“City-As-School is not an ordinary high school.” - Nikola Carouso's Graduation Speech

July 19, 2013
Nikola poses with her Advisor, Katy, and her fellow graduating advisees.

Nikola poses with her Advisor, Katy, and her fellow graduating advisees.

This June we had a wonderful graduation ceremony and one of the best moments was the student speech from Nikola Carouso. This short read provided a wonderful description of both her experience, and all of our experiences at City-As-School High School.

I was asked to give a speech today. I thought I couldn’t do it. How can a person attempt to give a speech without any experience, let alone a good speech? Speculating about what other people may think of you is paralyzing. If there was such a thing as a graduation speech internship, City-As would have us practice speaking everywhere- schools, parks, trains, and, Madison Square Garden.

At a City-As speech internship we could experience: making mistakes, not showing up, making up time, driving a Resource coordinator insane and then finally, giving a speech and receiving credit! City- As- School encourages us to go out there and do it until we get it right.

So, instead of a speech experience, I sat home in my pajamas and I googled high school graduation speeches, many of which were cheesy and embarrassing.

My cheesy speech begins like this, “City-As-School is not an ordinary high school. It is a school filled with gratitude, warmth, and support.”

The writer, David Foster Wallace, gave a commencement speech to Kenyon College. He said education does not come from school or books. It comes rather from trying to change our thinking away from ourselves. He said, “ If a person can not construct meaning from experience he will be totally hosed.”

City-As-School teaches us to construct meaning from experience. You ever had a dream where you realize you just walked ten blocks to school without pants on? At City-As you feel that same exposed feeling that people can see you. Here, we are stripped of facades we use to disguise and protect ourselves. We are no longer invisible. We are said hello to. We are easily located so we can discuss our feelings. We hide in the park until we awkwardly lock eyes with our teacher across the street. We are given suggestions on how to cover up our tattoo at the lawyer’s office internship. We make our teachers proud.

Feeling noticed and being heard is freedom yet naked, vulnerable.

The comedienne, Whoopi Goldberg, gave a commencement address to Savannah College of Art. She said, “ Are you willing to pay the price for being weird? Not everyone is going to get you. Not everyone is going to see what you see. Feel what you feel. Are you prepared to take that on?” I think Whoopi is saying it’s ok to be different and at City-As we kind of pride ourselves on being different. Joseph Campbell said “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
More than just being different City-As helps us to become who we are as individuals.

When we were little we had our imaginary friends who understood our differences. City-As-School is like an imaginary friend. It plays with you and supports you. Time goes on and you meet real friends. Sometimes you forget your imaginary friend was ever there but she never leaves you. She waits on line with you at Chipotle. She sits next to you during your interview at Urban Outfitters. She helps pack your suitcase when your mom can’t. At times we will forget as we move up and on into our adventure, but like our imaginary friend, City-As-School will always be there for us.

One of the most wonderful elements of City-As is the supportive environment of our fellow students. I know I am speaking for all of us when I say… Thank You Us. City-As gave us awesome real life experience and just as importantly the time, heart, attention, and soul from the special faculty and staff. On behalf of the graduating class of 2013 thank you City-As. We graduates will make City-As proud because we want to! Thank you.

City-As-School is moving for the Summer!City-As-School Joins NYCDOE’s new initiative Digital Ready!