Senior Presentation Day, Alumni Speaker
Jazo Moises, SPSV ‘09
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Principal and President Martin, Vice Principal Evans, Dean Vogelpohl, faculty, staff, students, parents, mom and dad, and most importantly the class of 2019 – good morning. It’s an honor to be speaking to you all today in this amphitheater that triggers both nostalgia and lots of anxiety. Right over there is where I first witnessed the glory of cafeteria cheese fries, but also the pure adrenaline of needing to finish 20 pre-calculus problems before the end of lunch bell goes off. Like, let’s all be real here, everyone has had their mild panic attack over a homework assignment in this amphitheater. Spanish workbook pages. Chemistry lab report. Cornell notes for history class. It’s all the same.
It’s been 10 years since I graduated from SPSV, and honestly, the time has been really good for this school. You have better lunch options now, which is pretty amazing. Back in the day, we had the T-Pain (but the T-Pain without the monster costume) and now you have Old Town Road (the remix with Billy Ray Cyrus) playing at prom. And you use iPads in the classroom which didn’t even exist 10 years ago. That, in particular, is really funny to think about now considering we literally had to take and pass a typing class back in 2005. It was a class called AppleWorks, which is based on this software that doesn’t exist anymore, on Apple computers that also don’t exist anymore.
When I got invited to speak today, there were a lot of thoughts in my head of how I’d go about writing this. Do I watch a ton of commencement speeches for inspiration, like Conan O’Brien, Shonda Rhimes, and Lin Manuel Miranda? Do I start writing a narrative on my time at SPSV, from my first day to graduation? Do I talk about the moments that caused me to think and act differently, and how my experiences at SPSV, in hindsight, helped me do that? I ended up doing all of the above, and in true high school fashion, procrastinated until the last possible minute writing this speech on a Sunday night with Game Of Thrones on the TV in front of me.
I’ve worked at four different ad agencies since I graduated, and on my last day of work, the one thing I’ve written in every single goodbye email is that “the people are what make this place special.” And when I look back at my experience at SPSV, it’s truly the people who make this place special. So today, I want to talk about these people, the lessons I’ve learned from them, and how I’ve been changed by my time at SPSV. There are all also people who aren’t at SPSV anymore, so to all faculty and staff members who had me in their class, please don’t get mad when your name isn’t mentioned.
My story starts right here in this amphitheater on a cloudy August day in 2005. I had come from a super small Catholic school in Napa and was excited to go to a larger school in my hometown with friends whom I was familiar with. It was freshman year that taught me valuable life skills, like how to use a combination lock, that “the bell doesn’t dismiss you, the teacher does,” and that running the mile in basketball shoes is a horrible, horrible decision.
But it was my seventh period English class in particular that I always remember. It was taught by Mrs. Boyette, whose classes were the most notorious on campus. In her class, there were very specific ways of doing everything. You filled out your quiz a certain way (and folded it in half, hot dog style), every vocabulary lesson was completed in the neatest of capital letters, and you always brought your binder to class. It’s this sense of rigor and discipline that I’m happy I learned during my first year at SPSV - something I took on with me to college, graduate school, and in the real world. It was Mrs. Boyette who taught me that with a solid foundation and discipline, everything becomes a little easier.
So with this discipline in mind, my sophomore year I picked up a few honors classes. But on the side, I also signed up for Mr. Hamernick’s art class. I work in advertising, but by no means do I know how to draw or design. I have the luxury of working in a position where the most complex thing I’d ever have to design is a diagram on a Powerpoint slide. So when on my first day of class, I found out we were starting with a drawing assignment, I was a bit terrified. With minimal skill, I powered through the assignment and got a good grade.
His assignments taught me more than just drawing and design - they taught me how to look at and solve problems from creative angles. I’ve found that real fun happens when you use creativity to think differently, making something better, or easier, or more useful. In college, this might be a new way of studying or writing. In the workplace, it might be implementing a new process, or figuring out how to make a crazy idea come to life in the real world. Infusing creativity into a situation destroys boundaries and gives you the space to think a different way. I encourage all of you to find ways to do this in your everyday lives - at school, at work, and at home.
My junior year of high school, technology started rapidly changing. We got the first iPhone, which was $800 and literally felt like a brick. Facebook had just opened up its platform to high school students. It was the first year of school that every teacher got a laptop. And as someone sitting in Mrs. Roche’s English class, I got a chance to blog for class. The prompt was to write a blog post every week about anything we were learning about and to also have a bit of fun with it. So as a scholar of pop culture, I wrote short essays on poetic devices in Kanye West lyrics, and how the plays we were reading had similarities to the reality shows I had been watching on TV. This small assignment jumpstarted an obsession with technology and social media, an obsession that got me on the career path I’m on today. This assignment and this appreciation for social media taught me that words can have power. Whether a tweet, a speech, a report, an email, words on a slide - the words you use have power and make an impact. Words can help you express your truest self, let you tell stories, make people laugh, convince people to buy something (guilty), or pass an AP exam. The words you use matter.
10 years ago, my senior year, I was where you are now, sitting in this amphitheater, at this awards ceremony. I had just decided to go to Saint Mary’s College, not only because it was a school I had wanted to go to and was lucky enough to get great financial aid from, but also because I didn’t get into any of my top choices. Which brings me to the final lesson I learned - use every failure as an opportunity. When I didn’t get into UCLA, a campus of thirty thousand undergrad students, I made the most of the small-school environment at Saint Mary’s, making connections and lifelong friendships. When, as a biochemistry major, I realized I absolutely hated biochemistry, I turned to my affinity for popular culture, social media, and the internet to find a career in advertising. And even now, I’ve used job rejections as an opportunity to work harder at the next thing. Every failure is an opportunity to pivot into something completely awesome.
I want to leave you with this last bit – I just started a job at this place called Wieden and Kennedy. In the world of advertising, it’s a place that people dream of being at – they’re responsible for bringing some of the most iconic ad campaigns in culture – from the Old Spice man, to Dilly Dilly, to the This is SportsCenter commercials, and Just Do It for Nike. On your first day of work, you get a notebook, and inside the notebook is a story about your last day of work. So on your last day of work, someone announces your departure from the building over the intercom, then the entire agency gathers by the elevator you get into and claps you out of the building - not because they’re excited for you to leave, but because they’re grateful and happy for the impact that you made on this place and everyone around you.
Class of 2019 - don’t just think about the impact this place has had on you, whether it be an English teacher that taught you discipline, an art assignment that got you to think differently, a weekly blog post that showed you the power of your words, or a rejection letter that made you work even harder. Look around you - there’s at least one person here who’s grateful that they changed because of you, whether it’s how they act or think. And wherever you go next, make it your mission to change people there too. SPSV class of 2019 - thank you, and congratulations, go Bruins!
Jazo Moises ’09 is a Comms Planning Supervisor at the New York office of Wieden+Kennedy, an advertising agency recently named Agency of the Year by AdAge and U.S. Agency of the Year by AdWeek. Jazo has worked on various advertising campaigns for brands in the sports, entertainment, technology, and lifestyle space including State Farm, NFL, Google, and Samsung. At SPSV, Jazo was involved in ASB, Campus Ministry, and the performing arts. A graduate of both Saint Mary’s College and the University of Oregon, he tries to catch an Oregon Football game or a Saint Mary’s basketball game whenever he’s back on the west coast.