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The following Student message was delivered at last week’s Commencement ceremony by Zaid Shaikh, the elected Class Speaker for 2018.
It has been lightly edited.

We did it guys! It’s been a while, but we did it.

One statement that I think all of us can agree to is that, in the last 4 or so years, we’ve grown. Grown, matured, and most importantly, made life-long friends.When I first came here from Kuwait, I was 8,000 miles away from home. I was heavily introverted and I was scared. I thought no one would understand me because of my accent. Honestly, I was overwhelmed. My plan was to keep my head down, get my degree, and leave. The only bright spot I thought I’d see in those 4 years would be trips to this one amazing place that I had heard about: In-N-Out!

But then I met my roommates - Armani, Alex, and Nathan. All 3 of them were relative extroverts and for some reason, they were really excited to have a foreign roommate, and they adopted me. They took me to parties, or brought them to me, and introduced me to other Cogswellians. And most importantly, they began my education in American culture with Star WarsBack to the Future and other classics. They made me feel welcomed here.

Friends are key …
and Cogswell’s environment was perfect for making them.

Friends were important for the rest of my Cogswell life, too. I remember the Calculus study sessions with Ross, Lindley, and Gabe. I remember the La La Land movie night at Kalyn and Joseph’s place. And I definitely remember starting the esports club with Jake and Sam. Those are a few of the many memories I’ve made here.

My point is this: Friends are key. And, for me, Cogswell’s environment was perfect for making them. You could make friends through team projects. Or, just by regularly sitting in a club’s meetings. Or, it could be something as simple as going to another classmate and asking, “Hey, did you study for the World History Quiz? No? Perfect, me neither! We’re both screwed.”

So, making friends at Cogswell was pretty easy. And with these friends, you made the best memories. These friends helped you get through tough times. You could even form a rivalry, a friendly rivalry, with one of them and they’d be added motivation to your passion, to push yourself and outdo each other as well as your past self.

Before you knew it, you’d have created a sizeable projects portfolio, with some truly great pieces to wow friends, family and recruiters. Sure, perhaps even our best work might have some flaws when viewed by trained eyes. But that’s alright. Masterpieces take a lot of time, effort, and experience to create. You have the rest of your life to pursue that dream.

However, today is an important day in that pursuit. You’ve completed a long journey. You’ve shown perseverance. You’ve stayed true to your passion.

We've proven that miracles can happen. Miracles like being able to stay relatively sane while finishing all your finals in a semester without spring break! So even though we may not be masters of our craft yet, we’ve shown that we’re willing to work hard to improve and perfect it. That passion to work towards your dream- that’s really important. Never lose it.

That passion to work towards your dream- that’s really important. 
Never lose it.

One cautionary thing, though. I’ve read posts on Facebook and other social media platforms that suggest, “You should never have zero days”, days where you just take a break. I disagree with that. You need breaks!When you wake up, ask yourself: Are you going to do something today that pushes you closer to your goals? If the answer is “Yes”, then that’s perfect. If the answer is “No”, then that’s fine too. There will be days when you want some "me” time to avoid getting burnt out, to reignite your passion.

Those few “No’s" in between the “Yes’s" will make the “Yes’s" mean more. So, if you ever want to take a personal day, go ahead. Spend some quality time by yourself or with family, or with friends. Just remember to return to the track that leads towards your goals.

Seeing all of us here, I’m reminded of something Fox Seligman said as he stood in this spot 2 years ago as his Class Speaker. He said that your Cogswell network is important. He said, “You never know when you might run into a Cogswell grad or when one of them could help you get a job a find a new path”. Having worked at Career Services, and having gone through alumni profiles, I can tell you that there are a lot of Cogswellians out there.

When Fox stood here and said that Cogswell will take over the world someday, I think he knew what he was talking about. It’s only a matter of time before we get out there, do great things, become a resource for future classes and to each other.

You’ve completed a long journey. You’ve shown perseverance. You’ve stayed true to your passion.

Remember one thing. No matter how far you get in life, always look back and thank your teachers. For me it was Nirmal, Mike Murphy, Chris Driggett, Soma, Evan, Yousif… I won’t name them all because otherwise we’d be here a while. They are all seated here. So, once this is done and we’re out for cookies, take a picture with them… it lasts longer.

And, remember your friends. They all played an important role during your life at Cogswell.

There’s this one friend that I’d like to give a special shout out to. Actually, “friend" is not the right word. He is more like a brother. He helped me whenever I was at my lowest and he has almost never failed to bring a smile to my face. I’ve made some of my best memories with him. This shout out is to Jake Levine.

And, of course, there are other friends that I’ve made priceless memories with: Kalyn, Joseph, Lindley, the Gabes, Ross, Ben, Alex, Dan, and Sam… I know I haven’t named everyone but I only have so much time. Every one of you helped make California feel like home to me and I’ll never be able to thank you for it.

Finally, one last thing, I promise! Remember how Fox stood before you here and have said it was only a matter of time before Cogswellians took over the world? Last I checked, that hasn’t happened yet. Know why? Because it’s up to us to do it, with our passion, our talent, and our grit.

So, Class of 2018, here are your marching orders: Go out there and Take. Over. The World.


View a Slideshow of the 2018 Commencement ceremony