Alumnus Conor Devlin '06 Delivers Graduation Speech

On Thursday, June 15, 2017, The Parkside School celebrated the graduation of the Class of 2017. Our thirteen graduates will be going on to school's including the American School of Milan, Community School, The Computer School, Lowell School, Mary McDowell Friends School, Summit School, and York Prep.

During the ceremony, which was held at the JCC on 76th and Amsterdam, Conor Devlin '06 reflected on his Parkside experience, and gave our newest class of alumni some great advice. The following is the full trascript of his speech.

CONOR DEVLIN,    Class of 2006

CONOR DEVLIN, Class of 2006

"I would like to offer my congratulations to all of you lucky kids for the great work you have done this year. You have a lot to show for it, I know. And best of all, now you can relax and truly enjoy the next three months, knowing that you will be getting back at it again in September.

You may be wondering: who is this guy and why is he talking at us when we could be outside, enjoying a late spring day? Good question. Let me start off by telling you a little bit about myself. Late last month, I graduated from St. Olaf College, a small liberal arts college in the upper Midwest, with a bachelor’s degree in English. I am fascinated by almost any form of artistic expression, hence my love of reading, writing, attending plays and going to museums. My goal is to become a respected novelist specializing in realistic fiction. Of course this is going to take some doing but I am determined to make it happen.

One of the reasons I’m confident that I will achieve my goal is something I have in common with all of you – a wonderful and fruitful association with The Parkside School.

I firmly believe that the greatest thing that you can do for yourself throughout life is to educate yourself. Only then can you advance and truly become people of the world. By moving up in your studies, as all of you are, you move closer to becoming active contributors to a better world.

But first, I want to talk to you about how fortunate you are to have been students at Parkside. There really is no other institution like it anywhere in New York, or across our nation. You can trust me completely when I say that; I would know. It was at Parkside, in the rooms of those beautiful old townhouses on 74th Street that my future, as I know it, began to unfold.

Eleven years ago, awesome graduates, I was in your exact position. I wore that cap and gown and was asked to share my favorite memory from my time at Parkside. One that day, if someone were to tell me that I would go on to graduate from a top-notch Catholic high school and then go on to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree from a renowned liberal arts college, I would have said “yeah, that sounds about right.” I would have said that because all of my teachers at Parkside helped give me the confidence, drive, and inspiration to make my ambitions a reality.

As I mentioned earlier, Parkside is unique. Its small and intimate environment allowed your teachers to get to know each and every one of you close up and personally. At any other school in New York, you would be just another face in a long parade of kids going and coming. I believe that the real learning happens when you have the opportunity to get to know and develop a relationship with your teachers. Parkside does a superb job at fostering that type of environment.

I am also very proud to say that I received the most well-rounded and extensive education here. Unlike other schools, your teachers place equal emphasis on all of the subjects. In other words, if you like art class best, your teachers will try to help you develop your interest in art just as much as math or reading. A lot of other schools are forced to do away with art and music programs because of money problems. But that’s not an issue here at Parkside. All of you can play music and make art right alongside doing your math and reading. This kind of approach will help you forever in your lives. It has already helped me to develop my profound interest in artistic expression. It will help you find and pursue your passions too.

But all of that would not be possible without these two stupendous principals, Albina Miller and Leslie Thorne. Parkside is their creation and the staff they have assembled is top notch.

Often at graduation ceremonies, speakers tell the students to follow their dreams, never give up and reach for the stars. That is good advice; I urge you to do those things. As the great English storyteller William Shakespeare once said, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” That means that our desires and goals in life help to shape who we become. Following your dreams will help all of you to become the best people you can be.

But this is a time to be appreciative too, grateful for the specialness that is The Parkside School. A couple of years ago, I was talking to someone I knew at my high school and we asked each other where we went to elementary school. When I told him I went to Parkside until fifth grade, he said, “I know about Parkside! That’s a special school, right?” Unfazed, I responded, “You are absolutely right. It is a special school.” I call Parkside special because it fosters growth and learning in an environment of respect and trust.

When people hear the term “special school,” they might think of a lesser place in our education system, a second-tier institution. Nothing could be further from the truth when you’re talking about Parkside – it defies that conventional idea. If you need proof, just look at me. It is because I went to Parkside, a “special school,” that I managed to get into a well-respected high school and college. Not only did I graduate from both, I achieved great grades and have a shot at just as bright a future as anybody who graduated from a regular school. Everything I learned at Parkside helped me each step of the way. And I’d much rather be special than regular.

I want to further emphasize how Parkside has prepared you for your futures. It does this by explicitly teaching you how to function well after you have left the school. In addition to math, reading, science and the other academic subjects, the teachers pass on knowledge about how to be nice to others, how to form goals and stick to them, and how to foster a creative spirit that you can use to accomplish anything you want to do. I learned all three of those lessons at Parkside. And those lessons enabled me to become a college graduate who is ready to take on the world.

Again to you Parkside graduates, congratulations! A chapter of your life has ended and a new one will soon begin. I am confident that our school has truly prepared you to succeed. But what Parkside has done is only a part of the story. Now it’s your turn to follow through on everything you’ve learned."