It is with great pride, honor, excitement, and solemnity that we gather here today to graduate. Here we stand, on the cusp of a new era for each and every one of us, the precipice of the future that is no longer looming in the distance. At the risk of being totally cliche — the rest of our lives begin today.

I don’t think I need to say to the parents and teachers in the audience that this occasion is special, because you all know how special this institution is.

Everyone has had a different experience at Charter Arts, but I think there’s one thing we can all agree on — and that’s the love that surrounds our school. Whether that be love for each other, love for our teachers, or an intense, incredible love for our art. One of the quotes that has resonated with me throughout this entire experience is: “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” Now we all know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a little bit crazy, but four years here have convinced me that he is right. Love may not have been the first thing we thought about when we were up until 3 a.m. writing an essay or suffering through a class or when things went wrong. And things did go wrong. But right now, in this beautiful moment, think about the love you’ve felt here, felt for each other, felt for this experience.

I believe that love is what brought us here to Charter Arts in the first place. We all have a love for what we do. We have a love for our craft and that’s why we chose to devote four years of our lives to it. Or if you’re like me, you love too much, and you can’t really decide.

For four years, we have been praised for our intelligence and our talent, our compassion, our willingness to try again and again, to get up when we fall. And maybe we don’t realize it in the moment, but it’s true — we are intelligent, we are talented and we are determined and passionate and curious in ways that we didn’t appreciate the first day we walked through those doors, but we appreciate now, as we walk out of them. And we have grown our capacity to love. We entered Charter Arts, and left an entirely different world behind us, all for something that we loved. It’s easy to forget now, that the new changes we are about to come upon are similar to the changes we have already experienced.

Change is a frightening thing. Leaving anything, anyone, that you’ve known for so long is scary and it’s hard to find any comfort in that fact. So I’m here to admit to you: I’m afraid, but I refuse to let it stop me. We make the decision whether or not our fear will paralyze us or push us forward. We make the decision whether or not fear will make us give up. Fear is never meant to be an answer. My point is this: If you let the fear of change control you, you may be giving up on another experience of love like we had here. If we had said we were too afraid of this change, that we were too afraid to come to Charter Arts and to make a decision about our lives, the love in this room wouldn’t exist. To continue loving what you do through fear and constant change sounds impossible, but we’ve already done it, and what an experience it was.

There is no simple way for me to end this, other than to tell you again that I hope you embrace all of the love you have in your life and that you embrace change and never let apprehension about the future control the decisions you make now. We leave here today with bravery; not fear, and recognition of the courage and love that is inside each and every one of us. A courage born to us here, a courage we will carry for the rest of our lives. Change is coming for each of us; we are all headed somewhere. I’m so honored to be able to tell you that I hope you get there.