Ethan Giles ’13 is a typical Friends Select student in that he cannot be pigeonholed into just one category -- he does it all. An academic achiever, athlete and actor, Ethan combines his talents with a love of politics and investigative writing.
This year alone, Ethan was co-editor-in-chief of the school’s yearbook; played a key role in the school’s drama production of A Streetcar Named Desire; and was a member of the tennis team for the third year. He achieved honors two of his four years in upper school and this year won the Benjamin Lachs ’71 Journalism Award, an alumni/ae award given each year to a student who exhibits initiative in the field of publishing or journalism.
Last summer, he worked at the Montgomery County Obama campaign field office, overseeing phone banks and canvassing operations, and training volunteers.
Ethan will attend Clark University in the fall.
Here is the speech he gave at graduation:
Friends, family and everyone else who is present today, before I start I would like to thank all of you for coming here and supporting us over the last four years. I could not have made it this far without the love and support of my family and friends, and I know the same can be said for the other 48 kids in this graduating class. So I thank both everyone in the audience and those that could not make it today; what you see up here is because of you.
I didn’t start at Friends Select, I got thrown into it. I came in December of eighth grade, with no idea how this school really worked, completely out of my element. I barely survived the rest of eighth grade, trying to adjust to the wacky new Quaker land that was Friends Select. The following four years would change my life in so many ways, and the product is what you see standing up here today.
I think I can speak for most of the class when I say that we entered into Friends Select’s Upper School as weird, immature ninth graders. I surely know this was the case for me, and I think my peers (well, at least Wendy) will agree that, while we technically began our upper school careers as freshmen, the collective maturity was maybe at a 5th grade level. Now, as I look around this room today, I can confidently say that we are basically the same weird immature people, but just a little bit taller.
But seriously, we are all weirdoes. Every one of us is incredibly weird, and that’s the biggest compliment I could pay to this school. They produce amazing weirdoes. Think about it. What other school has to kick out its kids at the end of the day? THAT’S WEIRD! What other school has juniors and seniors hanging out in the hallway during their frees? THAT’S WEIRD! What other school has their students just place their backpacks outside of their lockers, with no fear of theft? THAT’S WEIRD! What other school lets seniors have a couch in their hallway? THAT’S WEIRD! The overall weirdness of this school has produced the weird graduating class in front of you, and I could not be more proud to be apart of it.
The great thing about this grade is while we did mature, we stayed our odd and quirky selves. That’s another great thing about Friends Select; there is no pressure to change who you are. While our tiny Quaker School at 17th and the parkway did magically transform the aforementioned 5th graders into college-ready students, we are all still our own selves. Friends Select allowed us to perfectly walk the thin line of maturity and individualism. We each expressed ourselves through music, drama, athletics, academics, technology and everything in between. It is not uncommon while walking through the halls of FSS to find a musician, an actor, an athlete and a techie all engrossed in conversation. All of this shaped what you see today; 49 distinct individuals that compose the graduating class of 2013.
But we aren’t just individuals, we are a community. Friends Select taught us all how to interact and bond together. We all care for each other. I can say that I know every person in this graduating class. Every single one. I know what their interests are, I know what they aspire to be, and I know they will go on to do great things in life. None of my friends that go to larger schools can say that. This school has instilled a sense of individualistic community inside every one of us; we are all ourselves yet we still care for the well being of others.
I think I can speak for the class of 2013 in giving a big thank you to every single teacher that makes up this school. Each and every one of them shares an incredible work ethic, a love of teaching, and a care for their students. It is impossible to fall through the cracks here; believe me I’ve tried. Every teacher has a deep passion for their students’ wellbeing, both in and out of the classroom. Academically, their door is always open if you need help. I know I have spent hours after class in a teacher’s room understanding what I needed to know for an upcoming test. But they also came to our sports games, plays, and concerts. They wanted to not solely know us as pupils, but people too. They were not just teachers; they were our peers.
While Friends Select helped us to mature in myriad ways (note the proper use of the good vocab/SAT word), it is time for us to leave. FSS prepared us for college academically, socially, and more. Academically, the school produces smart, hard working students with the ability to succeed in college courses. But as previously mentioned, Friends Select has prepared us to interact with the real world as well. We take our individualistic community on with us to college, as a guide to be ourselves while caring for the good of others.
We know the importance of community service. While each and every one of us is grateful to be able to go to a school like Friends Select, we understand that not everyone can be in our position. So many people in life have it worse than us, and it is our duty to care for them. They have every right to be where we are, but we got lucky. Friends Select has taught us the importance of caring for and helping everyone in the community, especially those of us who do not have the opportunities we do.
Friends Select has instilled us with some basic lessons that we will use to succeed in the future. We were taught to treat everyone equally. Everyone in this world deserves the same respect and treatment, no matter of one’s social class, race, religion, sexuality, or anything else. We learned that taking time out for reflection is essential to our well being. I am not going to say we enjoyed meeting for worship, but it did give us time to relax and truly think about our lives (and it also got us out of 5 minutes of each class on Wednesdays). And lastly, as I have said a million times already, Friends Select has taught us to be ourselves.
In closing, I cannot put into words how happy I am to be graduating from this school today. I am so thankful to be able to say that I am a Friends Select graduate. I can say that I made it through my four years here, and I can now take the lessons I learned here and apply them to the rest of my life. But, before I go, I have to ask the school for one more thing: please wait at least a couple years before asking for donations, college kids are broke. Thank you.