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LA News Archive The Schoolhouse

Full Circle: Jonathon Coombs '17
Posted 01/17/2017 10:00AM

by Allie Goodrich

Groton, MA -- In his senior speech during assembly on Friday, January 13, Jonathon Coombs ’17 began by paraphrasing the words of a senior on a camping trip when he, Jonathon, was only just starting out as a freshman.

“He said to me, ‘You seem to think that all the seniors have such a vast amount of knowledge; when you become a senior, you will realize how little we actually know’,” Jonathon recounted.

Uncertainty and not knowing, as Jonathon told it, are conditions he has become acutely familiar with.

“I struggle at the beginning of the year [with] the conversation of ‘Oh, where are you from?’” he explained. “I could answer where do I live, but I can’t really answer where I am from.”

From Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, to Indiana, and eventually on to Andover and Littleton, Massachusetts, moving around affected Jonathon’s experience in school and the way he approached friendship.  

“Between first and eighth grade I went to seven different schools,” he said. “That’s seven different sets of people, seven different times I made friends, made connections, and then had to move away.

“That’s the sort of thing that takes a toll on you, you know? I was lonely, no matter who was around…by eighth grade, as you can probably imagine, I was sick of the constant process of making friends and then losing them.

“That was a mindset that I applied here with, and when I came here I promised myself that I wouldn’t really make friends, because I didn’t want to experience that taking away.”

But making friends at LA proved inevitable, courtesy of a surprise proposition from a fellow classmate (“Hey you’re in my English class, do you want to be my friend?”), and a spontaneous visit to a guitar in the art wing, a place where Jonathon has “met so many people and so many friends that I never expected I would have… all amazing people who strive and inspire me, and [who] I really hope continue to support me and inspire me for the rest of my life.”

“And being one of those people is not something I ever counted on that would happen, you know?” he reflected. “Freshman-Year-Me was disappointed in himself for making friends—it went directly against my plans.

“Freshman-Year-Me didn’t understand the value of experiences: that the joy of being around people you care about outweighs the sadness of watching them go; that the memory of events shared and laughter helps ease the pain of missing someone. And since freshman year I’ve learned so much—there is so much I’d like to tell my younger self, as literally everyone in the world would.”

And in the end Jonathon did just that, addressing the freshman in the audience in the hopes that the advice he had to give might also mean something to the people listening before him. He touched upon the need to be patient with yourself, the value of communication between students and teachers, the benefit of trying new things, and to “be yourself, and don’t be afraid to figure out who that is.”

“But, of course,” he said good-naturedly, returning to the words spoken by the senior on the camping trip four years ago, “I am just a senior, and I really don’t know as much as I’m pretending to.”

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