Senior Speeches: Derek Hessinger ’19

September 20, 2018


But other than finding out that we all don’t speak the same, you start to understand what makes you, you. That’s where SSM allows really you to grow.

Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.

Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.

Hello Shattuck-St. Mary’s,

I am Derek Hessinger. If you don’t know me, I am from New Jersey, where every other person is in the Corleone family, says things like “Hey, youse guys,” or is named Ronnie. You may have heard our stereotypical and completely exaggerated accent: New Joisey. Thanks MTV.

If you’ve never been to New Jersey, congratulations. But I do urge you to visit, because there are some nice things. For example, New Jersey is one of the most convenient locations for getting to a much nicer place like New York or Philly or Baltimore. Second, although it’s the iconic image of NYC, the Statue of Liberty is technically ours.

But if there’s one thing that really makes New Jersey worth the visit, it is most definitely our lovely people. I never really quite understood what made us us until I came to SSM. When I first arrived, I recall literally every person who walked by me starting a conversation or at least making a gesture to say, “Hi.” I remember thinking to myself, “What is wrong with these people?”

I had never met anyone that went out of their way to just say something positive or nice before, let alone people I did not know. It felt hostile at first. I didn’t know what to make of it. You know, like in Taxi Driver: “You talkin to me? You talkin to me!?” Back home, if someone passes you and they give you absolutely no acknowledgement at all, you can write that off as a grand slam. It seemed somewhat strange to have all these people so genuinely interested in me, but I’ve since come to realize its beauty.

It’s not every day you find a community as connected as here. SSM has a lot more to offer than I think most people realize. If you take away the hockey, the soccer, the Pre-Con, the BioScience, and the other COEs, we still have a student body that is made up of 41 states, one US territory, and 27 countries. And every student brings a story of their own.

Not only do you find out about the diversity of everyone else, you also find out a lot about yourself. I never knew I had an accent until I came to SSM. I thought I spoke flawless English. However, it only took about a day before I started asking people if they had any water. And you can imagine their reactions when I said water. It’s alright though, I’ve graduated to water now. It’s a process.

But other than finding out that we all don’t speak the same, you start to understand what makes you, you. That’s where SSM allows really you to grow.

I was pretty ignorant before I got here. I wasn’t very familiar with anywhere that wasn’t crowded with traffic or surrounded by a concrete jungle. Being from the East Coast, there are some very concerning things you hear about places like Texas, Tennessee and Alabama. So you can imagine my fear when I was checking into my room freshman year,  and Mr. G informed me that I would be living with a student from Kentucky. I was very alarmed. I assumed I would be living with a cowboy or something. However, when the culprit finally arrived, he was tall, lanky, and wearing white Nikes, jeans, and a shirt that said “Dixie Chicken” on it. He smiled and said, “Howdy, I’m Lucas Humel.” I shook his hand and said “Hi, I’m Derek. I’m from New Jersey.” Before I could even ask him if he owned cattle or a pair of boots, he said, “So you got any friends named Ronnie?” It was right there that I knew we had a lot to learn about each other and the places we come from. Just for the record, I do have a few friends named Ronnie.

After learning my roommate was in fact not a cowboy and really not from Kentucky at all, it opened my eyes to see you really can’t judge a book by its cover. I know everyone here has been in a “Wait, they’re from where?” situation, and I strongly urge you to rethink everything you think about who they are and where they’re from. Chances are, they’ll smash every preconception you have about them.

So, the next time I’m hanging out the WaWa by the Jersey Shore with my friends Snookie and Ronnie off exit 11, blasting Springsteen and eating pork roll sandwiches, I can let them know that outside the armpit of America, there’s no truth to stereotypes.

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