Alex Buccellato

When I watched my first Senior Speech as a freshman, the idea of giving my own or ever leaving RHP seemed surreal. I was shy and uncomfortable with the idea of sharing a personal part of my life with a group of 300 people I barely knew. A lot has changed since then, especially after the summer of 2018.

That summer, I went to North Carolina for a program called Outward Bound, where I hiked the Appalachian Trail for three weeks with a forty-pound pack. I joined a group of other kids my age from all around the US. Outward Bound taught me a lot. I learned how to set up camp and how to properly set up a bear hang. I learned how to navigate in dense forest with a compass and a map. I learned not to pitch my tent on top of dead tree stumps, since cave crickets the size of my fist might emerge from it late at night to terrorize me. However, the most valuable things I learned were from the people I met there.

Through his infinite optimism, Cayden taught me to be more positive. Afiwa showed me that I should stay in the present, and enjoy the little things, like a hot meal under the stars surrounded by friends. Bryce was always able to make me laugh, but was always there to listen if I needed it. Through them, I got to know my strengths, as well as my weaknesses. Over the course of those three weeks, they taught me that I had always really underestimated myself. I arrived at Outward Bound with such a low opinion of myself and everyone around me. The rainforests of North Carolina were unfamiliar and intimidating, and I just wanted to go back home.

But thanks to them, a group of people I frankly never would have talked to if I wasn’t forced to under the circumstances, I decided that moping and complaining would get me nowhere, and especially not back home. So instead of giving up, I decided to just suck it up and make the most of what I had. I ended up having a fantastic time, and making lifelong friends with almost everyone there, the challenges we faced, the mountains we climbed, and the rivers we forded only deepening our bond.

I came back from Outward Bound with strength and confidence, and feeling like I had missed a lot of my opportunities because of my shyness. I decided to make more of an effort to engage with my classes and activities, and grow the friendships that mattered to me. Since then, I’ve started two clubs, pushed myself to improve my grades so I could join the National Honors Society. As a result, I’ve been a happier person, and feel more comfortable in my own skin. I’m excited for what the future will bring. I’m sad that I’m leaving RHP, but I will cherish the memories and friendships I’ve made here. A lot of people here today have helped me grow, and I want to mention a few of them.