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Lizzie Adams '24 and Srivarun Hathwar '24 won the Bible Awards as valedictorians this school year. During Graduation on May 20, they gave their addresses to the family and friends at Wynne-Darden Stadium.

Lizzie Adams '24 will attend Columbia University. In addition to the Bible Award, she won the High Honors Award; John A. Tucker Athletic Award; and DeShannon Artemis Taylor Award.

Here is Lizzie's speech: 

Good morning. I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has mentored, encouraged, pushed, inspired, and guided my classmates and me throughout our time at Norfolk Academy. Thank you to the Board of Trustees, Mr. Larrabee, teachers, coaches, and Mr. Manning, who I hope has forgiven me for refusing to pet the bulldog on my first day at Norfolk Academy as a shy first grader. Thank you, Mrs. Yearick, for your mentorship and creating the best advisee environment; Mr. Gibson for challenging me as a thinker and New York Times game-player and always having an open door; and Coach Werkheiser for believing in me and pushing me to be at my best in and out of sports. Thank you, Mrs. Duquette, for counseling me when I was sent to the office every day for the first month of Lower School. Thank you, dad, mom, Catherine, and to all of the parents, families, and friends who have supported the members of this class, and many of whom are here today. Mostly, I would like to thank the remarkable group of people sitting behind me. Having spent nearly my entire sentient life at Norfolk Academy, I owe my most formative and influential years to the Class of 2024.

Writing this speech was difficult in a lot of ways; it's hard to give an appropriate thank you to everyone who has supported this class, and it's never easy to respond to a prompt that allows you to write about anything, or, in this case, everything. But, as I’ve learned from my English classes, the best place to start is the beginning. When I arrived at Norfolk Academy, 2024 seemed closer to a futuristic sci-fi movie setting than reality. 2024 labeled our class’s page of yearbook photos and sat at the end of our school email usernames. Bound initially by the fact that we were all born around roughly the same time and either did or did not repeat kindergarten, 2024 brought together an otherwise random group of people. Over the years, 2024 has grown from a collection of individuals flung together by chance into a community formed by choice. We’ve expanded, changed, and grown up, but for however long members of this class have been at NA, whether it’s been one year or 12, we have been contributors to and beneficiaries of this community. As a collective, we have grown particularly close this year as we’ve spent time appreciating traditions like senior donuts, coffee in the refectory, time with first-grade buddies, and rigorous debate in the class groupme.

Before we became seniors and continued these traditions, for both of the two school years before this one, I remember watching as seniors frantically and emotionally signed each other's yearbooks, the underclass laughing along to their class pranks full of balloons and wrapping paper with music blaring from the senior lounge on their final day of classes. On last year’s seniors’ final day, I walked past the same senior lounge this class has made our own this year. I saw in last year’s seniors a sense of elation, sadness, nostalgia, and love. This year, I felt it. As we counted down to 3:15 for the final time and swept up more sticky notes than I can count, the theoretical significance of 2024 became more palpable. 2024 is not the future. Or, as I’ve realized, even the present. It’s the people.

By any metric, 2024 has been an incredibly difficult time for the Norfolk Academy community and our senior class in particular. Over the past months, we have relied on each other more than ever before. On this day of celebrating all that makes the Class of 2024 so great, it would be impossible to tell the story of our grade without Sam Shumadine and Amber Morgan. In talking to some of their close friends and from being around Sam for over 11 years and Amber for roughly two, it's evident that who Sam and Amber were, and how they lived, impacted everyone with whom they spent time and represent the best qualities of the school as a whole. Sam’s unifying hilarity and exuberant joy made our class more cohesive and happy. Amber’s unflagging friendship and steadfast kindness did the same. Part of 2024 is  and will always be Sam and Amber, memories of them, and their inextricable connection to our class.

As the end of the school year became closer, more real, more nostalgic, and more stress-inducing with regard to the future, the reality of 2024 set in. 24 is not just the number with which I replaced an erased 23 on assessments for the day’s date as I adjusted to the New Year in January and February. It’s more than just 4 factorial as Mrs. Mann taught me, or the number of letters in the Greek alphabet, which I futilely attempted to figure out over my Maymester in Greece last year. It represents the year we graduate and thus the year in which the 113 of us move on into the next phases of our academic careers and of our lives. As Senor Bunn aptly concluded in his final chapel just a few weeks ago, I know it hurts to say goodbye / But it's time for me to fly.

2024 is the feeling of hitting the three words drive, unity, and confidence while leaving the field hockey locker room. 2024 is cheering on classmates on stages and fields. 2024 is navigating hardship together, celebrating each other, and pushing each other to our individual and collective bests. Bring these strengths of our community with you into college and beyond; in doing so, I hope we build lives that we love, surrounded by people we love (and who love us). From times when suffering is impossible to overlook, to times when happiness radiates and demands to be shared, and every time that exists on the continuum between those extremes, we will all have a community, this community, to which we can return. Today, we are all faced with the slightly terrifying but equally exciting reality that 2024 is here, right now. But even when 2024 is gone, when it’s just a memory we will share of each other and of our youths, it will always be a memory we can cherish. I am thrilled to be celebrating 2024 and this group of people, my best friends, with you all today. To my classmates: please, don’t be a stranger.

Congratulations, Norfolk Academy Class of 2024!

Srivarun Hathwar '24 will attend Georgia Tech. In addition to the Bible Award, he won the John H. Ingram Memorial Award and W. Peyton May Award.

Here is Srivi's speech:

Good morning and welcome to my fellow graduates in the Class of 2024; to our teachers and to everyone who works so hard to make Norfolk Academy such a special school; to our parents and to distinguished guests. Thank you, Mr. Larrabee and the Norfolk Academy administration, for giving me the opportunity to speak today. I hope I can do justice to this platform.

I will not be able to thank everyone who has been an integral part of my life, but I want to especially thank my mom and dad for nurturing me into the person I am today, giving me the opportunity to attend an institution like Norfolk Academy I want to thank my grandmother for her ability to humble me whenever we play scrabble and my Grandfather for his work ethic and dedication, and I thank both of them for making it here all the way from India. I want to thank the rest of my extended family, my uncles, aunts, and my cousins, especially those in attendance, the people with whom I have traveled to the ends of the world with, and I also want to thank my community who feels like my extended family. I want to thank all of my teachers for the last 12 years who have been there with me every step of the way, not only as a guiding figure but as friends, friends with whom I could talk about topics like the Aaron Rodgers vice presidency bid or statisticians in rock bands. I especially want to thank Mrs. Diskin for helping me love creative writing, something I swore to her face that I would never love, and Mrs. Mann, who has doubled as a Math teacher as well as a fellow golf enthusiast. I want to thank my Varsity Golf teammates and coaches for providing me with a group of friends and for a great spring season.

Finally, I want to thank the Class of 2024 for all of the memories we made.

When I first made my way to 1585 Wesleyan Drive a week prior to our first day of school as a 30 pound 6 year old, all I could think of was, “Wow, this place was big.” But to quote my political Science teacher Sean Wetmore, “It is not the buildings or the resources that make a great place, it's the people.” When I got to Norfolk Academy, I found a family, bonded together through our shared love of this place. And today, we are celebrating this family of 113 people and the next steps that we will all take. Over the years, our family has grown, and each new addition to the Norfolk Academy Class of 2024 has been welcomed with open arms and has added light into our lives. But our family has also suffered deep losses when our close friends, Amber Morgan and Sam Shumadine, moved on from this life, as well as Ben Lagow, the dear older brother of one of our own. When these tragedies happened, the first feeling was grief and emptiness. But our family came together to celebrate their lives and be grateful that we were blessed by their presence. Along with loss, we also felt love, two sides of the same coin.

I will not claim that I am the most emotionally intelligent or the best person to give a speech of this importance, but writing it gave me a lot of time to reflect. And reflecting made me realize that I would have a hard time trying to organize my thoughts and experiences from over half of my lived life in a 7-minute speech. On this journey that we all have taken, I have absorbed many lessons, not only from teachers and coaches, but also from my peers.

Throughout my entire time at Norfolk Academy, one of my favorite pastimes has been watching sports. When I got into the Upper School, I found out, to my surprise and delight that I would be able to get an art credit for watching and commentating on Sports by joining NA-TV, Norfolk Academy’s student-run Broadcasting Team. Of course, I joined. I dove into my first athletic season with NA-TV in the Fall of my sophomore year, and I stuck with NA-TV for five more athletic seasons. When I think about NA-TV, my mind goes right to where I spent most of my time: the Press Box. The Press Box is the room at the top of the football bleachers, and we used this room to broadcast football, soccer, and lacrosse games.  The press box was the home base for most of our operations, and a place where I have spent a few too many hours. The press box sounds like the makings of a great announcer call, and it smells like the cherry cokes and Izze sodas that Coach Byler kept in a minifridge, which he vehemently tried to gatekeep from us. 

But the best part of the Press Box is the view. Elevated by at least 50 feet, we have a bird’s eye view of  what is occurring on many of the fields. From the Press Box,  I was able to see our best athletic moments – the thrilling finishes and the clutch plays. I would always get animated when I saw a great pass or play due to the teamwork of the Bulldogs.  I saw the sense of elation and success whenever the Bulldogs triumphed. And I saw the sense of pride in fellow students cheering for their classmates. But at the same time, I saw the losses. I saw the injuries and the heartbreak of teammates whenever they occurred. I saw my classmates lower their heads in defeat, and I saw the raw emotion when seasons ended. Through the ups and downs that athletics posed however, I was able to see the best qualities of my fellow members of the class of 2024. I saw the commendable sportsmanship exhibited by the Bulldogs whenever we won, and I saw that same sportsmanship whenever we lost. I saw the sense of family when teammates won together, and I saw that same sense of family when teammates lost together. The best part of NA-TV was that I was able to see so many of you, the passion you bring to what you do, and the character you possess. What I saw made me proud of my classmates, and the way the Class of 2024 shows our character, not only on the athletic fields, but also through the arts, in n the classroom, in service to our community, and more. We’ve done it together in this school, and I know that I can speak for everyone when I say that Norfolk Academy has been our home.

On the last day of school for the seniors, Mr. Larrabee had a chapel for all of us where he talked about home, and the lesson I took from it was, “Home is portable.” We are all on this journey, this cruise of life, and the next step doesn’t have to feel any more foreign than the comfortable grounds of Norfolk Academy. Find the place that makes you feel at home, find your Press Box.

Call your parents, keep in touch, and meet new people who will make your next chapter feel like 1585 Wesleyan Drive. But in the words of Charlie Puth, “We’ve come a long way from where we began, and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”

Thank you, God Bless you all, and God Bless America.

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