overdone. No one wants to hear about the pandemic again.
But if there’s one thing I know I should include in my address, it’s the numerous thank yous to the people that made this happen.
What better way to kick off these thank yous than by acknowledging the faculty, staff, and administrators who make this school great, through good times and bad.
I’d like to start with a recent example that encapsulates the way this community feels like family. During an advisory period, when my advisory group was in Mrs. Drown’s room, I sparked a wide-ranging conversation with Mrs. Drown, talking about how she came to be a teacher, her summer vacation plans, how she and her family were dealing with covid, and my plans for the future.
It seems like a minor thing, but to me, it demonstrates the care and compassion our teachers showed for us, day in and day out. I still regularly converse with some of the teachers who have left MPA, like Mrs. Fahey, who I have to thank for my love of history, world affairs, and economics.
I’d like to thank Mrs. Sheppard, Mr. Drahozal, Mr. Hermosilla, Mrs. Kurut, and Mrs. Drown for your thoughtful leadership, and also the many everyday heroes like the custodial staff and the business office, who make it look easy though we know it’s not.
I’d be remiss to not acknowledge the teachers who are leaving us after many years of service. Mrs. Rathi, who went above and beyond to guide us and many classes before us through the grueling college application process. And Coach Pariso, who was always breathing down our necks to join — every — single — sport — we could play.
If it weren’t for you, I never would have realized my love for baseball. We’ve been so privileged to have both of you here for so many years and we wish you well in your future endeavors.
To our parents, siblings, grandparents, and extended family who have supported us and shown us that anything is possible with the right people in your corner: thank you. You are the people who have demonstrated what sacrifice and unconditional love look like.
I’d especially like to thank my family for the love and support they have always given me and the opportunity to attend such highly respected institutions like MPA and beyond.
To my grandparents, who have instilled in me the value of doing things the right way, I thank you. Especially my wonderful Grannie, who showed me how important it is to travel and learn about other cultures.
To my dad, who through his unpredictable schedule as a pilot has shown me that hard work, dedication and flexibility are the keys to success in this life, I thank you. I know you’d give the world to see your kids happy and successful.
When I was little, he’d often tell me right before he left for work that it was “time to make the donuts.” But I know he wouldn’t miss this occasion for any amount of “donuts” he could make at work.
To my mom, who is always willing to help me in any way possible, I thank you. My mom, a former writer, was the person who almost every day sat down with me to proofread and critique the numerous drafts I produced for my college applications. She insisted that I print out every draft and by the time I finished writing college essays, we had stacks, and I mean stacks of drafts littered with revisions and comments.
And like any other essay, she was the one who proofread this address. I didn’t let her see this part, though, because I wanted it to be a surprise, so excuse me if this part is a little rough around the edges in the absence of my mom’s advice. My mom is the person I can always count on to be there for me.
So I think I’ve hit all the bases for a good valedictorian speech. The only thing left I have to do is conclude it.
Class of 2021, it’s been a unique year, to say the least, but let’s not forget about all of the memories that MPA has provided us with.
As we step forth into our collegiate careers and beyond, as my dad would say, let’s go “make some donuts.”
Congratulations, and thank you for listening.