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Faculty Choice Graduation Speaker, Jacob Vigran

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On May 15, 2017 we posted a student spotlight featuring ISI senior Jacob Vigran who was to be the faculty choice graduation speaker for the Class of 2017.

See the feature here:

Now that graduation is over, we are happy to share the heartfelt and poignant text of his graduation speech. Jacob’s speech really highlighted the unique environment that is the ISI community and was a perfect addition to the 2017 graduation ceremony. Thank you, Jacob, for being a part of the ISI community. We are excited to see what you do in college and beyond. Forever Fearless, Forever Gryphons!

Firstly, on behalf of the entire Senior Class, I just want to thank the faculty for everything they’ve done over the years for this graduating class and I personally want to extend my gratitude to them for giving me this tremendous opportunity. I’m honored to be up here tonight and speak in front of so many friends and family after so many memorable years at the International School.

When I first started at ISI, I was entering kindergarten and there were just two kinds of students – Spanish students and French students.  I was a Spanish student.  The only other person I knew in the entire school happened to be in my grade, but he was a French student. He clarified the relationship between French and Spanish to me, so I did what I thought any self-respecting Spanish student would do – I slugged him.

In the thirteen years since then, this class has changed a ton. Students and teachers have come and gone, new friendships have been formed, and the mutual French-Spanish embargo has ended.

During that time, I have often heard Mr. Garner speak about the “mosaic” that is the ISI community. He uses this metaphor to convey how people from diverse backgrounds come together at the International School to form one overarching community and experience. Our ISI “mosaic” depends on the differences among us, each coming together to be just a small piece of something much greater than ourselves. Because a mosaic without differences is just a blank tile wall.

When I look at the Class of 2017 the one thing that sticks out to me is the diversity across the entire graduating class. Just look at us. We’re like a stock photo for diversity. We have different races, religions, and nationalities.  We were born on different continents, celebrate different holidays, and our grandmothers cook different foods. When we talk about what makes the International School so unique, this diversity seems to always be a primary point of emphasis. But why? Why does having students from all over the world in this graduating class matter? To me, the short answer is it doesn’t.

What makes the International School so unique isn’t how different we are, but it’s instead the way we approach it. If I were to look around the room and see classmates from China, Niger, France and various other countries without ever having formed a connection or relationship with them, in what way would that diversity have changed my experience? Not at all.

Too often in our society, diversity isn’t a mosaic.  It’s a bingo card to count the number of people from each country, race, religion or sexual orientation, each in their own separate box.

That sort of scenario would be the case a lot of places, but not at ISI. Because when I see my classmates, there is a personal relationship that goes with each one of them. Whether it’s an American student I met on my first day of school thirteen years ago or an exchange student I only met three years ago, this community cultivates a sense of inclusiveness that is unique.

That is what differentiates having diverse demographics from having a diverse culture. Being diverse demographically is pointless unless there is a culture in place that fosters interaction of people, and the building of relationships between them. It’s easy to put lots of different people in an environment together, but what you will rarely find and what the International School does, is it connects those differences to form the mosaic.

So as we all graduate and move across the country, and even the world, let us bring the ideology of the International School community with us.  Never forget the open-minded and inclusive principles we have learned and experienced at ISI so we can be the catalyst who helps build the mosaic wherever we go. If we apply these principles to our own lives, we honor the friendships and relationships we have built here and we can continue to build relationships for a lifetime.



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