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At RA, we begin each week with an all school assembly. It is tradition for every Grade 8 student to take a turn running the assembly and speak about something that is meaningful to them. Each week, their speeches will be posted for our community to read. These outstanding young people are the leaders of our school and have experiences and stories that are important to share. Last Monday, Annie S. spoke about the value of friendship. Enjoy Annie's story.

I am honored to be the last eighth grade speaker of the year. I hope that through all of the speeches the eighth graders shared this year, you have learned a little about character, thought more deeply about kindness, or more thoughtfully considered the value of friendship. This morning I am going to speak on the latter. I would like to tell you about my friend Aidan. When I was in kindergarten and attending Upland Country Day School in Pennsylvania, my grade only had thirteen students. This made it easy for everyone to be friends with everyone else. I was close with all of the other kids, but my very best friend was a boy named Aidan. Aidan was a regular kid in a lot of ways; he loved his friends, drawing, trains, and Legos. He also had a passion for Star Wars that he shared with me early in our friendship. However, he was not the typical student you could find in any elementary school. Aidan had a rare and recurrent brain tumor for as long as I knew him, and even before that. Even though Aidan battled against cancer for years, he never gave up.

He showed up to school with a smile on his face every single day, ready to learn and play with his friends. Even when his hair started to fall out from the chemo treatments or he couldn’t run as fast as the other kids at recess, Aidan always stayed positive, cracking jokes or explaining to everyone how amazing Luke Skywalker was. When I went over to his house, we would pretend to be Luke and Ahsoka, battling with lightsabers, or build the Death Star and the Millenium Falcon out of Legos.

In second grade, I got the news that my family would be moving to Connecticut, and it was hard to hear. I didn’t want to leave my friends, especially Aidan. I used the rest of my time in second grade to be with Aidan as much as possible. Then, the school year ended and summer came, and I knew the move was inevitable. I said goodbye to my friends and left for a town I had never been to or even heard of before. Staying in touch with my friends was hard, and I eventually stopped communicating with everyone except for Aidan. However, we would still see each other multiple times a year, going to Central Park and Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York City or to his beach house in Delaware. It was almost like the distance between us had tightened our bond of friendship.

Then, Aidan’s cancer came back, and it was stronger than ever. He was confined to a wheelchair most of the time, and I wasn’t able to see him as much. Still, Aidan persisted and stayed positive. He was still drawing, building Legos, and watching Star Wars. However, in January of 2016, Aidan lost the fight to cancer. Even though he’s not with us anymore, Aidan taught me the power of friendship and the value of remaining positive during hard times. Aidan was an example to me that everyone has challenges, some bigger than others, but it is about how we choose to handle those challenges and how we live our day to day. I hope that, by sharing Aidan’s story with all of you today, you will learn to follow his example and be optimistic, no matter how hard life seems. We all have so much to be positive about.

Written by Annie S.