Take a Step Back to Appreciate the Little, Everyday Moments of Joy

May 28, 2021


Photo Credit: Emily Wise (used with permission)

Zoe will be attending UNC in the fall.

Hello everyone, my name is Zoe Wolff, and once again welcome to Academy of the Holy Names class of 2021 graduation. I would like to begin by thanking my family, friends, and teachers for your support which has helped me become who I am today.

Now, I have completed many challenging assignments during my time at Academy, digitally reconstructing the New York City Skyline in freshman year geometry was a notable one, but nothing has been more exciting than the opportunity to address you all today.

I came to the Academy because the tradition of the school runs in my family. My mother, aunts, and cousin spent their four years of high school within the yellow brick walls, so it only made sense that I follow in their footsteps.

I remember walking into freshman orientation, anxiously clinging to the familiar faces from middle school while listening to the seniors tell us how this room of girls will become my family and the four years will go by in a flash. At the time, four years seemed like an eternity, but now looking back on how we fumbled cluelessly from class to class, I truly see how much we have grown both individually and as a whole.

Freshman year consisted of our first high school dances, figuring out how to roll our skirts, hallway swimming, the wrestling match between the Angies, and trotting around Mrs. Meyer’s Religion class to the “Diamonds out of Dust” song. Sophomore year our confidence grew as we started to drive and forged new friendships. When we became Juniors, things started to change. We were finally upperclassmen, but with that came stress: we took challenging classes, faced the ACTs and SATs, and applied to colleges. And in the midst of all of that stress came

talks of a virus spreading on the other side of the world, which grew into an epidemic, and as we all know, eventually a pandemic with shutdowns and months of isolation. Instead of the excitement of shopping for a prom dress, I found myself scrambling to get a hold of face masks and stocking up on toilet paper. But our class persevered. We stayed focused and motivated, took our AP exams virtually, and made efforts to keep in touch with each other during those difficult months.

This time away allowed us to return for our Senior year determined to make every moment count. Our class grew closer than I could have imagined, through events such as our senior retreat karaoke featuring Grace Lahart on the mic and our Disney trip (thanks again Mrs. Kearney). The bonds we have developed with each other will surely last a lifetime.

This is something I believe makes the Academy unique. The alumni here stay connected and reunite often as if they never left. My mom and her friends (shout out Academy class of ‘92) deeply care for one another and are still great friends to this day. Also, as an ambassador who helps organize alumni events, I have been able to witness the joy of women coming back to the school after many years and listen as they reminisce over their 1st period art class or Senior prank.


I came to the Academy with assumptions and expectations of how everything would pan out and what my high school experience would be like. My freshman year I signed up for every club under the sun because, honestly, I was clueless and followed the crowd. My sophomore year I fine tuned my interests. I joined the dance team, thanks to Angie Prince’s convincing. And it was something that had never crossed my mind, but I am beyond glad I did because my teammates have become

some of my closest peers that push me to become the best version of myself. I took classes I never knew I would be interested in (like sophomore year percussion), travelled to places I never knew I would go (my mission trip to San Juan Texas, and Las vegas for Math Nationals), and made many new friends along the way. My willingness to try new things is what defined my high school experience, not the assumptions and expectations I came in with. As we are now graduating, I encourage the class of 2021 to go into college with an open mind and have faith in where the world will take you.

Now if you know anything about me, you’ll know that I am a big planner, and sometimes I organize my day down to the hour. I am always mapping out the future: what I hope lies ahead and what I need to do to get there.

Well one time I was talking about those elaborate plans for the future, and my grandfather interrupted me and said, “hold on I have a joke for you… how do you make God laugh?” And I curiously asked him how, and he said, “Tell Him what your plan is.” And that always stuck with me. Because, even though we have our own high-level hopes and specific goals, and we should do all that we can to achieve them, many things in life are simply out of our control.

If we let ourselves get overly caught up in what the future holds, we might miss what is right in front of us. As Andy Bernard once said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you leave them” (I think we all knew at some point tonight I would reference The Office). Anyways, we have the ability to make each chapter of our lives the “good old days”, but only if we take a step back to appreciate the little, everyday moments of joy.

In order to help us minimize the stress from things we cannot control, we should be laser focused on the things we can. None of us can prevent a storm from coming, or easily change how someone feels, but we can go into the rest of our lives with a positive outlook and a smile on our faces. With so many things taken from our class this year, including Caroline Van Horn’s Wrights cake from the senior lounge (I’m looking at you Math department), we must embrace every opportunity that we come across in college and beyond.

Graduation, here tonight, is the launching point for the rest of our lives. The reason I am who I am today is because of my Academy family, who continually challenge me, educate me, and push me to the best of my abilities. We as a class have accomplished so much, and if in the future our hopes are dashed due to hard times, we must preserve and remember that all of us are greater than the challenges we may encounter. I am beyond excited to see how this class makes its mark on the world and I’m sure each of you will go on to do amazing things. Not seeing my classmates everyday next year will be difficult for sure, but that just goes to show how our four years at Academy will stay with us and have a lasting impact on the rest of our lives.

Thank you all and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

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