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WHS Senior Victoria Piccione: "I'll Miss Everything"

Harvard-bound graduation speaker reflects on past, present and future.

Victoria Piccione's accomplishments during her time at Weston High School are many, and she says the best times she had in her for four years there were with her band and her friends. Like Tanner Skenderian, who will also speak at graduation, Piccione is headed to Harvard University in the fall, where she plans to study government.

Q: What activities are you involved in at WHS?

In high school, I wanted to try out a little bit of everything. I played field hockey during my freshman and sophomore years. As a sophomore, I practiced policy debate, and then, as a junior, I tried out public forum and entered the International Public Policy Forum with two other students at school. I also really enjoyed softball at WHS; during my sophomore and junior years I was captain of the JV team.

Probably the most rewarding part of high school experience, though, was the service I did. The most meaningful event for me was the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Cancer truly has touched everyone, and this is an incredible event that brings the community together to remember those we’ve lost, honor the survivors, and work towards a cure. I will never forget the beauty and solemnity of the luminaria bags lining our high school track; each year, the moment left me speechless.

Although I greatly valued all of these activities, my true passion lies in music. I dedicated the most time to playing the flute in high school, an instrument that I’ve played since 4th grade. I especially loved pep band. Band really became my little community at school, and I had direct control over my success. I loved playing in the Full Orchestra and with the chorus in their performance of Rutter’s Requiem. This year I sat as section leader of the flutes in Wind Ensemble, which I really enjoyed. It seemed like the perfect culmination of all my efforts on the flute in high school. Music was a great mode of expression for me, and the program at WHS is stellar. I had such a great experience playing my flute in high school that I look to continue playing in college.

Q: What was your favorite subject and why?

U.S. History. In both eighth grade and junior year, I had absolutely fantastic teachers for U.S. History (Mr. Brown and Ms. Wanosky, respectively). History of any kind has always been my favorite because it’s our past—it’s the history of the human race—and that’s so fascinating to me. Someday, we—our time period—will be in the history books, too. I also love seeing how history really does repeat itself. Since eighth grade, I’ve had an interest in government, and, naturally, we learned about it in U.S. History, so that’s also part of the appeal. I hope that, by learning our nation’s history, I can learn from others’ mistakes and hopefully not make them myself in the future.

Q: What will you miss most about WHS?

I’ve been in the Weston school system my entire life, so I won’t just miss WHS; I’ll miss everything. When I leave town, I leave behind my childhood. Specifically about WHS, I’ll miss its small community. My class in college will only have about 1650 students, which isn’t huge by any standards, but it will be a big change from recognizing almost every face in the halls. There’s something nice and comforting about knowing at least the names of the people around you. I’ll also miss plenty of faculty members: I’ve learned through the years that if you are very friendly with people, they’ll be welcoming and friendly back—it’s a nice way to get to know some teachers better. Finally, like anyone else, I’ll miss my friends more than anything in the world. I depended on them, perhaps too much, and they were always the best; they kept me happy throughout high school, and I have no idea what I’m going to do without them.

Q: How did you see the world change around you while you were at WHS?

Everyone says that, being from Weston, we’re raised in a little bubble, and I suppose that, in many ways, this is true. However, I try to stay aware of what’s happening in “the real world,” and, since 2008, when I entered WHS, our country and world have seen remarkable changes. During the November of my freshman year, the first African-American president was elected. My eyes have also been opened to the rapidly expanding Human Rights Campaign, something that the high school’s Theater Company also highlighted in its performance of The Laramie Project. The Occupy movements erupted nationwide and were the American manifestation of discontent that is felt worldwide right now. People probably say it every decade, but right now, even just during my four years of high school, real, profound change is occurring that I truly do believe will alter the course of events. The years 2008-2012 and onward will be recorded in the history books as an age of dissent, protest, and inevitable change. Things my parents could never have dreamed of when they were in high school such as gay marriage are now a reality! High school made me aware of these incredible changes taking place.

On a less global, dramatic scale, the world now seems more attainable. As a graduating senior, I feel much more confident that some small individuals can make a profound change; in fact, that’s what our world needs. Time magazine named “The Protester” as the 2011 Person of the Year, and that indicates that now, more than ever before, the world is prone to being molded by ordinary individuals.

Q: How have you changed since freshman year?

I think since freshman year I’ve matured a fair amount and grown more confident; this comes with becoming more comfortable with and used to your surroundings. I also think I’m less scared—early in high school, everything seemed so important, and I was terrified of messing up, but now that I am where I always hoped that I’d be, I think I’ve relaxed a bit and take myself less seriously. I think my biggest change, though, was stepping out of my older sister’s shadow. For as long as I can remember, my teachers have called me “Olivia” (my older sister’s name), and, for the most part, it’s always been a compliment: she’s brilliant, she’s talented, and I can already tell she is going to make it far in life. But as a teenager, when you’re trying to find yourself, all you want is for people to remember your name! And it may have taken me a while, but I think I’ve defined myself as my own individual, and hopefully people will remember me for who I am, not as “Olivia’s sister” (which is ironic because we’ll be at the same college next year!).

Q: Where are you headed for college? What do you plan to major in?

I will be spending my next four years at Harvard, and I could not be more thrilled because it’s a community that really feels like home. I plan on concentrating in government, specifically international relations, and recently I’ve started thinking about pairing that with a minor in economics. The two just seem to go hand-in-hand, and you can’t (or shouldn’t) be in the government these days without an understanding of the economy!

Q: What kind of message do you hope to convey in your speech?

I’m an incredibly nostalgic person, so I think my favorite part of my speech—and the process of writing it—is looking back on our time as a class in the Weston Public Schools. Things like the Bug Play or “Jump and Jive in 2005” (our Field School slogan) or the Island Project in sixth grade or our final middle school field day make me smile because they’re what made our time in Weston unique and memorable. People still argue that Orange House should never have lost to Blue House in tug-of-war: it’s memories like that that we all still hold close and remind us of the fun we had. The truth is you have to go to school—you don’t a choice—but you decide what you make of it, and I think our class did a good job of making it worthwhile. But, in addition to looking back on the past 13 years, I want people to see that we truly are at a crossroads in our lives; we choose our next path, and we will decide where we end up—even if we can’t see that place right now. I was raised by two parents who really advanced in life: my father was the son of immigrants, and my mother came from a humble working-class family. They are where they are today because they had a vision and they worked really hard to achieve it. I want to give my classmates that same hope for the future. That vision for the future can be anything, and it can be unclear, and it can change, but it is always attainable if you believe and you’re willing to work for it. If you really want it, you can make it happen.

Q: Where do you hope to be in ten years?

Ten years from now, I’ll be 27, which is still quite young, but I hope to have accomplished a lot by that age. In four years, I’ll (hopefully) graduate from college, and after that I want to take a year to live and work abroad. I’m not sure where because I’ve visited so many countries and fallen in love with all of them, and there are many more that I’d love to see, but if I’m submerged in a foreign culture of any kind, I’ll be happy. After graduate school, I’ll start work, and I hope that will be as a Foreign Service Officer or some position in the State Department. As a FSO, I could be sent anywhere in the world, but I hope that whatever I’m doing is making a real difference in peoples’ lives. I just don’t want to become a part of the bureaucracy of our government. I’d rather forget all the tedious steps and be involved, bringing tangible change to the world. (And I think by the age of 27, I can also start to settle down!)

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