Hello class of 2021.

I’m gonna be honest, when I was writing this speech, I had a hard time thinking about what I was going to say. After what felt like hours staring at a blank screen, I decided to do something that I had done a little too much throughout high school when I didn’t want to work on an assignment. Yep, I clicked on that little block of dirt with a fine layer of grass and logged on to Minecraft.

I’ve spent a lot of time on Minecraft since I was a kid. There’s something special about being in your own little world with unlimited options of games and activities. But I’ve always been drawn specifically to one game in Minecraft: bed wars. Each player or team spawns on a little island in the sky with personal resources and a bed. The bed allows players to respawn if they are killed or if they fall into the void. There is also a big island in the middle of the little islands called mid,

which, while dangerous to get to, has plenty of resources to assist in winning the game. The objective is to be the last player alive, which is usually done by destroying others’ beds and killing the other players.

The more I played bed wars, the more I realized how similar it was to high school. We started out as freshmen, lonely on our own little islands in the sky, falling into the void, and not knowing what to do with the resources we were provided with, such as support rooms during lunch and guidance counselors. As the year went on, we learned how to defend our beds and stay alive by using our resources and learning how to study and socialize.

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Sophomore year we became more adventurous discovering things like electives, APELLAS, and drivers licences. We built bridges and ventured outside of our own little islands. We moved from a “singleplayer” mindset to the team player game mode.

By the time junior year came around we were -unstoppable - going to Perkins after football games, laughing at Mr. Larson’s jokes in physics, and losing our voices trying to beat the seniors during Sparty chants. We had found comfort in our beds, made it to mid, secured the emeralds, and flashed our full diamond armor.

But without warning, our armor was stripped, beds destroyed, and inventories emptied. It felt like we were being pushed into the void over and over again. In real life, our school year abruptly ended. We were sent home, given an iPad, and simply told “good luck.” It was a brand new game.

The next few months felt like a glitch in the game- we were back on our lonely islands, missing spring sports, and doing our homework without even seeing our teachers. The summer went by in a flash while we returned to sports wearing masks and seeing our friends in circles of cars with open trunks. Then suddenly we were thrown into a new game- senior year: COVID edition.

But this time it was different. We weren’t meeting in person, but we had a new daily routine. We saw our teachers and friends (sometimes just their icons on a screen) almost every day. Google Meet became our most helpful resource, and somehow what was foreign began to feel familiar.

Little things like yearbook students texting and asking for pictures and teachers learning about breakout rooms slowly brought us all back together again.

As first semester went on, everything felt connected, from trying to make our friends laugh on screen during class to making teachers cry when we held up little thank you signs on camera.

We started to regret wasting tears on little things like failed friendships and bad grades, and started to truly cherish what little time we had left to just be high schoolers. We began to reconnect through activities like GOFA and our return to winter sports, and the spark that our class reignited during the pandemic continued when we returned to Mayo. Everyone was genuinely happy to be back, and the excitement was felt during events like the senior sunrise, homecoming week, decision day, and finally the senior sunset.

Through all of this, we learned how to adapt to life without our obsidian bed forts and diamond armor with 1 shiny pixel for protection. Although it was far from easy, we learned how to come together and work as a team to fight off our opponents like COVID-19. And the senior slide. But more importantly, we learned how to rely on our most valuable resource: each other. Our classmates, our teachers, our staff, our families. Without them we would not be where or who we are today. I ask that all of you remember this: you belong and you are loved. Remember that we will always have each other, our one big team, and our little but not-so-lonely island. As high school comes to an end, bright orange letters reading VICTORY appear on our screen. Congratulations class of 2021, we are the last players standing in our first round of bed wars.

Good game.

James Kung is the Senior Class President at Mayo High School.

Read more Rochester graduation speeches:

Sarah Strauss: The future is ours

Zuri Cofer: Explore and take risks

Maimuna Aden: The power we wield

Sonia Teh: You are not alone

Marissa Ding: COVID can't take our Rocket Pride