Jack Sperling '22

One of my earliest memories from Second Form is walking around the Circle before breakfast. I promised my family I would call them every morning during fall term, so as I paced around the Circle, I pulled out my phone and called my father to let him know how the first week of school was going. The only part of that conversation I remember was when my father said, “You know, Jack, when I was at Groton …” After hearing this so often, we made an acronym: W-I-W-A-G. “When I was at Groton.” Now, my family and I jokingly shout “WIWAG” at my father whenever he starts to talk about old Groton stories, like when he lived in Anderson’s dorm and they brought couches out onto the Circle, or when he would hit golf balls towards the Schoolhouse late at night from the Circle, or the day when Mr. Bannard, our current Latin teacher, was born. 
Although we still have the Schoolroom and its desks that we sit in during Third Form, although Second Formers still have a living space that shouldn’t even be called a room, and although we all still take Latin, Groton is a different place than it was when my father was here. And I’m here to tell you, Dad, times have changed. Reg Chem is no longer the hardest course at Groton, spending several hours a night socializing isn’t a healthy “work-life balance,” and getting accepted into college isn’t just a well-connected phone call away.
The people at Groton have changed too. Looking back at your school pictures, at a time when being “preppy” was the norm, I see that most of you reflected a certain phenotype and demographic. But now, things are different. The variety of students is impressive, and the focus on being a unique individual in a community that strives towards diversity is a true step in the right direction.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an archetype of a typical Groton student, the mythical boarding school unicorn. We all know what that is—the student who plays half a dozen varsity sports, takes all advanced classes, speaks multiple languages, is head of several clubs, and is beloved by everyone. Not many people, if any of us, fit this ideal. And I think that is for the better.
Being someone who has taken a non-traditional path at Groton, I know what it's like not being the unicorn. However, I have still found my place in this community and excelled in the areas I love.
The Admission Office didn’t choose each of us because we “fit” into a spot. They chose us because they knew we would make our own niche on the Circle and bring something to add to the community. Each one of us is different from the others. Sometimes, when we think of diversity, the first things that come to mind are race, background, and gender. But diversity also covers the variety and mixture of a group far beyond those parameters. Groton chose us because they saw something in each of us that stood out from the pack, an intangible essence. They believe we can achieve our potential here. We are all meant to put our own intricate, unique, and individual stamp on the fabric of this community.
Every single person that is on campus has an integral part in shaping the Circle. Everyone’s unique personality, interests, and interactions contribute to the diversity of our community.
Just like:
Ben Reyes’ history and pun-making talent
John’s daily classic dress code,
Jasmine’s musical ability
Gwen’s persistence in academics
Griffin Johnson’s humor and supportive spirit
Nadia’s advocacy for herself and others
Robin’s courteous and driven self
Connor’s determination and work ethic
Lidia’s reserved, but observant, caring, and kind self
Jacinta’s adventurous, extroverted personality
Johnny and Zola’s inquisitive and curious nature
Julia Trowbridge’s enthusiastic happiness at all times
Charlie Beard’s never-ending kindness towards everyone
These talents, characteristics, and defining traits are not represented by a grade or checkbox on a report card or admissions sheet. These traits are ones that can’t be taught in the classroom. However, each one of us has qualities like these that make us a unique, valuable, and appreciated member of the Groton community.
Just because you think you don’t fit the Groton archetype doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to be here. Just because you can’t do everything the same as your peers doesn’t mean you aren’t as smart, intelligent, gifted, resourceful, or capable as they are. Just because you aren’t in an honors class, on a varsity team, or a class officer doesn’t mean that you don’t have a valued place on the Circle. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all have our own lives, and they should be different from each other and celebrated. Each one of us brings diversity in our own ways to the Circle. Every day we bring our differences to this community that are seen, heard, and, yes, appreciated.
To those teachers and friends who embraced my uniqueness, specifically my learning differences, I thank you. You took the time to know me as an individual, not just gloss over me, and in return, I gave you my all. To those supportive teachers and adults, you motivated me to work as hard as I could, and you earned my deepest respect. You saw me and believed in me and pushed me to be the best form of myself. You challenged me and opened my eyes to things I never thought I could accomplish. With your help and support, I was able to reach goals far beyond what I thought I could do in this community. You changed my life, and I owe you a debt of gratitude.
And to those who made assumptions, I hope I helped you see that sometimes the learning process is not that simple for every student. By teaching diverse learners like me, you grow as a professional and become better at your craft. Strategies and shifts in your teaching that help kids with learning disabilities benefit all students in your class. Please know you aren’t just making changes for kids like me; you are helping all of those entrusted to your care.  
So even if you need to chart your own path at Groton as I did, so be it. Even if you need to work harder than the average student, so be it. Even if you need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and go farther than you think you ever could, so be it. Stick to who you are and be true to yourself. Be an advocate for your uniqueness within this community. You all have what it takes to be at this school even if it doesn’t always show up on your report card. 
Hello, my name is Jack. I grew up in Minnesota, and I am dyslexic. I wear shorts, flip-flops, and I have my Hollywoodian-style beard. I can only speak one language and have never played a varsity sport. I will not go to an Ivy League school next year. However, I can code, take things apart, and (mostly) put them back together. I enjoy helping others, and I love to mountain bike. I try to be a good friend and a better listener. When it comes to academics, I know that, more often than not, I have to work harder than my peers. But, I also understand that in no way am I any less intelligent than they are. 
And I know that I have a place on this campus, even though I do not fit the archetype of the Groton student. I also believe that I belong in this community, and I know I was chosen because of my uniqueness and what I bring to the table to make the Circle a better and more diverse environment in which all can learn and grow.
And each one of you should feel the same.