Skip to Main Content

Upper School Commencement Speaker 2024: Andrew Iannelli

Friday, 14 Jun 2024

Before I start, I would like to thank Ms. Freccia in advance for all her help editing.

When I look back at my time at Roycemore, I have to force my mind back into the body of a small ninth-grade boy, anxious and confused at the prospects of starting high school. I was entering a brand new school with mixed expectations of what I would find. My only assurance was that one of my best friends from middle school, Alec Wilson, would be starting with me as an incoming sophomore. I vividly remember those first fateful weeks as being nerve racking and somewhat lonely, and sitting with Alec in the lobby wondering if I would ever find my place. Oh, how sorely mistaken I was.

Freshmen year provided the Class of 2024 with an abundance of challenges. We had to learn to adapt to a learning environment that was part online, part in person, and went through several transitions to full online classes at times. The task of breaking through these barriers was not an easy one. Our high school experience was not shared with classes of the past. We were starting high school in the midst of a global pandemic. We wore face masks and had to abide by strict social distancing procedures. We couldn't even talk face to face in the library, as plastic dividers separated us. While we started in person, we soon transitioned to online, then in person, then online, then in person. It was a chaotic rhythm that we had to learn to adapt to and work with. But thanks to our dedication and a little help from our teachers and upperclassmen peers, we got through the year.

We broke through those layers of separation to find bonds and, in my case, a brotherhood that to this day, I would not trade for the world. Some of these connections were found in the most unlikely of places: for instance, I met Alastair Trowbridge for the first time when I saw him, next to the gym bleachers, trying to download Halo: Combat Evolved on his laptop during P.E. I would later find out that Ryyan Rehman, now one of my closest friends, originally thought I was a “goof” after we played basketball for the first time. Well, that ended up working out because I found out he was a bit of a “goof,” too, and the bond we formed became inseparable. I don't remember how I met Sam Yousefzai, the earliest memory I can conjure of him involves a message to “accept his friend request or else” on Google. Needless to say, I hastily accepted. At Roycemore, we would find lasting bonds in places we would have never even looked had we been at other schools.

Friends were not the only thing I gained at Roycemore. Throughout my time here, I have developed many of the traits that make me who I am today. When I was a Junior, I took Traditional Chinese Literature with Dr. Trowbridge. Although I was originally intimidated by taking such an advanced class, I would ultimately learn quite a bit, and one concept in particular has stuck with me to this day. In Confucian philosophy, Self Cultivation involves harnessing one's abilities in order to better their mind and body. This concept would prove to be at the epicenter of my Roycemore experience. I have gained independence in my intellectual journey, which, truth be told, never stops. I have developed self-advocacy skills that will benefit me for the rest of my life. And, perhaps most importantly, I discovered the type of man I want to be.

I also discovered and developed many of my passions and interests here in these very halls. For my sophomore year JST (or January Short Term) Project, I decided I wanted to pursue my interest in history. I was able to get in contact with the organization Honor Flight Chicago, part of the national Honor Flight Network. This allowed me to interview three veterans of three different wars, which I used as the basis for my project. I ended up joining the organization and have been volunteering there for over two years now. I would continue to discover a passion for veteran affairs, even bringing in a veteran to speak at school, and helping to organize veterans day events. It remains one of my proudest accomplishments, and I never would have had the chance to discover it without that project. In my Junior Year, I actually got to go to the Honor Flight Headquarters and get hands-on experience in working in a Non-Profit. This year, I had the privilege of visiting the Chicago Board of Trade Building, and, with special access, I even got to see the trading floor. These experiences showed me ways of learning I never before thought possible.

It was not always easy, however. Throughout my high school career, I struggled, as many do, in certain classes and subjects. I needed to learn new skills and strategies to adjust to new challenges. One of the greatest academic battles of my high school career was most likely a relatable one to many in this room: math. Math teachers like to say there's no such thing as being “not a math person.” I beg to differ. However, I stand here officially done with high school math. This is mostly thanks to Ms. Negronida, who did something no other math teacher ever did for me: made it make sense. You see, Ms. Negronida did not help me pass by simply giving me answers. She didn't help by degrading me for being, in all honesty, downright horrible at mathematics. In fact, she successfully did something no other teacher at any other school ever did: she gave ME the confidence and the incentive to succeed. I would not be standing here today, the student I am, without her support for the 3 out of 4 total years of high school math I took with her. Throughout this struggle, I learned the value of a hard work ethic. I also learned that hard work doesn't always pay off in the way you want it to at all times. Sometimes, it's about knowing you did your very best and that you gave your all. That, regardless of the final product, you earned the right to say you tried your best.

Looking back, finding Roycemore was probably the best thing that could have happened to that ninth grade boy. These hallowed halls are more than just halls to me. They are places where friendships were formed. They are where memories were created. Where ambitions were realized. Our class conquered some of the greatest intellectual challenges faced by students in modern American history. I stand here today, no longer a small 9th-grade boy. I stand here now, on the verge of a new chapter of not only my education, but my life. We can stand tall and proud, knowing what we have accomplished.

To conclude, I would like to read a quote from Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, of Civil War fame, who also served as a Professor of Oratory and later President of Bowdoin College, as well as the 32nd Governor of Maine.

“It is something great and greatening to cherish an ideal; to act in the light of truth that is far-away and far above; to set aside the near advantage, the momentary pleasure; the snatching of seeming good to self; and to act for remoter ends, for higher good, and for interests other than our own.”

Go now, class of 24, and remember to act now and forever in the light of truth. Thank you.

Schedule a Call with Admissions

Inquire Now