Jenny Slate to Give Commencement Speech at School With Only a Single Graduating Student06/05/2019
The lone graduating student of a tiny Massachusetts school will be getting a ceremony to remember when Jenny Slate delivers a commencement speech, just for her later, this month.
Eighth-grader Gwen Lynch is the only graduating student of Cuttyhunk Elementary, a one-room school located on an island outside of Massachusetts that has a population of about a dozen people, according to the Cape Cod Times. While Lynch is the only student to graduate from Cuttyhunk this year, that doesn’t mean she won’t be leaving in style.
In preparation for the commencement speech on June 17, Slate has spent time with Gwen, who is still surprised the Parks and Recreation alum was willing to speak at the school, which is only accessible by boat or plane.
“At first I was a little confused,” Gwen told the New York Times of finding out the news. “I couldn’t put a name to a face. And then I looked her up, and I was like, ‘Oh my God! This lady’s actually coming to talk to me.’ I was kind of blown away.”
Michael Astrue, a former Social Security Administration commissioner, reached out to Slate through her father, who is reviewing a book for him, the Cape Cod Times reported. But Slate was also born in Massachusetts and is dating Ben Shattuck, who runs the Cuttyhunk Island Writers’ Residency, adding to Slate’s many links to the area.
“I felt some pressure here,” Slate, 37, told the New York Times of agreeing to the speech. “For some reason I just felt like: ‘Oh my God. This is really intense. This is really important. Are you sure they want me?’ ”
Slate, whose representatives did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment, said she is hoping to deliver a speech that is as unique as the girl she is giving it to.
“It was really important to me to try to get to know her a little bit,” Slate said, “so I could say something to her that’s more than a cliché or a directive coming from an adult who’s a stranger… I wanted to try to at least be her companion a little bit in this.”
Slate’s won’t be the only speech at the event, as Gwen will be delivering one of her own as well.
“I’m kind of talking about how I grew up here and how the years have been and everything,” Gwen told the New York Times. “How my schooling has changed over the years. Just like a big thank you to everyone who’s been here to support me.”
And though they have only known each other for a brief period of time, Slate said Gwen has already made quite the impression on her.
“Her confidence is something that I hope she continues to shine out with brightly,” she said. “And she’s really one of those rare people that you say, ‘Man, I hope you really go out there and grow, but I hope essentially that you don’t change. Because you are already firmly, firmly, in your own success story just by being who you are.’”
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