Senior Speeches: Matt Cooper

May 08, 2019


One of the biggest lessons that I learned through these experiences is how important it is to try my hardest in everything I do and to never take time for granted. I have learned that when these two things are put together, it becomes much easier to be productive and get things done.

Each year, seniors and postgraduates 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.  

Growing up in many different places and never living in the same house for more than five years at a time has made me accustomed to change and adversity. The day my dad first sat my brother and me down and told us his job was going to take us to England, I really didn’t know what to say. I was halfway through sixth grade at the time, and was pretty happy living in Michigan. I knew that even if I said I didn’t want to move, it wouldn’t have changed anything. I knew that there was nothing I could do about it, so I just decided to take on the challenge. I left my life in Michigan and started from scratch in London.

In England, I went to an international school where I made friends from all over the world and played sports with people of many nationalities. I had the opportunity to travel with my school to countries such as Spain, France, Portugal, and Scotland for basketball, volleyball, tennis, and golf tournaments. At these tournaments, families of the host school took care of us for the few days that we were there, which allowed me to familiarize myself with the parallels and perpendiculars of many different European lifestyles.

After spending time with these families I would come home and feel as if I had learned something new about myself and what I should and shouldn’t be implementing into my own life. One of the biggest lessons that I learned through these experiences is how important it is to try my hardest in everything I do and to never take time for granted. I have learned that when these two things are put together, it becomes much easier to be productive and get things done.

Another important life lesson that I have learned is to make the most of my opportunities. Every year my school in England would send a group of students to Kathmandu, Nepal for 2 weeks to take part in Project Nepal. This was a long-term service-learning project with the motive of supporting Nepalese school communities. I decided to make the most of the opportunity presented to me, and took part in the project in 2016 and 2017. When we were there, we stayed at the Shree Jana Bhawana School which is located about an hour outside Kathmandu.

The first year I was there, we made a strong start to rebuilding the school which was affected by the 8.1 magnitude earthquake that had killed nearly 9,000 people in 2015. We started the foundation and bricklaying for two buildings, built a earthquake shelter made of bamboo, and cleaned and removed all of the debris. We also built a full soccer pitch and built, painted, and installed playground equipment for the kids to play on. It was such an incredible experience, and as soon as we left I knew I wanted to do it again the next year. After another year of planning and fundraising, we made my second year even better than the first by making lots of progress on the school, including finishing both buildings we started which are now used as classrooms and lunch rooms. Being able to take part in this project and knowing that I made a sustainable difference in their community is an experience that I will never forget and is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Although moving to England was a big sacrifice I had to make, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me as it has shaped me to be the person I am today.

Here at Shattuck, we have all of the tools a high school student needs in order to succeed in life. What we do with them is up to us. If you do what you love with a strong purpose and passion, there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your goals. The personal evidence that I have gathered through self-reflection, is what motivates me to better myself every day and is something that I believe everyone should do in order to improve themselves and maintain consistency.

If I have learned anything through experience, it’s that even if something may seem completely hopeless, giving your all and forgetting about what you’re scared of will always lead to self satisfaction and success.

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