Heil takes on role of class speaker


Photo provided by Elsa Heil

2019 Class Speaker Elsa Heil

Keertana Gangireddy, Photography Editor

The students of the class of 2019 reached the end of their high school career, and will soon be moving on to the next chapter in their lives. To commemorate the four year whirlwind of a journey of growth and lessons, senior Elsa Heil will be speaking at the graduation ceremony on June 7th, and reflecting upon the class’s time together as they matured and learned not only from teachers, but from each other, as they attempted to find themselves.

Heil remarked that before last year, when she attended her brother’s graduation, she was unaware of the role of class speaker. When she heard 2018 speaker Erika Waterhouse’s speech, she was immediately inspired. It was from that moment that she had the desire to achieve the role.

“You know when you see something that you love, you want to do the same thing? So the next day of school at exactly 7:35, I ran to my guidance counselor’s office and bombarded her with questions regarding being class speaker, like ‘how do I get to do it?’, ‘when do they choose?’, ‘is it something I have to be nominated for?’  She had to calm me down before she could even get a word out but she told me to calm down and that the opportunity would arise in like six months,” Heil said.

Heil’s guidance counselor, Susan Lynch, explained that the guidance office would send out an email to all the seniors to submit a speech if they were interested. Heil says she constantly dreamed of the day she would receive the email. The moment it turned up in her inbox, she spent her spare hours writing and rewriting drafts of her speech.

“[…] what was funny is that after months of dreaming about it, I couldn’t think of what  to say. The process of actually writing it took me many drafts and up until the last day available, so I was basically writing a speech last minute in hopes of it being the best speech,” Heil said.

Heil mentioned that she never expected herself to get the position. When she walked into the room with all the other finalists, she was surrounded by students involved in theater and those who were seasoned public speakers. Although she didn’t take the public speaking elective, and has little public speaking experience, she is thrilled to have the opportunity to speak in front of the audience at graduation.

Heil’s speech is centered around the concept of finding oneself. She focuses in on the kids that deem themselves as mediocre, attempting to prove to them, that they are in fact, anything but.

“I am telling the kids that feel average that firstly, they aren’t, and if they don’t believe me when I say that, then I can prove that even the average achieve their success. I also try to tell people that you can’t always compare yourself to others because everyone’s greatness is going to be different. In my speech, I stress the importance of being your best self, instead of anyone else’s best self…I want to prove to people that even if you don’t know who ‘you’ is yet, that’s okay, they’ll show up and you will find your way to your best self,” Heil said.

In addition to being class speaker, Heil is planning to get her Emergency Medical Technician certification this summer, and will attend the fire academy, where she will learn to be a full-fledged firefighter and EMT. She then aspires to attend college for a degree in either fire science or emergency management to become a paramedic. 

Heil developed a passion for emergency medicine when her mother became a ski patroller at Nashoba Valley Ski Area. At fifteen, Heil started working on the slopes on ski patrol herself. Wanting to pursue more, she joined an explorer post in Groton for kids interested in first responder type jobs. Although she wasn’t originally captivated by the the fire aspect, she started doing several fire trainings and immediately fell in love with it.

“I can’t see myself doing anything else [other than a job in emergency medicine]. Honestly. I always knew that I couldn’t have a desk job, because I can’t wrap my head around sitting at a desk all day. I always knew, you know, I needed to help people,” Heil said.

Through all of her experience with emergency medicine, she has learned invaluable communication skills. She has crawled out of her shell, and refrained from being the shy, reserved person she was when she was growing up. Heil describes her passion for helping others as her ‘calling’. It has helped her understand and find herself, as well as grow as a person.

“I’m seeing their [a person she has helped] worst moment. So knowing I can be that person to make that moment a little bit better motivates me to want to improve myself and improve my skills, and be the best person I can be,” Heil said. “It just sort of becomes second nature. And again, you’re motivated by wanting to help them, so you won’t have the time to think to yourself, ‘Oh my God, this is terrifying.'”

Heil speaks very highly of Mrs. Kucaj and Mrs. Jozokos’s women’s empowerment class, stating that it has very much helped with her confidence. Throughout the year, she has formed a strong connection with the teachers. Both Kucaj and Jozokos speak highly of her, proud of how she has grown.

“Elsa has a story to tell that many of her peers will identify with. She’s gone from a quiet freshman who just wanted to get by, to a senior who is on her way to becoming a firefighter and also sat in the front row of a Women’s Empowerment elective, participating daily. She’s gone from going through the motions of school to better understanding her purpose and the gifts she has to share with the people around her,” Kucaj said.

Jozokos describes Heil as ‘strong, kind, inquisitive, and thoughtful’, sharing the same opinion as Kucaj.

“Over the course of the school year, I have seen Elsa grow more confident and this has been so exciting to watch. As a teacher, this is the best part of my job. At the beginning of the year I’m not sure even she would’ve thought that she would be someone who would apply for class speaker – and now she is the one,” Jozokos said. “[…] she [Elsa] gets it. She gets life, and that there’s more to it than academics. She is someone who sets goals for herself and I have no doubt she will achieve them.”